I rip Detroit. (How could you not?) But I used to love the city.
For no reason other than it was where my grandfather lived, and they had a baseball team. So when I discovered baseball in 1968 and the Detroit Tigers were winning the pennant, who else was I going to root for? It didn’t hurt that they were an awesome team who played an awesome World Series against the almost equally awesome St. Louis Cardinals. And won. In seven games.
The Tigers have had a few decent seasons since then (and another Series in ’84), but the rest of the city not so much.
Charlie LeDuff tells the tale—of Detroit, and his small role in its great rise and spectacular fall:
For some, Detroit may be a symbol of urban decay; but to Charlie LeDuff, it’s home. LeDuff, a veteran print and TV journalist who spent 12 years at The New York Times, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, returned home to the city after the birth of his daughter left him and his wife — also a Detroit native — wanting to be closer to family.
The city he returned to, however, was dramatically different from the one he had left 20 years earlier. “It was empty,” he tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “It wasn’t scary. It was sort of like, in many respects, living in Chernobyl in some neighborhoods. … I looked and I thought to myself one day: What happened here? What happened?”
The book’s title may make it sound like an elegy for a dead city but, LeDuff says, that’s not quite the case.
“I don’t mean that as an anthem to a dead city, but it’s almost there,” he says. “Everybody asks me, ‘What’s the future here?’ and I say, ‘We have auto companies. We have the biggest trade corridor on the continent with Canada. We have all the freshwater in the world. We have great hospitals and the tech center. We are well-positioned, but none of that is going to flower until we weed the garden today of people like [former city councilwoman] Monica Conyers and these sludge contracts, and all the cheating and robbing and killing. Forget the future. Focus on the present. And if we don’t, then, yes, we will completely be dead.”
He’s quite a character. He left the New York Times to return to his dying city—but it seemed to give him life, at least as a newsman. Can you imagine any of the walking dead in the Times doing this?
Fox 2 Detroit’s Let it Rip aired a segment Sunday night featuring an interview with Sam Riddle, the ex-con ensnared in the Synagro sludge treatment bribery scandal with ex-Councilwoman Monica Conyers for which he was sent to prison in 2010.
Riddle has been released from house arrest and is now free on parole.
To Riddle’s left was Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Charlie LeDuff, who covered the Synagro scandal and in his newly released book, “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” called Riddle a “rakish conman who seemed to play the role of Clyde Barrow to Monica Conyer’s Bonnie Parker and accompanied her on her lavish trips paid for by the pension fund.
“He even called himself her pimp,” LeDuff wrote.
“That’s a poo-butt punk statement and you read from the book, let me read from something here,” said Riddle who pulled a piece of paper from his pocket with details about the plagiarism.
Riddle slighted Fox 2 and LeDuff, calling the station a “sanctuary for out of work Pulitzer Prize winners, some of them who got gimme Pulitzers…”
LeDuff is a hypocrite, said Riddle.
“If you want to know a conman in Detroit look here,” Riddle said, pointing to LeDuff on his left. Then he attacked his wardrobe.
“This is an older guy wearing tight jeans. What’s up with that?” asked Riddle. “He’s walking around trying to be hip and different and I believe he’s the conman on Detroit.
“He does some good work, I don’t take that from him, but don’t run that crap on me.”
Perkins said LeDuff and Riddle used to have a good relationship and at one time even showered together. A clip of LeDuff and Riddle peaking out from behind shower curtains in side-by-side shower stalls is shown from a past newscast.
“This guy was stalking me,” Riddle said. “I was working out at Y and some freak shows up next shower from me.”
LeDuff steered the conversation back to the plagiarism statement.
LeDuff: Google it because you got your facts wrong,” he said. “Guess what I did (plagiarize) and I was in school… and I apologized in print. You still haven’t looked at the people and said I’m sorry for raping this town and making it miserable for kids. Guys like you are done.
Riddle: You, Charlie, are the biggest pimp in Detroit.
LeDuff: I might be, but I don’t steal from the people… say you’re sorry.
Come on, buy his book.