“Staying true to myself. I’m odd. Some have called me quirky.” Q&A with Detroit Legal News #lmamkt

Thank you, Sheila Pursglove, Joel K. Epstein, Brian Cox, Brad Thompson, and crew! Front page above the fold TWO WEEKS in a row? It’s the hair, isn’t it? Tell me it’s the hair. In all seriousness, thank you for the kindness, friendship, and support – it means the world.

Link to full Q&A: https://legalnews.com/detroit/1519502/

Roy Sexton leads Clark Hill Law’s marketing, branding, and communications efforts in collaboration with the firm’s team of marketing and business development professionals. He has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development, and strategic planning.

Sexton is passionate about problem solving, facilitating business growth, crafting communications strategy, and enhancing law firm culture. He works closely with the marketing team to advance the firm’s digital and social media presence and external engagement, using multi-channel distribution and data collection. This enables the team to quantify results and use those results to produce thoughtfully and strategically organized content for clients and prospects. He also advises attorneys on marketing and business development strategy by curating relationships among external publications and media outlets and creating the appropriate platforms and opportunities for attorneys to promote their knowledge and practice.

A resident of Saline, Sexton has been heavily involved regionally and nationally in the Legal Marketing Association – LMA International (LMA) as a board member, content expert, and presenter. He will serve as the LMA’s president in 2023. In addition, Sexton is a published author of two books: “ReelRoyReviews,” Volumes 1 and 2.

What would surprise people about your job?

People still seem pleasantly surprised that I have a global focus. Clark Hill is a huge firm with an international footprint, and, while Michigan will always be home, my responsibilities span the U.S., Mexico, and Ireland. And my fab boss Susan Ahern, our CMBDO, is based in Dublin. I’ve learned to become quite savvy about time zones!

What’s your favorite law-related TV show?

I always say “The Good Wife.” The trials and tribulations of Alan Cumming’s character in particular. In a law firm, no two days are the same when you hold a marketing role. It’s thrilling and sometimes comical how your work runs the gamut from the sublime to, well, I won’t finish that sentence.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?

Weird as this is to type, I’d trade places with my mom Susie Sexton (who recently passed) so she could have a good chance to say goodbye. She left this world rather abruptly (heart attack), and, having sheltered away for months and months because of COVID, I don’t know that she got a chance to reconnect with people she loved before she vanished. I don’t mean all that to seem as dour as it reads, but I wish she’d had one truly happy day before she was gone.

What do you do to relax?

My inner introvert shines on days off. Admittedly, I have to get through any and all chores first. I also eat the things I don’t much like on my plate first too. But once I’m free and clear, it’s pajamas, comic books, bad pop music, playing with our fur baby Hudson, having a quiet dinner with my husband, and watching some escapist TV.

What other career path might you have chosen?

I have a master’s degree in theatre and thought for a while that I would get a Ph.D. and go into academia. But I wanted to eat. I still wonder what would have happened if I’d tried the “chuck it all and audition for Broadway/Hollywood” route also. But I have such a happy and fulfilling life that I have zero regrets.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self?

Enjoy the moments with people you might not know you will see again. We are always all so enmeshed in petty dramas or accomplishing some task or rushing off to the next event that we miss the moments that matter. I wish I’d curbed my rampant collecting habits (books, movies, music, toys) early on and put more energy into collecting experiences. And I wish I’d enjoyed being skinny! I was so self-conscious back then about not looking like a Men’s Health model, and I should have just appreciated being me!

Favorite local hangouts?

Seva Ann Arbor has become our “Cheers.” We are vegetarians and still a bit cautious about getting out and about too many places. The food is glorious but it’s the staff who have made us feel so welcome and loved. Every Saturday night – and sometimes Fridays too. I also am a bit obsessed with Target, and I love Vault of Midnight (comic book shop). I really need to get a life!

Favorite websites?

http://www.cbr.com (Comic Book Resources), http://www.ew.com (Entertainment Weekly), http://www.micechat.com (Disney news), http://www.actionfigureinsider.com (what it sounds like!), and http://www.cnn.com

Favorite app?

Oh, I’m such a menace on all social media apps. And I still love iTunes/Apple Music (lord, I’m a dinosaur). And Layout is a great little app for simple photo collages.

Favorite music?

I’m a gay man raised in the ’80s: Madonna, Janet Jackson, Tori Amos, Cher, Whitney Houston, George Michael, New Order, Kylie Minogue, Annie Lennox, k.d. lang … basically any and all dance pop with a slight edge to it. And that sensibility continues: Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry … well, you get the gist.

What is your happiest childhood memory?

I didn’t have many birthday parties. I am an only child, but it just wasn’t something we did. My birthday is December 28, which coincided with my parents’ wedding anniversary. Smack dab in the middle of the holidays, not super conducive to adding another gathering to the mix. But I remember one (of two) childhood parties where my parents, grandparents, and a couple of friends all gathered in our dining room for cake and ice cream. And it was all just quiet and loving and warm. I had a wonderful childhood, and have so many memories but that one sticks out right now as I just turned 50!

What is your most treasured material possession?

When he died, my grandfather Roy Duncan left me his mother’s college ring with “1900” (her graduation year) emblazoned across it. He wore it every day of his life, and I’ve worn it every day of my life since he passed in 1983. In fact, my fingers are so fat now I can’t remove it even if I wanted to. And I don’t! I just think it’s a beautiful reminder of legacy.

What do you wish someone would invent?

Something that makes everyone less reactionary and adversarial over the smallest things. As I age, I just find it harder and harder to understand why people point out flaws, undercut others, argue to prove a point … it’s just so much time wasted. And when I’m being ugly or receiving ugliness, I just feel it as tension in my chest, and I don’t know why people want to walk around like that.

What has been your favorite year so far and why?

2000 – the year I met my husband. It was also a very tough year – I came out to my parents (didn’t go well … like spectacularly so) and John ended up getting a foreign assignment in Japan just months after we met. But it was a year that brought him into my life, it was a year that taught me resilience, and it was a year that set me on a path to genuine happiness.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?

Tokyo, Japan when I was in high school. The U.S. Senate had a program in the ‘80s with Youth for Understanding where they sent two “youth ambassadors” from each state to Japan for the summer. I’d never been anywhere. To be immersed in such a vibrant, dynamic, bustling environment with so much to see and try and do, it was overwhelming in all the best ways. A transformative summer. I still feel electricity in my bones when I’m in big city like that.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

Help everyone be a bit kinder. It’s easy and lazy to be mean. It takes a little effort to show appreciation. But is so much more rewarding.

What’s one thing you would like to learn to do?

Play the piano. Not ever gonna happen. I’ve tried a few times. I don’t have the discipline. But I wish I could accompany myself as a singer. Would save money!

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I wrote a column for our hometown paper in high school. It was called “AdoleSENSE” and was about my experience in small town America. I also wrote the occasional feature story, and the longer they were, the more money I got. I could write a LOT … which bought me more comic books. I also won the national PTA Reflections writing contest three (or four?) years in a row in elementary school.

If you could have dinner with three people, past or present, who would they be?

Jennifer Garner, Wanda Sykes, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Mindy Kaling, Kelly Ripa, Parker Posey, Aidy Bryant, and Jane Fonda. Yes, I know that is triple the requested number. This answer has evolved for me over the years. Now I just want to have dinner with nice people who will make me laugh or inspire me.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

From my boss Susan Ahern: “Take the pause. Not everything has to be rushed. Pick up the phone before the e-mails escalate. You don’t need to feel pressured to entertain or make everyone laugh. Just be.” It’s a paraphrased compilation of thoughts, but her advice has been transformative.

Favorite place to spend money?

Seva Ann Arbor, Target, Vault of Midnight … and Amazon.com! Heaven help me.

What is your motto?

“It’s okay to not be okay.” Something more recent, but I have a lapel pin with that thought and I wear it frequently. As much to remind myself as anyone else!

Which living person do you most admire?

My dad Don Sexton has been through a lot the past couple of years. He retired, lost my mom, began a new relationship with a wonderful soul, transformed his home (still working on that), travels, and has remained buoyant and resilient throughout. I admire how he has embraced life when others might have crumbled. It’s kept me from crumbling myself just to observe!

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Staying true to myself. I’m odd. Some have called me quirky. But (mostly) I’ve not twisted myself into some unrecognizable version of Roy to get ahead or to be liked. At least I hope that’s the case!

What is the most unusual thing you have done?

I don’t know if this qualifies, but my husband John Mola is a fan of the singing group 98 Degrees. Over the years, we’ve seen them multiple times as they’ve devolved into a career of casino performing. Consequently, their meet and greets are pretty affordable, and we’ve gotten to the point of affirmative facial recognition from them when we show up! Jeff Timmons even follows me on Twitter. Ah, we’ve arrived!

The Other History of the DC Universe … eye-opening, transformative, damning, beautiful, human

Yes, I’m an adult (sort of) who reads (and enjoys) comic books. I’ve always relished the escapist interludes comics frequently provide. But sometimes they are transcendant.

A few times in my life, be they in epic scale (Marv Wolfman’s and George Pérez’ Crisis On Infinite Earths, Brad Meltzer’s and Rags Morales’ Identity Crisis, Grant Morrison’s and Howard Porter’s JLA) or clear-eyed cultural critique (Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Reggie Hudlin’s and John Romita, Jr.’s Black Panther), the books left me speechless and deeply moved, notably in terms of how metaphorically revelatory these pieces can be about our sometimes joyous, often painful human condition.

Add The Other History of the DC Universe to that storied (pun intended) list. Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley pens a compelling, heartrending, corrosive yet loving treatment of the history of the DC Universe from the eyes of heroes of color left in the (literal) margins. Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi provide gorgeous illustrations that are expansive, exhilarating, and somehow both retro AND forward-leaning.

In the first issue, Jefferson Pierce AKA Black Lightning takes us from 1972 through 1995, juxtaposing “real” world and “DC Comics’ world” events of that era with an incisive point-of-view that is eye-opening, transformative, damning, beautiful, and human. You might never look at Superman the same way again, yet you are even more appreciative of these characters and their ability to reflect our own ever-evolving societal perspectives on equality, fair play, and inclusion. Can’t wait to read the rest.

More on the series here: https://ew.com/books/john-ridley-the-other-history-of-the-dc-universe/

“Once Upon a December” from Anastasia

Want to join me in supporting a good cause? For my birthday this month (December 28 to be exact!), I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Just click donate on this fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD

I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps. This little fundraiser is nearing the two thousand dollar mark because of wonderful support from kind and generous friends like you!

“Winter” (Tori Amos)

Thanks to our donors-to-date: Beth Kennedy, Greg Griffin, Terry Branoff, Paola Armeni, Chris Sheeren, Aaron Bebee, Rachel Shields Williams, Megan McKeon, Morgan Leigh Horvitz, Monica Phillips, Dianne Rychlewski, Kristen Bateman Leis, Becky Felix, Anna Ostrander, Eric Walkuski, Donna Ballantyne, Christine N. Harris, Jennifer Munsayac, Barry Solomon, Kate Meltzer, Laurin Hawkins, Connie Harris, Cynthia Voth, Tina Paraventi, Amy Oldiges, Tammy Gales Mangan, Kelly MacKinnon, Sally Feldman, Petrea Schumacher, Brook Weeks Redmond, and Sarah Gallagher. Love you ❤️

Thank you for your support.

#KeepingFamiliesClose

“Swee’Pea’s Lullaby” from Popeye

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is back Monday with host Roy Sexton (ME!), Director of Marketing at Clark Hill, and guest Stephanie D. Preston, PhD and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. Dr. Preston examines how the brain evolved to use emotions to influence decisions across species, particularly in interpersonal and investment contexts.

How does this apply to legal marketing!?

Well, Dr. Preston focuses her attention on our desires and how our neural processes that originally evolved to guide mammals toward resources that are necessary but scarce may mislead us in our current modern conditions of material abundance. In other words, she will help us understand how our brains work. She will also explain to us the interesting connection between marketing and psychology and how their connection has led to overconsumption in some areas.

Tune in Monday, December 7th at 2:00 PM ET Live on https://www.facebook.com/KatesMedia/.

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is brought to you by By Aries and Kates Media.

“We look at those that are shattered and different as less than. What if they are MORE than?” Split, Sing, and Lion (yeah, you read that correctly)

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Why are we here? What makes life worth living? Where is our place in this (increasingly strange) world?

Maybe I’m just going through some kind of existential mid-life crisis. (Hey, who’d like to produce this 44-year-old singing all of his favorite ill-suited pop songs – Lady Gaga, Tori Amos, Madonna, Bjork – as an expression of manopausal self in a cabaret extravaganza? It will be your best theatre going experience of the past 14.75 years. I guarantee!) Regardless, the three films viewed this weekend – seemingly drawn from a grab bag of fourth quarter 2016 offerings – all explore beautifully the very reason we dwell on this loony planet.

Split is a return to form for Hitchcock/Spielberg aspirant M. Night Shyamalan, chiefly because he was wise enough to cast it with a crackerjack James McAvoy (X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse) and Betty Buckley (Carrie, Tender Mercies). (At one point while viewing, I wished Shyamalan had had the moxie to have staged this as a two-hander play with these two lightning bolts. Equus would have seemed like Oklahoma! by comparison.)

The film is a mash-up – a little bit of Silence of the Lambs, a touch of Primal Fear, a skosh of Dressed to Kill, a dab of Prisoners, a spritz of, well, any and all of Shyamalan’s other films (save The Last Airbender – the less said about that one, the better). We have a central figure “Kevin Wendell Crumb,” portrayed brilliantly by McAvoy (with just a hint of Baby Jane camp), suffering from dissociative identity disorder, as 23 different personalities (some nice, some really naughty) play ping-pong with Kevin’s daily routine. Buckley, as Dr. Karen Fletcher, is his cautious, morbidly transfixed therapist, whose ethereally calm demeanor and career aspirations keep her engaged with Kevin’s Sybil-esque shenanigans.

The plot details Kevin’s devolution into something called “The Beast” (think Silence of the Lambs‘ “Buffalo Bill” with, yes, super powers) as he kidnaps three teenage girls and locks them in one of those byzantine, blue-lit subterranean lairs that only seem to exist in really creepy movies. Dr. Fletcher starts to catch wise as various (kinder) personalities in Kevin’s psyche begin sending her panicked emails in the middle of the night. I won’t spoil any of the twists and turns, but the Hitchcockian “fun” derives from Buckley’s Fletcher calmly, relentlessly querying McAvoy’s Kevin about his nightly doings. Much like Hitchock’s late-career Psycho, Shyamalan’s Split is a directorial resurgence that simultaneously exploits the audience’s most prurient interests while giving us a Playhouse 90-style character study. McAvoy is a creepy hoot, and Buckley does yeoman’s work as a wary proxy for the audience’s revulsion/fascination. (My favorite quote from the film? When Buckley’s Fletcher describes the restaurant Hooters: “It’s like if Henry VIII ran a fast food franchise.”)

At one point, Buckley’s Fletcher asks plaintively, “”We look at those that are shattered and different as less than. What if they are more than?” The film’s central thesis is a half-realized query about whether or not mental illness is a kind of super power. It’s an intriguing idea not fully baked in the film, but Buckley’s delivery of that line, coupled with McAvoy’s scenery-chewing performance, gives me hope for the inevitable sequel.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

And then I saw Sing, an animated film about koalas and elephants and pigs and porcupines and mice trying (literally) to find their voices in a world that had passed them by. Do I know how to plan a weekend at the movies?

Guess what? Sing is brilliant and surprisingly moving. If you are not crying at the film’s conclusion wherein every misfit animal featured heretofore takes the stage and seizes the spotlight with deep-feeling abandon, well, then I feel sorry for you,  you cold, emotionless curmudgeon!

The plot of Sing is a nifty corollary to Zootopia, which depicted a similar land where all creatures great and small coexist (mostly) in harmony, struggling (like us all) to make a decent living, pay the bills, and have a bit of joy. “Buster Moon,” a disarmingly charmingly skeezy koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey finding the perfect role for his disarmingly charmingly skeezy career) is trying to revive his failing theatre by hosting a music competition. His best buddy (a trust-fund lamb voiced by an ever-dopey John C. Reilly) asks, “Singing competition? Who wants to see another one of those?” Well, this one? You will want to see.

Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Taron Egerton (Kingsman … SUCH a voice – like a choir-boy Robbie Williams), Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), Tori Kelly vocalize for the menagerie (pig, porcupine, ape, mouse, elephant – respectively) that joins Buster on his preposterous adventure. I found myself a bucket of salty tears when Kelly’s shy elephant Mimi belts Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” at the film’s jubilant finale. Maybe it’s because I know what it feels like to be a misfit singer who has been excluded from others’ “reindeer games,” but I found Sing to be a riotous, thoroughly enjoyable celebration of letting all of us find and exercise our unique voices in this increasingly stifling world. I can’t wait for this inevitable sequel either.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Finally, Lion. Oh, Lion I wish I knew how to quit you. This film knocked me to the floor – either because of its excellence or because my low blood sugar from sitting in a darkened theatre for hours on end finished me off. Lion – the feature directorial debut by Garth Davis – relays the true story of Saroo Brierley (portrayed with zero guile as a child by Sunny Pawar and with heartbreaking ambivalence as an adult by Dev Patel) as he finds himself lost from his family in India and, ultimately, adopted by a well-meaning Australian couple (a haunting Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).

Reminiscent of the the Jack Lemmon/Sissy Spacek classic Missing, Lion captures the devastating claustrophobia of a family separated by geography, time, bureaucracy. The toddler Saroo’s inability to communicate (he speaks Hindi and nearly no one else around him does) nor to identify his home (he accidentally ends up on a decommissioned train that takes him from a small town, the name of which he mispronounces, to the overpopulated metropolis of Calcutta) is the stuff of nightmares. The film plays fast and loose with narrative chronology, as the adult Saroo tries to unravel the mystery of his life before being adopted. Everyone is excellent, with Kidman giving her most subtle, nuanced performance in ages – one scene in particular where she palpably renders the tension of the adoptive parent to balance truth versus security as her child tries to make sense of his upbringing. Lion is a remarkable film, as full of hope as it is heartbreak.

I cried a lot this weekend at the movie theatre. Singing elephants, multiple personality protagonists, and displaced Indian orphans: all transfixing metaphorical representatives of our own existential pain over belonging, finding ourselves, and seeking a path forward. Well done, Hollywood. Well done.

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Betty Buckley and Roy Sexton

Betty Buckley and Roy Sexton

Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by BookboundCommon Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Coming out of the woods: Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour at Detroit’s Ford Field

Taylor Swift at Ford Field

Taylor Swift at Ford Field

We had a debate about Taylor Swift at brunch today … well, not a debate so much as friendly banter, but, yes, about Taylor Swift. You see, I saw her stellar 1989 concert at Detroit’s Ford Field last night, and it seems to shock/awe/flabbergast that a grown (sort of) man appreciates the glittering pop output of one Ms. Swift. But I really do. Swift seems to be a polarizing force. Either you adore her or you really don’t ever, ever, ever like her style of wholesome-with-an-edge, high-waisted-Wonder-Bread-dominatrix, let-people-be-people, sh*tcan-the-jerks-in-your-life-with-a-smile jukebox jive.

Shake It Off

Shake It Off

I don’t think it’s easy to transition from child star to adult phenomenon in the public eye. I don’t mean the drug-addled, gin-soaked misadventures of a young (baby) Drew Barrymore or a slipping-down-the-rabbit hole Lindsay Lohan/Amanda Bynes. Rather, it’s probably worse for someone like Swift, whose Amazonian work ethic and drive for world domination must never give her a moment’s rest and which seems to make her a perennial target for critique.

Charlotte, MY chaperone for the evening

Charlotte, MY chaperone for the evening

The 1989 show, named after the year a wide-eyed Taylor (now 25 years old, natch) powered into this unsuspecting world, brings all of the pop (formerly country) powerhouse’s disparate influences into sharp relief. And it makes abundantly clear just how profound her transition has been from kiddie cult to global superstar. Watching last night’s show, I was struck by Swift’s confident swagger (and I normally hate swagger) but she wears it well.

She is not limited by gender, age, public perception, nor a cavalcade of A-list ex-paramours. NO.

She has reverse engineered the formula for inevitable, relentless singularity: one part Mick Jagger, two parts Madonna, a pinch of Janet, with a healthy sprinkling Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette, and Tori Amos self-mythologizing confessional. Well-played, kid. No one else quite cracked that code – not Britney, not Rihanna, not Gaga. Not even sure Beyonce did it … but watch your back for Miley. Most important? Last night’s show was fun. (And, yeah, I might have been one of the oldest and fewest Y-chromosomed attendees – but if the Church of Swift teaches us anything it’s “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.”)

Welcome to New York

Welcome to New York

The set list is essentially the 1989 album (from last fall) in its entirety with a few other now-classics (strange to say of songs not even five or so years old) thrown in (“I Knew You Were Trouble,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Love Story”). Performance highlights included: a glitzy 42nd Street take on opener “Welcome to New York” with its swirling, infectious message of universal inclusion; a little Fosse in the stylized shadow-dancing of hypnotic “Blank Space;” some sweaty Velvet Rope-era Janet stylings on a molasses-throbbing “I Knew You Were Trouble” and a Rhythm Nation twist on rival-skewering “Bad Blood;” and straight-up Courtney Love guitar-raging on “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (arguably the strongest reinvention of the bunch).

Bad Blood

Bad Blood

Before her (literally) soaring encore of the ubiquitous “Shake It Up” (staged as a can-can kick-line atop a spinning/floating catwalk), Swift closed with a stadium-rattling take on my personal 1989 favorite “Out of the Woods.” Against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of twisting Grimm Brothers trees and underneath giant spiraling paper airplanes, Swift nailed this Simple Minds/Tears for Fears/Kate Bush-homage, an anthem of empowerment and self-actualization and her ultimate thesis for this sleek, epic pop evening. You are you. Own it.

Out of the Woods

Out of the Woods

There were many surprises in an already jam-packed evening. Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons popped up for a frisky duet on his own hit “Radioactive” that had the crowd in a frenzy. (Admittedly, it wasn’t hard to get the 50K plus, sold-out crowd in a frenzy. They were going nuts over trivia questions about Taylor’s cats in the pre-show warm-up period.) Other members of the Swift celeb mafia put in video and live appearances – models GiGi Hadid and Martha Hunt walked the catwalk in “Style” to wish their singer-songwriter pal well, and Girls‘ Lena Dunham and the band Haim (not to mention, yes, Taylor’s cats Olivia and Meredith) offered their greetings from the big screens. (Is Swift the new Sinatra – and it’s not Jay-Z after all? Food for thought.)

Shake It Off

Shake It Off

The spectacle of the show was tasteful – more old-school Vegas than stadium bombast – with minimalist choreography, a series of subtle costume changes (all spangles and mini-skirts), a lot of rear-screen projection, and Taylor’s fabulously perfect 1989-bobbed haircut. (Seriously, she should never wear her hair any. other. way.) The niftiest touch of all? Every member of the audience was given a light-up wrist-band (RFID-powered?) that flashed and pulsed and changed colors to the stage activities. Such a simple thing, but had such a profound effect on the overall experience. The huge room at Ford Field looked like a twinkling galaxy, and all of us – young and, ahem, old – were gobsmacked by the clever inclusion of every one us in the concert staging.

The galaxy of wristbands

The galaxy of wristbands

The show is a reverent homage to an era which Swift couldn’t possibly remember – the late 80s. I do. Unlike Katy Perry’s Prismatic Tour (which I enjoyed), Swift is not winking at the Day-Glo era. She is embracing it and exploring those musical influences she never knew she had. I was 17 in 1989, and it was the year I started loving pop music from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation to Madonna’s Like a Prayer to, yes, Prince’s Batman. I still treasure those albums as they transport me to a simpler, maybe sillier, possibly less socially divisive time when a lifetime of opportunity still extended before me. Whether she knows it or not, Swift captured the summer fun of listening to pure pop escapism on my little red boombox on the sundeck of my parents’ house in 1989. Thank you, Taylor.

Linda's daughter Laura (right) with Taylor's mom Andrea

Linda’s daughter Laura with Taylor’s mom Andrea

P.S. Taylor loves Detroit. She first sang the National Anthem at a Lions game at Ford Field years ago, and she even brought her mom along last night to help usher ecstatic fans backstage. My pal Linda Cameron, mom of frequent Penny Seats cast-mate Matt Cameron, was there as a belated holiday present from her family, and Linda even got a chance to meet Mom Swift whom Linda described as a  “sweetheart.”

____________________________

Reel Roy Reviews 2

Reel Roy Reviews 2

Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital) In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Bleeding gratitude for her Little Monsters – Lady Gaga’s ArtRave tour at Detroit’s Joe Louis

The Lady herself

The Lady herself

Little Monsters, Mama Monster did you proud in the “D” tonight. Lady Gaga rocked the house at Joe Louis Arena and made me a Gaga-believer.

I freely admit that her last effort ArtPop left me a bit cold. I’d been a fair-weather fan all along, absolutely adoring some of her hook-laden hits  and scratching my head on others. Lyrically, she occasionally seemed to be picking at Tori Amos’ or Bjork’s verbally tortured scraps, yet the uptempo accompaniment always kept bringing me back for more.

Opening number

Opening number

 

 

 

But that needle skipped the record, quite literally, when I heard ArtPop for the first time, the only cut speaking to me on any level being the incredibly infectious “Applause.”

However, watching Lady Gaga’s ArtRave tour tonight, suddenly all of ArtPop snapped into perfect relief. Like watching a musical after only hearing the cast album, every number made sense in the context of Gaga’s Jeff-Koons-meets-Haruki-Murakami vision.

And most importantly Gaga seemed to be having fun. She was an inferno, dancing with military precision, belting like some Liza Minnelli/Janis Joplin lovechild, and commanding us, like some hippie dippy drill sergeant, to accept and to love and to move.

Her stage

Her stage

I fell head over heels in adoration with this talented woman tonight.

Often dressed like The Birth of Venus (by way of the Jersey Shore) or like The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula (by way of Sigmund the Sea Monster), Gaga definitely had a “we’re all in one big aquarium together” vibe going. Her backup dancers were dressed as sea creatures more often than not, and the amazingly tight orchestra seemed to be playing from the inside of a fabulous sand castle onstage.

With my pal Terry (and a Little Monster behind us)

With my pal Terry (and a Little Monster behind us)

Gaga tore through all the familiar hits – from “Poker Face” to “Paparazzi” to “Bad Romance” – landing on my personal favorite “Born This Way” as an exquisite piano ballad (as opposed to its typical four-on-the-floor sonic blast). The song took on a touching resonance that it never had when Madonna (the queen of swipe-as-homage) called it a “reductive” version of Madge’s “Express Yourself.”

(Really, Madonna, I love you, but that was unnecessary. There’s room for us all in Gaga’s big tent.)

Applause

Applause

But most notably, Gaga – whether schtick or sincerity or both – opened her heart (sorry, Madonna, couldn’t help it) time and again to the fans surrounding her fabulously asymmetrical catwalk of a stage and to those of us in the cheap seats, imploring us to be kind to one another, to be tolerant of difference, and to be empathetic in every action and deed. She bleeds gratitude for her followers, and to witness that in person is the greatest spectacle of all.

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.