There's been more than enough articles about Showtime Clothing. Yes, fine, it's a sexy store that sells the kind of lifestyle we ALL wish we led. We've all contemplated dying our hair jet red, donning a Seduce t-shirt, some leather pants, and working behind the counter there, while gigging around the city with our power trio. You remember the day curiosity got the best of you. You stopped in to check out the store where rock and rollers shop if they need a bandleader jacket, studded belts, or Guns-n-Roses t-shirts. We've all read with deep curiosity, while nodding our heads in meaningful agreement, the politically motivating 'call to action' ads in the Metro Times.
But what about the man behind Showtime?
From the first conversation, you learn “Showtime” Dan Tatarian loves the city of Detroit. People may mistake a somewhat direct outward demeanor, for gruff cynicism. But, this man loves his customers, he loves music, and he even loves being an independent business owner in our troubled city. He's like most people in the sense that you don't want to bullshit him. He's a throwback, a determined rock and roll John Wayne, who utilizes his life experience and strong principles to make a difference at the street level where it counts. There's a defined conviction and heartfelt sincerity in his voice as you sit and listen to him discuss government, history, or politics. Here's a guy with the balls to open, and stay open in downtown Detroit, to pay the city taxes, to sell S&M paddles right next to R2D2 belt buckles. He didn't know what to think when I walked into Showtime Clothing at 5708 Woodward Avenue. We traded words initially on local politics, on my knowledge of seat belt laws, and on whether or not I was trying to further my 'blog agenda' (whatever the hell that is) by getting an interview with the owner of the coolest store in Metro Detroit. And I tell you this: You're a better person after talking with Dan. He reaches inside, and if you've got a shred of conscience or concern about Detroit, about our country, about yourself, he'll have you questioning how we live our lives:
How often do we say we love a store, a person, a cause ? But do we really support them? Do our actions match up with our rhetoric ? Does how we spend our dollar match up ?
Deeds not words, right?
In the end, Showtime Dan agreed to sit down with the DRB and share some of his life experiences, political convictions, and specific views on the world, community, and family.
You could run a store like this anywhere in the state and be successful. Why Detroit?
I like this neighborhood.
What drew you to this particular business?
First thing that came up. I was working in a shipyard, but I quit my job and took the summer off. I was walking through the Cass Corridor and this guy was working on the side and asks me 'Hey man do you want to open a vintage clothing store?' I said 'What?' He said 'Yeah the lady inside is closing. Come on in and talk to her'. I said 'Whatever' but I went inside and talked to her. She had all these clothes and I asked her how much she wanted for everything. She said '500 bucks and I got a lot more clothes at home, you can come get them all'. She had one rack and clothes and I bought it all. And, I had about $500 in my pocket. Altogether, that was my savings, plus $250 which I put towards my apartment rent at the time. So, then I went and got a job working for a catering company for five dollars an hour, for 5 hrs in the mornings, cash. I made twenty-five dollars a day working catering, then I was at my store making eight to fifteen dollars an hour. The rent on the store was $60 a month, and I was there for six months. I went from there to the flea market at Ten and Woodward, was there for six months, then it got torn down. Then I moved into my apartment down on campus and I opened on Forest and Second in the basement and was there for five years. And, that's where I really started learning the business.
You described this store, this business, as a 'family'. What does family mean to you?
People who come into Showtime care. They don't want to be corporate shoppers. They don't want to run around and be one of the minions following what were told to do. They want to live an alternative lifestyle. An alternative lifestyle is shopping independent produce stores, independent bakeries, and butchers. Keeping everything in your neighborhood, so you keep everything going. A lot of people want things to come back home. So, I'd say a big part of my customer base comes in here because, and maybe I'm fooling myself but I'd like to believe this, a lot of people shop as independent as they can. I respect that. Other people come in, they don't care, they don't even get it. The conversation goes like this:
'Hey, I'm in a band, I want you to put me in your ad!'
'But, you don't shop here?'
'No we shop at Hot Topic'
'So go to hot topic and tell em to put you in their ad'
'They're not gonna do that'
'That's right because they don't care about you.
I take care of the people who take care of me. We've become a family. I promote the bands that come in here and my job is to get them to the top if I can, any exposure, any way possible, any door open, that's my job.
How did it feel sitting in on drums with The Orbitsuns last Wednesday at the Four Green Fields Pub in Royal Oak?
You know, it was pretty cool. I mean, it was my first time and Vinnie (Dombrowski) and Jimmy (Paluzzi) are a trip man. Vinnie can make anybody laugh about anything. And, he got me up there laughing so that was a lot of fun. I'm sure he got a big kick out of it and the crowd did to.
You've been very outspoken in the advertising you've put in the Metro Times.
Part of it is believing in yourself. A lot of people don't want to believe in themselves. They want to believe that somebody else is going to take care of their problems. The guys at the top want you to believe they're going to take care of your problems while they fuck you good. The reality is every dollar you spend is your power. And if you don't realize what your power is, then how can you use it to change things politically ? You're misguided in life! You need to take that money, stop shopping in the corporate world, and put it back into independent stores, back into the community.
What does it mean to live a lifestyle versus talking a lifestyle ?
We're sold a package in this country. They have us buying into an idea, that's a lie. The reality is, if you really care, you'll pay a little more, and keep those independent stores open instead of the chains. If you stop going to chains, all the power will come back to us. All those businesses will represent you, and then the legislators will start to listen to the small businesses instead of the corporations. Because they'll have the power again, we'll have our communities again. You'll have people you know, instead of somebody who doesn't want to help you because they can't help you. Because there's liability involved.
I remember being at a car accident out on 13 and Stevenson, where this guy's head was on the ground, bleeding everywhere. I ran across the street to an emergency center and asked them to get a crash cart and come help this guy. You know what they said ? 'We can't go out there and help him' Now, if it was an independent place, they would've come right out. But, because it was corporate owned, the staff couldn't leave the building to help because of the liability involved. We're paying people in this country to stop caring and I don't want that.
You've had the opportunity to work with a number of Detroit bands and influence those bands. In return, which musicians have had the largest influence on you?
I have to say number one, is Vinnie Dombrowski from Sponge, CRUD, and The Orbitsuns. I've never seen somebody help so many people in my life, and be out there working with people. I meet a lot of musicians and a lot of them are great guys. Well, most of them. But Vinnie he keeps giving and giving and helping people. And you know what, it inspires me.
Does working in Detroit make you cynical?
If I've learned one thing, call an asshole an asshole. If someone has an issue, they've got to deal with it the rest of their life. You only have to deal with it for fifteen minutes. I enjoy people.
People come in my store and I'll invite them over to my house that night for dinner. My friends say 'Dan, what the fuck is wrong with you?' I say 'Whats wrong with you? Where's the heart and soul?' I just had three people over at my house for a BBQ that I didn't know, but they were all in town. That's part of living experiencing different people, different personalities. And what are they gonna do ? Kill me? They can only fucking kill me once!
Has there been a highlight for you owning this store and doing what you do?
Many. I meet people that most people don't get a chance to meet and I'm not talking famous people. Just people walking in that open your eyes on different levels. We'll just start having this conversation and all of a sudden it will evolve into this thing that no one would expect to talk about in any aspect of their life. This guy comes in one day and just started playing guitar. He told me 'Man I love this guitar' so I told him 'Man I love the way you're playing that guitar. Are you in a band around here?'. He tells me 'I'm the guitar player for Social Distortion and I was like 'WOW dude that was beyond anything I ever heard'. Howard Armstrong from Louie Bluie, I met him, a very spiritual, very classy person. I got a chance to watch him play at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. He played the violin and took it beyond anything I've ever seen. To be honest with you, when he died, that was a sad day because the talent and the energy of this band and the vitality was beyond anybody eighteen years old that I ever met in my life.
What can be done to save Detroit?
That's too convoluted. Save Detroit? The developers are here. They're already robbing the city. They're gonna turn around and make it look like it's happening, bringing the young in to bring it back. It's another scam. Yeah, it's gonna look like its coming back and its going to be a better place to live for awhile downtown. But, all the people on the borders lost the value in their properties and they're (developers) pushing all the crime into those neighborhoods. It's a long story it's not just three sentences to fix Detroit.
Where would you start?
If you really wanted to start, you'd have to get rid of the mayor and get a real mayor in here. You'd have to get a grassroots election going and you'd have to circumvent these developers. But the developers are all connected. Good luck to any mayor that gets into that office that really wants to help the people. Because it's not going to happen.