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Bill Davidson documentary premieres for family, friends at the DIA

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- An emotional Ethan Davidson told the audience in the Detroit Film Theatre on Sunday night, March 31, that the occasion for which they'd gathered was probably the last place his late father, William Davidson, would have wanted to be.

"My dad would absolutely not have tolerated any of this," Davidson, who co-executive produced the film, said in introducing the documentary "Call Me Bill: The William Davidson Story" during an invitation-only premiere. "He'd have been the last guy to talk about himself for make a big deal about himself...My father was not one of those people who needed self-acclimation or anything like that. He would never have done this.

"But he's not here to stop us."

The evening party was indeed a warm and loving affair as family (including Davidson's sister Dorothy Gershon), friends and employees gathered to celebrate the elder Davidson's life as a businessman (Guardian Industries), sports team owner (Detroit Pistons, Detroit Shock, Tampa Bay Lightning) and philanthropist. An eclectic combination of industry, arts (particularly music) and athletes turned out -- including members of the Pistons' 1989 team in town to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise's first NBA championship. Isiah Thomas took part in introducing the film, while teammates Vinnie Johnson, John Salley, James "Buddah" Edwards, Bill Laimbeer, John Long and Mark Aguirre sat in a middle row -- passing a cell phone towards the end of Michigan State University's regional championship game to share the score.

Others in attendance included former Pistons assistant coach Brendan Suhr, Ben Wallace from the Pistons' 2004 championship team, longtime Pistons broadcaster George Blaha and team photographer Al Einstein, the late general manager Jack McCloskey's widow Leslie, the late head coach Chuck Daly's daughter Cindy and current Pistons vice-chairman Arn Tellem.

On Saturday night, March 30, the '89 Pistons were honored at Little Caesar, while on Sunday morning they attended a special brunch at the Motown Museum, where they also sang with accompaniment from Funk Brothers guitarist Dennis Coffey and his band.

All appeared touched by "Call Me Bill," an exhaustive look at the accomplishments and legacy of Davidson, who passed away during March of 2009 at the age of 86. "It was awesome," Edwards said afterwards. "A lot of people don't know that he was so successful and such a great man. It was just an honor to be on the team when he was there."

Tom Wilson, who Davidson hand-picked to run the Pistons and to build the Palace of Auburn Hills before he moved to Olympia Entertainment and now 313 Presents, called the film "very touching, very meaningful. It was a great tribute to the man who...touched so many different lives, and so passionately. I knew a lot of the backstory, but to have it explained by family the way it was, that's great. He was so human -- the most normal billionaire I've ever met."

"Call Me Bill" will have its public premiere on May 2 as part of the Leon Marwill Detroit Jewish Film Festival at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. detroitjewishfilmfestival.com for details.

Web Site: www.detroitjewishfilmfestival.com

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