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Alice Cooper, Jack White and Kirk Gibson chat for charity at Shinola Hotel

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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A trio of Detroit music and sports icons shared stories, insights and mutual admiration for a Halloween eve treat on Wednesday night, Oct. 30, at the Shinola Hotel.

Detroit Tigers star-turned-broadcaster Kirk Gibson dressed as a Polaroid camera-toting Andy Warhol for the occasion -- a benefit for his Foundation for Parkinson's -- while Alice Cooper and Jack White, both Detroit natives, sported rock star black attire during the 25-minute conversation. The three, moderated by WDET personality Ann Delisi, focused primarily on sports topics during the session as about 120 attendees, most paying $350 for the experience, crowded into the hotel's glass-roofed Birdy Room.

They got some music, too, as White -- who played at U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign rally three days earlier at Cass Technical High School -- finished the evening with solo acoustic renditions of the White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends" and "Hotel Yorba."

Before the discussion Cooper, an ardent Tigers fan who was in town working on a new album, called Gibson "one fo thsoe guys who's always been a rock guy and a sports guy," recalling that on his 70th birthday last year Gibson made a customized video of himself performing Cooper's hit "I'm Eighteen." After agreeing to appear at Wednesday's event he said Shinola founder Tom Kartsotis stepped in and enlisted White to be part of the panel.

The evening had a fair share of highlights and revelations, among them...

Gibson chose the White Stripes' "Blue Orchid" as his theoretical at-bat walk-up music. White went with the Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," a bona fide sports anthem since its release in 2003, while Cooper chose his own "Welcome to My Nightmare."

White, who co-owns the Warstic baseball bat company, and Cooper both recalled experiences throwing out first pitches at Tigers games. White brought the mitt he used at Detroit's Clark Park as a youth and threw to his tour manager, dressed as Santa Claus, while Cooper -- who's made several first pitches in Detroit -- boasted about winning a strike on the high inside corner, quipping that, "I told the catcher, 'Look, this is gonna come in 30, 40 miles per hour, so be careful -- this is gonna hurt a little bit.'"

White, meanwhile, said he wasn't nervous about his first pitch -- at first. "When I turned around I went, 'Man, that's really far away. Wow!. I was on the rubber, which I probably shouldn't have done, but I wanted to do it the right way."

Cooper and White also recalled playing ball as youths growing up in Detroit, with Cooper and his east side neighbors taking on teams from other nearby streets. "That's all I did," Cooper remembered. "We get up in the morning, we'd play baseball all day. My bedroom looked like a shrine to Al Kaline."

White spoke about the championship ring from the famed 1919 Black Sox World Series, when Chicago White Sox players conspired to throw the series to the Cincinnati Reds. "They only made one (ring); It was for the manager of the Reds (Pat Moran)," White explained. "(Moran) gave it to his son. His son gave it to the milkman, the milkman gave it to his son and I got it from that guy."

White also revealed that he hit up Gibson for some hitting help before he hosted a benefit baseball game during June at Hamtramck Stadium. "I haven't played baseball in months," White recalled. "I said, 'Can we call Gibby up and see if he knows somebody who can give me pointers on hitting again, 'cause I'm just gonna walk up there and strike out. And Gibby's like, 'No, I'll show you some stuff'...I got four hits that day."

Cooper and Gibson discussed whether Major League baseballs have been "hotter" this season, as seems evident by a substantial increase in home runs. "They say the core's built differently and there's less drag on the ball," Gibson explained. "I wasn't weak, but the way they hit 'em out now, man, something's going on."

White and Cooper both demurred when asked if they'd like to be play-by-play announcers. "I would love it," White noted, "but I think I wouldn't last more than one game. I would be joking around the whole time...I do it at home when I'm by myself." Cooper added that, "It's an art. What those guys are doing is amazing, how they can keep it going."

Talking about his golf game, Cooper said he's had four holes in one over the years. His favorite round? "I got to play with Groucho Marx -- I mean, how good is that? You think, 'I'm gonna play with Tiger (Woods). I played with Phil (Mickelson)' and all that. Btu I played with Groucho...He was pretty good. There's a golf course in L.A. called Hillcrest, and it's all the old comedians. You go in the locker room and there was, like, George Burns and all those guys there. I was just sitting there going, 'Wow!' It was great. Doing anything with Groucho was great."

On the music tip, Cooper shared an interesting story about his band's early visit to Los Angeles and playing the famed Whisky A-Go-Go. "The Doors were the house band, and (the marquee) said Alice Cooper and...and I went, 'Who's Led Zeppelin?' And the guy walked in and I said, 'You would be the Yardbirds, right?' 'Yeah.' 'We opened for you...'"

Engaged in an Internet-generated conversation about what indigenous Detroit food they could do without, White said Sanders Bumpy Cake, Cooper eschewed Better Made potato chips and Gibson demured, saying "I would not take any of those off the list."

White did make a pitch for one culinary change, too. "They call Vernors with ice cream a Boston Cooler. Is it not time for Detroit to grab ahold of this and call it a Detroit Cooler? Can we start that today? How dare they! I love Boston and everything, but it's our drink!"

The trio also shouted out MC5 co-founder Wayne Kramer, who was in town to do some more recording on Cooper's next album at Rust Belt Studios in Royal Oak and attended Wednesday's event. Also in the crowd was Bob Ezrin, the legendary music producer who's helming the project.

The evening also included a silent auction for prizes such as a Shinola turntable signed by White, the chance to play ping-pong against Cooper and Gibson and a guitar lesson from Kramer. More information about Gibson's charity can be found at kirkgibsonfoundation.org.

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