The stain of a rumored wild party involving strippers that allegedly occurred at Detroit’s Manoogian Mansion during the tenure of disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick may prompt officials to change the name of the riverfront estate to the “Mayor’s Residence,” officials said Friday.
Mayor Dave Bing, the Manoogian family and Masco Corp. officials are involved in those talks, said Bing spokesman Dan Lijana. Lijana said the idea for the name change was Bing’s.
Alex Manoogian, an Armenian immigrant, founded the home improvement product manufacturer in 1929. He presented the 4,000-square-foot mansion along the Detroit River to the city in 1965 as a gift.
Bing and his wife, Yvette, are expected to move out of their condo in Detroit and into the mansion sometime next week.
Over the past year, the mayor had been softening his position on moving into the Manoogian. Following his May 2009 special runoff election win to complete Kilpatrick’s second term as mayor, Bing said he would not move into the mansion and that it should be made available for some type of public use.
Philanthropic and corporate leaders have been asking Bing to change his mind and Bing finally relented, Lijana said.
“The bigger thing is that he has become convinced that the image needs to be changed and this is part of doing it,” Lijana said.
The mansion is in a small, older subdivision a few miles northeast of downtown. The annual maintenance bill for the property is $116,000.
It has been empty since late in 2008 when Kilpatrick, his wife, Carlita, and their three young sons, were forced to move after he stepped down as mayor that September. Kilpatrick’s resignation was tied to his plea in two criminal cases stemming from lies he told while under oath in a 2007 whistle-blowers’ lawsuit trial.
Kilpatrick served time in jail on those charges. He was sent to state prison this spring for probation violation and is awaiting federal fraud and tax charges.
Kilpatrick was in his first term as mayor in late 2002 when rumors began to surface about a party at the mansion.
The family of slain stripper Tamara Greene claims in a civil lawsuit against Kilpatrick and the city that she danced at the party. Greene was shot to death outside her Detroit home the following spring. Her murder has not been solved.
Attorney Norman Yatooma, who is representing Greene’s three children in the lawsuit, said Kilpatrick and other city officials stifled a police investigation of the slaying.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in 2003 investigated and said he found no evidence that a party had occurred.
He added that it had the earmarks of an urban legend.
The alleged party is not a reason to change the mansion’s name, Detroit City Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. said.
“I think that’s kind of a dumb idea,” he told The Associated Press Friday. “I’d leave it alone. What’s broken that needs fixing? Simply changing a name doesn’t change the fact of what’s alleged to have happened there. That’ll pass. It’s time that will make the stigma of that go away.”
Cockrel moved up from his post as Council president to the mayor’s office after Kilpatrick resigned and served until defeated by Bing in the 2009 run off. Pressed by immediate city budget concerns, Cockrel said he didn’t have time to plan a move into the mansion with his family and doesn’t begrudge Bing’s decision to do so.
The mansion is undergoing extensive renovations, which Lijana said are being paid by donations. The work includes updated windows, plumbing, paint and carpeting.
The Bings’ living quarters will be on the second floor. The first floor will be made available for public events, including a Sept. 15 arts fundraiser, Lijana said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)