By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit “Michigan Matters”
It may not be cats doing funny tricks but America has shown it still has a love affair with a good story, which is how Rob Bliss explained the phenomenal success of his Lip Dub Video touting his hometown of Grand Rapids. The video has proved to be a viral hit on YouTube.
Since debuting in late May, the video has had nearly 4 million hits.
“It’s a big crazy fun style of video and reflects my way of doing things,” the 22-year-old musician said during taping of “Michigan Matters” which airs Sunday at 11 a.m. on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit.
Bliss, who could be described as the “PT Barnum” of events on the west side of Michigan, is known for things like staging a huge downtown pillow fight. Bliss came up with the idea for the lip dub video to answer “Newsweek” magazine which slapped a scarlet “D’ as in dying on his city last fall.
Also making the dubious “D” list — Detroit and Flint.
“People love a good story,” which is how his video, which was created. Bliss gathered 5,000 residents including Mayor George Heartwell and businessman Pete Secchia, all lip synching to Don McLean’s “American Pie”. Bliss posted the video on YouTube.
There are marching bands, police cars, helicopters, canoe races and more.
Everyone donated their Sunday to make the video which took 3.5 hours. Bliss had planned it for months and had numerous people helping including area businesses which financially supported it.
“The biggest thing I feared was the weather. We had to cancel a week earlier. But the rain held off while we filmed,” said Bliss.
After the video came out numerous national stories appeared about it, “Newsweek” didn’t apologize or take back its dying city tag. But it did say they love the lip dub.
Bliss also inspired a trend as Traverse City came out with its version of a lib dub this week. And a group of senior citizens in Grand Rapids created one as well a few weeks ago.
“It was super cute and very classy,” Bliss said about the seniors’ lip dub. He added that some of the people involved with his video also worked on it.
He also said he would not be doing any other Lip Dubs as he couldn’t possibly top the success he has had with this venture.
Bliss appeared on the show with regular roundtable of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and businesswoman Denise Ilitch.
Among the other issues discussed included this week’s release of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from jail.
Patterson said he was in the process of reading Kilpatrick’s autobiography “Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick” which he said was “very defensive.”
Bliss said folks on the west side of the state didn’t pay too much attention to it.
“I think we saw it as old Detroit. Another problem on top of other problems,” he said. “But now Detroit is moving in a positive direction with a new mayor.”
Patterson and Bliss did trade a few words on the topic of East vs. West when it came to who is better at getting things done regionally speaking.
Bliss said he agreed with Dick DeVos and Secchia – two Grand Rapids businessmen who have said there is far more cooperation on the west side.
Patterson took issue with that.
“There’s a certain smugness when everyone is homogenous. You all go to the same church and live in the same community,” Patterson said. “I’m tired of the ‘we do everything right and you are dysfunctional over there’ mentality I keep hearing.”
But Patterson did give Kent County some love.
“I admire Kent County. It is one of the best run counties in the state and country. We stack up really well to them. But don’t compare Kent to Wayne, Macomb and Oakland. It isn’t a fair comparison.”
On political issues, Patterson said he was lending his support to former U.S. Rep Pete Hoekstra who threw his hat into the ring to take on U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
When asked if he had flip flopped as he had given his support earlier to Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCullough, another GOP who had said he would run against Stabenow, Patterson said “that’s bull.”
“John decided to take himself out of the running,” he said. “I support the home team. When (Oakland Sheriff Mike) Bouchard told me he was going to run for governor I knew he was starting out way behind but I supported him. John told me he was dropping out and I went with Hoekstra.”
Ilitch, a Democrat, said Stabenow was a “formidable candidate” and would be difficult to beat.
“She has over $4 million and will raise tons more,” she said. “She has the power of incumbency.”
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of Emmy winning “Michigan Matters” which airs 11 a.m. Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit. . You can read her columns on politics and business in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at 248-355-7126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.