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True Life Drama: Curtain Rises Friday on the 'Strawberry' Saga from Kilpatrick Era

January 19, 2017, 11:48 AM by  Alan Stamm

This Jan. 7 article is reposted a day before the play opens.

A notorious, unsolved local murder is the basis of a play having its premiere downtown this month.

The dramatic hooks made front-page headlines last decade: a flashy young mayor, a party at his Manoogian Mansion (or not?), an exotic dancer, a reportedly violent wife, a fatal drive-by four months later.

Those real-life elements from the colorful time of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick are woven into "Strawberry -- What Party?" by Carol Teegardin, a former Detroit Free Press features writer and columnist (1983-99). It'll be presented six times this weekend and next weekend at the Boll Family YMCA. (Details below.) 

"They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway -- sure hope so," the first-time playwright posts on Facebook.

Teegardin adapted her three-act drama from "Strawberry: How an Exotic Dancer Toppled Detroit's Hip-Hop Mayor," a 226-page paperback book she self-published in 2011. It's directed by Mary Bremer-Beer, who directs plays at Henry Ford College in Dearborn and at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre.

"It's a play about Detroit for Detroit," Teegardin tells BLAC Detroit editor Aaron Foley in this month's issue. 

In an online blurb, the dramatist sketches the setting:

One rainy night in April [2003], an exotic dancer named Strawberry died during a drive-by in Detroit after her dance at the hip-hop mayor's wild mansion bachelor party.

Who killed Strawberry? Some say the mayor's bodyguard did it to shut her up. Others blame Strawberry's jealous boyfriend. A few think Strawberry was killed during a drug hit. In the end, Strawberry's case went cold.

Tamara Greene, 26, died less than four months after reportedly dancing at a mayoral party.

"Nobody cared enough to investigate” deeply, the playwright says in BLAC Detroit.

Here are more details behind this ripped-from-the-headlines saga:

Reports surfaced in early 2003 about about a lively New Year's Eve party at Kilpatrick's city-owned riverside home. The flamboyant mayor, then 32, supposedly hosted a stag party at Manoogian Mansion, a 4,000-square-foot riverside house on Dwight Street. Tamara Greene, an east-side Detroiter who danced as "Strawberry," apparently was among strippers who performed.

According to an unconfirmed accounts, mayoral wife Carlita Kilpatrick arrived while Greene was giving Kilpatrick a naked lapdance at the Dec. 31, 2002 celebration. The first lady is said to have fetched a baseball bat and swung it at one or more dancers. Police bodyguards in the Executive Protection Unit reportedly stepped in and took Greene to a hospital.

The mayor insisted the party never happened. A Michigan State Police inquiry ended without confirming a party or assault.

Greene died in April 2003, two weeks before her 27th birthday, in a 3:40 a.m. drive-by shooting on Roselawn, near West Outer Drive on the city's northwest side. The Detroit native, who left three children, had graduated in 1994 from Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.

The dancer's grave at Detroit's Gethsemane Cemetery on Gratiot.

'Strawberry -- What Party?' performances:

  • When: 8 p..m. Jan. 20-21 and Jan. 27-28; 2 p.m. Jan. 22 and 29
  • Where: Marlene Boll Theatre, 1401 Broadway, Detroit. 
  • Cost: $20 advance; $25 at door; $17 group member (four or more)
  • Get tickets here

Related coverage:

Video: Playwright Talks About Her Drama on Kilpatrick, Strawberry and 'The Party', Jan. 16

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