What could possibly go wrong when you're trying to erect a 10-foot bronze statue of a fictional movie character in a city with a massive amount of logistical problems that make even the smallest task a headache?
Everything, apparently. The long-delayed RoboCop statue — according to our good, all-knowing-of-Detroit friends at Gawker, it was "fucking happening" earlier this year, but actually didn't — was supposed to finally be put up today. There were press releases. There was local news coverage. There was national and international news coverage. Today was supposed be the day.
And not just any day. See, today is "RoboCop Day" in Detroit. The 2014 remake of the 1987 film is out on DVD today, so today would be a perfect day for a statue unveiling. I've never had the pleasure of planning a statue unveiling, but it seems to be one of those monumental tasks that shouldn't be screwed up. Today, for whatever reason, it was.
The RoboCop statue was not put up today. From what I can gather, here's why.
Let's start with a review of how Detroit was supposed to get a statue of a fake movie cop to begin with. A couple people on the Internet suggested that former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing put up a statue of RoboCop in Detroit because Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky Balboa. Bing, who had quite a bit on his plate at the time — a revolving door of police chiefs, a revolving door of his own administrative staff, skyrocketing crime, oh, and the city was circling the bankruptcy drain — nixed the suggestion.
So people on the Internet started a Kickstarter to raise almost $70,000 to make their own statue. That started in 2011. Three years later, the statue has been cast and bronzed, but unable to find a date for the wraps to come off, much less a suitable place to be displayed.
Press releases were sent out sometime last week indicating that the statue would be unveiled June 3 at Detroit Police Headquarters downtown, officially kicking off RoboCop Day in Detroit. I didn't get the press release; I, like most Detroiters, likely found out by reading it in the news.
So the statue was supposed to go up at noon. Knowing how press events in Detroit can be — giant news vans snapping up all the good parking and whatnot — I get to DPD at 11:45. There, two women are waiting outside. "Are you here for RoboCop?" they ask?
"Yes," I reply.
"Oh, no," one of the women says. "It's been moved to Campus Martius."
Campus Martius, for those unaware, is the center of downtown Detroit; "Detroit's Gathering Place," where a public park with real-deal statues, a fountain, and little shops and cafes are located. It's also the most trafficked area of downtown, which makes it a helluva challenge to find easy parking. Nice last-minute change-of-venue there, guys!
So I make my way to Campus Martius and surprisingly find a place to park that has a working meter, a unicorn downtown these days. I go over to the park and don't see a ton of media. I start asking around; "anyone know what's up with RoboCop?" No one knows what I'm talking about. I see a guy with a bunch of camera equipment. He's a photographer for a European wire service who, like me, originally went to the police department and was sent down here. He points me toward two women who he says are public-relations people working with RoboCop.
I ask them what they know and they say the festivities will be moved to an adjacent part of Campus Martius across the street. As for RoboCop, "he'll be here in half-an-hour." It's already past noon at this point.
So we all move over to the other part of Campus Martius where there are people setting up cupcakes. (From here on out, they will be referred to as RoboCupcakes.) There are promo team members from 105.9, an adult R&B station that plays Kem's "Share My Life" 1,300 times a day. And there's a giant box full of T-shirts and hoodies that say "RoboCop" on the front.
What I don't see is something indicative of a big, statue-unveiling-type ceremony: A placeholder for a 10-foot statue, or perhaps a large ribbon or novelty scissors. Even more concerning is that I don't see anyone associated with the RoboCop statue project.
I send out a few feelers on Twitter and Facebook — "what the hell is going on with RoboCop?" — when it dawns on me: RoboCop the statue isn't coming in a half-hour. Some guy in a RoboCop suit is. After a closer look at the RoboCop T-shirts in the box, they all say "out on DVD and Blu-Ray today."
I get a few tweets from someone with a private account but who's close to the project: "The statue announcement was cancelled. The pieces are still at the foundry." So, is it going to happen soon? "We've got a progress meeting soon. I think the price of doing some things in Detroit is that things can take forever."
It's true. We do have an influx of creatives and entrepreneurs, but the simplest things — opening a business, for example — takes three steps too many. I can't imagine the process for putting up a statue. I'm still trying to figure out where in this city it would go.
There are several people here, including some press, lost about which RoboCop is coming. There's even someone dressed in a RoboCop costume — the 1987 version, not the 2014 version. Oh, but there are RoboCupcakes! So the PR people command everyone to get in line for RoboCupcakes, upon which two Rick Ross-built security guards stand on each side of the line grimacing everyone. Heaven forbid a gaggle of 8-year-olds break out into a fight over some buttercream-covered yellow cake.
I decide to hang around for a bit to see if this is a giant troll put on by the RoboCop statue people. Maybe they really were going to put up the statue in secret and fool the press by telling them it was canceled, thus owning the story themselves.
Meanwhile, a few messages on Facebook seem to confirm the obvious: The statue ceremony had indeed been canceled, and some press had gotten word of the cancellation last night. Apparently not all; one of the PR women collected some of our information, including some from an NPR reporter.
A Lincoln Navigator (insert your Kwame joke here) pulls up and the security guards spring into action again. As expected, a guy in a RoboCop suit steps out. He does his best to walk…robotically, I guess…to a stand where he can take pictures with the crowd. "One picture per person!" the security guards repeatedly yell. Fuck this, I'm out.
So here's the thing about this RoboCop statue: Does anyone in Detroit really want this thing? Does anyone still care? It's been delayed for awhile now. Maybe this is a sign that it's not meant to be? I get that there was a ton of effort in making this statue happen, but surely one of these galleries around here will take the damn thing.
And you see what's happening with the Shinola clocks, right? As soon as those were put up, one was tagged. Yeah, Shinola cleaned it up, but apparently another one was tagged sometime this morning. (The tag read "gentrification." Ooh, picky subject…let's discuss elsewhere.) Is that a risk you'd want to take with a bronze statue?
Or maybe this whole thing was just an Internet thing that should have never happened in the first place. Detroit has enough trouble with cops. The city's department is underfunded. The state's department is overzealous. Why glorify a fake one?
According to everyone on the Internet, the statue unveiling is TBA.