Marvin Towns Jr.
5 feet 11 in
40 - 55
Marvin Towns was introduced to the film business though his friendship with Muhammad Ali, first working as an assistant on the television mini series "Freedom Road". His next gig was on "The Blues Brothers" and he hasn't looked back. Towns' production skills have been honed through years of working on big studio films, TV shows and small to large independent features. Working his way up through the DGA from 2nd AD to UPM and now as a Director, he now works for some of the most experienced producers in the business today. Through commercial jobs and his creation of the Concours d'Elegance at Cranbrook and the Detroit Festival of Speed and Style, Towns is a friend with leading executives from GM, Ford and Chrysler (which has come in handy on feature film logistics!) Based in southeast, Michigan, Marvin is well connected in the Michigan film community and is the chairman and chief creative officer of Group 820, LLC.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
|Morris Richardson II / The Detroit News |
|Marvin Towns, a car enthusiast whose great-grandfather |
|owned a Chrysler dealership in Chicago, founded the |
|Concours d'Elegance at Cranbrook three years ago. The show|
|attracts visitors from around the world. |
Variety drives car show
Newer Concours d'Elegance attracts a diverse crowd of enthusiasts
By Kimberly Hayes Taylor / The Detroit NewsStanding on the immaculately
manicured grounds of Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills,
Marvin Towns pointed to several classic cars parked a few feet away.
The Auburn, Packard, Corvette, Imperial and Jaguar are mere samples of
what people will see in this very spot during Sunday's Concours d'Elegance
at Cranbrook, he boasted.
The world's most valuable car, a $43 million 1907 Rolls Royce Silver
Ghost, will be flown in from England. The show also will feature a $12
million 1962 Ferrari GTO, Towns continued in his version of name-dropping.
Even one of "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno's prized possessions is slated to
be among the amazing cars, Towns told one person after another at the
preview press conference.
This is how the energetic founder and CEO of Concours d'Elegance at
Cranbrook has sold himself and his show since it debuted in 2003 --
thinking big while taking care of details one at a time. The result: The 3-
year-old auto exposition already has a national reputation for drawing a
more diverse crowd.
"Cranbrook is the new kid on the block, but they've definitely made an
impact," says Bob Stevens, editor at large of Cars and Parts magazine. "In
just a couple of years, it's been elevated right to the forefront.
Cranbrook is right up there with the very best."
Four years ago, when Towns first talked about starting this show at
Cranbrook, he had trouble finding people to take him seriously. After all,
Metro Detroit already had the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, a popular
classic car show celebrating its 27th anniversary this year. In addition,
Towns is African American, wears a ponytail, is still in his 40s, and he
doesn't even own a classic car -- four factors that make him unusual in an
arena populated mostly by older, richer, more conservative white male
|Rene Macura / Associated Press|
|Liliane Quan McCain shows off |
|the Bugatti room in her |
|Beverly Hills, Calif., home. |
|She will show her 1936 Bugatti|
|Type 57 Cabriolet in the |
|Indulge in classic cars |
|Concours d'Elegance at |
|What: A show featuring more |
|than 140 classic cars, |
|motorcycles and antique fire |
|engines made from 1907 to |
|When: The main car exhibition |
|is 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at |
|Cranbrook Educational |
|Community, 39221 Woodward |
|Ave., Bloomfield Hills. |
|Related events started Friday |
|with the Junior Concours and |
|AutoMotion in the Art Museum. |
|Today, the Concours Cars on |
|Tour begins 9 a.m. at Christ |
|Church Cranbrook, 470 Church |
|Road in Bloomfield Hills (at |
|the corner of Lone Pine Road) |
|and ends at Shain Park (beside|
|Birmingham City Hall, 151 |
|Martin St.), where cars can be|
|viewed 1-3 p.m. The Starlight |
|d'Elegance Gala and Auction is|
|7 p.m.-2 a.m. this evening at |
|GM Heritage Center in Sterling|
|Tickets: $250-$350 for the |
|gala; $25 for the Sunday show.|
|Benefits: Michigan Humane |
|Society, Variety FAR |
|Conservatory of Therapeutic |
|and Performing Arts, Women's |
|Survival Center of Oakland |
|For more information: Call |
|(248) 539-2150 or visit |
|www.concoursatcranbrook .com. |
|[pic]Comment on this story |
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Despite all of that, the Bloomfield Township resident says he was certain
he could pull off a classic car show that would be more fun and attract
more women, young people, African Americans, Asians and Latinos than the
usual luxury auto show.
It didn't hurt that his idea melded his love of cars (dating back to the
years his great-grandfather owned a car dealership in Chicago) with his
creative streak (exemplified by work as assistant director for several
films, including "Bad Boys" and "Weird Science").
Towns, who volunteers his time to the Cranbrook show, isn't alone in
pushing to revamp high-end classic car events. Several new shows began
emerging around the United States five or six years ago, when a group of
younger car enthusiasts and collectors began to emphasize updating the
classic car show scene, Stevens says. The group wanted to present cars some
purists consider an abomination to classic car events: cars built since
1970, mid-20th century muscle cars, V16 collections, concept cars and some
collectibles that have been restored to drive.
"They draw a lot of interest from young people," Stevens says of such
His daughter, Julie Stevens of Troy, is part of the younger crowd such
cars have drawn to Cranbrook.
"Cranbrook is different from the other car shows," says the 28-year-old.
"They have so many different cars and you can get close to your favorites.
I like Corvettes and you get to see them all together. They have some newer
cars, some of the more recent classics, ones that people my age can
actually own, not just cars that are big and super expensive. It makes it a
little more interesting that way and there are more of the styles we are
Larry Crane, editor and designer of Auto Aficionado magazine, agrees the
Cranbrook show is drawing a younger crowd to the classic car scene --
though the crowd isn't completely different from that at other classic
shows. "The same guys are there (at Cranbrook). It's just that these are
the young, snobbish guys at the beginning of their careers as opposed to
the end of their careers," he says
The show's diverse group of collectors is a draw for Bahamian-born Cedric
Maycock, who's driving from Fort Pierce, Fla., to show his 1935 Auburn
"A lot of times, I'm the only black guy around," the 46-year-old says of
most classic car shows. "The other day, I went to another show and there
was another black guy there and he ran up to me and said, 'I thought I was
the only one out there doing this.' He begged me to come to the next show.
I love to see more black people involved. A lot of black people have the
money to buy these cars, but they just don't get involved."
That's because they haven't been invited to participate, Towns says. He
likens it to planning a party: If it is to be successful, people must be
invited to attend.
Liliane Quon McCain, a Chinese-American psychoanalyst who lives in Beverly
Hills, Calif., got her "invitation" from two collector friends who attended
a Cranbrook show and said she should be there. She will compete with her
1936 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet.
"I've heard it's a very fine show," she says. "It's really a gathering of
people who appreciate a finely manufactured automotive article."
The show is not good news to everyone, however.
Lolly Bezy, executive director for Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, is
not excited about Cranbrook nor any of the other recently developed
Concours d'Elegances (the French term means tour or show of elegance)
around the nation.
"We are all asking for the same money," she says. "We're all going to the
same marketing department at Chrysler asking for support. Everything has
gotten so tight. They don't have the excess funds to spend on these events
like they used to. It becomes extremely difficult to put on a show at the
level we do."
In fact, after the Cranbrook event started, the Meadow Brook show -- which
has raised more than $5 million over almost three decades to help preserve
Meadow Brook Hall at Oakland University -- lost a key sponsor. After 25
years of supporting the Meadow Brook show in Rochester, GM is now chief
sponsor of the Cranbrook show, which so far has raised about $50,000 for
"Do we jump up and cheer when we know we're competing for the same
dollars?" Bezy asks. "No, but we hope they give people something they want.
We know we do."
Nevertheless, Bezy says the competition has been good for Meadow Brook,
helping to keep it fresh. This year, for the first time in the show's
history, for example, its black-tie affair will be open to the public.
Anyone who has $250 for the tickets to the strolling dinner and art auction
The Cranbrook gala, which has been open to the general public since its
inception, recommends "casual-chic attire."
"Every month, there's an event to wear a monkey suit," says Towns, who
runs MTI Advertising in Southfield. "It gets tiring. In the summer, I think
people want to be relaxed. I'm just more laid back, more casual."
Sometimes that gets him into trouble.
At last year's show, some gala guests pulled him aside to tell he was out
of place in his black Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap. "I had to promise
people I won't wear my Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap this year," he says.
"But at least I stirred things up."
That's what he plans to keep doing with the Concours d'Elegance at
Cranbrook -- differently, even if that requires risking mistakes along the
"There's a shift in the guard," he says. "Whether people like it or not,
change is going to happen. Get on board with it or get left behind."
You can reach Kimberly Hayes Taylor at (313) 222-2058 or
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