About 350 people enjoyed an up-close and personal evening with Motown recording artist Kem on Friday night when broadcast journalist Ed Gordon (former correspondent for NBC’s “Dateline” and CBS’ “60 Minutes II” and a BET News host), presented “An Evening With Kem” at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Similar to James Lipton’s TV series “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” Gordon probed deep into the soul of the Grammy-nominated R&B crooner, revealing the intimate secrets to his success and happiness.
Sponsored by Rodgers Chevrolet, the evening kicked off with a cocktail reception in the museum’s atrium, followed by a soulful dinner — fried chicken, Cajun catfish, mac and cheese and collard greens — catered by Beans & Cornbread in Southfield. During dinner, which was served in the Contemporary Artist Gallery, a casually dressed Kem popped in to welcome guests.
“Ed and I are very excited to have you here this evening, particularly to support the Charles Wright Museum,” he said. “We’ve got some exciting things planned. We hope you’ll enjoy it.”
The evening was delivered with precision timing, perhaps a trait carried over from Gordon’s live TV news training. Through the entire event, he was gracious, funny, charming and the consummate professional, but in a no-nonsense, take-charge kind of way. Immediately following dinner, guests were directed to the General Motors Theater for the main event.
Two contemporary white chairs were positioned center stage where Kem (now dressed to the teeth in a meticulously cut gray striped suit) and Gordon began the intriguing dialogue, which included serious topics such as tough-love lessons: “My mother put me out of her house when I was around 19 years old, and it was the best thing she could have ever done,” Kem said, gesturing to the front row where his very elegant mother, Liz Hardy, was seated. “And now, I’m glad she did, and I think she’s pretty happy she did, too.”
The discussion included fun topics, like the most embarrassing moment on stage: “I did an entire performance with split pants once. I’ve got 15 people working for me and I’m running around the stage with split pants. Nobody said a word.”
After the “conversation,” Kem treated the crowd to an adrenaline-charged mini concert, performing some of his biggest hits, including “Love Calls,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Share My Life.”
At the exact scheduled time, the performance ended and guests were ushered back to the atrium for the after party. “An Evening With Kem“ is the first in a nationwide series produced by Ed Gordon Media taking an intimate look at the lives and careers of distinguished newsmakers with live, in-depth, one-on-one interviews. As a native Detroiter, Gordon wanted to start the series in Detroit with fellow Detroiter Kem.
Tickets to the event were $225 (VIP, which included dinner, Kem’s new CD, “Promise to Love,” and reserved seating) and $125, general admission. Proceeds will benefit the Charles Wright Museum.
Chuck Bennett is the Fox 2 News Style Ambassador and the creator of the Social D, a website that represents the social side of Metro Detroit. See thesociald.com.