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Rochester Hills mayor says Madonna snub unfair

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Madonna recently opened up to radio host Howard Stern about growing up around "basic, provincial thinking" in Rochester Hills.

But now, a mayor of that suburb has another take: "Our residents are successful in a myriad of fields," said Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, who penned an open letter Sunday to one of Michigan's most famous natives. "We're innovative and have a tremendous history… none of those would be ascribed to people who are basic or simple."

But there are no hard feelings: He's invited her to return to the suburb where she grew up.

When the superstar hits Joe Louis Arena for a concert this fall, Barnett said Monday night, "... if she has the time, we will absolutely show her the Rochester Hills that she is not familiar with."

Barnett wrote the letter after learning about her comments in the radio interview with Stern last week.

During that lengthy chat, Madonna — who is promoting her latest LP, "Rebel Heart," — described living in Pontiac as "very racially mixed," then attending high school in an "all white" Rochester Hills.

"I just didn't fit in. I just felt like I was with rich people, and I wasn't. And I felt out of place, and I felt like they were members of country clubs and they… had manicures and they wore nice clothes," the entertainer said. "… I felt like a country bumpkin. And I was resentful."

Later, Madonna recounted how, after leaving the University of Michigan to pursue a dance career in New York City, she faced a host of hardships, including burglaries and a sexual assault.

Stern replied: "I wouldn't stay after that. I would just go home." To which the pop star responded: "Well, have you ever been to Rochester, Michigan? … I just didn't want to go back…. I can't, no. I can't be around basic, provincial thinking."

That didn't sit well with Barnett, who wrote in his letter that, among other achievements, his city boasts two Blue Ribbon Schools and has been cited by Money magazine as one of the top 10 best places to live in America.

He also pointed out how Madonna is enshrined in the Community Wall of Fame at the Van Hoosen Museum near two other female trailblazers.

Since Barnett's response went viral Monday, reaction on social media has been positive, he said.

"I have not received a single negative comment," said Barnett, who also fielded many media requests for interviews. "When someone achieves success and sort of turns their back on their roots — there's a lot of people in the general area that feel slighted by that."