Society: Stars, music and love highlight Motown's 60th celebration

The Detroit News
At the dinner, the board members surprise Robin Terry, chairwoman and CEO of the Motown Museum, with flowers and a thank you for all of her work.

It was just what everyone loves about a good gala – glamour, fashion and high-profile people. Sunday night’s event, Hitsville Honors, did not disappoint. The unforgettable evening of musical tributes and awards was the fancy part of the Motown 60th anniversary weekend.

The evening kicked off with some 350 special guests filing into the Max and Marjorie Fisher Music Center, nearly all of them dressed to the nines. They were invited to a private formal dinner in the Cube, where a duo-entree was presented amidst open bar service.

The room was filled with Metro Detroit movers and shakers who mingled and networked while Motown music played softly in the background. Among them were Matt and Mona Simoncini, William Pickard, Jimmy Settles, Levi and Nicolena Stubbs, III (son of Levi Stubbs from the Four Tops), Byna Elliott, Steve and Jill Miller, Mark and Tiffany Douglas, Don Manvel, and Tom and Diane Schoenith, who made it a family affair with their kids, Michael Schoenith (with his friend Ava Lux), and Mary Kay Schoenith, who flew in from Florida for the event with her husband, Christopher Allen.

“This has great memories for us,” said Tom Schoenith, who owns the Roostertail. “We used to host ‘Motown Mondays’ and all the Motown stars would perform. We were a part of it. Our kids grew up with it.”

After dessert, guests were ushered to Orchestra Hall for the show, which began with a rousing rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Motown artist Kem and Beth Griffith Manley. The lineup was amazing, including performances from Martha and the Vandellas, the Velvelettes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Big Sean, Ne-Yo, and a massive “Turn Up” session from Doug E. Fresh.

Honorees and presenters included Suzanne DePasse, Shelly Berger, Allee Willis and Lee Daniels. The show ended with the presentation of the Legacy Award to Berry Gordy, who will celebrate his 90th birthday in November. A long-winded Gordy accepted the award, trying to thank everyone who supported him along the way, almost apologetically offering, “There’s too much love here.” 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, right, talks with Ralph Gerson of the William Davidson Foundation, left, at the dinner.

After the show, guests were ushered back to the Cube for an after party. Late night snacks and a Hennessy Cocktail bar were in place. Gordy, Rhonda Ross, DePasse, and Doug E. Fresh attended the after party for a brief moment. Tickets to the dinner started at $1,000. Proceeds will benefit the Motown Museum expansion.

Chuck Bennett is the creator of