Rubin: Lost and found with Salley, Prince and a phone

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

It turns out that John Salley still has Joe Borri’s denim jacket, the one with Prince’s portrait on the back.

Borri will probably never see it again, except on a computer screen, but that’s okay. He’s just glad to know Salley liked it enough to hang onto it.

Lara Slaughter could not afford to be so philosophical about her missing object, because you use a cell phone more often than you use a size XXL Levi’s coat decorated with a musician’s face.

What’s unique about Slaughter’s story isn’t what was lost, but rather, who found it — and what would have been the proper and polite response.

Borri, meanwhile, wants to pass along word — especially to the friends and artists who took up for him online — that he has only the best things to say about Salley, “the greatest guy,” and that the crediting of his work to Salley’s wife was an honest mistake.

Borri and Salley met at the opening of a reasonably legendary nightclub in Livonia called Tremors.

That would have been Oct. 28, 1988, when Salley was 24 and Borri a year older.

Salley was a third-year forward and center for the Detroit Pistons, a reedy 6-foot-11.

Borri was a painter, bouncer, and occasional lackey breaking down tables at VFW halls, and a sizeable fellow himself: 6-3 1/2 and 250 gym-built pounds.

Salley was making $375,000 a year. Borri was trying to pay off his student loans.

In the din of a club whose dismissive slogan was, “Everything else just lays there,” they hit it off.

“It was fun,” says Borri, 53, now an artist, writer, and married father of four in Farmington Hills. “The 80s, right?”

Salley, who would become a TV sports talk star and a well-known vegan, invited Borri to stop by his apartment at Towers of Southfield the next day. A casual friendship grew from there.

Salley was an admirer of Borri’s artwork, though looking at the Prince jacket, Borri says, “Jeez, I wasn’t very good back then.”

Using acrylics, Borri would paint outerwear with the likes of the Doors, KISS, Madonna or wild animals. It was a big hit at parties. Sometimes he’d sell one, and $300 or $400 was a big deal back then.

Salley wound up with the Prince jacket because he offered to see if he could sell it on Borri’s behalf. Soon afterward, they lost contact, and “any time I’d hear a Prince song, I’d think of that jacket.”

Then, after Prince died, he saw it. One of Salley’s daughters posted a picture of it on her mother’s Instagram with the notation, “Missing Prince. Jacket my mama painted.”

Wait a minute, Borri thought. I painted that. See? There’s my signature on the lower left, with a little Italian flag.

He sent a friendly note to Salley’s wife, Natasha, received a friendly response, and then watched with a mix of appreciation and borderline horror as people stood up for a wronged artist — who, again, wasn’t feeling perturbed at all.

In fact, he’s feeling inspired. Kid No. 3 is starting college next fall, and if a painted jacket was worth $300 or more in 1990, what could he get for one now?

Spa phone found

Lara Slaughter’s story is more commonplace, at least at the start.

A Detroiter, she was treating herself to some pampering in the Immerse Spa at the MGM Grand. As she waited for a friend in the spa’s lobby, she plugged her phone into a charger.

Naturally, she forgot about it. “I didn’t miss it,” she explains, “because cell phones aren’t allowed inside.”

Hours later, she realized what had happened, made appropriate sounds of panic, and hastened to the security desk in hopes the phone had been retrieved.

She was, of course, prepared to offer a tip or a reward to whoever turned it in. Except …

“You aren’t going to believe who found it,” the guard told her.

It was Steve Zanella, the MGM’s president and COO — and how do you tip him? Would $20 make an impact? Do you make it $40, and tell him to buy himself something nice?

It’s probably not a conundrum anyone else would face, but maybe Zanella is a Prince fan. Word is, there’s a fellow in Farmington Hills who paints jackets.