Hitch Hiker of Sonny Eliot

publicity foto Sonny Eliot

Sonny is a Detroit personality I picked because I wanted to do a hitch hiker of a celebrity and Sonny was a pure celebrity.  He was locally famous for no reason other than everyone knew who he was.

He was wary, but, once he realized I wasn't looking to exploit him or make some money by using his image, he readily agreed to the deal and I traced and polaroided him in the parking lot of WJBK studio in Southfield, Michigan. He gave me an eight by ten glossy and said he knew it would be impossible for me, a mere mortal, to capture his physical beauty, so he  inscribed the picture, "All is forgiven"
When I showed up a few weeks later with the finished Hitchiker and gave it to Sonny,
He said "Where should I sent it?" I told him it was entirely up to him.  He'd get no suggestions out of me.
 "What would happen if it arrived at the Detroit Institute of Arts?"
I said "What do you mean?"
"Would the museum keep it? Would it go into their collection, throw it away or what?"
I told him, "They would very likely keep it."
He said "Good. I always wanted to have a drawing in a museum." and, with that,
he drew his trademark little smiling sun on the back of the plywood form. Then he wrote "Take me to Fred Cummings at The Detroit Institute of Arts"  He turned to Jesa Hudman, the TV station's publicist, who had watched all this, and said "Drop it off on Woodward and Farnesworth when you think you can get some PR."
I said "But that's the corner of the D.I.A., Sonny. You're not much of a risk taker.
Not missing a beat, he replied, "Not with my image."

A month later, WJBK fired Sonny. A year later, the publicist called me up and said she was fired too, and was cleaning out her office.
"What should I do with the hitchiking Sonny Eliot?" she asked.
I told her it wasn't up to me. "Call Sonny", I said, "It's his problem."
Several months later, WTVS, Detroit's Public TV station, called me requesting a donation of artwork for a fund-raising auction. I was curious what sort of a bid might be fetched by offering the Hitchiker deal to the highest bidder.  But the auctioneer needed something to show the bidders what a Hitchiker was. So I told them to contact WJBK, that they might have Sonny Eliot in a storeroom.  It was found  and everyone enjoyed seeing Sonny  at the auction including the highest bidder, interior designer, Ron Rea and his wife Anna.

After the auction the auctioneer handed me the demo hitchhiking Sonny and walked away. I went home with the wooden Sonny. Ultimately, I took Sonny and put him on the sidewalk at Woodward and Farnsworth.

What happened there is another story.

Sonny's Hitchiker around Detroit, including outside the Lindell A.C. bar (Sonny had a reserved stool.) and at the Mt. Elliot exit on the I-94 expressway.  Sonny says when they discovered that Mount Elliot, on Detroit's eastside, makes its own weather, they named it after him.

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