The Manoogian Mansion holds more than a legend of a party - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

The Manoogian Mansion holds more than a legend of a party

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

An old friend's name came up in Wednesday's testimony, and it got me thinking to the time we got a private tour of the Manoogian Mansion.

The friend, and sometime rival, is Steve Wilson, the former Channel 7 investigative reporter who shook this town up plenty with his penchant for taking on big targets with a mix of bombast and self-deprecation and what he cheekily termed "unscheduled accountability sessions" (a fancy term for what a lot of folks considered ambush interviewing).

Steve, Jim Schaefer and myself exposed plenty of wrongdoing by Kwame Kilpatrick and his cronies during his ill-fated mayoralty. We all burned plenty of shoe leather investigating the Manoogian Mansion party rumor. We could never prove that it happened (and I believe it did not, at least not as portrayed in legend). We were more successful confirming that Hizzoner used city funds to lease a luxury Lincoln Navigator for his wife, Carlita.

So it was something of a thrill that Steve and I were among a small group of reporters who got to tour the Manoogian Mansion on, I believe, the day Kilpatrick was being sentenced for his misdeeds in the wake of the text message scandal Schaefer and I exposed for the Detroit Free Press in 2008. Kilpatrick's replacement, City Council President Ken Cockrel, was a former journalist who wanted his tenure as mayor to start with a new feeling of transparency. He must have figured one way to do that was to invite in all the folks who had been run off for all those years.

(Though I must admit Schaefer and I were treated politely when, frustrated with our inability to find anyone who witnessed the party, we went up the Manoogian, rang the bell, and asked the cop on duty if anyone had a party there recently.)  One of our chaperones for this tour was none other than Jefferson Travis, one of Kilpatrick's most-trusted police bodyguards. While loyal to the mayor, Travis had always conducted himself professionally with the press -- something I can't say for several other EPU members who were only too glad to shove Steve and I around when we tried speaking with the mayor in the last couple years of his Reign of Error.

Reporters were allowed to check out almost every corner of the mansion, which struck me as smaller than I had imagined.

We found no sign of a brass pole in the living room or three-legged table, left wobbly by an enraged First Lady. We examined the boat house, but found no Lucite pump with a six-inch heel left behind by a smuggled-in stripper.

I was most struck by the well-maintained pool deck, an improvement project Carlita Kilpatrick helped oversee that was funded with recreation department money that could have been used to improve one of the recreation centers her husband shutdown during his tenure. The Kilpatrick's sons' room was also impressive, decked out in sports themes with their names painted on floors (or was it the walls?) -- as if they had no intention of ever leaving.

The oddest discovery was the stockpile of old TVs in the attic. They dotted the massive storage space like some kind of cathode ray Heidelberg Project; their big picture tubes as archaic as the corded phones and other ephemera Tyree Guyton has been slapping polka dots on for more than a quarter century.

My favorite find, though, came in the garage.

There, framed and screwed into the wall, was a poem by legendary Free Press poet Edgar Guest.

It appeared to have been installed many years ago -- long before Kilpatrick arrived in 2002 -- and is called "It Couldn't Be Done."

Here is the last verse:

"There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, "There are thousands to prophesy failure:

"There are thousands to point out to you, one by one, "The dangers that wait to assail you.

"But just buckle in with a bit of a grin, "Just take off your coat and go to it:

"Just start to sing as you tackle the thing "That 'cannot be done' and you'll do it."

Follow M.L. Elrick's coverage of the Kilpatrick & Co. trial daily on Fox 2 and at www.myfoxdetroit.com. Contact him at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or via Twitter (@elrick) or Facebook. And catch him every Friday morning around 7:15 a.m. on Drew & Mike on WRIF, 101.1 FM.

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