It was in 2005, in a Model D feature by Chris Handyside, that we learned about the impish, legendary creature with "blazing red eyes and rotten teeth" called Nain Rouge. For the unitiated, a brief history:
First spotted by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (aka Cadillac) in 1701, it was described as a small child-like creature with red or black fur.
The creature, not content to simply scare and attack the city's founder, was said to be present at such Detroit tragedies as the Battle of Bloody Run in 1763, when he was spotted dancing on the banks of the Detroit River.
He was spotted more than once on the eve of the 1805 fire that destroyed much of Detroit; he was spotted near 12th Street the day before the riots/civic unrest broke out in 1967; the imp was seen leaping 20 feet from electrical pole to electrical pole in 1976 the day before one of the worst ice storms in the city’s history. He wasn’t spotted again for nearly 20 years. The latest sighting on record was by a couple patrons emerging from a downtown bar only to find the red dwarf fleeing the site of an apparent car burglary.
Alas, that was just the beginning of the story.
In the past seven years, the Nain Rouge has become one of the city's most celebrated and despised anti-heroes. Crowds taunt and chase him across the old Cass Corridor; which only seem to give the little devil more resolve, coming back badder and more bitter year after year. In 2011, the Nain Rouge was named to the Most Wanted Paranormal list
. Last March, Atlantic Cities included him in a story on imaginary monsters U.S. Cities
Just one problem with that: imaginary? We don't think so. Here is a Q&A that Walter Wasacz did with what he assures us is the real creepy deal.
Model D: So, it's a been a whole year. Oh, how time flies. Where the hell have you been?
Nain Rouge: Oh, I'm never very far away. But, you know, running for Emergency Financial Manager takes time. It's much more involved than just wearing a suit and posing for a banner. You have to get the jewels appraised, deal with morons in the press, and all the requests for media appearances...even from other cities! It's really tough and has taken me away from my latest love, developing strip malls in Macomb Township.
Model D: We looked for you on Devil's ... we mean, Angel's Night. Thought you might be hangin' around the Corridor looking for a little hot fun. Guess not.
Nain Rouge: Old hat, man! I figured that gig out a long time ago. The fire thing is way more effective if it's spread out over the whole year anyway. So now, I'm just like everybody else. I go buy a bundle of candy at the Dollar Store, and I make sure to get the high fructose stuff. I usually just join a pack of kids in Woodbridge to chow down. I love the buzz.
Model D: No doubt you've been following the news about Lansing appointing an emergency financial manager for Detroit. Some say you were the frontrunner. What happened?
Nain Rouge: Officially I have no comment. Even with the appointment of Kevyn Orr last week, you never know, anything can happen...just like spelling Kevin with a "y." So if I end up with the job after Kevyn wakes up and realizes he's been sold a bill of goods, I will get to work immediately, and change absolutely nothing. If it ain't broke don't fix it!!!
Model D: We've invited you to our pre-party at Model D house this Saturday, the night before we march to Cass Park. In your honor we are calling it the Last Temptation of the Nain Rouge. There will be red lights, French music, dancing floozies, free booze.
Nain Rouge: Really? Free booze? Dancing floozies!? The Corridor hasn't been able to sustain that level of panache since Abe Bernstien's Purple Gangers held court in the basement of some old Gilded Age brick pile near Sibley and Park Avenue. Ahh, I remember the sweet taste of Champagne Salon Le Mesnil they smuggled over in '21 or '22. Laissez les bons temps rouler! Tais-toi et danse! Yeah, I might stop by.
Model D: Well, cheers to that. Lastly, we expect there will be a record crowd of hipsters and regular drinking folk out to get you this Sunday. Word is you're going to get got. A final word?
Nain Rouge: Amateurs all! Let their klatches and craft beer runneth over. I'm so over this place. It's just too easy these days.
Walter Wasacz is Model D's managing editor. The Last Temptation of the Nain Rouge is Saturday night, 7-11 p.m., at Model D, 4470 Second Ave. You're all invited. The Marche du Nain Rouge is Sunday, March 24. Details here.