DETROIT – It started a decade ago with a simple party in his basement, and had soon evolved into something so big it caught the attention of Vibe magazine, the virtual bible of urban entertainment in America. Still as sturdy as ever, Anthony Winn’s Strongarm Productions turns 10 this year.
“I wanted to throw a set that was different from anything that was going on here,” Winn recalled of that first party in a 2002 interview. “It turned out to be a huge success, way beyond anything we’d imagined at the time. Afterward, people just kept asking, ‘when’s the next party?'”
Thus, Strongarm Productions was born. The group took its name from the image its leader hoped to personify. Muscular, masculine and, well, mad-ass hot. Winn went about bringing on board a few similarly buff boys to round out his crew.
“I set out to find the kind of brother who had class, character, social skills and was physically real tight,” Winn said. “They would be the honey to attract the bees in terms of promoting hot boy parties.”
Early recruits include poet and performance artist Oddis, who marketed the group and courted the press, and semi-professional football player and model Kage, who acted as hype man during the parties.
The group started out with quarterly parties at the Charles Johanson Gallery in Eastern Market. Soon, it was promoting a weekly set at Club One X that quickly built a reputation as the largest Saturday black, gay set in the Midwest, drawing a crowd of 600 or so each week.
Through the years, the locations have changed – the group moved to clubs such as the Tangent Gallery, Backstreet and Club Ice, among others – but the consistency was in the quality of the sets they produced.
“We’ve evolved and matured by giving people more,” Winn said recently. “Our sets have gone from just parties to events for the Detroit community. Now, any time that we do something, we want to give you theater, we want to give you performance, we want to give you more than just a typical dance party.”
Another element of Strongarm’s special type of promotion, and something that sets them apart, is their desire to give back. In the past year, Strongarm has done sock drives for the homeless during the winter season, as well as working with the Doorstep shelter for victims of domestic abuse to collect toys for the shelter’s kids at Christmastime.
Promoting safe sex practices is also a big part of what Strongarm does as well, and they currently partner with Mike Matthews and the Red Tie Affair. Strongarm has also, for years, featured voter registration drives at their events and has even offered a scholarship program for LGBT youth.
Strongarm’s latest set takes place every Sunday night at the new South Beach Ultralounge inside the historic Fisher Building in the New Center area. Strongarm has definitely stepped up their game with this enterprise. The high-end club features three bars and three VIP rooms, as well plush booths and plenty of dance floor space.
Each week Strongarm offers something new, and recent attractions have included a fashion show, a live performance by rapper Bry’Nt and an appearance by the models of Detroit’s own http://www.thugseduction.net.
“We want people to walk away from our events entertained, satisfied and wanting more,” said Winn. “We want to leave people feeling that they really got a bang for their buck. ‘We saw what we saw this week, what are we going to see next week?’ We’re really in that kind of mindset right now.”