By Judi Markowitz / Detroit
The regulars at Lakeview Bar and Grill belting it out on a recent Friday night
If you like to sing, karaoke just might be your thing. Karaoke, which originated in Kobe, Japan in 1971, means singing without music in Japanese. The word translates to “empty or missing orchestra.” New York, California, and Illinois have the largest number of karaoke establishments in the U.S. and Asia is the karaoke capital of the world.
Superstars such as Taylor Swift, Mary J. Blige, and Arnel Pineda, the new lead singer in the legendary rock band Journey, all jump-started their careers by singing karaoke.
My husband Jeffrey and I recently visited Lakeview Bar and Grill in Novi, Mich. and witnessed the joy and passion as patrons sang their hearts out with the assistance of a DJ and a karaoke machine. The excitement in the air was palpable as people mingled and ate a satisfying meal. It’s definitely an upbeat atmosphere. Jeffrey and I sat at a table with a clear view of the dance floor and the karaoke participants.
Frieda Igol is the owner of this well-known establishment. Her husband Jay bought the bar and grill 31 years ago, in 1992. When asked what motivated Jay to make this purchase, Frieda tells me, “He liked the bar business and was a people person. The customers loved him.”
Sadly, Jay passed away in 2021 after a prolonged illness. When Jay’s health began to decline, Frieda, who was retired and never had worked at a restaurant before, took on the challenge. She grew to love the customers and became close friends with many of them. Says Frieda, “they are like family.”
It's not surprising that Lakeview has a solid reputation for its food — trout, steak and burgers are its specialties. Adds Frieda, “It’s a difficult business. It’s hard to find reliable help and keep the employees happy.”
But she certainly knows how to keep the patrons engaged. There are activities three times a week — Juke Box Bingo, Trivia, and of course Karaoke. Frieda says that the customers love to sing karaoke and dance too. Friday nights are dedicated to the regulars, who enjoy performing in front of a crowd.
Bobby Rutherford, her close friend and a builder, knows all the intricacies of the business. He’s been part of its fabric for 30 years and ensures that everything runs smoothly when it comes to repairs and maintenance. Frieda tells me, “Bobby is my work husband.”
I watched as Bobby and Amanda Nelson, the night manager and bartender, sang together. When I caught up with them, Amanda tells me, “Fridays are a bit crazy — it’s a full house and the regulars are loyal.”
Bobby, who lives down the street from the bar, tells me he started coming to Lakeview as a customer. He explains that Lakeview was special and says, “There aren’t too many good corner bars left.”
Right from the start, Bobby’s longstanding relationship with Jay, the owner, was forged. Bobby recalls, “I saw him spending too much on repairs, so I started to help out. I saved them money. Jay and I became very close.”
When Jay’s health was declining, he asked Bobby to look after Frieda and the bar. “He knew he was dying and promises made are promises kept.” Says Bobby, “I will do anything for Frieda — Jay’s soul lives on at this bar.”
After this conversation, all I could think of was Cheers, the popular sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1993. I’ve probably watched every episode and some reruns as well. The camaraderie and welcoming atmosphere at Lakeview is unmistakable — the words from Cheers theme song reverberate in my mind.
“Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to go where people know
People are all the same
You want to go where everybody knows your name.”
There are three names the patrons of the bar are well acquainted with — Tricia (Pat), Peter and Kevan Shink. They heard about Lakeview through word of mouth and have been joining in the fun for nine months straight —every Friday night. Tricia comments, “My voice isn’t the same as it used to be, but when singing I feel accomplished — I’m a serious participant.” Her husband likes to perform with their adult son Kevan, who is disabled and uses a walker to get around. Tricia and Peter both beam with pride when they declare,” Kevan has the best voice in the family.”
Peter confides that he’s usually an introvert and karaoke makes him feel free. He tells me, “I like to take on the alter ego of the actual musicians recording when I sing — it’s fun.” He reminds me of Mick Jagger when I watch him sing.
The dancing duo; Suzi Wiener and Fran Parker
Dancers also take the stage as the karaoke singers perform. Suzi Wiener, dubbed “that 70’s hip chick” and Fran Parker, known as “Jumping Bean,” have been coming to the bar for Friday night fun for years. Fran says “I’m in my element at the bar. I feel exhilarated dancing and singing.” Suzi adds, “My mom used to sing ‘Young at Heart’ and that’s how we feel coming to Lakeview.”
David, Suzi’s husband is a dedicated performer—at a karaoke bar or any other musical event, he takes center stage. They are longtime customers of Lakeview Bar and Grill—over a decade of rock ‘n’ rolling and singing to the beat of their favorite tunes. Suzi tells me, “We originally came for the trout, and it was delicious. And then we found out that they had karaoke and it’s been our favorite to come here with other couples on a Friday evening. It’s a nice, comfortable bar atmosphere.”
David’s bother Jack has joined in the experience ever since he moved back from California a few years ago. Having to make new friends isn’t easy and Jack explains, “The people I have been introduced to at Lakeview are very welcoming. I’ve made some nice connections.”
A bar story wouldn’t be complete without a bit of romance. Linda and Phil have been patronizing Lakeview for over eight years — it’s a karaoke love story. According to Linda, “We had just broken up with our respective partners and came to the bar for a fun night out. I had to push myself to leave my house. I met Phil and we’ve been together since.”
Larry Bliss performing
I made my way to a table at the front of the bar. I couldn’t help but marvel at two performers who were quite accomplished. Larry Bliss has been frequenting the bar for over five years. When I ask why he started coming to Lakeview, Larry has an interesting story:
“A group of my childhood friends saw each other, after many years, at a funeral. We had lost one of our own. The group agreed that our connection would not be broken again and came to Lakeview for some fun on Friday nights. We’re still here.”
Larry sings and plays the harmonica. He’s a five-year regular and “loves it” when performing. Ironically, his third cousin, Henry Feinberg, can be found at the bar most weekends with his wife Lynn —Henry plays the harmonica too. Henry discovered that Larry was related to him through Ancestry.com.
Henry Feinberg crooning "Rebel" and playing the harmonica
They grew up in Oak Park, Mich., went to the same schools and didn’t know each other. When Henry contacted Larry and discussed their connection, Larry invited them to the bar — Henry and Lynn have been going since the fall of 2022.
Lynn Feinberg singing "I'll Be Around"
Henry and Lynn are professional musicians, and the bar provides them with an opportunity to try out prospective material. Henry is a teacher and confides, “I can’t believe I get paid for doing what I love.” Henry then adds, “The bar is in a beautiful setting — right across the street from Walled Lake. I feel alive with the music. I will perform any place, any time.”
Lynn has been singing professionally since she was 18 years old. She tells me, “I’m game for most things. When Henry and I were younger we traveled around Europe and sang on the streets. This place is like no other. The friendly people, the music, and the wide range of performers, many 60- to 80-years-old,—absolutely amazing.”
As I looked around the bar, it was refreshing to see patrons from all different walks of life — working, retired, young and old. Age is not a factor at Lakeview Bar and Grill. People come to enjoy a slice of paradise for the evening — “and to forget about life for a while.” The performers are in an environment where they can feel safe regardless of their singing ability. It’s a community of acceptance and the crowd applauds each participant.
Larry Francis is no exception. After performing for 12 years, Larry is a seasoned veteran — he’s 84-years-young. He was the first performer of the evening and a hard act to follow. Larry is confident and animated as he grabs the microphone and belts out his tune. Says Larry, “It’s a nice rendezvous coming to the bar. I’m not nervous when singing and I feel part of the crowd. I look forward to Friday nights.”
Ted Herkowitz sings "Can't Help Falling in Love" with gusto
Larry isn’t the only one who likes to take a break from the mundane. Ted Herkowitz started coming to Lakeview last January. I ask what he enjoys the most about the bar and he replies, “ I like singing and karaoke gives me the opportunity I wouldn’t ordinarily have.” Playing the harmonica has been a pastime favorite and I started to take a few lessons since coming here. I like meeting new people as well. It’s just fun.”
Gayle, Ted’s wife, comments about the atmosphere of the bar. She says, “It’s an exciting place and I have reconnected with many old friends.” When I inquire if Gayle participates in karaoke, her response is quick, “I’m just a watcher, but it’s amazing to see how many people like to sing, even if they can’t carry a tune.”
My husband Jeffrey sat next to a patron I know well who enjoys people watching too. Ziggy Glaser tells him, “I came to Lakeview initially to mingle with my old buddies —that was the magnet that pulled me in.” Ziggy admits, “I’m a four-year regular and I have been holding back on singing. But who knows, I can dream on.”
At the end of the evening, no matter how many people I chatted with— they all responded with the same song and dance — no pun intended. Everyone came to Lakeview Bar and Grill for unbridled fun, meeting up with old and new friends, and enjoying a solid meal with a few drinks. But the crown jewel of the evening was watching the performances — whether people had talent or not.
Karaoke at Lakeview Bar and Grill — it’s the place to be on a Friday night!
Judi Markowitz is a retired high school English teacher of 34 years. She primarily taught 12th grade and had the pleasure of her three sons gracing her classes. In addition, she taught debate, forensics, and Detroit film. Judi has four adult children and seven wonderful grandchildren. She is married to Jeffrey Markowitz, whom she met in high school.
Judi grew up in Oak Park, Mich. which had a stellar school district, with excellent teachers. The city provided activities for all–and there were even sidewalks. Judi moved to Huntington Woods as an adult, which is a half mile from her childhood home. She wanted the same experience for her children as she had growing up, and Huntington Woods provided that. The View from Four Foot Two is Judi’s first book.