Photos from the Toast of the Town Book Sign
The Sunnie Wilson Book was selected as a "1999 Read Michigan Selection."
This is not only the life and times of Sunnie Wilson, it is the story of how one person with interest and caring can make a difference not only in the City of Detroit but in every person he came into contact with. It is also one of the most moving narratives of the relationships between he races that I have encountered in quite a while. I know that you will come away with the feeling that you have made a new friend.
--Ed Smith, United News Service
From Amazon.com Customer Service Reviews:
I was there. These stories are all true, Sunnie was exactly that: "sunnie," always a smile and ever dapper, he was the consummate host. The Mark Twain Hotel was a great place to meet the most famous jazz musicians in informal settings while they lounged or rehearsed. As a young, white broadcast engineer traveling the country with a national jazz radio program, I must say the Hotel was more like a home away from home than a Hotel. I stayed in room 38. Good times. Great book.
Peter F. Walsh, Palm Springs, California, July 12, 2008
"Legacy of Sunnie Wilson: 'Toast of the Town'" by Judge Gershwin A. Drain, Michigan Chronicle, June 23, 1999.
Anyone remotely active in the social or political life of Detroit knew Sunnie Wilson. I met him in the early '80s while campaigning for a judgeship on the 36th District Court. I heard he was important to know because of his extensive connections throughout the social fabric of the city. Already in his 70s, he was spry for his age.
Wilson was particularly well known among senior citizens. He knew where their big gatherings were and invited his friends to them . . .
I am only one of many elected officials that Wilson had helped during his lifetime . . . Like many other I was deeply saddened by the recent passing of Sunnie Wilson. He lived up to his name with a sunny, bright, cheery, enthusiastic and positive disposition. I always enjoyed his presence and personality.
. . . . Last spring when Wilson's book, "Toast of the Town, The Life and Times of Sunnie Wilson was first published by Wayne State University Press, I purchased it. It was only recently that I read it.
The book proved to be an excellent social, political, economic and entertainment history of the African American community in Detroit during a unique era. Interesting and intricate details are given about Paradise Valley and Black Bottom.
. . . . The book contains a map of Paradise Valley and Black Bottom, which centered around Hastings and was totally replaced by 1-75 freeway.
When Sunnie owned and ran the extremely popular Forest Club at Forest and Hastings, he was at the apex of his business and entertainment. The club not only had the longest bar in the state, but it contained a large bowling alley and a sizeable skating rink. He also employed over a hundred people.
. . . . In a time when Blacks were denied access to white hotels and vacation spots, Idlewild [Michigan] drew thousands from the Midwest region. Wilson describes how desegregation and civil rights act took its toll on Idlewild as Blacks began to flock to Florida beaches and other spots leaving Idlewild behind.
In his 90 years, Sunnie Wilson did and saw a lot. He had a rich and full life. "Toast of the Town, The Life and Times of Sunnie Wilson" was published within a year of his death and in many ways this book contains his last words. Like many last words, they are the important words a person can share.
This book is well worth reading, for the young it's a social history lesson and for the old, a fun trip down memory lane.