Coliseum, Detroit



25-foot tall obelisks lining its entryway.

Lighting up 8 Mile’s skies.

By Kerri Mason
Photos by Allan Toft

If successful clubs are all about “location, location, location,” then why put a 11,500-square-foot, decked-out, high-design new one on the infamous 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Mich., next to a 300-acre water treatment center and a 200-acre scrap yard? “We’re in what they call an M4 heavy industrial zone,” says co-owner John Semma. “Competitors are anywhere from a mile to ten miles away.” But so is…well…civilization.

No matter to Semma. The demolition specialist obtained a cabaret license for his new venture against seemingly impossible odds, and wasn’t going to let a little thing – like miles of darkness surrounding his chosen venue – stop him. “There hasn’t been a cabaret license issued in this city in 19 years,” he says proudly. “Nobody wanted a gentlemen’s club anywhere, let alone my competitors. I went to four or five different hearings and beat them all. Too bad, too sad for them.”

To create Coliseum – and make it so friggin’ awesome that people would brave the blackness to get to it – Semma tried a little help from his friends. One buddy, a muralist, painted 14’ x 18’ scenes of conquered empires all over the room. Another, a glass blower (we’re not kidding), created custom teardrop-shaped hanging lights. Semma’s partners also own concrete and salvage businesses, and supplied the granite and onyx throughout the club. And Semma made a new friend – Dave Chesal, nightclub market manager for Martin Professional – who helped him select sound, lighting and video gear, eventually supplied by Advanced Lighting & Sound of Troy, Mich., and installed by North Haven, Conn.-based Sound Stage Systems. “This was Monster Club, like ‘Monster Garage’ or ‘Monster House,’” says Chesal. “These guys were in there – now these are the owners – welding up stages, building platforms, erecting beams, pouring concrete. They went to the nth degree when they built the place.”

Coliseum features a long runway with three octagonal stages (left), a mixed-bag lighting rig from Martin Professional (right).

Semma & Co.’s payoff came on opening night. “Our seating capacity is 498 and we had probably close to 800,” Semma says. “We had a mile-and-a-half-long stretch of cars down 8-Mile trying to get in. There was a line of people also, who parked in different lots up and down the road and decided to try and walk in. I just said, ‘People are not leaving folks, you’ll have to come back another day.’” Sweet victory, indeed.

Skirt Blowin’, Girl Glowin’
Coliseum’s main room features a 60-foot, marble-and-granite runway with three octagon-shaped “stages” (one in the center and on each end); giant wood ceiling beams (framed and covered to look bigger); four VIP skyboxes in the corners, and 22 booths, plus extensive sound, lighting and video systems. There are even plasma TVs from Hitachi, so patrons can watch basketball and burlesque at the same time (talk about male utopia).

The three “stages” are made out of Plexiglas that energetically changes color, thanks to a Martin Professional MAC 300 color changer and two Atomic Colors strobes buried beneath. “The fact that the MAC 300 is a moving yoke gave another level of animation to the floor, where you were able to not only have the color change, but have the light wisp across or side-to-side,” says Chesal. “It brought the floor to life.” Also under each octagon is a Jem AF-1 fan and a custom-mounted Martin Magnum Club Smoke head, for a potential “Marilyn Monroe” effect.

The lighting rig above the stage “has all the basic fundamentals of lighting in its design,” says Chesal. “There’s stage wash, your profiles, with both moving heads for range of motion and mirrors for speed. There’s effect lighting which compliments that, like the Wizards and the Atomic Strobes.” Chesal was also able to use smaller-scale fixtures in the Martin catalogue – like the 250-watt CX2, and the multi-beam Acrobat – to change it up on the side stages.

Coliseum also features extensive fiber optics, illuminating marble in the lobby, the perimeter of the stage, and ceiling coves above the side seating areas.

Tractor Beams
Coliseum’s sound serves two purposes. Conversation is important in an adult club – “it’s where boy meets girl, or boy meets boy, or girl meets girl or whatever,” says Chesal – but so is energy. “You still want stereo imaging; you still want a nice sound pressure level, so you use speakers specifically for the nearfield application,” he says. “The Mach 125i top box [10 of which cover Coliseum’s stage] has a 12-inch, six-inch and two one-inch soft dome tweeters. There’s no horn, so that harsh, hard, honking noise is not present, but you still get that rich, warm sound, and you can hear one another.” The main stage also has four dual-18-inch Mach 182i subwoofers built into its bottom, and Mach 82i top boxes providing fill for seating areas. Amplifiers are from Powersoft, and a Mach M20.06 provides control.

The ceiling coves above the side seating areas are lined with Martin Fibersource fiberoptics.

But the cars in line on 8 Mile weren’t beckoned by the stage lights, the dancers, the pleasantly powerful sound, or advertising, which Semma “doesn’t do.” Coliseum’s 285-foot, stamped concrete approach features ten grand obelisks standing 25 feet high. Each houses an Exterior 200 color changer by Martin Architectural in its Plexiglas point, which throws rainbow light across the night sky, broadcasting the club’s presence in dramatic fashion.

“Because it’s so dark in our area in the evening – no street lights because we’re around desolate land – you can see the colors changing in the black skyline from four miles away,” says Semma. “One’ll be orange, one’ll be blue, the next will be green. It’s amazing.”

Hitachi plasmas play sports while the girls do their thing.


Lighting (by Martin Professional)
12 - Exterior 200 washlights
12 - MX-10 scanners
11 - FiberSource CMY150 luminaires
8 - CX-10 color changers
8 - CX-2 color changers
8 - Wizard effect lights
6 - Atomic Colors heads
6 - Atomic 3000 DMX strobes
5 - MAC 250 moving heads
4 - 2510 controllers
4 - Ego 4 effect lights
3 - MAC 300 moving heads
1 - LightJockey software controller (with touch screens)

Fog/Haze (by Jem)
6 - Jem AF-1 DMX fans
2 - Jem Magnum Club Smoke systems
2 - Jem ZR 24/7 Hazers

Speakers (by Mach)
13 - Mach M82i speakers
10 - Mach M125i speakers
8 - Mach M151i subwoofers
4 - Mach M182i subwoofers

Amps (By Powersoft)
3 - Q3204 amplifiers
3 - Q4002 amplifiers
3 - Q4004 amplifiers
2 - Digam 7000 amplifiers


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Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications