March 20 • 05:35 PM

Blockbuster for Michigan's film industry

November 11, 2009
"Throne of Kings," starring Johnny Depp.


"An Outhouse to Remember," starring Johnny Depp...nahhh.

"Commute through Capac," starring Johnny Depp...perhaps.

Aw. What the heck. My filmmaking opportunity is down the tubes..and with it any hopes of involving Johnny Depp in my life anytime soon. Drat!

Barry and Mary (Malburg) Brothers with sons Kyler and Brett. Brett made his Tri-City Times debut in the Sept. 30 issue.

My golden opportunity whizzes by (no pun intend-ed) when the Oprah Show calls a couple of weeks ago looking for video footage of the Outhouse Races in Capac. It seems the producers were looking for unique, quirky fall festival things from unique, quirky small towns, and a front page photo of young men pushing outhouses down a rain-wet Main Street in September qualifies.

Maria Brown took the photo, capturing all of the runs...I mean races. She truly stopped up the action...oh boy...Whatever.

Anyhow, the Oprah producer wants video footage and video footage we do not have. The Oprah Show apparently isn't acquainted with the lack of local media coverage in areas like these. It's not exactly Rochester or Birmingham, so Detroit broadcast stations (which are located in Southfield) only head out this way when there's something nasty going on. We're the only local media outlet, and as such have the chance to reflect all the things that happen in our little towns—which are mostly good things. I'm proud of it, and secretly thrilled that the Oprah Show takes notice.

I write about it—about the power of Oprah which is matched only by the power of our own little Sally Cornell, Capac Chamber member and account rep extraordinaire. I knew Sally would lose her mind when she found out Oprah found out about Capac Days. I also know if Sally had a chance to get Oprah to sponsor Capac Days or Fall Fest or whatever it may be Oprah wouldn't know what hit her. That's the power of Sally. We have a few laughs over it, and the piece is published in the October 21 issue.

My email inbox gives me resurgent hope. It seems that video of the Oprah-Show-eye-catching-Outhouse Races does indeed exist. Who knows what it will be worth one day? I must pursue this.

The email says: "Tell Oprah...and Sally...I have video of the outhouse race."

It is signed "Mary Brothers."

Though my first thought is to speed dial Johnny Depp, I email Mary Brothers. I do not recognize the name and want to find out more.

Mary emails back that she actually lives in Marshall, Michigan. She provides her phone number and explains that her brother, Art Malburg of Allenton Collision, sponsored an Outhouse Race and asked her son to participate.

"It was great fun, despite the rain," Mary writes. "And it's always good to go back to the area I grew up."

We make email arrangements to speak over the phone—as it turns out Mary has been busy lately substitute teaching (H1N1 hit hard in her area.)

When we do connect, I'm thrilled and fascinated. As it turns out Mary (Malburg) graduated from Almont High School in 1985. She chose a career path that's most interesting and somewhat rare. She and her husband Barry and sons Brett, 15, and Kyler, 7, have lived in Marshall the past six years.

"It was a very circuitous route (back to Michigan)," Mary tells me.

They spent the prior ten years in Iowa where Mary worked as a plant geneticist for the USDA.

"I was in charge of the sunflower collection, which is part of the national plant germplasm," she says.

"Can you spell that?" I ask. I've never heard the word "germplasm" before.

She chuckles faintly and spells it out.

"One word or two," I ask.

"One," she replies.

Go figure! The things I'm learning over the Capac Outhouse Races are incredible.

It turns out Brett is pictured in the front page photo that caught the Oprah Show's attention, as is Mary's nephew (sister Madeline Parks of Capac's son) Mitchell Parks. Brett is in the outhouse, Mitchell is pushing.

"Brett was excited he made the cover, we looked it up online," Mary says.

So look out Hollywood. I just know there's room in Michigan's budding film industry for a plant geneticist and a small town newspaper editor...and Johnny Depp. And Sally, of course.

Email Catherine at

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