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Thursday July 24, 2014
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Martin Contreras and Keith Orr

 

continued

One Sunday afternoon, Orr, looking harried, hurries a tray of wine glasses to a Democratic fundraiser at Sh/aut, then joins Contreras for an interview. With a fair complexion, a long roundish face, a small beard, and a sweet smile, he'd be a reasonable applicant for a stint as Santa. The silver-haired, slightly shorter Contreras sports a goatee. Both men are friendly and great talkers, but Contreras, when asked about their differences, says, "I'm more introverted." He also says, though Orr mildly demurs, that, at work, he plays "bad cop" to Orr's "good cop."

They come from wildly divergent backgrounds. Orr describes his family as "very old New England." The Rev. Thomas Buckingham, an ancestor on his mother's side, was one of the founders of Yale. The son of an architect and a nurse, Orr grew up in Madison, Wisconsin--as a young anti-Vietnam War demonstrator, he says, "I was Maced when I was eleven." He graduated from the U-M music school in 1983 and for many years commuted from Ann Arbor to play double bass with the Toledo Symphony and Toledo Opera House.

Contreras's family emigrated from Mexico to Texas and then, in the early 1950s, to Detroit. His dad drove a truck; his mom was a bookkeeper and later owned a sub shop. His parents divorced, and his father eventually moved back to Texas. In 1986, Contreras's mother, with his help, made plans to open a Mexican restaurant named La Casita de Lupe in Braun Cour. She died of cancer shortly after it opened, and Contreras, a U-M-trained physical therapist, took over.

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