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Saturday, September 1, 2018

I will say nothing to no one, not my business

The intersection of art, entertainment, culture,
opinion and mad genius

Hi Thom,

I am sending this to you to let you know that I’m taking the magazine in a different direction and your work is no longer needed.

I wish you success in all your future endeavors.



Trina McKenna
ICON Magazine
PO Box 120
New Hope, PA 18938
Voice 215.862.9558

you accidentally CC'd me on this

-----Original Message-----
From: Trina McKenna <>
To: Thom Nickels <>
Sent: Wed, May 2, 2018 12:57 pm
Subject: ICON

Hi Thom,

I am sending this to you to let you know that I’m taking the magazine in a different direction and your work is no longer needed.

I wish you success in all your future endeavors.



Wow. Where did this come from? With no warning, out of nowhere, it seems. She decided to change the decor of the magazine. She said she was taking the magazine in a new direction but she was changing only one direction...the direction that pointed to me. And then she accidentally CC's the writer who would replace me. Now, I know this guy, this writer, this man about town. He publishes all over. He writes nearly 50 percent of ICON, at least two features an issue and a number of columns. And I know he was gunning for my column. He was gunning because he wants everything. He did it to me when we both wrote for Philadelphia Style years ago. AD comes in, and I go out. It has happened other times too. So, one can only assume that he and the publisher, whom I have always liked, plotted this for while. And then finally AD got his way. Trina, the publisher, never did tell me why she discontinued my column. Not a word. I wrote her several emails, asking, asking, but nothing. Nothing. After almost a decade of writing for her. It feels like a date rape of sorts. I've read AD's theater columns since my expulsion and they are like weak tea. They are more like previews of plays. He does not know how to review a play. He has no opinions. No soul, no critical pizazz. He is just a meat processor of words, words that sound and feel cool but that rarely say anything.  

This post will be updated from time to time. We will follow AD's marriage to ICON and see how and when the story ends.      
Wed, May 2, 2018 1:47 pm
Trina McKenna ( Details 
Sorry, Thom. it was accidental.
Wed, May 2, 2018 1:49 pm
ivaland ( Details


I will say nothing to no one
not my business

-----Original Message-----
From: divaland <>
To: trina <>; ThomNickels1 <>
Sent: Wed, May 2, 2018 12:59 pm
Subject: Re: ICON

Confusion at The Inky

My published letter in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, August 30, 2018 was attributed to another writer. The Inquirer editorial board apologized and told me that a correction was forthcoming. The correction appeared in the September 1st Sunday edition. The correction was hard to find. The correction said that 'Thom Nickels of Philadelphia' was the author of the letter (on August 30) on Bobbitt. But there was another letter that focused on Bobbitt that day, so now readers are left to guess which letter was mine if they remember them at all.   

To the Editor:

As someone who knew Johnny S. Bobbitt Jr. both as an acquaintance and journalist, I believe that the only one suckered
out of money raised by Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico on behalf of Bobbitt were the naive public who thought they were going to change the life of a homeless man with a severe drug addiction. emptied their pockets thinking they were going to change the life of a homeless man with a severe addiction problem.

The Go Fund Me campaign occurred around Thanksgiving 2017 when the Disneyland aspects
of giving to a homeless Good Samaritan seemed to trump the logic of donating thousands of
dollars to a chronic heroin user. Little thought was given to forcing Bobbitt into
rehab before giving him a cent. Few reporters questioned the severity of Bobbitt's drug problem. Everyone wanted to believe the fairy tale that a ton of money and publicity would preform a miracle cure. 

This case is really about a con meeting a con. A heroin addict turns away from family and friends, so why wouldn't he turn away from McClure and D'Amico? Herion turns users into narcissistic, self-absorbed people while money on the grand scale of the Bobbitt Go Fund Me campaign can turn the organizers of that campaign into greedy venture capitalists. One wonders why this story is even being perpetuated at this point. Is it to drum up sympathy and support for Bobbitt, the tragic victim, so that this Thanksgiving someone else will initiate another Go Fund Me campaign for Bobbitt's continued heroin use? 

Thom Nickels

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Philadelphia in 2035

We cannot always know the future, although there’s no law against speculation and armchair prophecy.  Here’s my dystopian vision of Philadelphia in the year 2035. 

    It’s 2035 and the mayor is Michael White, the alleged killer of real estate developer Sean Schellenger way back in 2018. How did Michael White get to become mayor? After his conviction of voluntary manslaughter charges (the third degree murder charge was eliminated by DA Krasner shortly before White’s trial), White went on to serve 10 years in prison but was released in five years for good behavior. While in jail he perfected his rap and slam poetry and became quite a talent at various city poetry events. He became a poetry sensation despite a few difficult years in the beginning when the memory of the alleged murder tainted his reputation. But since time heals all wounds—yes, even the most horrendous—and since people have a short memory, the public came around to accepting the poet’s terrific charisma and ability.
  White’s long rap poem on the night he met Schellenger was the poem that had people comparing him to Robert Lowell and Ezra Pound. His recitation of this poem at poetry slams always caused him to shed a few tears; this dramatic act alone was enough to win him several poetry awards. After his release from prison he was offered a scholarship to law school from the Southern Poverty Law Center. After law school, he ditched poetry for politics and ran for Philadelphia City Council. In 2030 he was named one of Philadelphia Magazine’s ‘Ten People to Watch.’ Shortly after this he ran for mayor and won. 

      As for Schellenger, his name was pretty much forgotten although as mayor, White insisted that Chancellor Street be named for the slain real estate developer. The empathic mayor shed a few tears at the ribbon cutting. 

    In 2035, DA Larry Krasner was long gone (he was safely ensconced in Roxborough’s Cathedral Village) but his criminal justice philosophy had worked its way into the consciousness of city government so that all the DA’s that followed him were known as “more Krasner than Krasner.” Most Philadelphians applauded this development but a tiny remnant protested what looked to them like a permanent change.  If you think that Philadelphia was a one party town in 2018, in 2035 the Republican Party had been pretty much eliminated. Republicans fled the city because they realized that “co-existence” with city Dems was pretty near impossible.
      This voluntary political banishment happened when President Trump, in his second term, applied lightning bolt screws to the nation’s sanctuary cities, especially Philadelphia, because by 2020 Philadelphia was the nation’s foremost sanctuary city, permitting illegal immigrants the right to vote and even offering illegals city jobs in various areas like Recreation and Sanitation. Mayor Kenney, in a whirlwind frenzy to outdo the radical mayors of NYC and San Francisco (his competition), allowed illegals to skip the standard qualifying tests that city job applicants have taken for decades.  Ordinary Philadelphians (aka, tax paying legals) were told they had to wait and apply for these jobs after the illegals in need had been processed and given their “fair slot” in the system. “It’s a new world order,” the mayor said to great applaud in City Hall courtyard. 

   It was after Mayor Kenney’s ramping up of the city’s sanctuary city status that the Republicans moved out of the city, making Philadelphia solidly (and explosively) Leftist. Gone was the old Democratic party; in its place was a totalitarian regime that wanted to ban everything, from straws to sugary drinks. It was hard to keep track of these new laws and restrictions. They included: the banning of firearms in advertisements, toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals, toy guns and water pistols for children, all sugary drinks, the Pledge of Allegiance, the sale of Barbie dolls (the philosophy being that Barbie dolls influence young girls into wanting to grow up and be beautiful), bottled water, goldfish (cruel and inhumane treatment in tiny fish bowl jails).

    City employees were also banned from traveling to red state areas like Arizona. Hate speech laws were enacted. Failing to address a transgendered person by their preferred pronoun resulted in one hundred dollar tickets. Criticism of Christianity was encouraged but the slightest criticism of Islam put the offender on an online ‘watch list.’
    New freedoms, if you want to call them that, were enacted, such as the freedom to walk the city in the nude provided that individuals got a parade permit.  Defecation on the sidewalks was permissible in certain areas (but not near upscale restaurants with sidewalk tables).  Heroin safe injection sites and free heroin for addicts became the new normal. Addicts were now seen as a protected minority group. Hate crimes against addicts included the use of “disparaging” terms like “junkie,” “lowlife,” and “derelict.” Heroin addicts from all over the country flocked to Philadelphia.  “Do your heroin Philly,” became the city’s new slogan in trade and travel magazines. 

      The Made in America concert, by 2035, had become a monthly event on the Parkway. Jay-Z, well into his mature years, was given the green light to make all decisions regarding the length and scope of these concerts, which was now ten days long.  Many Parkway residents, beaten down with weariness from the chronic traffic, drums, noise and celebratory mayhem, had left for the suburbs, in effect reversing the great trend of people moving from the suburbs into the city.  Great clouds of marijuana smoke, as thick as LA smog, hung over the Parkway 24/7. Philadelphia Museum of Art employees, including the erstwhile Timothy Rub, spend their days attempting to fight off unwanted highs.  It was, as many old people, exclaimed, “A sight for ore eyes.”   

  President Trump, in his second term, hit Philadelphia with a battery of assaults, all of them financial. He cut off all financial aid to the city. The city no longer had access to the Office of Federal Programs. This in turn affected Housing and Urban grants, the Department of Transportation, and the elimination of Community Development Block Grants.  Litter piled up in the streets, Septa trains were cut in half and the city’s delicate and already crumbling infrastructure began to crumble even more, since the city no longer received Tiger Grants.  Schools closed. Children in large groups, most of them screaming and yelling, now wandered the concourses of Suburban Station and along Penn’s Landing. 

  “This is a city that fights fascism!” banners along the Parkway read. “Humanity first!”

    Mayor Kenney, as one of his last deeds in office at the end of his second term, threw a punch at President Trump by inviting 40,000 Syrian immigrants into the city, and offering free tent cities for anyone wishing to migrate from South America.

  Philadelphia in 2035 was no longer recognizable but for many people this was a fantastic thing.  Gone was the Union League, that bastion of white, moneyed Republican privilege. The League was renamed the People’s Pavilion, a pay-as-you-can drop in community center (and safe injection site) with graffiti workshops sponsored by a radical art collective.
  Many of the Union League’s portraits of the city’s valued former leaders and historic figures were replaced with photographs of new city heroes: drag queen Resistance leaders, illegals raising clenched fists, and pussy hatted matriarchs calling for an end to the patriarchy, and more. 

  Sloppily chiseled onto the side of the Union League was this message from a monograph entitled Why Riot, from the Occupy ICE people way back in 2018.

  “…It is simply utopian to believe that the present system can be perpetuated indefinitely without great violence….Riots appear to produce little in terms of concrete results and, when you add up the numbers, often do less actual economic damage to large business interests than, for example, blockading the port. They produce a certain spectacle, but so does Jay Z.” 

Thom Nickels
Contributing Editor


Friday, July 6, 2018

City Safari Column: Philadelphia Free Press

    When a friend called and asked if I would like to accompany him to a Phillies-Washington Nationals game at Citizens Park in one of those all-you-can-eat-and drink VIP suites, I OK’d the deal despite the fact that I’m not really a sports fan.
    I like the Phillies from a distance, the same way that somebody might like to look at the ocean without necessarily wanting to swim in it.
   It is true however that once you’ve watched a baseball game in a VIP suite at Citizens Park, it’s nearly impossible to go back to sitting in the stands where there’s no protection from the sun and where the food is not free. My suite, for instance, came equipped with cheese steaks, sauerkraut hot dogs, chips, popcorn, all manner of drink plus brownies and untold varieties of ice cream; the kind of food that makes people happy and fat.
    The hot dogs were the best. As Humphrey Bogart once said, “A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz.” This despite the fact that hot dogs contain pigs lips, ears, snouts, intestines and spleens.
   Who doesn’t have an opinion about hot dogs? “I need a little sugar in my bowl and a little hot dog in my roll,” Bessie Smith once quipped. Bill Maher, in a slightly dirtier frame of mind, once offered, “Meat is dirty. I wouldn’t touch a hot dog without a condom on it.”  
   About midway through the game, I decided to move from the interior of the suite to the outer section where there was a balcony seat. The dimming of the sun and the moving in of dark multi layered cumulus clouds with a decidedly El Greco cast turned me into a sky watcher, especially as the feint rumblings of thunder promised a coming downpour.
      That’s when I heard what sounded like a military style wake up call, the musical equivalent of “Charge!” 

   A queer little mobile cannon done up like a hot dog in a roll came roaring into the field. People cheered, there was a shooting sound, and before I knew it something was flying high over the field and headed towards me in a furious downward arc. It fell from the sky into the nest of my inner left thigh, hitting with a loud thump and a sensation I can only describe as stinging. The object then bounced off my body and landed under my chair. A man sitting to my right in a separate suite had jumped up and reached over in a futile attempt to intercept the fall.   
     The direct hit was nothing other than a Hot Dog Knighthood.
    “Do you know,” the man to my right said, “that only last week a woman was hit in the eye by one of these hot dogs.”
    But these hot dogs aren’t just any hot dog. They are triple mummy wrapped in a high tech “refrigerated” material and then excessively duct taped over additional internal layers of tin foil and conventional sandwich wrap. Unwrapping one of these things can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes (you’ll need a pair of scissors). The wrapping alone gives it the force field of a small bomb when it hits you from the sky.  
   The stricken woman, Kathy McVay, had been sitting behind home plate had suffered a hematoma when the dog from the launcher hit her in the right eye. McVay, who became a media darling for fifteen minutes because of the incident, told a reporter,   "It just came out of nowhere. And hard. And then the next thing I know he shot it in our direction, and bam! It hit me like a ton of bricks. My glasses flew."
   It does happen that quickly, and it does land that hard.
   Luckily my glasses didn’t fly—I only suffered a few white wine spots on my summer kakhais -- but I had to wonder: why me? Later, a Facebook friend joked that the Phillie Phanatic had targeted me because the Phanatic was a Left Progressive and I was a former Left Progressive who walked away from a movement that I no longer recognize.
   Whatever your politics, these flying hot dogs are dangerous. I looked up McVay’s picture on various online news reports and was shocked to see the extent of the bruising on her face. I was disappointed when I read that the Phillies only offered her a simple apology and a free ticket to a game. McVay deserved something far better, like a week in Iceland or a check for 2500. Had she decided to sue the Phillies she would have walked away with a small fortune.
   If I can make a prediction, let me say that I think the duct tape hot dog launcher’s days are numbered and that soon you’ll read that the cannon has been put into mothballs.  
   This won’t prevent other things from falling from the sky. A Google search, for instance, revealed that in 2007 a family’s house was bombarded with 15 pounds of sausage that fell from the sky.   
   In an English town it once rained Starlings, and in Argentina in 2007 it once rained spiders.  In 2007 in Washington State, a grazing cow apparently stumbled and fell off a cliff and onto the roof of a car, almost killing the occupants. 
    In another United Kingdom incident from 2001, student soccer fans were hit with dozens of earthworms that rained down on their heads. Investigators said they had no clue where the worms came from because it was a sunny day with no planes or buildings nearby.

      Perhaps the strangest sky incident occurred in 2008 in Columbia when blood rained down on the residents there. When a parish priest was consulted he said that the blood was a sign from God that people needed to change their ways.   
       This of course reminds me of my Facebook friend’s statement that the Phillie Phanatic was gunning for me because I had the Left Progressive fold.  
   In a way, I’d say this fits right in with the current Maxine Waters political playbook.
Thom Nickels
Contributing Editor

Monday, June 18, 2018


      This year’s Philadelphia Fight AIDS Education Month opening reception and award ceremony at the Independence Visitor Center was a special event for many reasons.
       Philadelphia Fight, which offers primary care and research on potential treatments and vaccines, has been in operation since 1990. Philadelphia Fight was there when the AIDS crises in the city was at its height, and it has weathered—as Philadelphia Fight CEO Jane Shull commented in her opening remarks—a number of less than friendly United States presidents, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. Shull added that Fight will even survive the term(s) of the current U.S. president.   
       While my political opinions may be different than Jane Shull’s, what she says has merit. The message of Philadelphia Fight cannot be lauded enough. This was made evidently clear at the organization’s annual award ceremony when the Kiyoshi Kuromiya Award for Prevention, Treatment, and Justice, went to Elvis Rosado, a case manager for Prevention Point Philadelphia. Rosado shared this year’s award with Lee Carson, the current Director of the Philadelphia Area Sexual Health Initiative (PASHI).

   Rosado, on accepting the award, seemed close to tears and said to him it was like winning the Pulitzer Prize. I had heard Rosado speak about Prevention Point Philadelphia last year at a presentation at the Port Richmond Library. His   talk at that time was robust and motivational.

           Shull began the proceedings with a detailed account of Kiyoshi Kuromiya’s life. Kuromiya was a polymath/activist, an extraordinary communicator and founder of Critical Path, which provided free access to the Internet to scores of people living with HIV in Philadelphia. He was also a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front-Philadelphia. GLF Philadelphia was much more than an organization dedicated to fighting for gay rights but its extended umbrella included outreach to welfare mothers and black civil rights issues. Kuromiya gave the first national speech on gay liberation at the September 1970 Black Panther Convention held in Philadelphia.
         This was no small task, because in those days the Gay Liberation Front was not embraced by most in the Black Panther party.
          As a young GLF Boston activist, I traveled to Washington DC for the follow up BPP Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in November 1970 and witnessed first hand the divisiveness among the radical groups in attendance. GLF may have been embraced by Huey Newton, the BPP Minister of Defense, but Newton was only one Panther among many. The Washington DC convention was deemed a failure because it did not ratify the proposals worked out in Philadelphia
     Shull’s talk about Kuromiya reminded me of stories I heard about him through the years, like how good he was at reading Tarot cards. There seemed to be nothing that this Japanese American could not do. Kuromiya even joined a group of activists who attempted to levitate the Pentagon during the 1968 Democratic Convention. I also learned that he stood directly behind Martin Luther King when the latter delivered his “I have a dream” speech.
      Jane Shull’s talk did something else: it reminded me of the 2017 attack on her and Philadelphia Fight by a former Fight outreach worker who called on Shull to resign. The outreach worker sent an email to Fight employees on her last day of work accusing Shull of cultivating a “culture of intimidation” when it came to people of color. The worker charged the organization with denying pay raises and promotions to people of color.

         I tried to piece together these accusations with what I saw at the ceremony, and nothing fit. The grassroots, over the top racially diverse Fight reception could have been a movie prop for a leftist progressive utopia. It just doesn’t get any better than Philadelphia Fight when it comes to racial diversity, the polar opposite of the image Fight’s accuser attempted to conjure up.
           The heat against Shull in 2017 was so nasty that a small band of angry activists spotted her in the street and then followed (or chased) her into the lobby of a building where they then confronted her with bullhorn rhetoric and public shaming.
      The stunned look on Shull’s face spoke volumes—it was the picture of someone being bullied and harassed. After reports of the bullying attack went viral, critics of the gay and lesbian movement wasted no time in rhapsodizing: “Look how the LGBTQ community cannibalizes itself!”
        I felt even more empathy for former Philadelphia Director of LGBT Affairs Nellie Fitzpatrick when she was forced to resign after an event she attended at the Hard Rock Café was raided by the same activist group that approached Jane Shull.
         A You Tube video of that assault shows a startled and emotionally demolished Fitzpatrick trying to make sense of the encounter, as if she was trying to decipher the language of space aliens who had just kidnapped her.  Fitzpatrick was at the Café to receive an award as a trailblazer when the group, twenty strong with bullhorns, urged her to resign over a “lack of credibility.”
           “It’s a new political era,” one man screamed, meaning of course, if you don’t do as we say or believe what we believe, we will shut you down.
           Just shut you down and walk away. That’s the language of bullies.
           But shut down Fitzpatrick they did because in no time she resigned as Director of LGBT Affairs. The thugs got their way. This was one of the most shameful moments in LGBT Philadelphia history. Instead of sticking by Fitzpatrick, the “hidden” powers that be at City Hall arranged for her resignation. Fitzpatrick said during an interview:      
It was not my decision, but I was very happy to move on. My tenure with the office has come to its natural conclusion, and I am excited to return to the practice of law, which was always my intent, and to continue serving the LGBT community through new ventures. “

     Where were Fitzpatrick’s allies? Why didn’t the bulk of the gay and lesbian community (who had no problem with Fitzpatrick) stand up and defend her? Pulverized into silence (for fear of being called a bad name), the community was largely silent, afraid to speak up against a clear cut case of harassment and bullying.   
    The group that attacked Shull and forced Fitzpatrick to resign was nowhere near the unified and harmonious Philadelphia Fight festivities that took place at the Independence Visitor Center.  Whatever beef this group had with Philadelphia Fight had apparently dissipated like last year’s dirty runoff sewer water.   
       When Shull made the remark that Philadelphia Fight has survived several “hostile” U.S. presidents, she could also have added, “And it also survived one hostile LGBT activist group.”
          Yes, I think it’s more certain than ever that Philadelphia Fight will survive them all.

         ---From The Philadelphia Free Press, June 13, 2018
                          City Safari by Thom Nickels

Sunday, June 10, 2018

 Taken In NYC, first New York City Pride March June 1970, Thom Nickels (beard,glasses, extreme right), Lee Robins (beard, glasses; left). I was then living in Boston-Cambridge and a member of the Gay Liberation Front, Boston.