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Friday, February 8, 2013

ICON MAGAZINE City Beat Column, February 2013

May potato salad fall on your head if you were one of those who believed the Maya calendar “prophecy” about the world ending on December 21st.

We’re thinking of the gathering that took place at Stonehenge—that collection of 5,000 year old time clock rocks on Easter Island---on December 21st by assorted New Agers who believed that the end was near.

Some wore colorful Peruvian hats, while others dressed as white WICCA witches in capes and leotards. The leotard people danced like Shiva goddesses as the sun came up, a celebration tied to the end of the 13th Baktun Mayan cycle. Various men in the crowd donned Viking or Plains Indian costumes. Others wore nothing special but you could see them looking skyward in a worshipful way as the sun rose. Generally, there was a wide mix of reactions in the Stonehenge crowd to the world not ending. Many hugged one another as others looked tearfully into the sun.

One man bowed his head and then reverently placed the palms of his hands together in imitation of the Dali Lama. We had to wonder if he even knew to what or to whom he was praying. No doubt he was channeling the general mishmash: the sun, the good vibes, the big crowd around him, or even Stonehenge itself (all those cool rocks, etc.).

Speaking of rocks, we always get emails from the Union League of Philadelphia that Newt Gingrich is coming to town. Last year’s announcement concerned the former Speaker being awarded the organization’s prestigious Lincoln Award. Gingrich has always fascinated us. Liberal on some issues (like gay marriage), he can stun with sudden reversals into right wing territory. While we thought it odd that our request to cover last year’s award ceremony was turned down (Gingrich didn’t want any press present, we were told) we had high hopes in late 2012 when we got another email announcing another Gingrich visit. Once again, we were told: “Gingrich doesn’t want any press present.” While we’re not quite ready to throw in the towel, we do have to wonder why the venerable League keeps sending us (the press) emails when Gingrich doesn’t want the press present. This is pretty strange stuff and makes about as much sense as those Stonehenge people pretending to be the Dali Lama.

The 1970s great crossover film, Emmanuelle, took the world by storm. It featured Dutch beauty Sylvia Kristel. Emmanuelle followed the misadventures of a married couple in Thailand, and was a popular hit in Philadelphia’s old Center Theater at 16th and Market Streets. While the film at the Center brought in sailors, businessmen, and even family physicians from the Main Line, it did not have the crude following (or flavoring) of films in old Philly theaters like The Apollo and The Studio, both hardcore XXX Mafia-run cesspools where nothing was left to the imagination, and where patrons were sometimes beaten by management. Although the Center was demolished years ago to make way for Willard Rouse’s One Liberty Place, we’re sure there’s still “Kristel vibrations” in the ground there despite her death from cancer last year at age 60. For most Americans, Kristel was a soft porn queen but in the Netherlands she was the international star of more than 60 films. That’s why we were pleased when we saw Kristel in the Museum of Art’s Live Cinema screening of the films of Manon de Boer featured in the exhibition Live Cinema/Manon de Boer: Resonating Surfaces—A Trilogy, in which Sylvia appears in a 39 minute full face monologue-memoir talking about her life in Paris, Los Angeles, and New York. The Live Cinema Trilogy runs through February 10th.

Now that LGBT has gone mainstream, where do old lgbt activist go to die? We’d like to be able to say anywhere, from Roxborough’s Cathedral Village, Center City’s Watermark, to Ann’s Choice in the Northeast, all posh locations for people with money. The John C. Anderson low income apartments for seniors currently being built at 13th and Spruce Streets will be more than lgbt friendly. Life there will certainly not echo the homophobic refrain we heard in the 1970s when we tried to rent a room at the nearby Parker Hotel and a desk clerk screamed, “Two men, two beds!” While low income housing for senior citizens doesn’t inspire visions of life on the QT (don’t look for a photo spread of The Anderson in Philly Style) it will inspire a sense of security for residents, even if “old people” are stereotyped as being beyond sexual desire. When we last visited Cathedral Village (everybody has an old auntie) we noticed a randy crooner pacing the dining room ISO an opposite sex date. The staff, immune to the fellow’s carousing, got us wondering if they’d exhibit the same nonchalance with an lgbt resident. We’d certainly like to think so. Still, it’s good to see a building named in honor of John Anderson—a gay City Councilman during a time when there was no future for out politicians in Philly. Anderson, who died of complications from AIDS in 1983, was not out, so he could never tell then Mayor Frank Rizzo to cool it when the latter had the PPD round up gay men near the construction site. We call this ironic, because if anyone had told the arresting officers then that in the future there’d be a gay and lesbian senior home on this very spot, they probably would have had two handcuffs slapped on them instead of one.

The death of disco was one the saddest things ever to befall modern culture, if only because dancing in public since then has never been the same. (Ellen DeGeneres rap style dances to Kanye West tunes make us think of cartoons). The opening of the Ten Six Club (1709 Walnut Street), site of the old The Walnut Room, which closed its doors this New Year’s Eve, promises to bring back the instant dance party with what new owners Beckham and Daspasquale call 1960s British mod meets 80s and 90s dance club music complete with beaded drapery topped with a pink, gold and black color décor. Serendipitously timed with the release of David Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, The Ten Six Club proves that everything old is new again, even, perhaps, the return of ten inch platform shoes.

This brings us to the terrible melee at 2nd and Chestnut Streets in the wee hours of January 13th when a crowd of beer-fueled yahoos began kicking and punching a white car and a man lying in the street. Old City used to be a nice place, but today (at least on the weekends) it can turn into a magnet for crime, violence, and unsolved murders. We weren’t looking to get mugged or beaten, however, when we took Septa from Society Hill Towers to Alexey Kats’ Architect Salon & Gallery, former home of AxD Gallery, to see John Baccile’s new photography show. Baccile, only 24, works part time at UPS and does his artwork on the side. We noted him last year when he had his first solo exhibit, “Signs and Wonders,” at Café Twelve. At the Architect Salon we enjoyed watching Baccile walk around photographing the crowd as his mother, Barbara, told us: “John works very hard. In many ways, he is unique, and it is great to know that at age 24, he doesn’t have a single tattoo.” We like it when people, especially artists, go their own way.

What’s a Sunday in the city without joint art openings at the Sketch and Plastic Clubs? The big show was the Sketch Club’s Annual Domenic DiStefano Memorial Works on Paper Exhibition where Philly watercolor artist Noel Miles, former Art Director for the Philadelphia Daily News and Action News, won the 2013 John Geizel Watercolor Award. (Watch for an exhibition of Miles’ watercolors at Drexel University in 2014). We helped Miles celebrate his day with fluff omlette specials at Center City’s unpretentious Midtown restaurant, a place we love because the waitresses there call you ‘hon,” and because it is one of the favorite eateries of Philly actor Frank X.

Taking the down elevator into the murky world of city politics can be like doing the Tango with Dante, but here’s what we came up with: former City Law Department attorney Mark Zecca is running for the Office of City Controller in the May 13, 2013 Democratic Primary. With the scores of audit questions concerning City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s handling of the city’s finances, a Zecca candidacy feels good. We worked with Zecca years ago when Las Vegas Casino magnet Steve Wynn tried to buy the Maxfield Parrish Dream Garden mural in the Curtis Building in order to ship it to one of his Vegas casinos. Zecca impressed us then with his approachability. Unlike certain former PA governor’s, with Zecca there seems to be a real “there” there.

Other news: Head over to the Lantern Theater (10th and Ludlow Streets) if you want to see mother/daughter angst at its height. In The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a play by Martin McDonagh, Mary Martello, winner of five Barrymore Awards, plays Meg Folan, the seventy-year old mother of spinster-to-be, Maureen Folan, played by Abington Friends School teacher, Megan Bellwoar. In this story of a mother and daughter living together in the green fields of Ireland, there’s more twisted synergy than
broken Irish brogue.