Spring really hangs me up the most, and so annoyed am I, I just thought I would share this with you.
Since I’m looking at some semblance of mid-pandemic normality with this week’s cover on bringing back Philly theater on the regular, how does this come across: The one where the Kimmel Center has a new $1,000 imposed charitable donation on its platinum circle tickets, tacked on before the actual price of the ticket. How normal is that? Especially considering that so much of its audiences faced the same (if not worse) financial sting as did the Kimmel?
“As a nonprofit performing arts organization that relies heavily on ticket sales for support, this pandemic has significantly affected the livelihood of our Cultural Campus,” states the Kimmel’s site.
True. Too true. Yet, isn’t this affliction the same for any and every nonprofit theater and company throughout the country during COVID-19’s reign of terror? Or for-profit venue? And does the brain trust at the Kimmel get that it’s not a donation when the situation is forced or foisted upon its audiences?
One could argue that anyone who’s willing to pay an extra $1,000 for better seats already has an extra $1,000, and so what? It’s not called a wood-grained circle or a polyester circle. Yet, at a time when both artists and audiences of all financial stripes are just looking to get back to the stage, and move things along, doesn’t any brand of up-selling and/or price-gouging seem…Déclassé? Disingenuous? Mean-spirited?
Hey, imposed charity or not, I’m pleased as punch that the Kimmel is reopening, and whether it’s The Geator’s ‘50s and ‘60s legacy act showcases or that first scene of “Hamilton,” where Aaron Burr raps, “And I’m the damn fool who shot him,” I’ll be there. Just not an extra thousand dollars there.
Blavat’s club opens
Speaking of Jerry Blavat, The Geator’s Memories in Margate, N.J., nightclub opens up its spring and summer season – socially distanced-still – this weekend to yon teens everywhere.
“I can’t wait to get back to Margate my old buddy, my old pal, my old chum,” said Blavat.
Time to film in NJ?
Look who’s looking to benefit from fucking Georgia’s trashy, racist, newly passed voting law – the one tearing down its Black citizenry’s rights and ability to cast ballots, causing backlash and boycotts: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who sent out letters to major film and television studios and production companies to lure media projects to the Garden State. Before touting N.J.’s 30 percent tax credit on film projects (equitable to Georgia’s notable tax incentives), Murphy wrote (according to the Wall Street Journal), “Restricting the right to vote is more than just wrong, it’s un-American…These voting restrictions have thrust Georgia into the national spotlight, with the vast majority seeing the state’s decision as an attack on people of color by a governor and legislature willing to do anything to stay in power.” So hey, “Real Housewives,” come film in Jersey.
“Our new $14.5 billion economic incentive package makes the Garden State just as competitive as Georgia to attract film and television production businesses.” BANG.
Music money moves
In another huge money business move with a delicious outcome for one local artist, Variety magazine (for whom I work, full disclosure) reported, exclusively, that with the mega merger between BTS’ label HYBE and Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, Braun’s SB Projects, many of its clients would become “significant shareholders in a capital increase meant to fortify the bond between both companies.” With a commitment of $50 million from the HYBE/Ithaca purchase price to be divided among artists who have been with Braun since he started SBP, stars such as Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande received 53,557 shares – $10 million each. That’s very cool. One name on Braun’s client list made me prick up my ears: Philly-native rapper and Northern Liberties’ weed activist Asher Roth, whose shares work out to number something like 535, landing him a payout just under $100,000. Not bad. Just think of what $100,000 will do for his beloved Sunflower Philly community park project.
Bieber must love Philly
On the Bieber tip while we’re here: The artist with the No. 1 album in the U.S., the Biebs, must love him some Philly. As well as getting ATV enthusiast/rapper Lil Uzi Vert onto one of the extra tracks (“There She Go”) on the deluxe version of the chart-topping new “Justice” album, Bieber called on creamy local R&B singer Pink Sweat$ to sing on the Easter Sunday released new EP, “Freedom,” and its “Where You Go, I Follow.” Extra points for the Biebs for slipping West Philly’s Will Smith’s kid, Jaden, onto “I Can’t Be Myself.”
Our Middle Eastern-centric, ethnic-eclectic restaurant scene gets a few new brother and sister spaces this week. There’s Keshet Kitchen at 705 E. Passyunk, across from Philly AIDS Thrift. This location, from Sharon Shvarzman, winner of the Food Network’s 2018 “Great Food Truck Race,” is all-around Middle Eastern focused, and concentrates on tapas-y items and large-scale dinner menus. (Shvarzman is also opening a new spot called House of Elbows which is either dedicated to macaroni or fleshy human joints – wow). Then, there is Collingswood, N.J.’s Dining Row’s new hot spot, Li Beirut, which will be geared toward Chef Patricia Massoud’s Lebanese background.
Masked Philly: Mina SayWhat
In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during COVID-19’s pandemic, I reached out this week to Mina SayWhat.
Philly’s SayWhat is a radio host, on-air nationwide on SiriusXM The Heat (“Mina’s House,” airs Monday through Friday 6am-noon) and locally on WRNB-FM 100.3 Philly (Saturday 10am-2pm and Sunday noon-4p). She’s got her own weekly digital sports show called “The Shotclock.” Plus, SayWhat’s got a bustling voiceover business with her newest client being the Philadelphia Zoo and its Zoo Key talking story books. The Zoo tapped Mina to be the Spanish voice of Big Time: Life in an Endangerous Zone and all of its dinosaur stories.
“When the quarantine went into effect, I shifted my life professionally and personally – from traveling back and forth from New York to Philadelphia for my on-air shifts to broadcasting from my home,” said SayWhat, who built up her already elaborate home studio to continue working.
“I jokingly named myself, on-air ‘Mina Stewart’ and ‘Mina The Builder,’ a play on Martha Stewart and Barbara The Builder, I also started to bake from scratch, fix stuff around the house, re-decorate my bed and all my work rooms – you name it. I was doing it. And I was doing all of this during my talk show breaks.”
The mask? SayWhat is cool with its necessity.
“Plus, I have received soooo many compliments on my dinosaur facemask on social media. I got it at the Philly Zoo during the ribbon-cutting of their dinosaur exhibit ‘Big Time.’ The mask, for me, then, is a symbol of working with the zoo on an amazing project that gives people a bi-lingual experience.” (SayWhat requests that zoo fans upload videos when listening to the Spanish key box and tag her @MinaSayWhat Can’t).
What SayWhat is most excited for, coming up, is her pandemic-centric Mina’s House Podcast, its website (minashousepodcast.podbean.com) and its reach across all podcast platforms.
And getting that mask off: “If I wear my mask for too long, I break out. I refuse to have bumps on my face because of these masks. When we are finally allowed to remove our masks long term, I will use every shade of lipstick I own. I have only been using clear lip balm because I don’t want to get makeup on my masks. I can’t wait to plant a big red kiss on someone’s cheek.”