Icepack | Dec. 10-17

Philly's on pace for the worst year ever for overdose deaths

drugs
Is this really what Philly needs right now? | Image: RenoBeranger

Philadelphians set many records of which we all can be proud.

Certainly, the names of “Molly Schuyler” and “Joey Chestnut” will go down in the annals of competitive chicken part dining as members of the elite Wing Bowl crew. Have the Eagles yet to have set records as to how far down a championship team can fall yet? I bet it’s close. 

Near the weekend, however, we just discovered that Philadelphians felled by fatal drug overdoses rose in the first half of 2020, hitting a peak of nearly 600 victims. This rise in lethal overdoses was so dramatic that, by the end of this calendar year, according to JAMA Psychiatry – a journal published by the American Medical Association focusing on research in psychiatry, mental health and behavioral sciences – Philly will surpass its own death toll record from 2017, the worst year ever for drug overdose deaths.  

I knew you had it in you, Philly.

The blame for these drug deaths can be spread across fatal human foible faultlines, such as fentanyl-laced everything, the lack of proximity to treatment due to COVID-19 lockdowns, and the genuine depression felt at the hands of a pandemic. Ultimately, though, people either like to, or need to, get high to get away from it all – whatever IT and ALL are. If there are real questions to be answered and serious solutions to be found, for this city and its most vulnerable, it will be in its smartest and most sympathetic psychiatric and mental health workers, care-giving employees whose new (wrongheaded?) roles as street savvy arbiters of dangerous police activity will stretch thin their abilities to heal and balm. 

Hey, maybe we can call a cop to help, and… ah, never mind.

Live Nation property

This is weird. And sad. If true. But, not entirely unexpected as I heard, since the beginning of the pandemic, that regional Live Nation teams with pricey (now empty and unused) real estate across the country would soon have to sell off their property assets, much like Four Corners/Bowery Presents/R5 had to do with Boot & Saddle mere weeks ago; sell that venue to save its Union Transfer. Several Facebook posts on Sunday, pulled down as soon as they went up, detailed how food vendors who work regularly in Upper Darby’s legendary Tower Theatre – the place where Bowie recorded “David Live at the Tower Theatre” in 1974, and the home of so many intimate concerts from Harry Styles to Alicia Keys and beyond – had to get their catering equipment out of the U-Darb property, as it was shutting down for good and selling.

Opened in 1927 with a nearly 3,200-person capacity, the Tower was a genuine home (to me) as my grandfather led the orchestra there for a time, as well as being home to my glam rock past with wee early shows from Lou Reed, T-Rex, Ziggy-era Bowie, and the still shaggy Springsteen for his “Born to Run” shows. Larry Magid held the note on the Tower forever until he left the LN fold. If the Tower needs to close and sell, just like the Troc, another piece of Philly theater history goes with it (and believe me, this means the Live Nation-owned Theatre of Living Arts on South Street sells next). This is developing. A rumor. Whatever. Either way, it’s sorrowful to hear.

Bacon Bros house 

Use your own six degrees of separation joke here: The tony, super-house that Kevin and Michael Bacon grew up in, at 2117 Locust Street, is for sale. Asking price: $1,333,333. Considering that the Bacon Bros’ pop was the legendary Ed Bacon, architect and exec director of Philly’s City Planning Commission until 1970, the space is surely solid and teeming with Masterman High memorabilia in the basement.

New ghost kitchens

We’ve been talking about Philly ghost kitchens since summer, from when Peter Serpico and Stephen Starr popped up with Pete’s Place on South Street through to last week’s discussion of Jose Garces and Bitars’ spooky culinary salons. Fried chicken magnate and one-time PW columnist Reuben “Big Rube” Harley is getting ready to open Chef Big Rube’s Kitchen out of two separate ghost kitchens across town, Foodnest and Fairfoods, and will cook all-day breakfasts, halal burgers and his famed fried chicken. 

New album

There’s new music from Pax Ressler, 1812 Productions’ nonbinary composer and performer with a long series of Philly stage productions behind them dating back to Shakespeare in Clark Park’ s “Twelfth Night,” as well as a role as director of music at Tabernacle United Church at 37th and Chestnut. This week, Ressler releases their long-awaited “Change,” an album of queer and trans love songs, now available on Bandcamp.

Image: Courtesy of Steven Singer

Masked Philly: Steven Singer

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 Steven Singer, the jeweler who everyone seems to hate, what from his advertising.

Only days after feeding Thanksgiving dinner to the staff at Pennsylvania Hospital (where he had his recent open heart surgery), Singer talked to me about his new, healthful regimen, and a level of relaxation necessary to mend a literally once-broken, now-repaired heart.

“It’s been tough for people to be separated from loved ones. I’ve seen more people sending ‘I love you’ gifts.

– Steven Singer

“I spent the lockdown playing with my grown-up toys, more – my motorcycle, my car and my bicycle,” said Singer. “Going for a ride or a drive is therapeutic and relaxing, and not something I made as much time for before. But when solo activities are some of the only activities one could do, that time was nice to have.” 

Singer wasn’t completely alone during these treks, as he took his pooch and side-kick “Buddy the Jeweler” along. “Buddy absolutely loves to ride in the car.”

The mask? Singer is used to them as he has had several procedures across 2019 and 2020, including open heart surgery. “People send me masks – sweet that as a high-risk person, people have thought of me. If I had to choose, one employee and friend sent me a mask with my initials and that might be my favorite because I don’t get it mixed up with all my family’s masks in the house. I know it’s mine.”

Right now, when Singer takes off the mask, he gets in bed and kisses someone that loves him very much. “And then I kiss my wife. My dog Buddy the Jeweler gets top priority.”  

When masks are gone long-term, he plans to go to a nice restaurant, have a very nice meal and sit close to other people. Until that time, Singer is looking forward to dealing with couples face-to-face, over the next several months of engagement and wedding rings, at his eponymously named jewelry salon.

“We’re in the love business,” he said. “It’s been tough for people to be separated from loved ones. I’ve seen more people sending ‘I love you’ gifts. It’s an honor to be a small part of that expression. We’ve learned a lot about helping guests virtually through video chat, chat, text and phone, but, we’re hoping to see more customers in-store soon. 

“Also, we just fed the entire staff of Pennsylvania Hospital working on Thanksgiving Day, and I am looking forward to being there to support more frontline workers and health-care heroes, AND supporting more local restaurants. It’s win-win.”

@ADAMOROSI

  • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

    A.D. Amorosi is a Philadelphia-based journalist who, along with Philadelphia Weekly, writes for numerous local, national and international publications including Variety and the Philadelphia Inquirer.