No matter what you think is off, wrong, coarse or messy about the entirety of your 2021, there is plenty to be truly thankful for this Thanksgiving. Like no matter how wrong they often look while doing so, live and on the field against opponents such as this week’s Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles actually keep managing to win games.
Or like how, despite the rise of violent and non-violent crime in Philadelphia, our police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, is under the most serious consideration to head up New York City’s finest when the Big Apple’s new mayor gets sworn in for 2022. Or like how, in its need to strike for better pay during the still ongoing pandemic, the workers at the locally-based GoPuff and all of its satellite munchies shops have created a truly original and thoroughly Philadelphian motto for its strike signage in “Go Puff Yourself.” Or how everyone in the decade-plus Phillies Phanatic lawsuit – original past creators and team owners alike – finally get a win in the mascot rights hearings. Or like how even though IBEW Local 98 boss John Dougherty has been found guilty in his corruption trial, I’m pretty sure he’ll still gift anyone in need with Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas cheer on the Robin Hood tip. So, thanks to them.
All this being said, for all my joviality and dumb jokiness, I know there are local families and neighbors out there this week – those of Fanta Bility and Christian Hall – wondering where their thanks are, and what good could lie ahead. For those without hope, we send prayers this and every Thanksgiving. Hope, with a positive solution for all, is the greatest gift and best sort of thanks we could have and share this season.
Remember how I penned that banner Philadelphia Weekly cover story a few weeks ago on Philly’s legendary boxing promoter, J Russell Peltz, his 50th anniversary in the local fights biz, and his new, exacting, data-filled autobiography Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye? Well, since then, Philadelphia boxing has been on a similar trajectory as a hard uppercut. First, South Philadelphia heavyweight Sonny Conto was again the victor during last week’s first-ever fights card at the Sports Complex’s Live! Casino & Hotel, courtesy Joe Hand Productions (Live! also helped Philly’s Joe Hand Sr. celebrate his 50th anniversary in the biz with local concert promoting legend Larry Magid as its visiting dignitary). Then Philly light heavyweight boxing sensation Atif Oberlton headlined an eight-bout boxing card on Saturday night at South Philly’s 2300 Arena where he took down his opponent in round two of a scheduled six-round light heavyweight bout. Enjoy this glory, gents.
Talk about getting ready to rumble: Now that Frank DiCicco decided to move on after serving more than four years, Mayor Kenney announced the appointment of William “Wild Bill” Bergman as chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, who will start chairing and serving over a five-member board with a first meeting Tuesday, Nov. 30. All of those sensational zoning and rezoning adjustment questions? Wild Bill has you covered.
Talk about wild: After months of waiting, working and pop-ups, Juana Tamale – wild Philly chef Jennifer Zavala’s latest concoction – has finally opened its brick-and-mortar home in South Philadelphia’s East Passyunk Avenue block for her signature birria tacos.
Way back at pandemic’s start, when we spoke to Philly-to-the-world restaurateur Stephen Starr about what he was doing with several of his still-closed-for-COVID dining spaces, he promised prominent and pertinent re-dos at several of his hot pot spots. First up, Pod. Starr and Chef Peter Serpico (of South Street Serpico and its Chicken Scratch fame) are remaking the University City Japanese fusion and sashimi/sushi salon into something more Korean-inspired for KPod. OK.
Did you know that on top of everything else he did beyond making his directorial debut, “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” which won six Critics Choice documentary awards last week, as well as do his day (night) job on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” Questlove squoze in a long-ass video directed montage for the 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Jay-Z’s induction before Halloween? The private ceremony’s footage dropped on Monday Nov 22. Catch it on YouTube.
One of the best
Get out of Dodge: My neighborhood’s Sicilian-inspired Italian restaurant, Irwin’s Upstairs, just got a national nod for its homey handmade pastas, fresh inventive seafood and natural wine list curation at Esquire’s 2021 list of the “Best New Restaurants in America.”
Masked Philly: John DeBella
In Icepack’s way too-long, way overly complex and continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during C-19 – from lockdown to the current reopening, present-day unmasking and re-masking, worrying about Delta variants, freaking out about Fauci’s call for a potential third round of vax shots mere five months after the last, new mask and vax card mandates, ignored or not ignored (I mean why did I wait in line at the Convention Center if you’re not asking to see my card?), and the possibility of mix-and-matching vaccines which is weird, right? – I reached out this week to John DeBella.
A local radio legend since the ‘80s, and a 102.9 WMGK-FM on-air personality since 2002, DeBella has a run most of his annual charitable events – his Dog-Walk in Green Lane Park, PA for Philly shelters, his Veterans Radiothon for the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center, his Turkey Drop – virtually during the pandemic, save for Nov. 23’s Turkey Drop, which is a must-be-in-person event for DeBella (see below).
During COVID’s slowdown, DeBella learned how to woodwork like he’s never woodworked before. In fact, DeBella was on his way to a lumber mill (“not a lumber yard”) in Marcus Hook while we spoke. Yes, he’s always had woodworking up his sleeve, “little tables or a fence for our backyard garden.” But, when his artist wife Lisa needed a floating frame for one of her works, and asked John to craft one, he nailed it, no pun intended, and kept going until he discovered the art of cutting boards. Real, rustic, hardcore, rare hardwood cutting boards of true ebony or purpleheart. “True hardwood is not the sort you pick up at Home Depot,” he notes.
With that, DeBella has become a serious woodworker – doing genuinely gorgeous and highly individualistic live edged, intricate charcuterie boards, bread-cutting boards with lattice work (“so that you don’t have crumbs all over the place”) wine racks, children’s step stools and more. Go to Instagram’s “John DeBella Woodworking” for magnificent proof. “Six months ago, I didn’t know how to do that. I spent months in my basement perfecting this.” DeBella makes these pieces for the hell of making them. Buying them? Make him an offer. “My degree is in scenic, lighting and costume design – I’m a man who can sew – and I’ve always been a design junkie.”
Along with having to make sure he’s scrubbed down and ultra-sanitized when home due to his wife Lisa’s pulmonary issues, (“For the first year, I had to strip down in our foyer, put clothes in wash, shower, then greet my wife”), DeBella is all about masking, vaxxing and is ready for his third booster. He’s wearing a regulation black mask, even though the radio station made up white “John DeBella Show” masks with his signature mustache painted onto it. “I am always wearing that mask. I am the John DeBella Show. Besides, people always recognize me with the mask. It must be the bald head and the cow eyes.”
As for Nov. 23’s 20th Annual live Turkey Drop in front of the Kimmel Center Building on Broad Street – the largest, single-day food gathering event in Philadelphia – he’s looking to best 2020’s 12,000 turkey offerings for families in need. Along with ACME Markets around the Delaware Valley (where you can drop off stuff) and frozen turkeys, “free turkey” coupons, gift cards, cash donations and checks, made payable to “City Team Philadelphia,” you can make a secure, tax-deductible donation online at wmgk.com.