Whether the news comes from the left, the right or the center, whether the news is good or bad or wrong in this town, 6abc’s Jim Gardner, Philly’s silver-iest of silver foxes, has been there to cover it. Seriously but genially, since anchoring Action News starting in 1977, he’s been there (unless it was that time when he had this weird look-alike intern from Temple University that I went to school with, which is quite another long story). Think of a joyful or tumultuous time, an important moment or a silly one, and Gardner has been the guy with the mustache that Philly has turned to.
Having him get sick then, even for a minute as he did last week, is an existence-altering experience when it comes to a man who daily, without missing a beat, is steadying an unsteady ship. So yes, Gardner took ill, and took off for a few days to himself, but now will return to Action News where he’s been since long before most of you were born. And all is right with the world (even with another longtime 6abc vet, their forever health reporter, Ali Gorman, leaving Channel 6 after a baker’s dozen worth of years).
Sandler around the town
Actor-comic Adam Sandler, The Sandman, is to Philly 2021 what Jason Sigel was in 2019 with his everywhere-all-the-time “Dispatches from Elsewhere” crew. Over last weekend, his Netflix b-ball “Hustle” cast and crew, this time, leapt into the intimate confines of Pine Street Church and its surrounding grounds for filming’s sake, as well as the Magic Gardens around the corner on South Street. Surely, most of you have figured this out even as I write this (and if not shame on you, Philly history and fun fact buffs), but the Magic Gardens is the all-enveloping mosaic, bric a brac filled mini-museum from iconic Philly artists and curators Isaiah and Julia Zagar, the parents of Hustle director Jeremiah Zagar. No harm in giving the folks a plug, JZ. When my dad was alive and gigging I’m sure I plugged his sax playing. Dig it.
Remembering Candace Smith
Speaking of South Street, Candace Smith, the new age gemstone procurer and spiritualized book seller Garland of Letters, passed away recently. Condolences to her family. If you weren’t busy doing yoga there, or getting your chakras shifted at G o L, you grew up watching her do print and television ads for many of this city’s top advertising agencies (real Mad Men stuff, this) as well as being one of the first of the modern-day Philadelphia Phillies’ “Phillies girls.” That’s a solid city-wide honor.
Since 1997, WKDU’s Electronic Music Marathon has become what Germantown’s Sun Ra alluded to with space being THE place: an all-out free form, free forum of diverse electro-devised sound vision and thought. Starting at noon on Oct. 8 and running until midnight on Oct. 11, the Drexel U’s still proudly underground radio station will celebrate the EMM’s 17th anniversary with all donation monies going to West Philly’s Paul Robeson House, The Coalition for Black Trans Economic Liberation, and The Block Gives Back’s community outreach programs.
A handsome handful of Philadelphia restaurant veterans are making Icepack news this week. Last weekend, Stephen Starr and his fresh princely crew at the Post Fishingtonian-meets-Baja Mexico new hot spot-bookstore (!?) art gallery and live music room, LMNO, held a private pre-opening for an invited cast with its custom live-fire grill fired up for fresh tortillas with carne asada and Pesacdo zarandeado ready to snap. All 6,000 square feet and 200-plus seats at LMNO popped their top on Oct. 6. Then there’s the fact that Fergie’s Pub’s dynamic duo Fergus Carey and Jim McNamara have hooked up with fish-focused restaurateur Tony Rim (1225 Raw, The Foodery) for an upcoming-for-autumn new spot suspiciously near me, in South Philadelphia, at Eighth & Morris for something they’re calling The Jim. If you know that block and are trying to imagine what and where, Fergie-Rim took over the old and legendary JC Chinese Restaurant spot that had been around for half a century, but closed – of course – with the scourge of the pandemic. The Jim is focused on take and delivery of both a modern traditional Chinese menu as well as a fresh sushi menu. Can’t wait to salivate.
Speaking on local restaurants, big yays for City Councilman Allan Domb who recently introduced legislation to allow, permanently, all of those fun, expanded outdoor dining structures erected in the name of COVID’s slowdown – the same wood, steel and heat lamp-filled construction projects also JUST disavowed by Council President Darrell L. Clarke who wants more money, I mean, legislative oversight through the process. May I just say, if anyone should be afraid of dining out and worrying if someone was spitting or peeing in his food, it should be Clarke. Starting. Now.
Masked Philly: Michael Norris
In Icepack’s way too-long and now 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 lock down 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, and new mask and vax card mandates – I reached out this week to Michael Norris.
Norris is a Philly socio-civic bigwig as the executive director of the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia and Carpenters’ Hall, the local historic landmark that hosted the First Continental Congress in 1774 and once housed The American Philosophical Society, the First and Second Banks of the United States and was home to Ben Franklin’s Library Company.
When it came to the C-Hall, during COVID, the world-renowned physical tourist hot spot focused on creating engaging virtual programming, “This has been particularly successful for our local visitors – most of our regular visitors are tourists – as attendance for our virtual author talks and lectures has sometimes gone into the hundreds, which is really significant for us as a relatively small organization. For myself personally, it has been a time of trying to prioritize self-care: walks with the dog, reading, cooking and, yes, naps.”
Dogs and naps are good.
When it comes to masking and vaxxing, Norris is way on-board with both aspects of civic-minded safety. As a public site, the city mandates that staff and visitors are required to wear masks inside.
“It’s become a normal aspect of our behavior. But I do think it’s an important way to visually signal that we are prioritizing visitor safety and are compassionate in our concern for the wellbeing of others. My mask came from one of the regular vendors who supply our gift shop and so unfortunately is not locally made. It’s taken from a WPA poster of Carpenters’ Hall so I dig that it shows the classic Georgian design of the building but surrounds it with that almost jazzy feeling you get from the colors and shapes of 1930s and ‘40s graphic design.”
And the vax? “The evidence is pretty clear that masks and vaccinations are what are going to make this thing go away.”
In the present and immediate future, Carpenters’ Hall – on Oct. 12 as part of DesignPhiladelphia – will host an in-person panel discussion about the intersection of architectural design and the principles of democracy. “This has been a topic of interest in the design community for many years, but it really flared up last year when President Trump issued an executive order that all future federal buildings be designed in the neoclassical style,” says Norris. “There was a lot of backlash against this within the architectural community since to many it felt like a form of artistic censorship. We’re not going to debate the merits – or lack thereof – of this executive order, but we will explore why neoclassical architecture is often associated with democratic or republican (emphasis on lowercase!) forms of government. And since Carpenters’ Hall is a gem of classical architecture and a birthplace of American representative government, there’s no better place to talk about this topic.”