Let seven days pass, and Philadelphia starts to undergo an ominous, Freaky Friday-like level of creepy reversals that normally would seem just silly if some of them weren’t so desperately serious. Like how after spurning the team, the coaches and the investors for what seemed like an eternity, previously bailed baller Ben Simmons is now back with the 76ers as if nothing ever happened. Heh? As if Philip’s, Pat’s, Jim’s and Geno’s had magically disappeared from sight and bite, the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia went to John’s Roast Pork according to the Cali-based hot sauce company Truff. This may be the Freakiest of Friday jawns: I mean, I love John’s, even though the sandwich shack nearest the train tracks is rarely open, but are we really allowing L.A. to decide what best defines a Philly cheesesteak? The very city that has to fly their rolls in from us? And does Middle Child get a say in this? I know they’re more about Phoagies than thinly chopped meat, but owner Matt Cahn’s freshly-opened Middle Child Clubhouse must surely be remedying that.
Like how after too-long of putting Philly cops in a stranglehold of non-arrests forever, Larry Krasner is begging City Council for more money so to better work and collaborate with police – because Philly’s men in blue are dying to work with our DA (then again, Philly was picked for participation in that three-year, federal National Public Safety Partnership program from the U.S. Department of Justice which promises to reduce violent crime by providing intensive training and tech assistance to Philly’s police department. No World Cup, but it’s something).
When “Hamilton” opens its long “Philip Cast” North American tour run at the Kimmel Cultural Campus starting Wednesday, Oct. 20, look out for CAPA grad Philadelphian Ta’rea Campbell as Angelica Schuyler, the singing sister-in-law to Alexander Hamilton. Big ups too to the fact that “Hamilton” marks the live, onstage, in-your-face return of theater and the Broadway Philadelphia program to the Academy of Music, the Merriam and Kimmel after more than a year and a half. In “Hamilton” speak, “Huzzah.”
The Phillies’ right-fielding, beard-donning Bryce Harper’s Blind Barber speakeasy restaubar-meets-barbershop-meets grooming product sales salon is grandly opening on Oct. 22 with a VIP event because BB’s initial debut got a lousy shave due to COVID’s 5 o’ clock shadow. Phew.
Land swap plan
While our city awaits its new Amazon facility at Southwest Philly’s Elmwood Avenue old GE plant, apparently William Shatner’s best friend and benefactor, space cadet Jeff Bezos’ Delaware depot is more filled with robot workers than it is human employees on its long delivery and storage lines. Dag. Sixteen tons, man. Also in regard to Southwest/Eastwick, and twice as scary than robot dominion, is the fact that, all of a sudden, certain city agencies are looking to help out that weird, always-flooded-out and literally toxic neighborhood’s residents (I can say weird and toxic since that is where I’m from) with a proposal presented at the Academy of Natural Sciences: a land swap for those prone to flooding in the Eastwick area for houses of equal value, one where each owner would transfer property rights to the City of Philadelphia in exchange for spanking new homes built on vacant city-owned land. Wherezzat? That alone sounds scary, as in what undeveloped hell does the city have planned for re-housing Eastwickians? Anyway, these potentially swapped-out old houses in low-lying portions of Eastwick, probably closer to the Philly Airport, are then sold off to a conservation foundation, that has something to do with that same area’s John Heinz Refuge, to be managed. THEN proceeds from any sale would go to build up newer homes, then provide tax credits for anyone who invested in the conservation foundation. My question is WHY NOW, all of a sudden with Amazon coming in from one side (67th Street) and the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University buying in from the other side of Southwest Philly (52 Street and its old unused and vacant warehouse plants). Combine all that with the still recent addition of the city’s Food Distribution Center near Jerry’s Corner, and this area is finally something of a gold mine. Trust no one on this sale. Everything is wet in Southwest. A land swap isn’t going to keep you dry. Stay leery, SWP.
Rex restaurant happenings
For those of you unsure of what is happening to the intimate Rex 1516 now that Rex at The Royal’s Southern-inspired flare has infiltrated the still-new redo of the legendary, 1920s-era Royal Theatre on 15th and South Street (that Kenny Gamble once own and sold to its new owners), it is true: Rex 1516 is no more. Rex is the new incarnation, and a swell one it is. Opens Oct 22.
Hey, suburban olds. Last week, The Main Point on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr – the long-shuttered, elegantly intimate home to ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s folkies and rockers from Bruce Springsteen to Tom Waits – finally unveiled the rumored bronze plaque to commemorate the iconic music venue at 874 W. Lancaster. The event took place at the Kelly Center for Music, Arts and Community in Havertown, while everyone waits on 874’s present owner to allow the plaque’s installation.
When I ran to the new Jasper Johns exhibition for its opening Pop salvo several weeks ago, the proposed Victory Brewing Company at 18th and the Parkway was but a shell of itself. Now, I’m hearing that all is ret and set, from its tables to its window dressings. Imminent opening indeed.
Masked Philly: J. Andrew Greenblatt
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 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 a mere five months after the last, and new mask and vax card mandates, ignored or not ignored – I reached out this week to J. Andrew Greenblatt.
Greenblatt, or JAG, is the CEO and executive director of the Philadelphia Film Society, and the man behind the milestone 30th anniversary of the legendary Philadelphia Film Festival that – from Oct. 20 to 31 – takes place, exclusively and for the first time in PFS/PFF history, in all of its own venues. That means the Philadelphia Film Center, PFS Bourse Theater, the PFS Drive-In at the Navy Yard, along with select films also available on the virtual screening platform, Watch.Filmadelphia.org.
While the world was stuck at home, unable to go to movies in person and indoors, Greenblatt busied himself with devising ways to shift that reality. “Professionally and for the community, the biggest thing I did during the COVID slowdown was launch the PFS Drive-In at the Navy Yard, which features not only new releases but free community screenings every Monday night,” says Greenblatt, proudly.
And, personally, beyond enjoying the extra time that he was able to have with his family as a result of travel paused and events non-existent, Greenblatt rededicated himself to fitness. “It was all about near-daily Peloton rides and weight training, as well as taking a lot of hikes on trails throughout Montgomery and Delaware counties. With live concerts cancelled, I watched a lot of live streaming performances. And while I know I’m not supposed to talk about film, I of course watched a ton of films, including classics from the AFI and BFI 100 that I had either never seen or hadn’t seen for years.”
Classic AFI and BFI film fare is always a great way to avoid a pandemic. Lord knows, I did, and do it.
When it comes to the mask, Greenblatt is all for anything that will help to end, and quell the COVID-19 pandemic. “At this point, while I certainly don’t enjoy wearing a mask, I’ve gotten fairly used to it. Most of the time, I use the UnderArmour Featherweight mask, so it’s soft, comfortable, light, and moderately easy to breathe. When inside for longer periods of time or with a larger amount of people, I more often use a Honeywell mask with a filter or a KN95. All that said, I do think there’s a nice benefit to wearing a mask outdoors in winter, in that it keeps my face much warmer than in the past.” A Masked Philly first, folks – a person who wears two masks.
In the immediate present, of utmost importance for Greenblatt (and yeah, the city): the 30th Anniversary of the Film Festival. “It’s a super-sized lineup, starting a day early and packed with over 130 films from 50 countries. Also, some super cool special events with guests” (like director Kevin Smith coming to town for the documentary on his seminal indie, Clerks, check here for dates filmadelphia.org/festival). “And post-festival, we’ve also got a couple other special things planned for later this year, which we’re not quite ready to talk about. We’re also excited to have the PFS Bourse for awards season, as there are a lot of great films that we’re excited to bring to Philly.”