#ThrowbackThursday “Spring Fling ’86” The Birth of Penguin Place. (The William Way LGBT Community Center)

In 1986, I had the pleasure of working with some very special members of Philadelphia’s LGBT community to produce a “Spring Fling” fundraiser for what was to become Penguin Place. At the time, ours was a Community Center without walls.

Penguin Place 1

Spring Fling was held at the Mask and Wig Club (located on south Camac St.) I will never forget the Spring Fling or the months of planning that led up to it. Each of us made a special contribution. We had battling DJs, planned “spontaneous” entertainment that seemed to manifest out of nowhere (think “flash mob” but with jugglers, magicians, and musicians), and brilliant slide show presentations that were revealed on a rear projection screen behind a beautifully painted stage backdrop.

I was working as an AV technician at the time so my contribution was the rear projection screen, the slide projectors, lenses, and animation fader which I borrowed from work.

I have always regretted that I didn’t get to know Bill Way better. In our short friendship, he was very supportive and encouraged my creativity.

Shortly after Spring Fling, I left Philadelphia for a new job out west. By the time I returned, Bill had died. Penguin Place was a reality and had a permanent facility just two blocks north of the Mask and Wig Club. The New organizers had taken Way’s dream to the next level and was serving the community.

That the William Way LGBT Community Center has been in it’s permanent home at 1315 Spruce St. for nearly two decades is a testament to the work and dedication of the community.

I think about William Way and that odd bunch of people who inspired me to get involved in my community. It was a very brief moment in my life but it reflects the very best of the LGBT community. As we just saw with Marriage Equality, when we work together the possibilities are endless.

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The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

Christmas4a1

Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

It Came From The Freezer! …a #FoodPorn Mystery

“What are we having for dinner?”

It was a simple question, really. But I honestly had no idea. It was a busy day in the middle of a busy week. Neither of us had put much thought into food.

“Isn’t there some chili left in the freezer?”

Well, yes. It is quite possible that one of the unmarked containers in the freezer is the last of the chili. So I took what I thought was a quart of chili from the freezer and set it in the sink to start defrosting while I went about the rest of my afternoon.

freezer2pcWe spent much of our free time last week taking stock of what needs to be done around the house before winter settles in. Beyond the usual furnace check-up and window insulation, our kitchen needs painting and the bathtub faucet needs adjusting. So we’ve set aside a few days next week for the anticipated multiple trips to the home improvement store. As usual, I spent the day playing “catch-up”.

When Love got home, he inspected the container that was defrosting in the sink.

“Honey. Are you sure this is chili?

Well, no. I wasn’t entirely sure what was in the container. There are six other quart containers just like it in the freezer. Three of them are chicken stock, two are chicken noodle soup, and one is potato leek soup. All of them are a pale yellow. The one defrosting in the sink was a beef stock brown. So it was either chili or stew. — I told you guys I like to cook.

As I entered the kitchen, Love was holding the container an inch from his nose. His eyes squinted as he turned the mysterious concoction in his hand, trying to identify it’s contents. He pointed at some small shapes visible through the plastic.

“I think these are mushrooms.”

There’s only one way to find out. Let’s heat it up and give it a taste. So I emptied the slushy mixture into a sauce pan and set the heat to low while I finished up the project I was working on. Ten minutes later, Love called from the kitchen.

“I don’t think this is stew, either.”

Now I was really confused! I got to the kitchen and took a look. In the pot was a brown stock with mushrooms floating around and very little else. I could identify some chopped onions. Maybe. But nothing else. We stared at each other for a minute before bursting out into laughter. We threw the mystery sauce away and ate some leftovers for dinner instead.

I still can’t tell you what was in that container. I honestly have no idea.

Since both of us were still in the mood for chili, the next day I made a big pot of it. And if there’s any left for freezing, you can bet I’ll put a label on it.

chili3a

 

My White Trash (or ‘Ghetto’) Storm Windows.

Well, it’s that time of year again. Kids are back in school. Persephone is returning to Hades. The leaves on the trees are transforming into a kaleidoscope of colors. And a chill is beginning to creep over those of us that live in the northern hemisphere. I’m not gonna lie. This six foot, two inch, manly man is a winter wimp! — Don’t laugh. I can be manly. I have power tools! 😎

Anyone who lives in a house knows the ongoing ritual required to maintain it. We make endless checklists, and then make multiple trips to the home improvement store because we forgot the list. Our South Philly home doesn’t have gutters or shingles. We don’t have a lawn or a garden that needs to be winterized. What we do have is that wretched mainstay of cheap post-war architecture and design, Aluminum Windows. I want to know whose brilliant idea it was to put aluminum windows on a house where winter temperatures can dip below freezing? And if that wasn’t bad enough, the designer, in his or her infinite wisdom, decided that marble would make lovely window sills. — Because, apparently, aluminum windows don’t make the house cold enough. :\

Our first winter here was an eye opener.

When you’re just getting started in a new home, and your relationship is all shiny and new, your mind isn’t on the little details like window sills. So imagine my surprise one morning, while going about my daily bathroom routine, when what felt like a waterfall of cold air descended upon my lap. — Brrrrrr! Talk about wake up calls.

Whose brilliant idea was it to install marble sills on aluminum windows?

Whose brilliant idea was it to install marble sills on aluminum windows?

We tried our best to be conservative with the thermostat but our heating bills were predictably high that winter. So we made a list. We took a walk through the home improvement store and made a list of all the things we could do to avoid freezing our butts every winter.

Now, every autumn, I get ready to install what we have lovingly come to call White Trash (or ‘Ghetto’) Storm Windows.

When September turns into October, I apply the double sided tape around the perimeter of each window. I learned the hard way that if you wait until winter settles in the tape won’t adhere properly to the cold aluminum, which has a tendency to sweat due to the temperature difference. The only downside is the ribbon, printed with the Frost King logo, that surrounds each window. But that’s a small inconvenience when you remember the cold flow of air descending upon your lap from the bathroom window.

When temperatures fall in a few months, we’ll apply the plastic to the windows. Until then we’ll try to ignore the little orange snowmen marching around our window frames.

Someday we’ll get new windows. It’s on our to-do list. Until then, we’ll be the couple that lives in the South Philly house with shrink wrapped windows. 😉

Things To Do In Philly When The Internet Goes Down.

You never really understand how much of your life is dependent upon the internet until it’s not there anymore.

For almost a month, my internet has been suffering drop outs and sluggish speeds. It’s been a nightmare for which I’ve been preparing a long vengeful blog post that, because of outlandish accusations and rough profanity, will probably never be published in it’s entirety.

We did find productive things to do around the house while the internet was down. Sunglasses are now required in the bathroom because the bathtub sparkles so brightly! 😎

In our downtime we caught a few good movies, some of which I share with you here.

I happened to catch a late night broadcast of Crime and Punishment (1935) starring Peter Lorre, on GetTV (one of the myriad broadcast movie channels that have been popping up lately.) I’ve never seen this early adaptation. Lorre is brilliant. Strangely enough, this version is not available on Netflix but it is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

“The story goes that Peter Lorre wanted to star in the film version of the Dostoyevsky novel, but was certain that Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn would turn the project down. So Lorre hired a secretary to type up a synopsis of the story in words of one syllable then submitted this simplified resume to Cohn. Enthusiastic over the project, Cohn gave Lorre the go-ahead — but first he asked “Tell me —  has this book got a publisher?”” – Hal Erickson (Rovi)

Whether true or not, that rumor makes for good entertainment.

Here’s the movie, in it’s entirety. Bookmark it. Save it for when you’re looking for something good to watch.

Out of the Furnace (2013) stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker and Casey Afleck (yes, THAT Afleck). When police stop looking for his missing veteran brother, Russell Baze takes matters into his own hands.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but clearly not anything as deep and thoughtful as this flick turned out to be. It’s slow to unfold but it’s good story telling. Woody Harrelson is creepy as hell.

While we’re on the subject of Christian Bale… If you haven’t seen American Hustle (2013), put it on your list. it’s a great piece of entertainment that’s loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t know why people love to hate this film so much. I enjoyed it. The clothes and the cars alone gave me flashbacks.

Warm Bodies (2013) A zombie saves a teenager. They fall in love and save the world. What’s not to love? Even the Romeo and Juliet references that get shamelessly thrown in your face didn’t manage to ruin the film for me. It’s cheesy, pop corn chomping fun.

The Call (2013) How can you go wrong with Halle Berry? A 911 operator gets a call from a kidnapped teen. This is a joyride movie! It had me shouting at the screen.

The 2014 Robocop reboot was a lot better than I had expected. It’s still silly and a bit of a stretch for suspension of disbelief, but it was good entertainment. Perhaps I’m just a little biased. I’ve been a huge fan of Gary Oldman since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one of my all time favorite films.

I started following Simon Pegg on twitter long before I learned of his incredible career as an actor/writer/comedian. Seriously, I had no idea. That was almost four years ago. Since then I’ve gotten all caught up. I’ve enjoyed him in everything from Shaun of the Dead to Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Star Trek and everything in between. On Monday night we had the pleasure of watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything. It’s about a crime writer whose research has turned him into a paranoid mess. It’s a little strange but bizarrely funny. Pegg spends half of the movie in his underwear chasing his imagination. The running gag is incredibly funny.

Thankfully, our internet trouble has been dealt with. Everything is running smoothly. We sacrificed a goat and danced around in circles naked while singing the alphabet song backwards. That seemed to have appeased the internet gods. …for now. 😉

Bonus Material…

Everything Wrong With Robocop (1987) in 7 Minutes or Less. by CinemaSins

 And finally…

Simon Pegg rapping old school style in ‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Oh, fair warning. The following clip is probably not safe for work.

 

Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson

 

This feature-length documentary focuses on revolutionary trans-activist, Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson, a Stonewall instigator, Andy Warhol model, drag queen, sex worker, starving actress, and Saint. “Pay It” captures the legendary gay/human rights activist as she recounts her life at the forefront of The Stonewall Riots in the 1960s, the creation of S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Sylvia Rivera in the ’70s, and a New York City activist throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. Through her own words, as well as interviews with gay activist/reporter Randy Wicker, former Cockettes performer Agosto Machado, author Michael Musto, Hot Peaches founder/performer, Jimmy Camicia, and Stonewall activists Bob Kohler, ,Danny Garvin Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, and Martin Boyce, Marsha’s story lives on.

This documentary screened in 2012 at the IFC theater in New York, the British Film Institute in London, and La Mutinerie in Paris France.

I met Marsha Johnson in 1985 while visiting New York’s Gay Pride Parade with my first boyfriend. I was just twenty years old, it was my very first Pride celebration, and needless to say, Marsha made an huge impression on me.

I didn’t really know Marsha all that well, but feel fortunate that she and I chanced meeting twice again before she mysteriously died. Her joy for life was contagious.

I believe that people like Marsha, these innocents if you will, are put here to make the world a better place.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

Pay Attention To The Men Behind The Curtain… #VOTE!

The mid-term elections are underway. Pennsylvania’s primary is Tuesday the 20th of May. Contrary to what some may have you believe, mid-term elections are just as important as, if not more than, the presidential elections.

In September of 2012 I asked if it was possible that the GOP threw the Presidential election to focus on local races instead. Why else would they give us Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney? Are they that out of touch?

Most of the damage is done during midterm elections. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s because people think the President has sweeping power to do as he wishes. I don’t think people get how important these midterms are.

Take a look at what’s going on around the States and tell me if you feel the same.

So, to make it easier, here are a few valuable resources that I always turn to in any political cycle,

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL)

The League of Women Voters

and here in Pennsylvania…

The Committee of Seventy
Pay attention folks. There’s a lot to lose in local elections.

Now go out and VOTE!