Riding With Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey

Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Time: 3 p.m. Day: Monday. Location: PPD Car 1.

A conversation with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey can take unpredictable turns, like the hard right his driver hangs at high speed onto Hunting Park Avenue as Ramsey’s thumb jams an ear-splitting siren. We’re en route to a double shooting in the city’s Logan neighborhood.

“Well, you got a little bit more than you bargained for,” Ramsey tells me a few frantic blocks later. Behind him, yellow police tape cordons off a crime scene just outside Albert Einstein Medical Center where a 15-year-old girl — a bystander — was shot and killed minutes earlier. “Now you know,” he says, “this shit can turn on a dime.”
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The Taney Dragons Speak!

Row 1: Zion Spearman, Jared Sprague-Lott, Tai Shanahan. Row 2: Erik Lipson, Joe Richardson, Carter Davis. Row 3: Kai Cummings, Eli Simon, Jahli Hendricks. Photography by Justin James Muir

Row 1: Zion Spearman, Jared Sprague-Lott, Tai Shanahan. Row 2: Erik Lipson, Joe Richardson, Carter Davis. Row 3: Kai Cummings, Eli Simon, Jahli Hendricks. Photography by Justin James Muir

PM: Could any of you have predicted you’d go to the World Series?

Jared Sprague-Lott: I knew we had the talent, but if you run into one really good team that’s better than you are … so … not really.

PM: When did you start to think you had a chance?

Joe Richardson: When we won states. Collier [from Allegheny County] was the hardest team by far.

Erik Lipson: [banging a plastic soda bottle] I’d like to answer that question. Okay … what was the question? [laughter] Read more »

Kurt Vile on the Creative Process

Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

PM: When does the process for creating a new album begin?

KURT: I’m always creating — at least writing. One thing ricochets off the other. There comes a time where you’ve accumulated a bunch of songs and it’s time to make a new record. Then you go out on the road and perform it. That music takes on a life of its own, because you play it differently every night.

PM: Sounds like you find most of your inspiration on the road.

KURT: Not necessarily. The stuff I write on the road is more universal. There are other times, like when I visit my parents — they live in the suburbs, but compared to where I live in Northern Liberties, it’s like the country. There, I can tap into playing acoustic or banjo in their backyard. Then there’s when I’m in the studio, coming close to a deadline. I feel like some of my best work comes out of that, when all of a sudden you can fill in any blanks, music-wise or lyric-wise, on the fly, because you have your mojo going. Read more »

Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell Talk (and Talk) Politics

Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell. Photograph by Justin James Muir

Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell. Photograph by Justin James Muir

PM: When did you guys first meet?

ED: [laughs] I have no idea.

CHRIS: I just remember that he and Billy Green [then Philadelphia’s mayor] were trying to take my job away. This was back in 1980. I was speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. All the big-city guys ganged up on us.

ED: This was the Kennedy-Carter presidential primary. I was supporting Kennedy.

CHRIS: Teddy came to town, and he was eating Philly pretzels and meeting with the Cardinal. You could do that in those days. And Carter was in his Rose Garden because of the [Iranian] hostages. And I’m handling Philly. These guys rolled us over. Read more »

Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson on Comedy and the Troc

Photograph by Lane Savage

Photograph by Lane Savage

PM: So you’re pretty deep into production for season two of Broad City?

Abbi: Yeah, we’re actually done tomorrow, so it’s really nuts. I’m standing in the middle of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I’m watching the crew shoot a scene with Ilana [Glazer, her Broad City partner] right now.

PM: Were you the class-clown type at Conestoga High?

Abbi: A little bit. They had this cool show called the Junior Cabaret, and I got to be one of the comedic hosts for the night. That was my first time performing in front of that many people. I took classes growing up at the Walnut Street Theatre and the Actors Center downtown on 3rd on Saturdays — my parents would drive me in. I was kind of obsessed with SNL, but I didn’t think comedy was an option at all.

PM: Did growing up in this area shape your sense of humor?

Abbi: Abbi on the show is from Philly. I try to play that up as much as I can. I don’t know — I think my parents are really funny. I had a pretty cool childhood. I definitely draw all of my material from my life.

PM: The Abbi character seems like you, with certain traits amplified. Read more »

Michael Solomonov and Marc Vetri on Being a Celebrity Chef in Philadelphia

Marc Vetri and Michael Solomonov. Photograph by Dustin Fenstermacher

Marc Vetri and Michael Solomonov. Photograph by Dustin Fenstermacher

[Sitting in Vetri’s recently renovated upstairs private dining room]

Michael: Wow, look at this. I used to sleep on a cot in that corner.

Marc: Yeah, it used to be this crappy apartment.

PM: When Michael worked for you, Marc, did you notice his talent right away? Can you spot talent?

Marc: I used to think that I could really figure folks out when they walked into the kitchen. But after a certain amount of time — ya know, two months, three months — they can walk out and you never see them again. They leave their knife bag and everything. They are just gone. So I really don’t think I can say that anymore.

Michael: It’s a generational thing, because when you and I first met, there certainly wasn’t anything like that happening here. Read more »

The Conversation Issue: Can We Talk?

conversation-issue-nov-2014-cover-400x540This is the transcript of a chat on Slack — the intra-office messaging system Philly Mag uses — between editor Tom McGrath, senior editor Richard Rys and editor-at-large Christine Speer Lejeune.

TOM: We’re calling this the Conversation Issue. You two oversaw the whole package. Explain what we’re up to here.

RICH: A fool’s errand?

CHRISTY: Haha. For real. Proof that the art of conversing isn’t dead, despite Google’s and Apple’s best efforts. We wanted to have the city’s most interesting people talk to each other and see what stories came out.

RICH: I keep coming back to the idea that in this age of high tech, we’re communicating more than ever, but the art of conversation is often lost in all the texting and tweeting and Facebook-status-updating. This issue is a chance for folks to put their phones down — for the most part — and really talk to each other.

CHRISTY: Emojis can only go so far.
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CNN’s Jake Tapper on Growing Up in Philadelphia

jake-tapper-conversation-issue-400x400LIZ: You and I first met as students at the Philadelphia School in second grade, in 1975. That was the third year of the school’s existence, when it was still in rented rooms and before it was the normal, respected, fully accredited institution it is today. How did you end up at such a wacky place?

JAKE: My parents were hippies and looking for like-minded idealists who were coming together to form this school that visited a farm once a week and didn’t have homework or tests. Instead of gym we had “Movement.” Remember?

LIZ: Yes, we ran around the classroom to the drumbeat of our names.

JAKE: Amosita Robinson McClain! I assume you remember her.

LIZ: Of course. She had the best name to run around to.

JAKE: I wonder what happened to her. I’m going to look her up on Facebook right now.

LIZ: No, she had to keep that name because it was so rhythmic and important to the rest of us.

JAKE: I can’t find her on Facebook. But I’m sure she’s on there. She might have a fourth name added.

LIZ: Your name wasn’t that exciting to run around to, I have to say.

JAKE: Nah, Jacob Tapper, even with the two syllables.
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