The Fall of the Main Line Drug Ring

Montco D.A. Risa Ferman with an AR-15 rifle and drugs seized by the police.  / Associated Press

Montco D.A. Risa Ferman with an AR-15 rifle and drugs seized by the police. / Associated Press

On the afternoon of April 21st, 18-year-old Timothy Brooks arrived at a courthouse in Ardmore, a mile east of his alma mater, the Haverford School. His appearance — khaki pants, blue blazer, square jaw — suggested good breeding. Walking alone, in handcuffs, he lifted his head and smiled at the assorted cameras before him. “Why are you smiling?” a reporter asked. Brooks said nothing and marched forward into the courthouse.

Twenty-five-year-old Neil Scott, Brooks’s alleged co-conspirator and fellow Haverford graduate, showed up looking less composed. Escorted by police, he covered his face with his blood-orange prison jumpsuit — his bail was set higher than Brooks’s, and his parents had declined to pay it — and told the assembled media to “get the fuck out of my face.” Then he popped out two middle fingers and concluded his remarks with a drawn-out “Fuuu-uck you.”

The perp walk was a fittingly theatrical start to the day’s proceedings. Scott and Brooks, along with nine suspected sub-dealers, were being charged with running a drug ring that aimed to supply marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy to some of the finest high schools, colleges and weekend house parties in Greater Philadelphia. (The prosecutors’ allegations were outlined in painstaking detail in a 77-page affidavit.) Brooks called the operation the Main Line Takeover Project, and soon, so would everyone else. “Every Nug on the mainline is about to come from you and me,” he’d texted Scott last fall. “We will crush it,” Scott echoed in a separate text-message conversation. “Once you go tax free it’s hard to go back.”

Announcing the charges at a press conference, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said, “You’re dealing with kids from one of the finest institutions probably in the country. To take those skills and turn it into this kind of illegal enterprise is very distressing.” In front of her was a table covered in drug-bust evidence: $11,035 in cash, eight pounds of marijuana, 23 grams of cocaine, 11 grams of Ecstasy, eight cell phones, one computer, one .223 AR-15 rifle, one .22 AR-15 rifle, one 9mm handgun — and, to emphasize her point, a lacrosse stick.

Ferman’s still life, with its discordant juxtaposition of semi-automatic weaponry and sports equipment, had the desired effect. The New York Times assigned two reporters to the story. The Washington Post ran an oddly gleeful breakdown of the case, grabbing Facebook screenshots and comparing the defendants to the characters in The Social Network. Gawker ran its inevitable “Philly Lax Bros Charged With Running Complex Prep School Drug Ring” headline. The Daily Beast published two articles, and Britain’s Daily Mail eventually joined the parade. CBS This Morning just sounded concerned.

The appeal of the story was obvious. On one hand, that such illicit behavior was being practiced on such rarefied real estate suggested a fascinating contraction, as if the Katharine Hepburn character in The Philadelphia Story had been caught taking a massive bong rip. On the other hand, the allegations corresponded neatly with our preconceptions about the corrupting influence of wealth and privilege. (Katharine Hepburn, upon consideration, was drunk for much of The Philadelphia Story.) Whatever the precise reason for its gossipy appeal, the case promised a dose of karmic justice: Rich white lax bros, the types who have long smoked weed and snorted coke to zero consequence, were facing near-certain jail time.

But there’s at least one sense in which the perception surrounding the case doesn’t match reality. Brooks and Scott’s blue-chip all-boys prep school was more of a safety net than a launching pad, a trusty home base from which to recover a measure of lost high-school glory. The story, accordingly, was never really about the drug ring. It was about the culture that spawned the scheme, and the way everyone around it — media, law enforcement, elite prep schools, guarded alums and tight-lipped Main Line parents — reacted after the whole thing fell apart.

THE GRANDDADDY of unlikely main line drug lords was a dentist named Larry Lavin. He started out as a pot smoker at Phillips Exeter, then moved on to pot-dealing at the University of Pennsylvania before ultimately running what would become the largest cocaine trafficking operation in Philadelphia history. Lavin employed, among others, lawyers, stockbrokers, music executives, accountants, fellow dentists and at least one airline pilot. His ring was dubbed the “The Yuppie Conspiracy.” Prior to his trial, Lavin fled his house in Devon, in 1984. By the time he was captured a year and a half later, it was estimated that he had been moving up to 110 pounds of cocaine a month to customers in 14 states, Canada and the District of Columbia.

Neil Scott’s operation was somewhat less glamorous. Home base, according to prosecutors, was literally his home, a cramped apartment on the second floor of a flimsy-looking rental house off Lancaster Avenue, less than 900 feet from the Haverford School. He owned a black 2007 Toyota 4Runner and lived alone with a small brown puppy. He wore sneakers and jeans: He looked like any other underemployed kid in his mid-20s. His neighbors suspected nothing. Hala Imms, who lived across the street, remembers only that she yelled at him when he once parked his car in her spot after a snowstorm. “I’d give him shitty looks because he’d never pick up his dog poop from the front yard,” says another neighbor, who asked not to be identified. “There were like 500 dog turds.”

Un-Lavin-like though he was, Scott seems to have drawn inspiration from the dentist kingpin. When detectives raided his Haverford apartment in February, one of the items they reportedly found was Doctor Dealer, Mark Bowden’s 1987 book about Lavin and his side job. Alongside it was more evidence of his ambition: Cornbread Mafia, about a Kentucky drug ring that thrived in the ’80s, and American Desperado, about a macho smuggler of the infamous Colombian Medellin cartel.

Indicators of Scott’s bravado weren’t confined to the bookshelf. One afternoon in late December 2013, two men in their mid-20s pulled up to Scott’s rental and climbed the wooden staircase to its upstairs apartment. They were there to buy an ounce of weed from Scott for the quite reasonable price of $215. One of the men — we’ll call him Jack — remembered Scott from the prep-school lacrosse circuit. Jack, his buddy and Scott sat down on a couch and shot the breeze for a few minutes. On the table in front of them was the ounce of weed and the scale Scott had used to measure it. Next to it, more notably, was a 9mm handgun. “He had his guns out in plain view,” Jack recalls. “White kids see a gun, myself included, they’re not going to cause a problem.”

Quickly, Jack says, Scott became a go-to dealer for Haverford students and graduates and assorted suburbanites. “A lot of the kids on the Main Line were buying from him,” Jack says. “Whether they knew it or not.” To be sure, there was already plenty of weed in circulation. As “Tom,” a current Main Line high-schooler, puts it, “Weed is very, very big on the Main Line because everyone can afford it. So many kids have come and gone and been dealers for a couple of months, made a ton of money and never got caught.” What distinguished Scott and Brooks was their attempt to control the supply chain in a market that was mostly decentralized, with dealers sticking mainly to their own schools and selling largely to their friends. Scott and Brooks, says one former Lower Merion High School dealer, seemed to be “unique in the fact that they actively went to high-school kids and said, ‘You wanna be a drug dealer? It’s cool, it’s going to be fun.’”

Brooks and Scott’s business plan was less reliant on the “skills” they picked up at Haverford, as Ferman suggested, than on the connections they had made there. The pair had both played lacrosse at Haverford, as had Christian “Stocky” Euler, a 23-year-old Lafayette student and alleged sub-dealer, and 23-year-old Chester “Chet” Simmons, another alleged sub-dealer, who was named in the prosecution’s affidavit but not charged. “That was such a tight-knit group,” says a 2012 Haverford grad of his school’s national-powerhouse lacrosse team. “They thought of themselves as elite. They had their own little culture.” And that culture, says a member of the school’s class of 2013, was bound up in recreational drug use: “If you took one sport and said, ‘Which one parties the most?,’ it’s the lacrosse guys.”

To a certain extent, by using alumni of the program to push drugs, Brooks and Scott were capitalizing on those connections, in the same way their coaches helped them find part-time coaching gigs after high school. But the way they turned their alumni status into a black-market LinkedIn has more to do with desperation than ingenuity. Scott had flamed out of the Connecticut College lacrosse program before dropping out of school altogether, heading to California, running out of money, and ultimately returning home. Brooks — a team captain at Haverford — sustained a serious injury as a University of Richmond freshman, withdrew from school, and moved back into his childhood bedroom.

Unlike Larry Lavin, the two men didn’t have other careers. Their connections to the Main Line, to the Haverford School, were all they had left. That, and a certain sense of destiny instilled by their alma mater. “Haverford builds you up,” says “Rob,” a recent graduate. “The expectation is, you’ll go on and do big things.”

HERE’S ONE INDICATOR that the Main Line Takeover Project wasn’t exactly the rich-kid caper it was made out to be: Wealthy lax bro number one wasn’t really wealthy at all. Neil Scott grew up in a one-story house in Paoli in a residential pocket adjacent to a retirement community. His father, a carpenter, sent him to Conestoga High School until his junior year, when he transferred to the Haverford School to play goalie on a lacrosse scholarship. A photo from his freshman yearbook at Conestoga reveals his jet black hair coiffed into the wind-swept surfer swoosh that was in vogue in the mid-2000s. “He was always a very cynical, sarcastic kid,” says one Haverford School schoolmate, not disapprovingly. Nobody I spoke with recalled him dealing drugs.

If there was a prevailing sentiment among the high-school classmates and college lacrosse teammates who had anything at all to say about Scott, it was that he was a mediocre athlete. Clay Hillyer, a fellow member of the Connecticut College class of 2012, calls him “terrible”; another teammate concurs, adding that he was a lazy kid with an occasional aggressive streak. “I remember him getting heated,” he recalls. “Like, if you fucked with him or whatever, he would kind of snap.” Also: “His room always smelled like weed.”

These observations turn out to be salient. After one season, Scott stopped playing lacrosse. In his sophomore year, he was sanctioned by the college for smoking pot and making fake IDs, prompting him to drop out and move back home. Within a few months, he had decamped to a white bungalow in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a beach community 30 minutes north of San Diego, where he coached at various area public schools. Zack Burke, who had hired him in February 2013 to work for his lacrosse training business, told the Daily News that Scott explained he’d come to San Diego to flee the “drugs and trouble” back home. Despite that, he began working at a medical marijuana dispensary at some point. And about two months after he hired Scott, Burke said, he found him cursing at a 10-year-old and fired him: “He started losing grip with reality a bit.” Around that time, he added, Scott began dating an older woman who plied him with Xanax and other prescription pills: “I feel like she made him crazy. I heard he packed up his car and went back to Philly in September.” (Burke declined repeated Philadelphia magazine requests for comment.)

According to text messages released by the prosecution, Scott soon got in touch with his former teammate Stocky Euler, then a senior at Lafayette. Stocky, says a close friend, had himself lost his way post-Haverford, after leaving the Lafayette lacrosse team. “Yo stocky, it’s Neil from Hford,” Scott wrote. “Just got back from Cali, got a bunch of greens. Know anybody around Philly who might be interests?” [sic] “Hahah yoo brotha how are you?” Stocky wrote back the next day, asking, “Like weight?” “Doing pretty well man, yeah got a lot of weight. Constant supply. Great numbers.” Neil Scott was in business.

Meanwhile, Timothy Brooks — younger, richer, a more talented lacrosse player — appears to have backed into the drug trade in a remarkably similar fashion. Brooks grew up in Villanova on one of those wide, leafy streets where the houses are far enough apart that you rarely run the risk of having to greet your neighbors. His father, Clint, a lacrosse player himself at the University of Vermont, is an executive for a local HR firm. Brooks also transferred into Haverford, from Harriton High School, and played on the lacrosse, squash and golf teams, graduating five years after Brooks did. “He kind of exuded an air of being a cool kid,” says one former squash teammate. “He wasn’t super-intelligent, from what I could tell.” Adds one member of the class of 2013, “He was a strong, confident guy, really gifted athletically. For a while, for 90 percent of his life, he had success in almost everything he did.” His high-school Twitter account displays that jock swagger. “S/o to my boys at the wingbowl. Send me some titty pics,” read one entry from February 2013. A couple months earlier, he wrote: “If someone ever decides to write like Shakespeare again, they should be beat up. #hamlet #essays.”

By September 2013, less than a month into his freshman year at Richmond, Brooks sustained a shoulder injury. He underwent surgery, withdrew from school, then began living at home again. “That physical disappointment manifested itself a little bit socially,” says “Joel,” a former Haverford classmate. “I think he couldn’t quite handle it, between not being able to play lacrosse to the ability [he wanted] and maybe not fitting in right away.”

Nobody I spoke with could recall Brooks ever dealing drugs or showing interest in it. In fact, Joel says, once Brooks wound up back home, his initial plan to relieve boredom and earn pocket money was to create an Internet start-up — “something to do with clothes.” Before Brooks was charged, according to prosecutors, he was employed by a “local investment firm.” What Timmy Brooks, Neil Scott and Stocky Euler all had in common were lacrosse careers that ended prematurely, along with a certain entrepreneurial spirit that, under different circumstances, their Haverford teachers might have applauded: They identified a growth market and moved quickly, if not shrewdly, to fill a need.

IT REMAINS UNCLEAR exactly who conceived of the Main Line Takeover Project — that is, a drug operation designed to traffic in more than just a little Saturday-night Molly before an EDM concert. Scott’s and Brooks’s lawyers are jockeying to pin the blame on each other’s clients. “He’s a nice young man and comes from a very nice family and he’s sorry for what he did and he’s ready to accept responsibility,” Brooks’s lawyer, Greg Pagano, has said; on a separate occasion, he told reporters that his client’s “level of culpability is much less than that of his co-defendant.” Scott’s lawyer, Tom Egan, has stated that “Brooks comes from a lot of money,” while his client “comes from a pure middle-class background.” More to the point, Egan told me, “The Main Line Takeover Project — that is not a term ever used by my guy or what he tried to do. That is a term used by Brooks.”

Text messages and testimony provided by investigators show that Scott and Brooks started working together around mid-November 2013, for not-dissimilar reasons. By late fall, Scott told investigators, he had burned through the cash he’d saved in California and taken up pot dealing, since, according to the criminal affidavit, “everyone between 15 and 55 loves good weed.” And he could get it, en masse, from a guy in California. Brooks, meanwhile, told detectives he linked up with Scott because he was having trouble at home and wanted to earn enough cash to move out.

In October, Scott began driving to Lafayette College and Gettysburg College to deliver weed to two former Haverford schoolmates, Euler and Chet Simmons. Meanwhile, Brooks appears to have been working at least one of his own contacts, then-Haverford senior Dan McGrath. On November 13th, Brooks updated Scott regarding his progress with McGrath, in one of the earliest dated text messages released by the prosecution. “Just convinced my Haverford guy to build his empire and stop grams,” Brooks wrote, meaning he was encouraging him to graduate to a more substantial level of dealing — it was a plan for sustainable growth, essentially. The affidavit says Brooks referred to McGrath, who grew up middle-class in Glenolden, as a “highly motivated poor kid.” Scott, whose own socioeconomic status isn’t so different from McGrath’s, responded, “Sounds good to me. Like those kinds of kids.”

A week later, Brooks made an effort to solidify his partnership with Scott. “Idk what you make a week but I want to make [$2,000] if I do this,” he texted. “And there are still a lot of holes to fill cause I have to grow my business. I’ll be straight with you on how I flip it. And we can work the numbers out.” Scott replied: “I’ll help you with whatever I can, [$2,000] is definitely feasible.” After agreeing to buy a pound of weed from Scott, Brooks texted, “Like I said I’m trying to start a business and I’m learning how to run this 1 well.”

As the conversation proceeded, the two allowed themselves to think a little bigger:

Brooks: “When you were a senior at Haverford did u ever think that you could pull that”

Scott: “Only dreamed it There is a much bigger market than just a lb at each of these school. [Conestoga] alone is a couple a week!”

Scott: “Just have to find the right people. And don’t rush it. Everything has a way of falling into line.”

Brooks: “Yeah the question is, can I find the right guy that can run that operation”

Brooks: “Defiantly in time” [sic]

Brooks, according to the affidavit, soon began establishing contacts at Lower Merion High School, Radnor High School, Harriton High and, later, Haverford College. Scott, meanwhile, started branching out into Philadelphia. “My main line take over project is coming together fast,” Brooks texted Scott at one point. “And I’m telling all my guys I never want there [sic] schools to be dry. Cause I always got pissed as shit when I couldn’t find bud. But now it will never happen for the rest of my life. Cause I got u.” He added: “This last week has made me realize how much I love money.”

If you talk to enough Main Line kids in the age-16-to-24 demographic, it appears there was some vague awareness that Neil Scott and Timmy Brooks were, if not running a sophisticated narcotics operation, trying to pull something off. Jack describes what seemed to be their business model: “It was better for them all price-wise to work as a co-op, rather than small-time it on their own.”

Scott, however, appeared to fancy himself more hard-core than your friendly neighborhood herb supplier. “You have a thousand dollar bounty on your head, I will find you,” Scott texted to an unnamed minion. “Piece of shit, heard you ripped off more people on your campus.” While Scott issued threats, Brooks was the good cop, trying to play up the bling aspect of their trade. “One of them had approached a good friend of mine,” says the former Lower Merion dealer, referring to Brooks. “He showed him a large amount of pot, wearing a suit.”

Brooks offered the friend the drugs on credit, asking that his new sub-dealer pay him back a certain amount once he sold off a solid chunk of it himself. (This m.o. is consistent with how the prosecution alleges the ring was run.) But it seems Brooks and Scott got greedy, misjudged their market, or both. “They were encouraging their dealers to sell all these drugs,” the former LMHS dealer says. “There was too much supply and not enough demand. Somebody’s going to get fucked over, and they’re not going to hesitate to rat you out.”

Whatever the chain of events that led to Brooks and Scott’s arrests, they neglected to take the sorts of precautions that allowed Lavin and Co. to operate unobstructed for six years — or even to demonstrate a basic pop-culture understanding of narco-trade strategy. The alleged ringleaders used their own personal cell phones, and had packages of weed shipped to their own homes. Scott may have bought three books about massively successful drug rings, but it doesn’t appear he read them. “Think of North Philadelphia,” says Jonathan Duecker, special agent in charge of the state attorney general’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control. “The organizations there are very good at counter-surveillance, being communication-sensitive. They don’t talk on the phone, they dump their phones. … On the Main Line, they’re not as good. They didn’t grow up being drug dealers.”

In January, less than two months after its genesis, the Main Line Takeover Project began to fall apart. First, detectives from Montgomery County’s Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) pinpointed four confidential informants to conduct a series of controlled drug buys. The first informant led them to “M.G.M.,” a 17-year-old Lower Merion High School dealer who collected Air Jordans and flaunted his credentials under the Instagram handle “Hustle Tree Daily.” (“Honestly, that might be the dumbest kid I’ve met,” says a childhood friend.) Once they found three more informants, NET was able to build up sufficient evidence to confront Brooks and Scott over the course of a couple of days in late February and early March, and induced quick confessions out of them. Over the next two months, they rounded up the other eight defendants: Euler and McGrath; Domenic Curcio, a 29-year-old machinist from Manayunk; Willow Orr, 22, an illustrator from Point Breeze; 18-year-old Haverford College freshmen Reid Cohen and Garrett Johnson; 21-year-old Lafayette College junior John Cole Rosemann; and a 17-year-old Radnor High student. They charged the suspects not only with dealing drugs — and dealing them to minors — but with participating in a “corrupt organization,” the Pennsylvania statute equivalent of the RICO charges federal prosecutors have slapped on the Hells Angels and the Gambino crime family.

One rainy evening in mid-June, I drove to Paoli to seek an interview with Neil Scott’s parents. The previous weekend, I had already been rebuffed by Clint Brooks, Timmy’s father, who closed his front door on me the minute I identified myself as a reporter. It was dinnertime when I arrived to find Robert and Denise Scott eating in front of the TV. The couple quickly declined comment and shut the door on me. Several moments later, however, seized by some fierce maternal instinct, Denise Scott peered at me through a window and yelled: “It’s a pack of lies!”

WHEN I ASKED ROB, who knew several of the suspects, if he thought the Main Line Takeover Project had Breaking Bad-style ambition, he demurred. The better comparison, he said, was the Seth Rogen stoner-caper comedy Pineapple Express. Neil Scott not only admitted his involvement when confronted, but also told detectives he would have “loved” to employ a dealer at Villanova and was working on expanding to West Chester University. The rest of the alleged sub-dealers handled their arrests with all the savvy of someone who has never seen an episode of Law & Order. When confronted in their homes and dorm rooms by Montgomery County detectives, none of them thought to stay silent and wait for their lawyers. Instead, police say, nearly all of them copped to dealing drugs and admitted sending incriminatory text messages. Only “M.G.M.” tried to save his own skin. But his attempt to toss a jar of weed from his bedroom window fell short, alas, when the drugs landed in the arms of a detective standing on his front lawn.

Sensing an opportunity, several defense lawyers may try to spin their clients’ incompetence into lighter sentences. Attorney Steven Fairlie says of his client John Cole Rosemann’s swift cooperation with police: “That’s what a good law-abiding kid does when he gets caught.” (Fairlie admits Rosemann did not abide by the law.) Greg Pagano, Brooks’s lawyer, is doing his best to belittle his client’s Walter White delusions: “He was involved in the conspiracy for a relatively short period of time,” Pagano said in a written statement. “He possessed no weapons.”

The Haverford School, painted by the press as a $35,000-per-year mecca of preppy entitlement, has attempted to strike a similar balance between condemning and downplaying the actions of its graduates. “We will make sure that something like this never, ever happens again,” John Nagl, the eccentric first-year headmaster of the school, told the New York Times. (A decorated military veteran who helped to develop the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, Nagl has been known to adopt an alter ego, “Slim,” who has made school-wide announcements in a digitally altered evil-villain voice. He also said “the United States will regret” marijuana legalization.) In the Times interview, however, Nagl pointed out that McGrath, the Haverford student who was charged, was only accused of making $40 to $50 a week off his trade. “We didn’t believe we had a significant problem,” he said. “And we honestly still don’t believe we have a significant problem.”

A recent graduate we’ll call “Alex” shared a similar take. “The school is just an absolutely incredible school to the point where it’s perfect,” he said. The real culprit in this story, as Alex sees it, isn’t a couple of wayward alums, but rather a ravenous public high on schadenfreude. And the real victim is the Haverford School: “When someone’s successful and prosperous, people want to see you fail.” I asked if he thought the school had a drug problem. “No,” he said. “Everybody smokes pot. It’s not a big deal.”

That Alex can assert that pot-smoking is rampant but simultaneously not “a problem” reflects, to some extent, the growing cultural and political acceptability of marijuana consumption. (Philadelphia’s City Council passed a bill in June decriminalizing up to an ounce of weed.) But it also suggests that Alex never expected anyone from his school to actually face consequences for dealing pot. As one Haverford parent — who, like most everyone else interviewed for this story, requested anonymity — told me, “I just think that everyone probably assumed [this drug bust] was going to happen at someone else’s school.”

In an attempt to avoid any more unwanted jolts to their community, the school and its alumni have assumed a defensive crouch. Nagl postponed a scheduled interview with me twice, eventually agreeing to answer written questions submitted by email. When I reached out to Nagl’s predecessor, Joe Cox, he replied amiably that he would love to talk but had been told by “school leadership” not to communicate with the media. Nagl also advised students not to speak to reporters. He told me he didn’t want them to “cause hurt to people whom we care about very deeply.”

The vast majority of Haverford alumni I contacted, likewise, were more than a little skittish about speaking with me, ignoring messages or hastily declining to talk. “I went to Haverford for 13 years and will send my kids there over any other school in the area still,” said 2012 graduate Henry Blynn. “I would appreciate if you stopped harassing my friends and classmates.” Recent grad Rob explained their reluctance further: “When these kids got caught, it was like someone in our family totally fucked up and now we all look bad.”

That sentiment surfaced at the Haverford School’s 130th commencement ceremony, which took place on June 6th at the campus field house. The choir sang. The boys received their diplomas. A speaker in a robe tossed off some quotes from Bob Dylan and William Butler Yeats. William Gray Warden III, ’50, was joined onstage by William Gray Warden IV, ’75, who was in turn joined onstage by William Gray Warden V, ’14.

The only way to distinguish this year’s ceremony from any other’s was a set of remarks made at the very end by the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, a lawyer named John Stoviak. “I’ll briefly just touch on the subject that’s been the subject of more media than I could ever imagine,” he said. “And I’ll declare from this stage, and from any pulpit that I can get, that the Haverford School will not — will not — be defined by the bad decisions of a few people. We as a community — all the faculty, all the parents, all the students — will not let that happen. We will fight to continue to earn our well-deserved, outstanding reputation as an extraordinary school with remarkable boys.”

BY QUICKLY PROMISING to study the matter and possibly undergo reforms, the Haverford School is signaling it can do a better job of living up to its lofty mission statement: “Preparing Boys for Life.” But the embarrassment and the soul-searching and the PR scramble also suggest the Haverford community is well aware that this story had less to do with the nature of the alleged crimes than with those accused of committing them. It was about where they were from and where they went to high school. It was less about breaking laws than it was about betraying the honor code. It reflected a community and a school that promise you so much that when your grand plans don’t work out, you instinctively return to them and try to milk them one last time. Because despite appearances, Brooks and Scott weren’t invincible. They were utterly mortal, facing a reality nobody prepared them for: out of school and out of money, with their lacrosse careers derailed. Not everyone goes on to do big things.

It had to be about all that, because it couldn’t have been about the drugs. Here is a list of much larger local busts that didn’t make headlines on Gawker: In May 2013, Ferman’s own Operation Weed Whacker cracked open a $14.6 million ring based in Blue Bell. The year 2011 saw the demise of a tri-county barbershop cocaine ring, from which four pounds of coke were seized. Just last May, 44 alleged members of an organization that had close ties to Mexico’s notorious La Familia cartel were arrested, a bust prosecutors said was the biggest in Chester County’s history. By contrast, less than one ounce of cocaine was seized in Operation Main Line Takeover. And yet Neil Scott’s bail was set at a million dollars, the same as that of the defendants in the Mexican cartel case and nearly three times Larry Lavin’s (adjusted for inflation).

Law enforcement officers not working under Ferman seem somewhat underwhelmed by the bust. “The size of the marijuana distribution operation is standard, so that did not surprise me,” says Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan. “The fact that it was happening at a school like Haverford also did not surprise me.” Duecker, meanwhile, is baffled that so much ink was spilled on the case. “In the context of the growing heroin and opioid-painkiller pill issue that we have throughout the state, what we had in that particular case was not extraordinary,” he says. “What was interesting to me was not the trafficking, not the fact that they were doing it. I was amazed at what a prominent story it was.”

For that, we partly have the prosecution to thank, not only for arranging its press conference for maximum public consumption but also for issuing an affidavit of probable cause so intricately detailed that one defense lawyer in the case called it the longest he had ever seen. When I suggested to Lower Merion police superintendent Mike McGrath that the lengthy affidavit proved not unhelpful to reporters, he smiled and said, “I think that’s why they did it.” Ferman, a cynic might point out, is up for reelection next year.

Outside the media gaze, the case trundles on, slowly and uneventfully. Lawyers are trying to avoid the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements likely to fell some of their clients. Timmy Brooks, sources say, went to rehab. Neil Scott is in jail; his lawyer says he’d rather begin serving his sentence now than get out on bail. The trial, if the case goes that far, may not occur for months. And the rest of the Main Line? “Kids will always want to smoke pot,” a high-school student in the area told me. “And if they get caught, someone will always come along and replace them.”

Originally published as “High Hopes” in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

What Does My Kid’s Apartment Say About Me?

Illustration by Alexander Purdy

Illustration by Alexander Purdy

I’m standing in an aisle at HomeGoods, holding a spoon rest. It’s a pretty thing, bright orange, shaped like a sunflower, and it only costs $3.99. I don’t happen to need a spoon rest, and anyway, my kitchen’s red, not orange. But my daughter Marcy’s kitchen has one orange wall. This would look perfect in it.

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a spoon rest. She doesn’t have a lot of stuff. She and her husband, Basil, are just a year out of school now, working their starter jobs, living in West Philly amidst hand-me-downs and thrift-shop buys and found-on-the-street reclamations, the way most people do at that age. They’re perfectly happy, but I know Marcy would like to have more — to have nice things. They will, someday. Meantime, I’m buying this spoon rest for her.

For most of my life, I wasn’t much of a shopper. Who had time to mosey through HomeGoods, what with the Girl Scout troop and PTA projects and going to field hockey and football games? I look back on those years and marvel — where did I ever get the energy to keep up with it all? These days, with the kids gone, I’ve got plenty of time to fill up. I have a regular circuit on weekend afternoons — HomeGoods, T.J. Maxx, the great little thrift shop in town.

My widowed dad took to shopping once we kids were out of the house, too. I thought it was a little weird, then, that he’d drive to Macy’s or Strawbridge’s by himself and wander through. He always had a mission, something he was comparison-shopping for, checking out prices: a window fan, maybe, or a new vacuum. He bought himself a lot of shirts.

I understand the impulse now. It’s something to do to keep yourself busy, a way to pass the hours between Phillies games and mowing the lawn. There’s another mom I know, a teacher from Marcy’s high school. We seem to have the same circuit; I run into her all the time on my shopping trips. She, too, is always buying stuff for her grown daughter. There’s something furtive in the glances we exchange, in our rushed hellos. We recognize in one another what we won’t admit about ourselves: We’re over-engaged but don’t know how to gear down.

This is my mission: to find something nice for Marcy now that she’s got a place of her own. Her brother Jake’s still in a dorm room, so there’s not much I can do for him in the way of home decor.

I know just where she’ll put the spoon rest: atop the oven, close to the pot holders I gave her that are orange and pink, that go with the tablecloth I got such a great deal on, that covers up the thrift-shop table I bought her. I like to think of her in her apartment surrounded by all these pretty little things she’s too frugal to buy for herself.

I DON’T WORRY about what Basil will think of the spoon rest. Frankly, I don’t think he’ll even notice it. He’s a modern guy; he’s interested in big-screen TVs and stereo speakers and computer monitors, not dish towels and hot pads. When Marcy first moved in with him and his brother — that’s how they met; the brothers needed a third roommate — the living room contained two identical beige sofas and a TV. That was it.

In came Marcy with her table and chairs and houseplants and party lights, and nothing was ever the same.

Now that he’s making good money, Basil is knocking off items on his wish list. He bought a gas grill. The TVs keep getting bigger. They’ve got Netflix. He’s got a gym membership. He wants a car, but he has to be able to drive first. When he left his home in Kenya for college here in Philly, he hadn’t learned how.

His wish list doesn’t overlap with Marcy’s. She wants a new sofa, to replace the one I got them at the thrift shop. She’d like a bistro table and chairs for their backyard. Surroundings matter to her in a way they don’t to him. I saw her once in her living room, staring at the throw pillows on the armchair and smiling. She caught me looking. “They make me happy, the way they go together,” she said, a little abashed.

I told her: “I know what you mean.”

It can take my husband, Doug, weeks to notice that I’ve hung a new picture or reupholstered a chair. My dad was the same way. My mom never asked him what color he thought she should paint the living room. If she was the one buying the paint and working the roller, she figured, it was up to her.

Besides, asking only complicates things. I remember going with Doug 30 years ago to register for our wedding at Wanamaker’s. I was so astonished when he actually had opinions about what kinds of plates we would be eating off, and with what silverware. Opinions, I should note, that varied significantly from mine.

But modern couples are different, I guess. I show up at Marcy and Basil’s one day with a new treasure for them in my car: an ornate mint green candle stand for the backyard. Marcy claps her hands in delight when I open the trunk. “Oh,” she says, “it’s just like the one we saw the other day that I wanted to buy! Remember?” she appeals to Basil. “And you wouldn’t let me.”


IF YOU WANT TO SEND something to Kenya, or send something from Kenya to here, you don’t mail it; the postal service is too expensive and unreliable. You find someone who’s visiting and send it along with him. This might seem less reliable than the postal service could possibly be, but there’s a lot of back-and-forth across the ocean, and Basil has tons of cousins and uncles and aunts.

I’ve only met his mother twice, when she came for his college graduation. It was the first time they’d seen each other in more than five years. I found just the idea of her formidable. Widowed at an early age, she sent all three of her boys to boarding school and then the oldest two to America to study. I couldn’t stand it when Marcy went to Mexico for a semester. How could Basil’s mom bear to be away from her sons for so long?

She and Basil’s uncle came to our house for dinner while they were in the States. We were all crazy-nervous and on our best behavior. Gradually we thawed out, and by the end of the meal, we were laughing like old friends. Marcy said afterward that Basil’s mom said she was glad her son had such a nice family to be with here. I don’t think I would have been so gracious. The way I see it, she’s the loser in this game. The kids are here, and I can drop in anytime I want after work, and buy them candlesticks and spoon rests. She’s 7,000 miles away.

By odd coincidence, she and Marcy and I all have the same gigantic feet — size 11. We sent her home with a suitcase full of books and shoes.

ONE OF THE FIRST things Marcy bought for herself when she moved in with Basil was a big statue of the Buddha. She’s not religious, but she likes the idea of serenity. She set the statue on the floor of the apartment and surrounded it with candles. She had a hard time convincing Basil’s mom that this was home decorating and not a shrine.

Basil’s mom is religious. On her visit, she presented Marcy with a leso — a big bright cloth, orange and yellow and black, screen-printed with fish and the Swahili for “In everything is God.” In Kenya, lesos are utilitarian; women wear them. Marcy wanted to hang hers on the kitchen wall. Basil balked at that; he didn’t think it was appropriate. But she talked him around.

I thought of that when, one Saturday afternoon, I discovered that HomeGoods was having a “Buy African”-themed sale. The front of the store was filled with colorful woven baskets from Swaziland, wooden tribal masks from Zimbabwe, soapstone bowls from Tanzania, South African animal carvings. Some of them were signed by the craftspeople who’d made them. The whole thing felt weird — like high-school kids who go to Rwanda for two weeks so they can add it to their college applications. The cheery guilt-culture was urging me to “Buy African” to benefit some faceless continental monolith, but I was pretty sure Basil would be taken aback if I gave him a tribal mask.

I bought a little wooden bowl inlaid with pieces of black and white stone, though, because it was from Kenya. Marcy gave it a place of honor on the drop-leaf table ($45 at the thrift shop) in their living room.

When she and Basil were in school, it didn’t seem strange to me at all to give them gifts: a lamp, a chair, dishes, pots and pans. Now that they’re married, though, it feels a little … intrusive. Like I’m trying to manage their household as well as my own.

Take the groceries. When they were students, every month or so I’d stop by after work with the car and take them grocery-shopping, so they could stock up. I’d pay with my Visa — hell, they didn’t have any money. It was just a way to help out.

When we took a recent grocery trip, though, I watched with my Visa in hand as the cashier rang up the total. “Is it all right if I pay?” I asked Basil.

He shook his head, firmly. “No.”

FOR MEMORIAL DAY, the two of them host a barbecue in their tiny backyard. They go to the Italian Market for goat to roast on the new gas grill; Marcy makes ugali, a sort of cornmeal porridge, along with kale and rice and beans. None of these are things she learned to cook from me. Basil and his mom taught her how.

I try to think back to when Doug and I were first married. I may have made meatloaf because he liked it, but I never made meatloaf the way his mom does. I made meatloaf my way.

Of course, there isn’t really any American equivalent to ugali. Or barbecued goat, for that matter.

This round goes to Basil’s mom.

Marcy and Basil travel to Boston for a weekend, for the wedding of one of his cousins. I drop by their place a week or so after they get back. It’s a light trip for me; all I’ve brought them is some bottles of the soda Basil likes and a couple of citronella candles for the backyard.

I’m no sooner in the door than I stare at a new leso hanging on the living room wall. This one shows a parade of warriors bearing shields and spears. It’s shockingly fierce — about as far from those HomeGoods “Buy African” tchotchkes as anything could be.

“A cousin came to the wedding from Kenya with a box of presents for us from Basil’s mom,” Marcy explains.

“It’s … ” What? “Striking,” I say.

“These, too.” She indicates a tall carving of a warrior that’s on the speaker next to the TV, right beside my little wooden bowl from Kenya, and another warrior on the set of wrought iron shelves I trash-picked for them in Ocean City last summer.

And here I thought we were being so civilized in this rivalry.

The leso and the carvings are scary. They look as out of place to me as ugali would at Thanksgiving. They don’t belong with the jacquard curtains I made, the prim blue armchair I donated, the pastoral Chinese paintings that belonged to my dad and now hang on the adjacent wall. They certainly don’t go with the Buddha, for heaven’s sake.

I don’t say any of this, though. I just hand over the sodas and the citronella candles, and sit at the kitchen table and chat with my daughter underneath a banner that declares (not that I can read it) “In everything is God.” Neither of us mentions the elephant — there’s one of those, too, painted on a new bowl — in the room.

One of Marcy’s professors once asked her what I thought of her and Basil. Marcy laughed and told her, “Oh, she’s fine with it. She says she’s come around to the fact that her grandkids won’t look like her.”

“They’ll look like her,” the professor said. “They just won’t be white.”

This apartment is Marcy’s and Basil’s. It looks like them now.

It isn’t until later, as I’m driving home across the scant miles that separate my daughter and me, that I realize: Basil’s mom’s gifts were only overwhelming because they arrived all at once, in one box. She isn’t doing anything that I haven’t been doing bit by bit all along, with pot holders and houseplants and drapes. She’s staking out her territory, laying claim, saying to her child from a distance: Don’t forget where you came from. Don’t you forget you’re mine.

Close enough or far away, it’s harder than you’d think to let go.

Originally published as “Interior Designs” in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

The Top Ten Philly Sports Announcers of All Time

MASTERS OF THE MIC: From left, Kalas, Hart, Reese, Andersen, Ashburn and Franzke.

MASTERS OF THE MIC: From left, Kalas, Hart, Reese, Andersen, Ashburn and Franzke.

The voices carried me home. Dating back to high school, on most weekends in the summer I’d drive to the Jersey Shore and relax with friends and family who owned or rented houses there (see: mooching). Seaside Heights, Ocean City, Sea Isle, Avalon, Wildwood — I’ve slept on porches and tight couches and in sheets decorated with conch shells. Sundays meant the dreaded trip home, and the worst stretch was usually where the Garden State Parkway meets the Atlantic City Expressway. Traffic crawled. The air conditioner in my black 1994 Chevy Cavalier was broken. It’s a safe bet I was dehydrated, from the sun or booze or both.

Far more important to me than a cool blast of air was my radio. Music was the soundtrack for the ride to the Shore; Sundays were for the Phillies, and for Harry. As the heat and my stress level rose, Harry Kalas turned my sweatbox-on-wheels into a Buddhist monastery where baseball was peace and Harry the K’s play-by-play was a Zen koan. You can still hear his voice, like that of a grandfather or dad who told stories that held you rapt, or a friend who could talk sports for hours: “Struck’im ouuuuut!” During that long drought between 1993 and 2007, when the Fightins mostly stunk like a Vet Stadium bathroom, you tuned in not just for baseball, but for a version of the game as described by Harry. It was often better than what you’d see with your own eyes.

By contrast, a lousy broadcaster can ruin the experience. Like former Sixers color man Eric Snow, who was so dull he once apparently put himself to sleep. On the air. Or the current Phillies television crew, who should begin each inning with a narcolepsy warning. (Google “Matt Stairs Wing Bowl” for proof of a far more entertaining guy than you’ve heard so far. Jamie Moyer? I think he may have a future on NPR.)

With the window now officially closed on the Phillies’ ’08 championship era, and with no basketball, hockey or meaningful football till the fall, it feels like we’re all stuck in a hot car on the Philadelphia sports highway — going nowhere and not happy about it. Which makes this the perfect time to recognize the local TV and radio play-by-play men and color analysts who’ve made our best sports memories better and helped us survive the lean years. To rank them, I’ve looked at three categories: voice (smooth delivery, unmistakable sound), calls (moments that will live in Philly sports history), and general awesomeness (would you want to have a beer or play a round of golf with this guy?).

What makes a broadcaster special is more than the ability to interpret the infield fly rule or describe the action; it’s the weird, deeply personal one-sided relationships that fans develop with him over time. These broadcasters will likely never know you, but they’re part of your family for the big game and your co-pilot on long drives home.

10. Mike Emrick

Flyers TV 1983–’93
“Doc” had an impossible act to follow, taking over the Flyers’ TV duties from then-living-legend Gene Hart. (Indeed, Emrick was eventually let go to give Hart his job back.) His encyclopedic knowledge of the game, creative vocabulary (players “sashayed”; passes were “shillelaghed”) and recall of obscure facts made him seem like a buttoned-up professor in contrast with Hart’s emotional delivery. But Emrick’s style and his “Scooooore!” calls were so synonymous with the game that he was the first media member inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame. Sportswriter Peter King once said Emrick was to hockey what Jack Buck was to baseball. High praise indeed. Doc deserves it.

9. Tom McGinnis

Sixers radio 1995–present
In the nearly two decades McGinnis has been calling Sixers games, there’s been exactly one thrilling season. The other 18 have varied from Andre-Iguodala-interesting-at-times to Eddie-Jordan-excruciating, and McGinnis has done yeoman duty at tempering enthusiasm with reality (and somehow not leading a march off the Walt Whitman Bridge). Think of that glorious Iverson-led run to the Finals in 2001, and it’s hard not to hear McGinnis’s “Are you kidding me?” as the soundtrack to your mental highlights. Most impressive is that McGinnis is a one-man show, juggling the roles of both analyst and play-caller. It’s a display of broadcast wizardry akin to passing the ball to yourself and finishing with an alley-oop dunk.

8. Tom Brookshier

Eagles radio 1962–’64; CBS TV 1965–’87
Including Brookie on this list is a stretch if you only consider his relatively brief stint as color man for the Birds. But the ex-Eagle All Pro left town to join Pat Summerall on CBS, and for years the duo was the network’s A-team for football — so I’m claiming him. Brookshier would become one of the first jocks skilled enough to handle play-by-play work; in the early days, athletes were usually pigeonholed as sidemen. He also left an indelible mark — or stain, some might say — on this city as one of the fore- fathers of sports talk radio: His morning show on fledgling WIP eventually became Brookie and the Rookie and launched the career of his sidekick, a young Inquirer beat writer named Angelo Cataldi.

7. Jim Jackson

Flyers TV 1993–present; Phillies radio 2010–present
Jackson has quietly anchored Flyers broadcasts for 20 seasons, and like an umpire in baseball, he’s so steady that he sometimes goes unnoticed until he makes a mistake. Thing is, “JJ” rarely does — he’s the sublime balance of insight and emotion, the Mr. Dependable of Philly sports. It’s an especially impressive feat considering the pace of hockey and all those tongue-twisting foreign names. (You try saying “Niittymäki stops Kovalchuk, clears to Pitkänen, who passes to Zhitnik!”) What does he do in his spare time? Handles the middle innings across the street for the Phillies with the same skill and expertise, only slower.

6. Bill Campbell

Eagles radio 1952–’66; Phillies TV and radio 1963–’70; Sixers TV and radio 1972–’81; Warriors radio 1946–’62; Big Five basketball radio various years
I was in first grade when “The Dean” retired from broadcasting, so my only references for Campbell’s work are YouTube clips and talk-radio impressions. (If Joe Conklin did a By Saam, he’d be on this list, too.) But even if you never saw or heard Campbell call a game, the man’s body of work stands untouched. It takes a true sportsman to cover basketball, baseball and football, both pro and collegiate, with skill and smarts. You get the sense that if someone asked Campbell to do play-by-play of a halfball tournament or dice game, he’d oblige, and sound great doing it. He was so beloved in his prime that the Phillies were roundly eviscerated after replacing him with some punk from Houston. Wrote Stan Hochman in the Daily News, “The new guy’s name is pronounced Kal-us, as in callous.” There’s also a retro-coolness to Campbell, from his broadcast of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game to his classic beer pitches, during which he’d pour a cold one on live television: “Why don’t you join me in a glass of Schmidt’s?” How much does this man love Philly sports? At 90, he’s blogging about them.

5. Richie Ashburn

Phillies TV and radio 1963–’97
When Ashburn died in 1997, the Phillies played the Mets at Shea Stadium. In the outfield, the American flag flew at half-staff. That’s how respected Whitey was around the league, not just as a Cooperstown kind of ballplayer, but throughout his 35 years in the booth. For 27 of those seasons, his partner was Harry Kalas, and together, they defined the sound of Philadelphia sports. As a color man, Whitey knew when to step in with his dry Nebraska wit and when to let Kalas lead. “His Whiteness” presided mostly over losing seasons, but his enthusiasm for the game and front-porch-with-a-cold-one rapport with Harry never waned. Someone asked him once how it felt to be an institution. In typical style, he cracked he hoped to be one before he was sent to one.

4. Scott Franzke | Larry Andersen

Phillies radio 2006–present | Phillies radio 1998–present
Franzke and L.A. are inseparable for the purposes of this ranking, since the whole here is better than the sum of its parts. Andersen has long been a steady presence on Phillies broadcasts, but it wasn’t until he teamed up with Franzke that the former Phils reliever hit his stride. Together, they recall the easy banter of Harry and Whitey, as if sometimes they forget their mics are on. Franzke pokes fun at L.A.’s flub while reading an advertising promo; Andersen goes on a rant about players with big egos, or umpires with big egos, or pretty much everything umpires do. The duo was at their best in 2009, when Jimmy Rollins knocked in two runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Dodgers in the NLCS. “Rollins has won it! They stream out of the dugout!” Franzke says, as Andersen yells “Yes!” and howls in the background. They’ve earned the loftiest praise one can give in this hi-def video age — with Franzke and L.A., even when the game is on TV, sometimes it’s more fun to just listen. (Memo to the Comcast SportsNet brass: Get these two on TV. They could be the best reason to watch the team next season.)

3. Gene Hart

Flyers TV and radio 1967–’95
The call stands among the greatest in Philadelphia sports. It’s one phrase, repeated four times, that somehow encapsulates how we felt then and still feel today, in those rare moments when our teams win the big one. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Flyers are going to win the Stanley Cup!” Can you believe it? Is this really happening? “The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup!” My God, this is really happening! “The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup!” We did it! Hart was more than the mouthpiece for a franchise — he was a teacher who helped us understand a strange new game on ice skates played by guys from Flin Flon and Medicine Hat. Early on, when only a handful of games were televised, Hart served as the public-address announcer, explaining why offside and icing drew whistles. There was also no finer sign-off in all of sports, one that serves as both legacy and epitaph: “Good night and good hockey.”

2. Harry Kalas

Phillies TV and radio 1971–2009
Harry. No surname necessary. He didn’t get to broadcast the 1980 World Series because Vin Scully was on the job for CBS Radio; he’d later credit outraged Phillies fans for pressuring the league to allow local radio stations to carry the Fall Classic. We needed him behind the microphone in case the Phils won again. With words, he framed so many memories between ’80 and ’08 — Schmitty’s 500th home run, Thome’s 400th long ball (“Take a bow, big man!”), Chase Utley’s all-hustle score from second base (“Chase Utley, you are the man!”), and every ball that left the park to the tune of “Outta heerrrre!” He sang “High Hopes,” knowing that in many years, hope was all we had. In the end, he lost a bit on his fastball, but it didn’t matter — we finally got his call, the call: “The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball!” A year later, thousands passed by his casket behind home plate. For them, for all of us, he wasn’t just an announcer. He was a friend, a father, a yarn-spinner who turned sport into story. He was also the smoky voice of the NFL’s highlight reels, and a guy who you hoped would share some of the untold tales from the road and the locker room if you could buy him a few gin-and-tonics. Today, he’s a statue, the name on a ballpark re­staurant — and, still, Harry is Phillies baseball.

1. Merrill Reese

Eagles radio 1977–present
Like Harry, Merrill has achieved single-name status, and in the realm of Philadelphia sports broadcasting, it’s a two-horse race for the crown. By the numbers, these two are a statistical tie. Merrill has his share of classic calls, among them the Miracle at the Meadowlands parts I, II and III; Reggie’s sacks; Randall’s scrambles; and every clutch field goal (“It’s gooooooooood!”). Football is a gritty game, but Merrill brings a certain eloquence to it — his voice doesn’t rumble; it floats, soaring weightless and falling heavy as the drama demands. But what sets him apart is what he doesn’t have. Harry enjoyed 162-plus games every season, each one filled with mound conferences and batter’s-box ballets that gave him time and space to muse about baseball, life, anything. Merrill has 16 Sundays and covers a game that speeds by faster, with so many moving parts. In baseball, everyone sees an error; in football, it takes a special eye not just to catch a lineman out of place or a missed coverage, but to recognize its significance. Harry also had Whitey, an icon in his own right; Merrill often shined despite his partner. (Woe unto thee who must turn to Stan Walters for insight. Even Mike Quick took a few seasons to find his groove.) Harry wasn’t a homer, per se, but he rarely criticized the Phils. With the Eagles, you turned down the television and turned up the radio because you knew that when Andy Reid wasted a time out, Merrill would say what you were thinking. Merrill is us, but better — he understands the game the way we wish we did, describes it in ways we wish we could, and admits he’s perplexed, frustrated or pissed off without throwing things. All this, and at age 71, he’s as sharp as ever. Merrill deserves a statue, too — hopefully not for a long time, and, like Harry, after the parade.

Originally published as “Play-by-Players” in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

One of Us: Cecily Tynan

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Cecily Tynan. I had a Great-Uncle Cecil in England, and they just added the “y.” My parents actually thought they invented the name, but I’ve met some other Cecilys since, including some named after me, which is very flattering.

I am a … perfectionist.

My standard Wawa order … is a turkey Shorti, wheat.

When I turned 45 this year … I felt better than I did when I was 25.

I live in … a stone house with a pool and a lot of woods for our three dogs to run.

Before I go on TV each night, I always … check my teeth. I like to eat spinach salads and pistachios, and let’s just say those aren’t good things to eat right before you go on the air.

On Sunday mornings … I love to cook bacon and eggs for my family, but I have to ration the bacon. My kids are big bacon eaters.

I am perpetually … 10 minutes late. But never for newscasts.

Each summer, I love to … water-ski. Slalom waterskiing is my new obsession. I am really sore every Monday morning in the summer.

If I weren’t doing this … I would probably be working at an animal shelter. I’m tempted to buy a big farm so I can adopt more, but I don’t think my husband is going to let that happen.

My worst subject in high school was … geometry. I still have nightmares about it.

I shouldn’t tell you this about Jim Gardner, but … he can sing most Broadway show tunes.

The first album I ever bought … was Bryan Adams. The one with “Summer of ’69” on it.

I drive … a Lexus SUV with close to 220,000 miles on it. I’m very practical.

One food I love to eat but shouldn’t … is I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! spray. I have to say, I like it on everything. I consider it liquid gold.

My workout routine … is a mix of running, boot-camp class and boxing.

I love buying … clothes for my kids at the Target across the street from the studio. My son likes anything Shaun White, and my daughter likes anything Hello Kitty. I buy a pound of coffee and a cart full of clothes.

My secret talent … is that I can write pretty well in cursive with my toes. But I have really horrible feet, because I went from ballet dancing to running. I have E.T. toes.

The farthest I’ve ever run … is 50k, 31 miles. It was years ago in Maryland, my first and only ultra. I won it because it was two loops, and after the first loop, all the other women kept going, but I stopped and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Gatorade. Well, all the women in front of me bonked, and the peanut butter won the race.

The truth about predicting the weather … is that we are right most of the time. People say, “If I could be wrong 90 percent of the time and still have my job, I would love that.” But the truth is that we are almost always right.

Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Growing Up in Philadelphia: The Lost City

Children playing in the Art Museum fountains, August 1973.

Children playing in the Art Museum fountains in August 1973. Photograph by Dick Swanson/The National Archive

Eddie Gindi seems genuinely excited as he stands at the dais in the Union League. The executive vice president and co-owner of Century 21 department stores is explaining why a new Philadelphia location at 8th and Market is the logical next step for a chic discount chain that until now has stuck to New York and New Jersey. “I saw with my own eyes,” he says, “the massive money and time being spent to make Philadelphia a retail center.” Philadelphians, he says, are fashion-savvy, creative and artistic: “They get it.”

The audience at this meeting of the Central Philadelphia Development Corp. laps it up. The gauzy visions of a prosperous and dynamic Center City that once seemed like pipe dreams have, in large part, become reality.

Center City’s population is growing. Developers are breaking ground on skyscrapers. National retailers like Intermix and Michael Kors are coming to Walnut Street, where rents soar above the national average. Last year, Philadelphia was feted in the New York Times, the Toronto Star, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Food & Wine, the Globe and Mail, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and countless online outlets. GQ wrote, “Philadelphia has more going for it now than ever.”

Every now and then, a well-dressed woman will stop me and ask for directions: “Where is the shopping street? I think it’s called Walnut?” I’ll point the way, and then imagine her browsing at Barneys and Lagos, then having a drink at Rouge’s sidewalk cafe before heading back to her room at the Hotel Monaco. “Who is this woman?” I’ll think. Does she imagine she’s in some sophisticated, classy city? I suppose so.

For some native Philadelphians like me, all of this is difficult to absorb. This city has been the butt of jokes for so long — going back to W.C. Fields, after all — that it’s still hard to believe that newcomers and investors finally consider it worthy.

I mean, I’ve been singing Philly’s praises since I was a kid, but the moniker “Filthadelphia” (and its concomitant reputation) was so widespread, it was the first thing a new friend brought up to me when we met during my semester abroad. In Spain.

Yet I sometimes miss the grimy Center City of my youth. I liked its gritty spirit.

I WAS BORN AT Hahnemann Hospital in 1968, swaddled, and taken to a studio apartment, where I slept in a dresser drawer until the crib arrived.

My parents bought a house on Rodman Street soon thereafter, and all the photos from my toddler days seem to show one neighbor or another lying flat on his back, with a big smile, obviously intoxicated by some natural plant.

The late ’60s and early ’70s in Philadelphia were pretty relaxed. The Lombard Swim Club had a topless section. My friend’s dad picked us up in his car one day without any clothes on. Parents kept their stashes in the open. Kids discussed open marriages in art class, and the 2000 block of Sansom Street was the bohemian center of the west-of-Broad universe, with head shops, cafes and clubs that leaked strains of poetry, jazz, disco, and the smoke of that natural plant.

There were also those nightclubs and discos: Élan, Black Banana, Artemis, Revival, London Victory Club — which, in glossy Studio 54 hindsight, must make Center City sound somewhat glamorous. It was anything but.

Philadelphia’s decline was well under way by the time I was born. Manufacturing was collapsing, the population was falling, and the tax base was turning to dust. Frank Rizzo dominated City Hall, first as police commissioner, then as mayor. Crime spiked. There wasn’t the money to pay for things like clean streets. Racial strife and police brutality were endemic. Center City fared better than most neighborhoods, but it wasn’t immune.

Schuylkill River Park, now family-friendly with its dog park (with special areas for big and small dogs) and creative landscape architecture, was rather seedy. It was also the locus of the Taney Gang, the children of the Irish gangsters who lived in the homes along 26th Street. They ruled that neighborhood. It was the kind of place where if you wanted to rape a girl or light a homeless guy on fire, you could get away with it. They tortured me and my friends during grade school because we had no choice but to encroach on their turf: Our school was at 25th and Lombard, and recess was at “their” park.

Fitler Square wasn’t much better. Patty Brett, the owner of the uniquely unchanging Doobies at 22nd and Lombard, remembers packs of wild dogs running loose in the area: “There were many abandoned churches and gas stations in our neighborhood. Lots of graffiti on everything, and a general fear of walking down the street late at night. People were mugged a lot, and women didn’t travel in most Center City areas alone.”

In my high-school years, street crime was so commonplace that we hardly took note of it. My boyfriend was pulled into an alley between Walnut and Chestnut and held at knifepoint; my necklace was ripped off while I was walking; my mother was mugged; purses were torn from shoulders; people threw bottles into store windows on days when the Phillies lost. The sense of lawlessness was pervasive. When we walked to school at 17th and the Parkway, dealers would try to sell us drugs (and I have no doubt they sometimes succeeded).

City Hall was a mess. That beautiful building’s courtyard was the kind of place you either avoided or walked through as quickly as possible, dodging mysterious puddles and smells, with soot or something like it crunching beneath your feet. Last summer, Kurt Vile played a concert in that now clean, bright courtyard, and I looked at the people in line at food trucks, friends meeting up and hugging each other, people dancing, and I thought, “What the hell happened to this place?” That courtyard has gone from 12 Monkeys to Frank Capra on Ecstasy. A lot of Center City has.

I MEET SO MANY people now who have moved to Philadelphia in the past 10 years — and stayed. I’m both stunned that they chose Philly and aggravated by all their c­omplaints — which, if they’ve moved here from Portland, can be quite numerous.

It’s dirty. There’s too much crime. The buses and subways are gross. There’s trash everywhere. People don’t pick up after their dogs. There are rats in Rittenhouse Square. There aren’t enough bike lanes.

Bike lanes? BIKE LANES?

Recently, a seersucker-and-madras-clad man at a Mural Arts event I went to railed against graffiti’s “cancerous, corrosive effect” on Philadelphia. He got puckered and red in the face and stomped out of the room. I guess he wasn’t here in 1976, when KAP the Bicentennial Kid tagged the Art Museum and the Liberty Bell. When I was a kid, the graffiti was so omnipresent, it became the city’s signature.

Likewise, when transplants complain about SEPTA subway cars and buses, I marvel. Back then, these were not only the primary vectors for graffiti, but had torn and broken seats and rusted poles. In 1980, this magazine called subway trains “slums-on-wheels.” Buses weren’t much better. (I got to smoke my first cigarette on the 40.) The transit stations and concourses were so much more dismal back then that now when I find a SEPTA station unpleasant, I recall what used to be and think, “Aw, that’s just a tiny puddle of pee. It’s almost cute.”

We’ve got it so good, it’s unreal. So why do I long for the old days?

In part, it’s basic childhood nostalgia. But I think it’s also that we Center City kids of the ’70s and early ’80s enjoyed a lot of freedom in our comparatively down-at-its-heels, unmanicured downtown. Today, I can get stopped at the doors of an upscale hotel or silently ejected from a fancy boutique with an icy glare. Back then, it was like there was no one on duty. It was great fun.

THERE WERE A PAIR of arcades on Chestnut Street between 15th and 17th: the dark, dirty Zounds, and the shiny new Supercade. Zounds was rough. You could get your wallet stolen, or at the least your pile of quarters. People might offer you drugs. You might take drugs. But it felt like home. Supercade was too fresh and clean. Too eager. We didn’t trust it. (This suspicion of nice things began early.)

Once the quarters were spent, or stolen, we could head over to Day’s Deli at 18th and Spruce to get fries. Or we could go to Deluxe Diner for milkshakes; the Midtowns I through IV; one of the two Little Pete’s; or even R&W, which was kind of repulsive but good for private conversations in the empty back room. Now R&W is the Japanese restaurant Zama. The food is better, but kids don’t go there to spill secrets over a shared can of seltzer and a ham and cheese sandwich.

Day’s Deli was my favorite, until it closed; the rumor was that someone affiliated with the restaurant had “put the profits up his nose.” It adjoined a convenience store, and in back were rows of booths where you could while away hours smoking cigarettes with Jasons, Jennifers and Michaels. At the time, we felt our conversations were only a shade less sophisticated than My Dinner With Andre.

During the Mummers Parade, my friends and I would zoom through the halls of the Bellevue-Stratford hotel, dashing between parties full of strangers in the rooms that faced Broad Street. There was always a lot of food and drink, and no one noticed the kids who’d sneak in and out, grabbing rolled salami off of linen-draped deli trays.

One year, we heard “a judge” was hosting one of these parade-watching parties. Only one of us was brave enough to go in; the rest waited outside, flat against the wall, like felons in a lineup. Our friend came out with big news: There was a baggie of cocaine in the room. Cocaine! Wow! I remember thinking we might get in trouble, and also feeling jealous that my friend seemed to be able to identify cocaine.

PEOPLE OFTEN FEEL sorry for me because they assume Center City wasn’t a real neighborhood. But it was. Many of us went to preschool, elementary school and high school together. Mostly latchkey kids, we stuck together after class ended. We knew every corner of each other’s homes, including whose Rittenhouse Square rooftop made for the best water-balloon launching pad.

Jason’s exotically beautiful mom lived on Pine Street, but his dad’s place was on the Square. Sandy and her three sisters lived at 22nd and Delancey, across from Valerie and, randomly, Julius Erving, who’d open the door sometimes, be very tall, and close the door again. Susan and Lizzy were on Panama, right across the street from each other, while Liz No. 3 lived at 17th and Pine with her mom and stepdad and the largest dining room table I’d ever seen.

The boy I loved unrequited all through high school was on 21st and Delancey. The girl who took me to Houlihan’s on the Square with all the cool kids lived at 18th and Delancey, across the street from towheaded Laura and her little brother Adam, both of whom have passed away, which is a sentence I shouldn’t have to write while I’m still in my 40s. Sweet Tom, who took me to both proms and was basically my first husband, lived at 25th and Lombard. And so on.

The point is, it was plenty neighborhoody. And instead of a suburban Dairy Queen parking lot, we had Rittenhouse Square.

This was the center of our universe. This was where we went to try new things — to kiss, to reveal secrets, to drink, to smoke. This was the place to reconnoiter, the hub, the treehouse club, the HQ. Life unfolded there.

The Square had no profusion of roses in front of the lion statue. The pillars around the fountain were chipping, like teeth losing their enamel. Tumbleweeds of garbage traveled by. The old benches, the ones without armrests in the middle, were wide and deep enough that homeless people could sleep on them. And they did.

Later, the park would get a curfew; we’d get in trouble for standing bare-legged in the fountain; we’d be turned out while tux-wearing dancers ate fancy food. One thing remains the same, though: the rats. I admire them for sticking it out.

ONE BOY WHO accompanied our Bellevue wanderings was the son of a South Street fortune-teller. He was missing several teeth. He gave me my first French kiss at the TLA, back when it was a movie theater that showed cartoons during the day, repertory film at night, and Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight.

The boy moved to New York, which was sad (according to my diary), but I miss the old TLA more. In fact, I miss all the movie theaters of my youth. There were so many: the Eric Twin Rittenhouse at 19th and Walnut; Sam’s Place and the SamEric at 19th and Chestnut; Eric’s Place at 15th and Chestnut; Eric’s Mark 1 at 18th and Market; the Goldman Theatre at Broad and Chestnut; the Roxy (when it showed films from odd places like Canada); more I’m not thinking of. Now these places are a CVS, a Mandee, an empty lot, a soon-to-be-demolished historic relic.

Not surprisingly, we saw movies constantly, and relied upon them as instructional manuals. Senior year, a friend and I went to see Hannah and Her Sisters. I was just starting to understand that I’d have to become a grown-up, and I didn’t really know what that meant.

In Philly, it was hard to tell what adulthood was. There was no single grown-up world, no monolith. This was no bland suburb, no Peyton Place. Sit in the Square, as we did, and it was a pageant: People were black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor. Many were hobbled by some kind of frailty. There was the Duck Lady (who quacked); the Pigeon Lady (who stood for hours with pigeons all over her); the Wow Bum, who just yelled, “Wow!”; any number of “bag ladies” who’d walk through the Square laden with belongings; the men who exposed themselves. Then there were our parents, the incense vendors, all those hookers on Broad and on 13th, my Quaker teachers with the puzzling facial hair. Which kind of adult would I be? How would I find my way?

I sat and watched Hannah and Her Sisters in the theater at 19th and Chestnut and found a tiny fragment of a road map. Yesterday, in the same building, I found a bottle of sunscreen.

AS A PERSON WHO works in Center City — and who writes about real estate and economic development — I can’t claim to be disappointed by downtown’s success. By any measure, Center City is booming, and that is a good thing. I don’t want to step in dog waste, or walk 10 blocks before I can find a trash can. I don’t want a Rittenhouse Square ringed by abandoned construction sites rather than beautiful hotels. I want people to live here, to thrive here. I want jobs and revenue and, yes, maybe digital signage, if that’s what it takes to lure serious investment into more challenging parts of town.

But there’s something about the national retail chains, about the people in teal, about the loss of diners and movie theaters — in all their sticky-floored glory — that makes me feel Center City has edged a bit too far toward the post-Giuliani NYC model of moneyed, sterilized urbanity.

Or maybe I just miss my old neighborhood.

Originally published as “The Lost City” in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Best of Philly 2014


Yes, folks, here we are, back at it again. Who has the crispiest fried chicken? What’s the best bar for day-drinking? Where can you go for eyebrow-sculpting? Sexy party shoes? Free spinning classes? Herein lie the exhaustively investigated answers … as well as a series of bests chosen by you, the voting public, via online polls and our biggest-ever taste test. (Spoiler alert: Nobody in this city turns down free whoopie pies.) And while we’ll readily admit that the process of finding, vetting and honoring this region’s ever-growing array of all things excellent is really more of an art than a science (and art, of course, is subjective), we’ll nevertheless fiercely defend and celebrate each and every one of our 275 picks. We think that for the most part, you will, too. Especially that fried chicken.

Read more »

The Best Food and Drink at the Jersey Shore for 2014

Mike's Seafood in Sea isle. Photography by Trevor Dixon

Mike’s Seafood in Sea isle. Photography by Trevor Dixon

Cape May

It’s not actually a law, but it seems no one gets out of Cape May without first visiting the Mad Batter. Located in the Carroll Villa Hotel, this is the spot for a relaxing (if ever so slightly fancy-pants) dinner. Go for the crabcakes, a textbook example of the proper assembly and preparation of this oft-ruined dish.

For a more Summer Rental sort of experience, there’s always the Lobster House. The long, low-slung restaurant side of the operation, with its big windows and red-checked tablecloths, is lovely — and hugely crowded on any nice summer day. But it’s the Schooner Bar aboard the old Schooner American sailing vessel that combines kitsch and alcohol in one successful formula.

One of the big reasons foodies head to the Shore is for crabs. If this is your motivation, hit up H&H Seafood. It’s hard to miss (it’s the place with the big sign that says LIVE CRABS) and serves big paper bags full of steamed crabs to eat on the beach (or wherever else you feel like eating them).


You already know you’ll be eating at the Diving Horse, so you might as well just make your reservations now. This has been the go-to dinner spot for a few years, and it deserves all the love it gets.

If you’re looking for something else, there’s Café Loren for the BYO enthusiasts (and people who really like that family-owned, Shore-town vibe), or the Princeton and Bobby Dee’s Rock ’N Chair for bar-crawlers (the latter being a degree more classy than the former).

Sea Isle

Fish Alley is as seafood-and-beer-laden as it sounds — and will not disappoint.

First stop: Mike’s Seafood for crab legs, fries, crab legs and crab legs. Go early, because the line gets long, and grab a spot at one of the picnic tables overlooking the water. (See the “Family” section for more info on when kids eat free.) Marie’s Lobster House is a few doors down from Mike’s. While you lose a little of that classic crab-shack atmosphere, the food here is just as good, and all that neon in the front windows makes it easy to navigate.

Can’t seem to get off the beach? You don’t have to. Bubba Dogs is a mobile wienery parked right on the sand at 59th Street.


Why Strathmere? Because there are two notable places for eating and drinking. First, there’s Mildred’s, which is one of those little old restaurants that wear their weathering of Sandy on their sleeve like a badge. It’s absolutely beloved for the exceedingly friendly service, the family vibe and the solid (if predictable) Italian menu — you can’t go wrong with a bottle of white and a plate of linguine with clam sauce.

For something a bit … grittier, you have to go to Twisties Tavern. It’s the kind of joint where you drop in for one drink and then wake up 20 years later having become an every-night regular, with a table all your own and a couple shifts a week behind the bar. There are powerful cocktails, fish on the walls, patio seating that looks out over the bay, and a menu that’s more comprehensive than you might think.

Ocean City and Somers Point

If you’re in Ocean City, you’re most likely shuffling the fam between the sand and Boardwalk — so save your mornings for something all your own. The Varsity Inn is a classic small-town diner that operates under a perpetual siege by locals and tourists who come here for big, filling, cheap plates of eggs, pancakes and toast. The Fractured Prune is famous for its crazy, delicious handmade doughnuts, in flavors like chocolate-covered cherry and French toast.

As for those two other meals of the day? If you can get off the beach, hit either Smitty’s Clam Bar or Charlie’s Bar, both in Somers Point and both cash-only. You go to Charlie’s for the wings and cold beer — and for the 70-odd years of corner-bar history. Smitty’s is a super-casual BYOB and a favorite among locals for the simple clam-shack menu and the fact that you’re encouraged to drink while waiting for a table.

Ventnor and Margate

In Ventnor, classic tastes and newer ones compete for attention. For the latter, hit Megu Sushi for well-assembled modern Japanese cuisine in an unassuming (read: sandwiched between a liquor store and an Italian restaurant) setting. If you’re tempted by the former, there’s chicken-and-chops at Johnny’s and crabcakes from Bobby Chez (which, despite the commercialization, is still first-rate). Or class it up at Steve & Cookie’s — just make sure to save room for dessert.

For daytime eats, go to Junior’s for corn dogs, or sit and wait for Dino’s Subs & Pizza, which delivers right to the beach and has a tuna hoagie that deserves its own national holiday.

Atlantic City

A.C. is home to most of what passes for big-name dining at the Shore — we’re talking Buddakan, Luke Palladino’s steakhouse, Iron Chef Garces and others — but these show-stopping temples aren’t the only go-tos for gastronauts.

New and independent places like chef Kevin Cronin’s Iron Room at the Atlantic City Bottle Company and the Vagabond Kitchen & Tap House are for those looking to keep away from the slot monkeys. Vagabond isn’t fine dining (no place with a sandwich of brisket, pulled pork and peppered bacon called the Three Way is aspiring to that kind of cred), but it’s got easy bar food and the largest beer selection in the area.

Still, if you find yourself falling into the gravity of the casinos, there are some restaurants worth checking out. Palladino has places at both Revel (Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace) and Harrah’s (the eponymous Luke Palladino), though his most beloved is probably the original Luke Palladino — a 60-seat trattoria in nearby Linwood. There’s Il Mulino at the Taj Mahal for super-upscale Italian, and the new Eastwind offering mainland Chinese at Resorts.

You’ll find a smorgasbord of named chefs at Revel (Marc Forgione, for one), but Jose Garces has made it into a mini-Philly with outposts of Village Whiskey, Amada and Distrito, plus the new-ish dim-sum-and-dumplings joint Yubōka.

Read more from our Summer 2014 Jersey Shore Guide.

One of Us: Patti LaBelle

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Patti LaBelle. I was born Patricia Louise Holte. Patti LaBelle came from Harold B. Robinson, a car dealer in Philadelphia, who was our manager at the time. He gave me the name. It means “beautiful.”

I live in … Wynnewood. I’ve lived here for about 30 years. It’s okay, you can tell people that. Let them come and find me.

I grew up in … Southwest Philadelphia, at 5819 Washington Avenue. Kenny Gamble and I used to hang out at my mother’s home. We were finding ourselves.

My mother always taught me … to be nice to others and to maintain my innocence. Don’t go out there all trashy and the wrong way, so that people wouldn’t perceive me as a hooker.

The prettiest place in Philadelphia … is Kelly Drive, where those little houses are. I don’t drive, so someone takes me there. I never wanted to drive. I tried once and I ran into a tree.

My secret junk-food craving … is Cheetos, hot and spicy.

When people call me a diva … they may be correct. I’ve paid the dues, as have Gladys, Aretha, Barbra and Bette. So it doesn’t bother me. It bothers me when they call some of the newcomers divas who should never deserve it. I’ve been a diva for about 30 years.

If you’re coming to my house for dinner … expect to eat like a pig. I wrote three cookbooks, and I just released a line of hot sauces, marinades and barbecue sauces at Walmarts across the country. I love to cook. I make special crabcakes and fried corn. Fried porgies. Mmm.

My favorite song I’ve ever recorded … is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It’s so positive. I sang it for Coretta Scott King and her children, and it was beautiful. I promise you, I felt like I was flying, levitating.

To stay in shape … I walk my dog, Mr. Cuddles, my shih tzu. And I walk in my pool. I can’t swim. Otis Redding tried to teach me when we were touring years ago. He said, “Just let go.” Well, I let go, and I almost drowned him.

For my 70th birthday in May … I ate crabs in my backyard.

The thing many people get wrong about me … is that I’m soft and easy to trick, a pushover. But don’t get it twisted: I see everything that people are trying to do.

If you really want to annoy me … chew crunchy hard pretzels loudly. It drives me crazy. People who chew lettuce or pretzels and don’t even hear
themselves—it grosses me out. I can’t take it.

On Friday nights … I watch Shark Tank. And then I watch TCM movies on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night.

If you’re pouring me a drink, make it … iced tea. Diet. I used to drink red wine like crazy, but I stopped eight months ago, cold turkey. I never got high off of it, and I said, why am I putting all of these calories into my beautiful body? But now and then, if I have a bushel of crabs, I’ll have one beer: a Sapporo.

The biggest problem with the music industry today … is that they let all these sorry acts through.

The first concert I ever went to was … Diana Ross. Kenny and I went together.

My hair has always been … a wig. Onstage, at least. They are easy.

My relationship status is … empty. I’m not looking. He will find me. I’m not looking, honey. No looking for Miss Patti. But I’m open. Very much so.

Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Philly Fighting Words: Why Everything You Think Is Great Actually Sucks


There are some truths that Philadelphians hold to be self-evident: Wawa is awesome. Our cabs are crap. Water ice is the sweet summer nectar of the gods. But we found some people who disagree. (Prepare to be enraged.)

Online now:

Wawa? Meh.

Terry Gross Is Bad for the Country.

Parking in Philly Should Be Harder. And Cost Way More.

The Phanatic Is an Ass.

New Jersey Is Not Such an Armpit.

Water Ice Is Just Sugar Ice, People.


To read the rest of the heresies below, buy the July 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine, on newsstands now, or subscribe today.

Shut Up. Philly Cabs Are Great.

Enough With Rendell, Already.

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