Ed Rendell: The Oral History

Looking back on the former mayor as his political career in Pennsylvania nears its end.


• Bob Brady:
Whenever he’s at an event, he takes a plate to go — I wonder if he has cellophane in his suit pockets. When he’s working a room, he thinks nothing of putting his fingers in plates, tasting food. Him and food and hands have a great relationship.

• Dawn Dugan: I remember a Christmas party at the White House when Clinton was president — Ed was eating lamb chops and licking his fingers. The gossip columnist Cindy Adams, from the New York Post, was there — Ed was greasy as hell from the lamb chops, and he shook her hand, and she would have liked to die.

• Bob Brady: He doesn’t own a knife or fork or spoon. I’ve never seen him eat with utensils. Four eggs, home fries, sausage, triple-order bacon, everything on one plate, half a bottle of ketchup—and he eats it with his hands.

• Josh Shapiro, state legislator, Montgomery County: In my first campaign, he did a fund-raiser for me. And he came in, and he went right for the shrimp platter. And he was enjoying the shrimp immensely. He ended up having cocktail sauce on his fingers, and I watched him lean up against the wall of this gorgeous house, and he managed to get cocktail sauce on the wall. Then he started talking, and he realized what he had done. And while he was addressing everyone, he just reached out and wiped the sauce off the wall.

• Bob Brady:
I’ve seen him with Bill Clinton, eating ribs, getting them all over himself, his tie. Does it all the time. He took a whole prime rib in a napkin from Prime Rib and ate it on his way back to Harrisburg.

• Tigre Hill, Philadelphia filmmaker: You hear stories about Ed Rendell — he can be the most charming guy in the world, but he can be moody. We were setting up for an interview for my new film. He sits down and says, “I don’t know how much time you thought you could have, but I’ve only got 15 minutes.” I have a photographer clicking pictures, and he says, “You gotta stop the pictures.” He was being difficult in every way. We were waiting for the camera to be ready, and I said, “Before we start, how do you think the Eagles are going to do this weekend?” His mood changed completely. He went on this long thing about what they need to do, how they can get it done. After that, I went into a question about the Faulkner murder. It ended up being one of the best interviews in the film. He gave me a full hour. Then he took more pictures.

Tom McGrath Tom McGrath, Chief Content and Strategy Officer of MetroCorp tmcgrath@phillymag.com