From the Archives: Billy Paul on Life After “Me and Mrs. Jones”

In 1982, when the auto accident that paralyzed singer Teddy Pendergrass sounded the last chord of Philadelphia International Records, I was a very young writer at Philadelphia magazine. At the time, a lot of people in the music business were asking what had gone wrong for Gamble and Huff’s magical musical empire. I set out to interview anyone who could help tell the story, since neither Gamble nor Huff would speak to me. One of the earliest and most powerful interviews was with singer Billy Paul, who died yesterday at the age of 80. It was powerful because, of all the Philly International songs, Paul’s hit was my favorite. There was something that had made me stop whatever I was doing and sing along when the orchestra abruptly halted and Billy Paul’s voice just sailed and moaned without accompaniment, “Meeeeee, aaaahand Missus, Missus Jones!” But, at the time, Paul was also among the most angry of the people who had been part of the Philly Sound, the one most obviously trying to hold it together. And, apparently, he did. He was 45 when I met him in early 1983, and a lot of the people I interviewed for that story died long before him.

From my June 1983 Philadelphia magazine story, “The Day the Soul Train Crashed”:  Read more »

What David Bowie Meant to Philly — and What Philly Meant to David Bowie

“Bowie kids” in front of Sigma Studios on 12th Street near Race during the recording of Young Americans in 1974.

“Bowie kids” in front of Sigma Studios on 12th Street near Race during the recording of Young Americans in 1974.

By 1973, being a “Bowie kid” was an act of individual rebellion complete with its own thriving subcultural support group. The club of trailblazers had already been formed, the glittery dress code had been established and the “outrageousness is next to godliness” ethos was set in stone. Bowie’s 1972 concept album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (and the ensuing U.S. tour and Rolling Stone cover story) had made him an international phenomenon. But he had been recording in England since 1966, and he had been wearing dresses on album covers and publicly declaring his bi- or homosexuality (depending on how the presence of his wife Angie was interpreted) since 1971. Ziggy was simply the most successful packaging of twenty-six-year-old Bowie’s basic themes: alienation, androgyny, other worldliness, production values. And highly theatrical act was the perfect innovation in a rock concert business where demand for showmanship was outpacing supply. Read more »

Eric Blumenfeld Is Crazy Enough to Revitalize North Broad Street

Wandering through the rusty, funky skeleton of the Divine Lorraine Hotel is a hallucinatory experience, as if someone had unsunk the Titanic, dragged it through Center City, and plopped it nose-first at the corner of Broad and Fairmount. It doesn’t help that it’s almost 100 degrees outside, and since there are no intact windows, outside is now inside. What’s left of the walls and ironwork has eroded to the point where everything looks a little blurry, and the only really flat surfaces on the floor are pieces of distressed plywood you don’t want to stand on, because there’s nothing left underneath.

Eric Blumenfeld, the 49-year-old excitable boy of Philadelphia real estate development, is taking me on the tour I imagine many will get this fall as he tries to, in his words, “hypnotize” all the powerful people he needs to share his ballsy vision for the future of North Broad Street. The idea is for the crusty blocks between Rodeph Shalom synagogue, near Mount Vernon (where he was bar mitzvahed), and Temple University (his dad’s alma mater) to become more than just the next cool comeback neighborhood. That’s already started happening, in large part because of Blumenfeld’s creative reimagining of the hulking shell of 640 North Broad, which he turned into a successful apartment building and the home of Marc Vetri’s watershed restaurant Osteria. Blumenfeld believes the old Divine Lorraine building—for which he now owns the in-arrears mortgage, and which he hopes to have the title to after the sheriff’s sale this month—could not only become another buzzy apartment-and-restaurant complex, but the four acres he owns behind it could one day soon anchor, of all things, a new public-school campus between Broad and 13th. This novel NoBro Edu-Hood would include new facilities for Masterman—the city’s most in-demand public high school—and potentially three other nearby high schools: Ben Franklin, Parkway and the Franklin Learning Center. He wants to build them new schools and whatever else they agree to share (sports fields, food prep, science
labs) plus buy the outdated school structures, and use historic tax credits to rehab them into cool apartment buildings.

If he can pull that off, he might be able to finally join the pantheon of the “transformational”—and as he knows, being viewed as a transformer is the highest achievement for any real estate developer (although vast wealth is very nice, also).

As Blumenfeld energetically pitches his plan, he gestures out a busted window to an audience of empty buildings and overgrown fields, pulls out his iPhone to play me a message from Chaka Fattah to prove that the Congressman is “championing this cause,” and does everything short of breaking into song. His enthusiasm isn’t so much contagious as relentless, a flurry of punched good ideas. That matches his overall vibe as a combination of a smart rich-guy’s son and a retired athlete of some kind. He drives around in outrageously expensive and handsome cars—more of them than can fit comfortably in the four-car garage of his Gladwyne mansion—and dresses in casual but snug-fitting pants and a button-down shirt. He keeps sunglasses perennially perched in his close-cropped hair, almost never pulling them down to cover the kind of puffy slits that Ball Four writer Jim Bouton referred to as “ass eyes.”

When he finishes his pitch, we walk into a gymnasium-sized room with a massive vaulted ceiling and pass an enclosed staircase that leads all the way to the roof. Graffiti artists, who’ve had their way with so many surfaces on the inside of the Divine Lorraine, chose this spot for their most ambitious creation: a 20-foot-high bright orange and blue rendering of Bart Simpson smoking a joint. Blumenfeld looks up at it looming over his shoulder.

“What’s Bart doing here?” he asks.

It’s a funny question for two very personal reasons. One is that anybody who knows Blumenfeld knows that his close friend, surrogate older brother (because he barely speaks to his actual older brother), idol and sometimes-competitor is Bart Blatstein, the 57-year-old developer who is also godfather to Blumenfeld’s first child. The only person in his life Blumenfeld has looked up to more than Blatstein is his dad, Jack W. Blumenfeld, whose career arc is somewhat less enviable. A stocky, high-energy character with a stutter he simply ignored, Jack created landmark developments in Center City (1500 Locust), Society Hill/Queen Village (Abbotts Square) and City Line (Executive House) during the 1970s, but fell into bankruptcy after the tumultuous late ’80s.

The other reason is that Eric Blumenfeld, by his own admission, has a good bit of Bart Simpson in him. He describes himself as the “fuckup” kid in his family, a classic third and last child. In fact, he didn’t even take the undergrad business classes his dad wanted him to at Tulane because, he says, the line for accounting was too long at freshman sign-up (so he got a degree in English Lit, with a minor in partying). He was in no way the boy-most-likely to salvage and rehab his dad’s company.

And even now among his growing group of admirers, there’s a sense of some shock that Blumenfeld grew up at all, let alone that he might be turning into a businessman of substance and vision. There are those who still see him, in the words of someone who likes him, “as Daddy’s little rich kid who got set up in the business, and if it weren’t for Daddy, he’d be lifeguarding somewhere.”

Blumenfeld doesn’t apologize for making a lot of money from the projects he bought from his dad’s bankruptcy, or the ones he created with partners of his own, like 640 North Broad. “I can’t live any better than I already live,” he says. “The net, just on 640 North Broad, is over a couple million dollars a year. I’m successful enough to have the ability to do the things I want to do. … But I’m not happy with that. It’s not about making money. This neighborhood needs to be transformed … and I’m telling you, I am crazy enough to make this happen.”

The history of cities is written by the obsessions of crazy rich people—esp­ecially those who get their hands dirty and get in people’s faces, while also listening and learning from their mistakes. While Eric Blumenfeld may be in way over his head, even his detractors will admit that right now, his learning curve is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

And his story seems to be getting more dramatic, emotional and intriguing by the day. In just the past few months, he has broken up with and sued his major business partner, attempted to reconcile his most painful family relationship, and lost the most important person in his life.

Tyrone Gilliams: Ivy League Scam Artist

In December 2010, a tall, puffy 40-something ex-Penn basketball player named Tyrone L. Gilliams Jr. announced that it was time for him—for all of us—to “give back.”

He did this through a slickly produced five-minute video that identified him as a “mogul,” “philanthropist” and “self-starter” and rotated him through four different wardrobe changes, including one topped by a white wool hat and scarf and another accented by a bright orange hoodie vest. But Gilliams seemed most comfortable in a stylish gray suit with a French-cuffed white shirt and red tie, a look accessorized with a pile of bundled $20 bills.

“This,” he proclaimed, “is what we’re giving back.”

The video was to announce the “Joy to the World Fest,” a series of high-profile events around the city due to take place in mere days. There would be a food giveaway for 5,000 needy people, a children’s spectacular at the Convention Center, a gospel concert, a star-studded bowling party at North Bowl in Northern Liberties with a Ciroc Vodka bar open until 2 a.m., and an album-release party with Oscar- and Grammy-winner Jamie Foxx.

But the main event would be a fund-raising gala the Saturday night before Christmas at the Ritz-Carlton, with tickets ranging from $250 to $1,200. “And it’s not just a black-tie gala,” Gilliams declared in yet another outfit, “it’s red-carpet.” Rap superstar Sean “Diddy” Combs would headline; Kim Kardashian was coming.

Amazingly, everything came off pretty much without a hitch. Kardashian bailed, replaced by a Real Housewife of Atlanta, Sheree. But a who’s who of black Philadelphia showed up at the events: Eagle DeSean Jackson, basketball legend Sonny Hill, State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, Congressman Chaka Fattah and his wife, glamorous TV anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah. Diddy was late to the gala, but his tardiness was quickly forgotten when he grabbed the mic and began talking about his old pal “Fly Ty Gilliams.” (Pals, yes, though not close enough for Diddy to waive his standard five-figure appearance fee.)

“Fly Ty took my girl back in ’94, and now he’s givin’ back to the community,” Diddy announced. “This is my nigger, he’s one of my brothers, give him some applause y’all, Tyrone Gilliams, he’s my man Tyrone.” The two embraced, then raised their clasped hands together awkwardly.

It was an auspicious debut on the philanthropic scene for Gilliams, the son of a well-regarded local clergyman and an ordained minister himself. “It was as much a coming-out party for him as it was an event for everyone else,” says a Philadelphia society writer who covered the affair. “It was like a hip-hop Academy Ball.”

Afterward, it appeared that Tyrone Gilliams might be on his way to fulfilling the rather lofty promise in his website bio, which portrayed him as the second coming of, among others, Andrew Carnegie, George Steinbrenner, Walter Annenberg and Kenny Gamble. The fact that nobody quite knew where he had been for the past 20 years, or exactly how he had made all his money, seemed almost immaterial.

Until the following April, when his name surfaced at the very end of a Reuters wire-service story about the FBI’s pursuit of unusual financial fraud cases in the aftermath of the Bernie Madoff scandal. As the feds have pulled at the threads of Gilliams’s patchwork financial world in the year since, they’ve uncovered a bizarre tale of financial intrigue and emotional bankruptcy, centered on a man who they claim bilked people across the country out of millions and then spent their money to enhance his own lifestyle and image—like the $1.3 million he “gave back” for the Joy to the World Fest. It’s a still-unfolding mystery that includes the alleged defrauding of an unsuspecting millionaire philanthropist in Cincinnati; an aging Greek national with a questionable account at JPMorgan; a handful of screaming New York civil litigators; and a crusading Wall Street prosecutor recently profiled on the cover of Time magazine, whose office set out to connect the absurdly disparate dots. It’s a story that stretches from brokers in New York and Palm Beach to a medicinal marijuana farm in Denver to a gold mine in Ghana to, finally, the attractive Art Museum-area house that Tyrone Gilliams shares with his two young kids and their mother. He was arrested last October, and is now charged with masterminding a $5 million Ponzi scheme that could land him in prison for years. He has pleaded not guilty, but the brazenness of the purported scheme has left many of the principals breathless. “In all my years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anything like this,” says one attorney involved in the case. “Most scam artists, they take your money and then they steal off into the jungle. But we’re starting to see more cases like Gilliams’s, where the crooks just stand there and say, ‘Come get me.’”

A former friend says that over the past few years, he saw Gilliams becoming delusional, “addicted to attention” and obsessed with the success of others, especially those in the music business. He wondered where it would end. He says people have no idea just how deep the twisted psychology of Tyrone Gilliams really goes. He’s even heard people suggest Gilliams is some kind of hero.

“They talk about Ty,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief, “like he’s the black Robin Hood.”

Patrick Kennedy and the Jersey Girl

 

ON MARCH 31, 2010, PATRICK KENNEDY came to Atlantic City to give a speech.

In the previous nine months, he had buried both his father, Senator Edward Kennedy, and his aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. While Ted had been his hero, it was his aunt’s stigma-busting work in children’s health and disability issues that had in part inspired his own powerful advocacy for mental health and addiction­ services, which he had personally relied upon. He had also just announced that after 16 years—most of his adult life—representing­ Rhode Island in Congress, he wouldn’t run for reelection. The Obama health-care plan, based on ideas Ted Kennedy had fought for throughout his career, had finally been passed. Patrick had gone to his father’s grave and left a handwritten note: “Dad, the unfinished business is done.”

Now, he had to figure out what to do next.

After the speech—the finale of a $125-a-plate fund-raiser at Caesars for the developmentally disabled—he was mobbed by folks wanting a Kennedy moment. Among them was a tall, beautiful 30-year-old junior-high-school history teacher from Absecon­ named Amy Petitgout. A recently single mom out for the first time since her separation, she was attending as a last-minute replacement­ for her father, a retired special-ed teacher and longtime local Democratic pol who had come down with a bad cold. She wanted an autograph for him.

As subtly as possible—which for Patrick isn’t very subtle at all—he hit on her. In the note to her father, he scribbled, “Sorry I missed you, but it was a pleasure meeting your beautiful daughter.” She beamed at him, then headed back into the throng of 250.

Patrick Kennedy is really bad at hiding his emotions. He’s tall, red-haired and freckled, with broody, distractible eyes and a smile that never quite turns all the way up, and his feelings are largely unmodulated and unfiltered. He lives on the brink of crying for joy or sadness, and being a Kennedy with a mood disorder, he usually has ample reason for both. So the 42-year-old lifelong­ bachelor did his best to appear placid as he carefully watched Amy Petitgout thread her way back to table 123.

“I had to play it cool,” he recalls, laughing. “I couldn’t beeline right over to her or they’d all say, ‘There goes that Kennedy, after the pretty girls.’ So I had to shake hands with all different kinds of people at different tables, trying not to make it too obvious.” When he finally reached her table, he diplomatically struck up a conversation with her mother first. But it was clear why he was there.

He told Amy that if she ever wanted to, you know, bring her class to Washington, he was still in Congress for a few more months and would be happy to show them around. As she was thinking that her school couldn’t afford anything like that, he handed her his card, relaying something that intrigued her.

“Please call me,” he said. “But pretend I called you first.”

What If the Philadelphia Orchestra Can’t Be Saved?

In Allison Vulgamore’s 16th-floor office at the Philadelphia Orchestra, there’s a battery-operated toy chicken that hops around singing “Ring of Fire” in Johnny Cash’s voice.

It was a gift from her younger sister, to remind her of the songs they used to sing as kids in central Ohio. Part of the reason Vulgamore trained as a soprano in college, before heading into arts management, was that her family was constantly singing. They sang religious songs, folk songs (“Ali,” as friends and family still call her, did a killer “Sweet Betsy from Pike”), show tunes, Mozart lieder. But her dad had a soft spot for Johnny Cash, so “Ring of Fire” became a family favorite.

At the Atlanta Symphony, where she was president for 16 years, she liked to take the singing chicken into her colleagues’ offices to make them laugh. But since she arrived here almost two years ago to run the Philadelphia Orchestra, “Ring of Fire” has taken on a new meaning. It now seems like a description of her everyday life.

Read more »

Upside the Head

Corey Calicat-Wayans looks like he was born to cause concussions.

A noseguard at the Haverford School, he’s a six-two, 330-pound freshman, with room to grow. If you saw him playing in one of the $200 helmets that Haverford buys its team, he’d look like a monster. But on this Thursday in early summer, dressed only in a white sleeveless T-shirt and long black shorts, he looks surprisingly vulnerable from the neck up, with a big-baby face, a skull barely shielded by very close-cropped hair, and wide, uneasy eyes.

Corey is here before practice as a subject in a scientific experiment—one that’s largely unknown to a public deluged by media coverage of sports head injuries, but that’s being closely watched by experts around the world because it could revolutionize the diagnosis of concussions. He stands not on the football field, but along the carpeted bleachers for the school’s squash courts, surrounded not by coaches, but by earnest, preppy students holding clipboards and stopwatches.

One of the eager young men hands Corey a set of four laminated cards bound with a white spiral. On each card is a set of random numbers in varying positions. Corey is told to read the numbers in order, out loud, as fast as he can. “Two, five, eight, zero, seven,” he begins. His time is recorded as his baseline.

Later, during football season, if he takes a powerful blow to the head—actually, it’s more like when he takes a blow, since the average high-school player gets hit on the helmet up to 1,400 times each season—he can quickly be retested on the sideline. All the other sideline tests used to diagnose concussions involve a battery of complex questions and subjective scoring—and they often take longer than the time left in the game. This test—named the King-Devick for the pair of optometry students who developed it in 1976—takes less than a minute, and it’s pass/fail. A team mascot could administer it: The athlete just reads the cards again. If he’s concussed, he won’t be able to say the numbers as quickly as before.

King-Devick is believed to be able to diagnose concussions even in athletes without traditional symptoms. Moving your eyes together rapidly, reading quickly, and saying the numbers out loud accesses about 50 percent of the brain’s functional areas. No matter how hard they try, athletes with head injuries won’t be able to replicate their baseline speed.

Corey doesn’t understand much of this. He’s just a freshman hoping to get some playing time. But this test could save his life.

The number of concussions in high-school athletes is high, and rising—more than 136,000 are diagnosed each year, with the highest rate among the nation’s estimated 1.2 million high-school football players. Yet one of the biggest problems with sports head injuries is that concussions frequently go untreated—because the player doesn’t immediately feel hurt, or won’t admit to feeling hurt.

(Studies show more than 50 percent of student athletes will lie about symptoms to stay in the game.) And the brain is most vulnerable to serious, irreversible injury when the athlete already has an unhealed concussion.

Which is why any incremental improvement in understanding, treating or diagnosing concussions is such a big deal—and why the King-Devick test in particular is so important. So far, in two small studies published in the past eight months in top neurology journals, the test has performed as well as or better than other tests identifying concussions—and it can be administered during a time-out. The results have been so positive, in fact, that the Flyers have signed on to be part of a wider study this fall, joining the varsity football teams at Penn and the Haverford School. Flyers and Eagles team doctor Gary Dorshimer expects other NHL and NFL teams to use the test more informally this year, to see what it adds to their armamentaria.

And the two Penn neuro-ophthalmologists testing King-Devick—Steven Galetta and Laura Balcer—are starting to draw attention for their work. Based on their studies, Ralph Nader just called for mandatory use of the test in all high-school and youth sports. In May, Balcer and Galetta presented at the One Mind conference in Boston—a sort of Woodstock for the future of brain sciences—appearing on a special panel alongside the most renowned, high-profile researchers in sports head injuries, including neurologist Robert Cantu and his colleagues from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at Boston University.

Researchers there have been performing autopsies on athletes’ brains—including that of Penn football star Owen Thomas, who hanged himself last year. His was among the first autopsies to find early-stage trauma-related damage in a young football player’s brain. CSTE has been generating headlines across the country for years with a very loud safety message that has raised awareness and forced some rule changes, but it has also fueled a good bit of fear and confusion—to the point where it’s much harder for kids to convince their parents to let them play contact sports anymore. (“Not long ago,” laments one Philadelphia-area football coach, “we’d have over a hundred kids come out. This year, I’m not sure we’ll have enough for a team, and it’s mostly because of concern with concussions.”)

Lanky, loping, contagiously affable Galetta, 54, and his energetically serious 46-year-old colleague Balcer are new to this hard-hitting world of concussions, and surprisingly easygoing. Neuro-ophthalmologists are considered the dorks of neurology, Galetta explains: “We’re like the Rodney Dangerfields of the brain, no respect.” He views the new field of sports concussion research he’s entered as dominated by “expert opinion, the lowest form of medical evidence.” He and Balcer didn’t become interested in King-Devick and concussion testing because of all the headlines. In fact, they were sought out by King-Devick’s inventor because they’d spent more than a decade doing pro bono research in the decidedly unglamorous field of analyzing eye tests to see how well they pick up early symptoms of neurological conditions.

Besides being new to the concussion industrial complex—which has a surprising number of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania ties, going back to old Flyers, Eagles and Steelers head injuries, both suffered and inflicted—this group adds a very family-style, very Penn operation to the field. Laura Balcer was Steve Galetta’s resident at HUP (where, among other jobs, he runs the neurology residency program) and rose in the department as his protégée. Kristin Galetta—daughter of Steve—is a medical student at Penn and was lead author on both papers on the King-Devick research. (Another Penn connection: I’ve known Galetta since he and I were freshman there, and he has treated members of my family.)

A big part of the reason the research has been done at Penn and the Haverford School is that Galetta played on a football team at Penn, and is a longtime adviser to the university’s athletic program. He sent his two sons to Haverford. (The younger is currently a junior.)

Norman Carol Bows Out

IT WASN’T SUPPOSED to end so soon for the concertmaster. And it wasn’t supposed to end like this — his forced-farewell season marred by the last-minute cancellation of his final solo performance. Still, as Norman Carol rises from the first-violin chair of the Philadelphia Orchestra later this month, never to sit back down in it again, he will always have this: He went out like a Phillie, with the symphonic equivalent of a sports injury.

He ran into a wall of shoulder pain after reaching for too many fang high notes. He was put on the disabled list, had shoulder surgery and then tried to play through the pain for three seasons. Eventually, even the stoic "Silver Fox" couldn’t handle the hurt. So at, 66 he is stepping down after 28 years as the lead "fiddle player" of the orchestra and the musical heart of several incarnations of the "Philadelphia Sound." Come September, someone else will be striding purposefully onto the Academy stage, nodding to the oboist for an A and tuning the strings to his instrument. Someone else will decide which direction the violin bows will move on each note. Someone else will have what Carol considers the best steady job in classical music.

What will he do?

"I haven’t really figured that out yet," he says.

Does he want to conduct?

"No, I’d like to keep my friends."

What will happen to his 1743 Guarnerius del Gesu, a musical instrument that is at least as famous as its owner?

"Why?" he asks. "Are you looking to buy a violin?"

 

NORMAN CAROL HAS A FLAIR FOR THE UNDRAMATIC. HE IS SO unassuming — in a world where people are so full of, well, assumption — that offstage he seems determined to not only demystify life in the symphony, but to de-romanticize it as well. I met Carol in 1984 while doing a story on Riccardo Muti. I sat with him during a train trip to New York for a Carnegie Hall concert, and, another day, he took me backstage at the Academy to give me a glimpse of what being in the orchestra was really like. It was a bunch of guys, mostly guys, standing around in sports shirts smoking cigarettes and talking about sports, mortgage rates, anything but music. And when the break was over, they all shuffled back onto the Academy stage and did their job, which was to play incredible music and send shivers down my spine. But from my new vantage point, it seemed almost a royal-blue-collar occupation — “Hey, can you give me some more of those shivers over here?”

Perhaps for some, that view would destroy their exalted image of the orchestra. To me, it just made the entire enterprise more interesting, more approachable, more human. Norman Carol went from the tuxedoed hero who caused the first hush and then burst of applause from the Academy crowd each evening to a guy I could imagine trying to get a baseball score between movements. In fact, as he sits and reminisces about 60 years of music-making just days before his last appearance at the Academy as concertmaster (his last Philadelphia appearance, at the Mann Center, was scheduled for July 28th, and he’ll finish up at Saratoga on August 20th) — he brings especially vivid color and intonation to a story about his debut at, of all places, the Vet.

Thing of Beauty (Part 2)

How Gia Carangi carried the seeds of her own destruction


This is part two of a two-part article. To read part one, click here.

By this point, her parents knew of her heroin use, and her mother was trying to convince her to seek help. Gia moved home briefly, but left again when Kathleen discovered that she had stolen some of her jewelry, including her wedding ring from her first marriage. So Kathleen and Henry Sperr went to a magistrate, who offered to issue a warrant for Gia’s arrest as a way to force her into rehab. "It was the only suggestion that made any sense," Kathleen says. "Any other authority I talked to told me to wash my hands of her. Nobody wanted to touch a heroin addict. I wanted to get her committed, but because of her age and the fact that she was out of my household, I could have gone through the legal process and spent all this money and she could be out on the street again in 24 hours." The judge issued the warrant but Gia was never actively pursued. When she returned home in December of 1981, her mother decided not to turn her in. She seemed to be getting her life together and resumed modeling again in February of 1982, shuttling from Richboro to New York.

That spring, she made another of her partial comebacks, returning to the business with a new determination to use her modeling career as a steppingstone to TV commercials and acting. She took fewer print jobs and went to advertising agencies to compete for work in campaigns for Hanes panty hose, Don Q. rum and Silkience shampoo. On March 5th, as she noted in her Elite datebook, John Belushi died; they hadn’t been friendly, but he was certainly a part of her rock/drug world and his death served to further scare her straight. In April she did the taping for the 20-20 segment on modeling, which she hoped would accelerate the process by which anonymously beautiful models become household names. And, to complete her transition to a new life, she decided to rent a new apartment in New York before flying to California for a weeklong German catalog shooting. But the trip to Los Angeles did not go well. "The other models seem to resent me," she wrote in her datebook. "Is it jealousy or [are] all girls just like that . . . I get the feeling a few of them would like to pull my hair out. Why don’t I get those feelings toward other girls … sometimes they say things that are quite nasty and rude. I think it is a terrible part of the human race, a real flaw. I thought we were all suppose to love one another . . ."

As she flew back to New York after the job she wrote, " … here I sit … feeling very set apart from the other humans but I am finally really starting to dig being different. Maybe I am discovering who I am. Or maybe I’m just stoned again. Ha Ha Ha Ha … "

In May, Gia required surgery on her hand, because she had injected herself in the same place so many times that there was an open, infected tunnel leading into her vein. After the surgery, she still modeled sporadically, but her moods were swinging wildly. Over the next few months, things fell apart again. She walked out on shootings, fell asleep during jobs and refused to get help or even admit that she had a problem.

By the time the 20-20 program finally aired, it was more of a sad joke in the industry than a boost for Gia’s career. She was in the process of being blacklisted from her agency and even Scavullo — the last photographer whose sessions she could be counted on to show up for — knew that she couldn’t work. The door would always be left open for her, and she would periodically call in at Elite or the Scavullo studio to say she was still alive and hoping to come back soon. But by 1983, New York was over for her.


She returned to Philadelphia and moved back in with her mother. But only a few months later, Kathleen would undergo surgery. "I was having cataract surgery done," her mother says, "and the doctor said I shouldn’t have any kind of excitement. By that point I just couldn’t deal with her and I decided it was time to look out for me." So Gia moved with Rochelle into an apartment on Bainbridge Street. Gia was on a methadone program, but she was also using heroin. She bought the drugs by borrowing money. People gladly gave her the money, because they were afraid of what else she would be willing to do to get the cash.

"Those years were just unbelievable," her mother recalls. "I told my ex-husband that he. should be prepared for any news because she was capable of anything. People in that situation will do anything for drugs — hook, steal. I’ve had people tell me they’ve seen what amount to smoker fiIms of Gia. i just tried to prepare myself. I knew that any day I could get a call and she’d be dead."

Gia would move back and forth between New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City. And as the cycle continued, the people whom Gia’s life touched went through cycles of their own. They blamed themselves, felt guilty they hadn’t done more to help her. They blamed others. Gia’s mother blamed Rochelle, who she believed "kept Gia on drugs as a way to keep control of her." Rochelle blamed Gia’s mother for not giving Gia the love and attention she needed. "Kathleen really did just ignore the drug thing like it wasn’t happening," Rochelle says. "When Gia was really bad, she would cry, ‘Why did my mother leave me when I was 11?’ "

Monique Pillard at Elite blamed New York itself: "New York was sort of a relapse for this girl," she says. "After a while I was saying, ‘What right do I have to bring this girl back when she was so unhappy in New York?’ "

Gia had gone through every penny she had made during her modeling career. "She spent an unbelievable amount on drugs," says Rochelle. "I would find bank statements and she would withdraw $1,000, then $3,000, then $5,000, then $10,000 — all in the same day. And she would walk around with the cash in her sock. She’d go down to these shooting galleries with $10,000 in her shoe."

In 1984, Gia and Rochelle moved to Atlantic City, living in an apartment above Gia’s father’s luncheonette. Gia sometimes worked for her father or at a pizza place on the Boardwalk; Rochelle worked in a beauty salon. They settled into a routine. "Every morning at 6 o’clock, I’d feel somebody pokin’ me," Rochelle recalls. "’C’mon, the clinic, the methadone," she’d say. It opened at 6. She’d poke until I’d tell her to take my car and go. Then she’d come back and say, ‘McDonald’s.’ She’d go there and come back and wave an Egg McMuffin in my face and then the methadone would kick in and she’d feel good. Then she wanted to have sex.


"Some mornings she liked to eat breakfast at the Cup and Saucer, this little diner. She always had creamed chipped beef on toast and she’d lean across the table and tell me she loved me.

"Gia would say that she wanted to do something else, not model. She wanted to do something she could be proud of, and we looked in career books and said how would you like to be a paramedic? She was into wearing a uniform and driving an ambulance: ‘Gia Carangi, emergency medical technician, yeah … they won’t laugh at me then, will they?’ "

Not long after they moved to Atlantic City, Gia’s mother came to visit. It was the first time mother and daughter had seen each other in over six months. "She was kind of huffy with me," Kathleen recalls, "and I said, ‘Don’t you understand that I had to say no?’ She said, ‘Maybe you should’ve done it before — this is the first time you ever said no to me.’ " During the next months, however, there would be no improvement in Gia’s condition or her relationship with her mother. Over that time she wrote, "I feel detached, misunderstood, confused and scared … agitation will find relief in the exercise of simple memories. Look not around, not forward-but back." Among the rock lyrics she composed was "Dope ain’t no joke/after one too many pokes/ where’s the laughter/insane passions/why is my face so ashen/living without dreams."

"I Guess You Wouldn’t Really Call It Rape Because She Wasn’t Screaming"

BY DECEMBER OF 1984, GIA HAD REACHED what everyone around her assumed was rock bottom. Rochelle was then forced to make the hardest decision of her life: She had to choose between her lover and her lover’s life. "I knew all along that if it hadn’t been for me, Gia would be living on the street," Rochelle says. "But I finally had to tell her I would leave her if she didn’t go into rehab. And I knew what was going to happen. I knew they’d say I was her enabler and that they would have to turn her against me. That’s how rehab works, they try to break the pattern of drug use by getting you away from the life that led you to it. I knew I was taking a chance that I would lose her. But I knew there wasn’t any choice."

After pressure from Rochelle and from her family, Gia finally entered a rehab program at Eagleville Hospital in Montgomery County. She had herself declared indigent so that welfare would pay for the treatment. Because of rules of confidentiality, no one from Eagleville would comment on her case. But what can be gathered from recollections of friends, relatives and several former Eagleville patients is that Gia entered the hospital in early December of 1984 and left two weeks later because her Aunt Barbaraher mother’s older sister and a particular favorite of Gia’s-died in an automobile accident on the way to Atlantic City. In her grief, she returned home to her mother, then left ten days later and went back to Atlantic City and to Rochelle. After a tumultuous few weeks – Gia and Rochelle always had a tempestuous relationship and there were often wrestling matches and fistfights-Gia agreed to return to Eagleville in February of 1985. After she went through detox, she was told that she would have to be separated from certain people in her life to break the cycle of dependency; she was barred from any contact with her mother or Rochelle.


During the rehab process, which involves extensive group and individual psychotherapy, Gia began to examine what her life had become, identifying the patterns of behavior that led her to need the escape of drugs. As part of the therapy, she drew a large mural depicting herself carrying a cross, floating somewhere between the earth and the sun. Her face had one weeping eye, a Bowie-esque lightning bolt, a question mark and stitches on her skull. In her chest was a broken heart and a small black swastika. On her arms were needle marks; on her genital area were male and female stick figures. Next to the figure she listed the themes that the drawing — and her therapy — sought to address: "confusion, hate, separation, frustration, growing pains, sexual abuse, mental abuse, helplessness, love."

In Eagleville, one of her closest friends was Rob Fay, a 28-year-old auto mechanic who had a problem with alcohol and cocaine. He met Gia when she was in the process of reconsidering almost everything; in many ways, he met her at the time when she most resembled the person everyone close to her suspected was trapped inside her troubled life.

"I met Gia on the grounds, and I had no idea who she was," Fay remembers. "Her mother wasn’t allowed to see her at that time. She was very attached to her mother. I remember one time we were flying kites — her kite was a yellow butterfly’ she loved yellow-and I said, ‘I like your kite.’ And then she just let the string go. And I said ‘What are you doing?’ and she said ‘I was just thinking about my mom. This is what I have to do with her.’

"She had obviously been through a lot of mental and physical abuse. Besides the thing with her father, she had been raped. There were times in New York when people just took advantage of her. I guess you wouldn’t really call it rape because she wasn’t screaming, but there were a lot of times when that happened and she didn’t want it to happen. Being as high as she was, she couldn’t argue, she didn’t even know what planet she was on. She had a lot of anger about that.

"She felt that at times the modeling was more an outlet for her mother than for her. She said that her mother was living her life through her; that’s pretty common. But she wasn’t forced to do anything.

"It’s just like her mother had a lot of bad feelings about Rochelle and blamed a lot of Gia’s life on her. That was bullshit — whatever Gia did, she did to herself. She shot the dope, let’s be real."


Gia left rehab in the late summer of 1985. She moved into an apartment in Norristown with some other girls and set out to look for a job. Throughout her life Gia had bought blank notebooks, filled them up halfway with drawings and poem and then put them aside; later on, she would flip them over and begin writing a new chapter in her life. This time she did the same thing with a book in which she had pasted Polaroids from her first big modeling jobs in New York and Europe complete with Paris and Milan phone numbers. She began this book again by making a note to herself to call the dentist, stop by the DPA office and buy a newspaper. From the paper, she culled a list of jobs appropriate to her new life: a $5 an-hour restaurant job, a $4-an-hour office cleaning position, various traineeships. She settled on a job selling jeans at The Gap in the King of Prussia mall and tried to figure out what to do next. She thought about going into the Marines or going into the visual arts as a photographer or cinematographer. And, for a while, she was opening up new worlds for her friend. "I knew Gia was gay so it was nothing romantic," Rob recalls. "She was like my sister. At first she was really enjoying sobriety. We would go places and that girl taught me how to enjoy everything. I mean, a bee coming at you, she would enjoy it. She had this sense of how important things are: snowin’ out, rainin’ out, leaves, stuff like that. The sound of traffic. Things I was just beginning to notice because I could see and hear again.

"And she loved kids. She’d see kids in the malls and she’d go over to them. She didn’t give a shit what the parents thought. Kids made her laugh. Little kids in the neighborhood would be yellin’ and screamin’ and you or I would say, ‘Goddamn I wish them kids would shut up.’ She’d say, ‘Listen to that, let’s go out and talk to those kids.’ "

But the good time was to be short-lived. Gia eventually left her new apartment and moved back in with her mother; all her old problems began again, including the heroin use. "I am at my mom’s again and feeling fucked-up," she wrote in her journal. "You see a quite odd thing happened … I fell in love with my [rehab] counselor and I think she just feels sorry for me … I hate anyone to pity me it [is] so degrading … I have a girl Rochelle who loves me and I her . . . I am just not ready for tieing up. Girls have always been a problem for me. I really don’t know why I bother with them . . . " But she was also beginning to feel strange physically, and as AIDS began to be featured more prominently in the national news, she started clipping articles about the disease. She was interested not only because of her intravenous drug use, but because some of the names in the headlines were people in her business. In October of 1985, Rock Hudson died; only months before, he had publicly announced that he had AIDS and had become an international symbol of the horror of the disease. In the spring of 1986, the country’s most visible AIDS victim was fashion designer Perry Ellis, for whom Gia had worked. Although Ellis publicly denied his illness, the image of this withered man at New York fashion events galvanized the beauty world. He died on May 30th.

Ironically, his death came only days after a dizzying chain of events in Gia’s life that concluded with her being diagnosed with AIDS-related complex. Gia went to Atlantic City and rejoined Rochelle. She also increased her use of heroin. She stole the cassette player in their apartment and sold it to buy drugs; she sold her car for $1,700 and used that money as well. When Rochelle returned to the apartment and found Gia wasted and her tape deck gone, the two had a brutal fight. Rochelle beat Gia up and tore off her shirt; Gia ran from the apartment topless and Rochelle called the police to find her. For the next 24 hours, Gia was on the street. She slept outside in the rain on a wet mattress and was raped by a man who found her lying there. Finally, she made it to her father’s apartment. He arranged for her to take a bus back to Philadelphia. She was picked up at the bus station by her mother, and was taken to a hospital that was reluctant to admit her because she was a junkie and at high risk for a disease few hospitals wanted to deal with. They finally admitted her with symptoms of pneumonia. Her blood tests also showed she had ARC, a precursor of AIDS.


"At the End, She Was Spared Nothing"

GIA CARANGI WOULD LIVE ONLY SIX months more, but they would be filled with the same kind of highs and lows that had punctuated her entire life. After she was diagnosed, her stepfather refused to allow her to live in their house. She moved in with a friend of Rob Fay’s and was eventually allowed to move back home when her stepfather relented. She saw Rochelle on and off, visited with friends, read books on philosophy and the Bible and spent time with Fay. In the early fall, her oldest brother’s wife had a baby in Ocean City. Gia wanted to visit but her sister-in-law was squeamish because of the AIDS. Gia went anyway. In August, makeup artist Way Bandy became the next prominent member of the New York fashion community to be felled by AIDS. Gia took his death very hard. "My friend Way died today," she wrote to a cousin. " … [we] used to have a blast working together . . . he was amazing, if he wasn’t gay I would have try to marry him. Death makes life seem unreal. Unreal in the sense that you can’t hold onto it."

Bandy’s death also hurt Gia for other reasons. "She was upset that when Way died, nobody called her," recalls Rob Fay. "All the people who claimed to be her friends. I think that when Way died she realized that she wasn’t as important as she came to think she was. I think that’s when she realized that a lot of it was bullshit and people who said they cared didn’t care. I think she also knew then that it was comin’ for her."

In October, Gia was hospitalized at Hahnemann University Hospital with multiple symptoms stemming from AIDS. At this point, her mother completely took over her life, deciding who should be allowed to see her and what treatments she should receive. Rochelle was not allowed into the hospital to see Gia. Kathleen says that Cia specifically requested that Rochelle not be allowed in. Rob Fay says Gia specifically said she wanted to see Rochelle. Kathleen also decided that no one except close family was to be told that Gia had AIDS. "At the end, she was spared nothing, absolutely nothing," her mother says. "Every organ in that girl’s body failed. She was put on a respirator for a month. We had initially said no to the respirator but the way they explained it to her they said she’d only be on it for a few days. So they brought the paper and I said, ‘Gia, just sign it,’ and she said, ‘Thank you very much for making my decision for me.’ She had to make such a big deal out of everything . . . reading it whether she understands it or not. I just said, ‘Sign it.’ I was a nervous wreck. A doctor said, "What do you think you’ve saved her for?’ Maybe I was wrong, maybe I should have let her go. But then they decided that she wanted to die. She didn’t want to die. She just wanted to get off the respirator. She thought that if she did, then she could go home. She wanted to go to Disneyland. She just wanted out."

Rob Fay remembers those last weeks vividly. Even the counseling Gia had sent him to for friends and relatives of AIDS patients didn’t prepare him for the horror and the quickness of her demise.

"She had wanted to make a couple of videos addressing children," he says. "And I never went and got a video camera. We just put it off and put it off and then she was in the hospital. What she wanted was for the kids to see what the drugs can do. She wanted to tell the kids, y’know, that you don’t have to do this."


Rob Fay will not remember the very last days of Gia’s life. During the last week, even he was barred from Gia’s room by her mother. He will choose, instead, to remember one of the last days when she was really living. It was the day she told him she had AIDS.

"We went off into a little side room in the hospital," he says, "and there were a few other people in there, with their parents, and there was a stereo on kinda quiet. She said she’d been diagnosed with ARC and I made some bad joke because [didn’t know what ARC was, y’know. And she said, ‘No, listen to me, this is it!’ and we just sat there and cried.

"And, it was funny — we used to have this song in rehab, Simple Minds does it, ‘Don’t Forget About Me,’ or somethin’ like that. It came on. And we’re sitting there with all these people in similar situations with their parents who are fairly distraught and she just kicked in. She :ranked the stereo up real loud and we ust started dancing. And, y’know, that was a real special moment right there."

The names of Sharon Beverly and Rochelle Silver have been changed in the interest of privacy.

©1988, Stephen Fried.

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