28 Vintage Photos of Philadelphia During the Holidays


The holiday season always makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never actually had, like that creamy root beer float at the soda fountain in Bedford Falls, or the smell of pine from that glorious tinsel-strewn tree Bing Crosby and I decorated together. I’ve never celebrated Christmas in real life, but the Margaret O’Brien inside my soul tears up every time she hears “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in a store.

Philadelphia is especially beautiful during the holidays, with all the unsustainable twinkling lights and smiling people who tend toward the curt during other months. The SEPTA employee I buy my train tickets from was wearing a Santa hat today, its oversized white pom-pom bouncing over her face as she went to take my cash. It’s a lovely time.

Has it always been like this? Well, as we discovered from doing a little historical research, the twinkling lights, SEPTA grace notes and gigantic public Christmas trees have been around for a long time. But other local holiday traditions have come and gone. Below, a selection of vintage photos from holidays past in Philadelphia, in no particular order, with no particular theme — just interesting moments in time that’ll make you nostalgic, too. Read more »

Rocky, Star Wars Let Us Grow Old With Favorite Characters

creed star wars

I went and saw Creed last weekend. Reader, I cried.

I cried when Rocky Balboa got sick.

I cried when Creed put on his papa’s boxing trunks.

And the waterworks absolutely flowed when — after being held in abeyance all movie — the horns of the original Rocky theme finally sounded at a critical moment in Creed’s climactic big fight.

It was all very macho.

This weekend, my wife and I took my 7-year-old son to see the new Star Wars movie. I got a little misty at getting to repeat a ritual that my parents and family shared when I was a child; and yes, there were key points in the movie — I’ll not spoil them at this early date — when my eyes were so wet I could barely see the screen.

I mention this not just because I am exceedingly vulnerable to cinematic manipulation and nostalgia — though that is surely true — but because the two movies together made me realize this: Forty years after the modern blockbuster franchise movie era was born, with Jaws and Rocky and Star Wars and a blaze of both special effects and Roman numerals, corrupt old youth-obsessed Hollywood has been forced to give us something it usually tries to avoid:

Meditations on aging, loss, and death. Read more »

10 Strange Christmas Traditions to Make You Grateful for That Damned Elf on a Shelf

Left: "Gruss vom Krampus" by Unknown - Historie čertů KrampusUploaded by Kohelet. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. Right: "Mari Lwyd (wiki)" by R. fiend - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Left: “Gruss vom Krampus” by Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. Right: “Mari Lwyd (wiki)” by R. fiendOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

The Washington Post ran a story last week, later picked up by the Inquirer, about boomer parents who are ready to be done with Christmas but can’t be because their millennial kids won’t let them — and boy, did it hit home. Essentially, the gist is that boomer parents were so kid-centric that they now have entire rental storage spaces full of Christmas crapola they long to jettison, but that their offspring, who because of student loans and the lousy economy live in barely furnished hovels with no closet space, are neglecting to put up their own holiday decorations and instead want to be able to come home for Christmas and find everything exactly the same as it was when they were eight.

This story spoke to me in a big way because last year, in a break with tradition that absolutely shocked my kids, I didn’t put up a tree. For every single one of their then-respective 22 and 25 years of life, we’ve had a big ol’ tree that we all trudge out into the wilds of the local cut-your-own-tree place to secure and which we then drag home, erect in the living room, and festoon with lights and thousands of ornaments, each of which holds a special place in our hearts. Except what the hell do I mean “we,” because I’m the one who does the festooning, while son Jake plays video games and daughter Marcy watches Real Housewives reruns and my husband … well, I’m not actually sure what Doug does, but it sure isn’t decorate the tree. Read more »

Why Calls for Unity Won’t Solve Donald Trump’s Ugly, Anti-Muslim Bigotry


During this week of heightened attention to anti-Muslim views, our mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s call for unity in Philadelphia sounded more than reasonable. But it really bummed me out. This week’s events have thrown another harsh light on the powerlessness of calls for generic unity.

Just one day before Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., someone driving a red pick-up truck threw a severed pig’s head outside a North Philadelphia mosque. The choice of a pig’s head was a clear aggression against Muslims who follow a halal, pork-free diet. The act itself was a threat. In response, Kenney condemned what he recognized as bigotry, urging all Philadelphians to join him “in rejecting this despicable act and supporting our Muslim neighbors.” And in the usual move of any half-decent politician following a hate crime, he called for unity, saying we cannot allow hate to divide the city.

The point here isn’t to parse Kenney’s words — solidarity is important; it sends a message of support to threatened communities and helps create some kind of buffer against hateful threats. And in times like this, it’s instinctive to hope for a humane unity. The issue is, amidst calls for unity we end up ignoring that we’re fighting views that will continue to reject unity at all costs. In this case, we’ve got people who simply refuse to view Muslims as human beings. It’s that clear a dividing line.  Read more »

TeamGraham’s Benefit for Little Smiles

Eagles' Darren Sproles, Michel Sproles with Carlyne (who is due in February) and Brandon Graham.

Darren and Michel Sproles with Carlyne (who is due in February) and Brandon Graham. | HughE Dillon

On Monday, December 7, Zarwin Baum and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham and his foundation, TeamGraham, hosted a toy drive at Vesper, benefiting Little Smiles, a volunteer-driven nonprofit helping children in local hospitals, hospices, shelters and other similar facilities. They give them toys, and electronics, event tickets, VIP outings and fulfill wishes to bring joy to their lives.

Many of Gramham’s teammates came out to make donations, plus meet fans who brought toy donations or make monetary gifts during the event. On Friday Brandon Graham, Stacey Kracher, and staff from Little Smiles and Zarwin Baum will take the toys they collected and distributed them to kids at CHOP and Shriners.

Photos after the jump »

It’s Almost Christmas. Should You Tip Your Uber Driver?

I like to consider myself a pretty good tipper.

Then again, I suspect tipping is like sex and dancing — everyone walks through this world thinking they’re bringing something special to the table, when in reality they’re just not screwing it up royally enough to be publicly shamed.

So perhaps I’m an average tipper with the occasional flash of inspiration given the right lighting. Either way, I know how things work.

As a follower of the golden rule (“Tip everyone who could poison you or make you ugly”), I never leave a restaurant, bar stool or salon chair without handing over at least 20 percent. I understand that a delivery charge isn’t a tip, just as I understand that my dog groomer risked her life to tie that cute little ribbon around Murph’s neck. Around the holidays, I add a little extra across the board and leave a card for the mail carrier like a good Northeast girl.

And yet, I didn’t tip my Uber driver the other night. He was probably the most pleasant person I had interacted with all day, his car was immaculate, and he waited for me to get in the door before waving and driving off. Short of calling my mom, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Why yes, it did feel weird. Read more »

Fashion for All Event


Neiman Marcus hosted Our Closet’s “Fashion for All Event” on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in the Neiman Marcus at The Plaza at King of Prussia.

The event, chaired by Kim Garno, Hope Haron, Connie Lees, Ami Lonner and Holly Stone, featured a cocktail party with specialty drinks and light bites were served near cosmetics. At the cocktail party guests participated in Le Métier de Beauté makeovers. The guests then headed to the third floor for a fashion presentation showcasing the top trends for Fall & Resort 2015 curated by Ana Maria Pimentel, fashion director for women’s accessories of Neiman Marcus Group.

Our Closet has partnered with Neiman Marcus and Le Métier de Beauté on a limited edition run of an exclusive Our Closet lipgloss ($36) and Kaleidoscope palette ($95) that will benefit the charity. Proceeds from the sales of Le Métier de Beauté cosmetics go to Our Closet. Our Closet was founded by Jill Aschkenasy, executive director, and is a volunteer-driven organization that provides clothing to vulnerable Philadelphians and their families free of charge by operating dignified and welcoming “pop up shops” throughout the city.

Photos after the jump »

Naked or Not, the Pirelli Calendar Is Just a Promotional Calendar


From left: Yao Chen, Patti Smith, Mellody Hobson and Serena Williams. Photos | Annie Liebowitz, Pirelli 2016 calendar

The Pirelli calendar never debuts without a fuss. It is, perhaps, the only promotional calendar that arrives in the mail with some swagger, that doesn’t risk a trip to the recycling bin if your insurance company pulls through with puppies in hats or kittens on windmills.

Usually, that’s because the Italian tire manufacturer casts barely dressed supermodels to ring in each month. This year it’s because … I’m not quite sure yet. But according to yesterday’s New York Times headline, “The 2016 Pirelli Calendar May Signal A Cultural Shift.”

To which I have to say: Really? Read more »

“Only in America” Gala

Stephen and Toby Strogatz with Stephen Kerzner.

The National Museum of American Jewish History celebrated its fifth anniversary with a gala to honor the stories of Jews who have made their homes in this country. On November 18, more than 350 donors gathered as a community and connected to the stories of hope and courage, leadership and service at the 5th Anniversary “Only in America” Gala. The gala reflected on the successes of the last five years at their historic Market Street home and celebrated the next generation of leaders at the Museum. Gala chairs were Gennifer and Elijah Dornstreich. Decor was done by Pencora and event production was by Fred Stein.

Photos after the jump »

Cancer Support Community Fashion Show

Margie Honickman, Joanne Wurzak, Ellen Churchill and Liesa Steinberg

Cancer Support Community (CSC) Greater Philadelphia hosted their annual “In Fashion” luncheon and fashion show on Thursday, November 19 at Saks Fifth Avenue in Bala Cynwyd. Designers Scott Studenberg and John Targon from Baja East, showcased their fall and spring lines to the ladies who lunch.

The day started at 11 am. with cocktails, conversation, and a chance to browse through Baja East’s laid-back collection of designs. Saks donated 10 percent of the sales to CSC. There was also a live auction conducted by Jeff Hammond, which raised additional funds for the CSC programs including the Cancer Support Community’s Kid Support Camp, where teens and kids whose lives have been impacted by cancer attend a camp with kids in the same circumstance. The mission of the Cancer Support Community is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community.

Photos after the jump »

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