Jon Dorenbos Advances to America’s Got Talent Finals

Jon Dorenbos

Jon Dorenbos performs in the semifinals of America’s Got Talent on August 30th | Screengrab via NBC

Most Eagles fans have come to terms with the fact that their favorite team is never going to win the Super Bowl. Never, ever. What if Carson Wentz is a Hall of Fame-caliber stud? He’ll be like Dan Marino — an all-time great who never won the big one.

That’s why Eagles fans have to settle for little victories. Such as: Jon Dorenbos could win a televised talent competition!

Dorenbos, a magician, has advanced to the finals of this season of America’s Got Talent. The Eagles long snapper learned his fate last night, when public voting moved him through the semifinals. Read more »

WATCH: Jon Dorenbos Kills It on America’s Got Talent Last Night

Philadelphia Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos appeared again on America’s Got Talent last night, and he did not disappoint. Using a fast-patter — as if he’d just done a rail of coke before going on stage — he had the judges long-snap footballs onto a map of the United States. (Heidi Klum delivered a perfect snap; Simon Cowell missed the map entirely.)

He then went through a convoluted shtick that seemed to be mostly misdirection — he made some “mistakes” during it, always a solid magician’s trick — before he pulled out a map from inside a notebook he’d given Howie Mandel. The map had the exact places where the four hosts had thrown their footballs! Read more »

Why Philly Is a Perfect Fit for America’s First Pro Circus Arts School

A 15-year-old man from Philadelphia performs on the steps of the Art Museum

Brian Ungar, 15, a student at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, performs on the steps of the Art Museum | Photo: HughE Dillon

This time next year, the first full-time professional training school for circus artists in the United States will be preparing for the start of classes. And it’ll be in Philadelphia. That’s right: City Hall is about to have some competition. And soon Penn won’t be the only school in the city educating clowns.

Okay, got the easy jokes out of the way. Today, the founders of Circadium announced its first day of classes would be on September 5th, 2017. “We’re beside ourselves,” says Shana Kennedy, founding director of the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. “It’s been a long time coming: We’ve got the people, and the team, and the teachers and the materials.” The current School of Circus Arts is in Germantown; Kennedy said she’s currently in negotiations to take over an old church in the area for Circadium. There is a kickstarter, with groundbreaking expected sometime this winter.

“The United States lacks a dedicated facility for circus higher education,” Circadium says in its Kickstarter. “In a few cities, recreational schools host ‘pro-track’ programs, which offer a 1-year full-time training to serious students. None, however, come close to the standards of higher-level circus education programs in Canada, Europe and Australia. Students want to study circus intensively for multiple years, and by doing so, deeply explore the history of the art form, their own physical capabilities, and their creative potential.” Read more »

Trading Places Was Originally Written With Gene Wilder in Mind

Gene Wilder, if he were in Trading Places

Photo illustration

Today the movie world is mourning Gene Wilder, who died today at the age of 83. Wilder starred in a number of classic films, including several Mel Brooks films (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers) as well as the 1971 adaptation Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But Wilder could’ve been cast in a film that is near and dear to many Philadelphians’ hearts: Trading Places. Three years ago, Business Insider called the Philadelphia-set and shot film the greatest Wall Street movie ever made, and did an oral history of the movie.

Director John Landis had this nugget of info: Read more »

Philly Prof’s New Book Treats Wildwood Motels Like the Works of Art They Are

The Blue Marlin Motel in Wildwood Crest -- blue beach chairs and blue walls

The Blue Marlin Motel, at Toledo and Atlantic avenues in Wildwood Crest | Photo courtesy of Mark Havens

It all started with the Garden State Parkway.

The roadway’s construction — complemented by the postwar boom period — led to the birth of the Wildwoods. The several cities that make up the five-mile island had been around since the late 1800s and early 1900s, but it wasn’t until carloads of middle-class Philadelphians trekked down the shore that the Wildwoods became the place we think of today.

And the simple L- or U-shaped motels built around that time are more than just places to sleep. “For a clientele whose out-of-reach dream vacation was Polynesia, the Caribbean or even the exotic Far East, Wildwood willingly stood in as a surrogate,” architecture critic Joseph Giovannini writes. “Blue-collar workers from as close as Philadelphia or as far away as Montreal could still enjoy a week of vacation on the sand in an environment that evoked distant lands.”

Giovannini writes that in an introdutory essay in a new book by Philadelphia University industrial design professor Mark Havens. His Out of Season: The Vanishing Architecture of the Wildwoods chronicles 10 years of Havens’ fine art photography of the famous Wildwood motel. While much Wildwood architecture hagiography focuses on kitsch, Havens’ book goes a bit deeper: The beauty of the chair placement at the Blue Marlin Motel, the wonderful doors at the Ocean Sands Motel, the hilarity of the neon sign and pirate combo at the Jolly Roger.

“These motels were very simple, built mostly from cinder block, stucco, iron railings and a few coats of paint,” New School professor Jamer Hunt writes in the book’s other essay. “Few mistook them for anything more than what they were—economical. But through the inventive and highly formalist use of decorative elements, owners, contractors, and architects were able to elevate these buildings beyond the utilitarian. They created a genuine, expressive middle-class vacation aesthetic that transcends the more saccharine pleasures of the big-budget signs and exotic names.”

I talked with Havens about his book. This conversation has been lightly edited for style and length. Read more »

Dîner en Blanc Angst Is Apparently Unique to Philadelphia

Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia 2016. Photo | HughE Dillon

Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia 2016. Photo | HughE Dillon

Last week Philadelphia’s fifth Dîner en Blanc event went off without a hitch on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as thousands gathered to celebrate the French tradition, and a few others took to social media to ask why in the world they would want to.

Some questioned the cost, or more specifically, where that money could elsewhere be spent. Others took issue with the dress code. Still others questioned the choice to purchase a ticket to an event that requires you to BYO-everything, including a chair.

Other corners of social media boasted a great time, and even a marriage proposal. The haters were seemingly outnumbered by those who attended and those who hoped to. Of 70 cities hosting events this year, Philadelphia is the only one to have implemented a lottery system for the waiting list, similar to the one used for the Broad Street Run, after their website crashed last year from an overwhelming number of registrants.

In the past five years Dîner en Blanc has rapidly spread around the globe, with volunteers hosting their own events in top-secret locations that showcase the most spectacular corners of their cities. And the haters? According to Sandy Safi, co-founder of Dîner en Blanc International, they all live in Philadelphia. Read more »

I Flew Over Atlantic City in a World War II-Era Plane

View of the New Jersey beach and Atlantic Ocean from a GEICO Skytypers plane

The view from my plane over the Atlantic Ocean | Photo: Dan McQuade

I can admit, I was terrified.

I knew I would be OK. My pilot was Bob Johansen, a Navy veteran who told me he’d been an aviation enthusiast his whole life and got his pilot’s license as a teenager. He flew for TWA, and began his career with the GEICO Skytypers in 1977. Brenda Little, who does marketing for the Skytypers, told me “Bob is the best pilot on the team.” He won FAA’s highest civilian honor, the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, given to those with a record of 50 years of safe flight.

The plane was about 70 years old. When Johansen helped me strap on my life vest and parachute, he told me I wouldn’t need it. “This thing is like a tank,” he said, tapping the plane’s body. “Any problems, I’d rather take my chances landing in it. Unless the wing falls off or it’s on fire, we won’t be jumping out of it.”

But when we took off in our SNJ-2, first developed in the 1930s and used to train Navy pilots during World War II, I was scared. It’s not that I thought we were going to crash. It’s that I didn’t know what to expect. Once we got over the ocean along Atlantic City, though, the feeling was breathtaking. I got it. The canopy was open. The wind finally gave me some relief from the heat. I looked up at the sky and exhaled. This was incredible. Read more »

11 Things You Might Not Know About the Philadelphia Folk Festival

Starting today, thousands of music lovers will gather at Old Pool Farm near Schwenksville for the 55th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. This year’s headliners include Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame), Los LobosRobin and Linda Williams, Bakithi Kumalo & the South African All-Stars, the Wood Brothers and Buffy Sainte-Marie. A lot has changed since the first festival back in 1962, but a lot remains the same. Here, a few things you might not know about North America’s oldest continuously run outdoor music fest.  Read more »

Burt Young (aka Paulie) Recently Climbed the Rocky Steps

Paulie may be dead in the Rocky series, but Burt Young is still alive and kicking.

Or, rather, running? Maybe. Per a post to his Facebook page the other day,  Young was in Philadelphia recently and made it up the 72 steps at the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Read more »

Wildwood Boardwalk Shirts Update: Pokémon, Trump and Harambe

Pokemon Go, American Flag 'If this flag offends you, I'll help you pack' shirts

A store on the Wildwood boardwalk advertises Pokemon Go and American flag t-shirts | Photo: Dan McQuade

I was in Los Angeles last month, and I was on the lookout for t-shirts.

Not all over L.A., but during my visit to Santee Alley. Immediately after arriving there, I knew this would be a fertile ground for boardwalk-style t-shirts.

I was right! But Santee Alley was different than the Donald Trump-a-thon going on in Wildwood: The t-shirts on Santee Alley were mostly anti-Trump, including one that said: “Relax, Trump. I just look illegal.”

It is now August. It has been two months since my last boardwalk t-shirt column. When I went down to Wildwood this weekend, I knew it was time to research a boardwalk t-shirt update. Read more »

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