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 »

12 Wonderfully Questionable Purchases That Prove You’re Really Into Electoral Politics

questionable-electoral-purchases-940x540

What a crazy couple of week it’s been, right? First it was the RNC in Cleveland, and now there’s the DNC here in Philly. Such large-scale political events are inevitably horrifying and inspiring. There will be some who’ll be alienated by our two-party system entirely after the conventions, but the vast majority of us will continue to follow the electoral/political drama of 2016, which, given the candidates and the rhetoric, feels more like binge-watching a particularly sadistic season of House of Cards. For election-year junkies, there are plenty of ways to show that you’re really passionate about American electoral politics — and what’s more American than buying a lot of highly dubious crap? (Nothing. There is nothing more American than that.) Here are some recommended items to satisfy your capitalist jones between now and November.  Read more »

DNC Celeb Scene: Fergie at the Creative Coalition Gala

fergie-creative-940x540

Eight-time Grammy winner Fergie headlined The Creative Coalition’s Benefit Gala during 2016 Democratic National Convention last night at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. The Concert kicked off a little after 1 a.m. Fergie just dropped a new single, “M.I.L.F. $” from her forthcoming CD, her first in nearly a decade, with a video featuring Kim Kardashian. The Creative Coalition is a nonpartisan charitable arm of the entertainment industry, and last night’s event brought out a lot of star power, including a Baldwin. Fergie also released four multi-platinum albums with The Black Eyed Peas, with whom she has sold more than 32 million albums and 60 million singles worldwide. Coincidently, the Black Eyed Peas were performing down the street for Rock the Vote, at the Fillmore. When Fergie performed the band’s big hit, “I Gotta A Feeling,” BEP bandmate Taboo joined her on stage.

Photos after the jump »

10 Pretty Amazing DNC Craigslist Hook-Up Attempts

iStockphoto.com | Sitade

iStockphoto.com | Sitade

We’re living in strange, uncertain times. Scott Baio has a job. Donald Trump is being mistaken for a presidential candidate. Dan McQuade is being mistaken for Brad Pitt. Philadelphians have declined to vandalize perfectly good property. In the immortal words of Peter Venkman, “Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria!”

One thing you can still count on? When on a business trip, Americans will troll for weird sex on Craigslist. Some things change, but some things, thankfully, stay the same. Here are some safe(ish) for work DNC Craigslist hook-up attempts.  Read more »

Philly Artist Joe Boruchow Calls Out Trump, Rizzo With Latest Work

"Remove Rizzo" posted on a Septa bus shelter.

“Remove Rizzo” posted on a SEPTA bus shelter.

Editor’s Note: Since publication, it has come to our attention that the language in the top half of the original version of this post was similar to that in the post by Conrad Benner that we were aggregating. Philly Mag apologizes to Benner.

Philly artist Joe Boruchow has recently added three new works to his portfolio — and to the streets of Philly, Conrad Benner at Streets Dept. reports. Each are rendered in Boruchow’s signature black-and-white paper cutouts, cut from a single sheet of black paper and wheat pasted to platforms around the city. The latest designs mock Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and protest the statue erected in honor of 1970’s Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building.

“Remove Rizzo” depicts two figures using a rope to drag the statue away from its post on the building’s steps. The piece is accompanied by a short descriptor on Boruchow’s blogRead more »

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