Just Who Is Maria Papadakis?


I’m roaming around a giant warehouse by the Delaware River, looking for Maria Papadakis.

Maria isn’t hard to spot when she’s onstage with a mic in her hand, her long blond hair spilling onto her bright blue dress. When she’s not onstage, like right now, I have more trouble. The event is called Feastival. Maria’s emceeing, and if there’s such a thing as Philadelphia society, much of it is here, swilling absinthe cocktails and clogging Pier 9 to the point of non-maneuverability.

Before I find Maria, I find her mother, Eliana Papadakis, who flashes a gap-toothed smile and gives me a hug. She tells me she’s just arrived from “the other event with Liam Neeson.” Eliana is the widow of beloved Drexel president Constantine “Taki” Papadakis, and a veteran of the philanthropic/charitable cause scene. She quickly cuts the chitchat and begins picking off VIPs.

“Richard! Richard!” Richard Vague is summoned. “Did you see Maria?”

“I did,” drawls the board president of FringeArts, which is what we’re celebrating tonight. “How could I miss her?”

“Did you like her?” Eliana asks.

“I love both of you,” he says, then floats off.

Moments later, Eliana spots Comcast matron Suzanne Roberts, treading slowly. “Suzanne! Suzanne! Oh my God!” Next up, Ed Rendell, distracted by two young women and not in the mood to talk. Retreating, Eliana whispers to Marsha Perelman, who has recently materialized: “He’s aged.” Her longest conversation takes place with Tom Knox, a Papadakis family friend who, along with 500 other people, was on the guest list at Maria’s wedding, which was held last November to great fanfare. (The marriage ended seven months later, to less fanfare.)

“He’s writing a story about Maria!” Eliana tells Knox, pointing to me. “Do you want to say anything about Maria?”

“She’s very pretty,” he says.

Eliana frowns.

“She’s very outgoing, attractive, she’s going to be very successful in life,” he adds.

I nod and tell him that many of her friends say she has the ability to accomplish whatever she wants to.

“Well, not whatever,” Knox says. “But most things.”

Feastival is precisely the sort of power-crowd schmoozefest Maria got acquainted with at the Drexel president’s mansion in Wayne. It’s also a good illustration of the professional niche she’s now carved out for herself. Since her father’s death in 2009, the 28-year-old has become an all-purpose cheerleader for the city, hosting a monthly arts expo, a video series on Philly.com, and a show for Comcast SportsNet. She’s also shooting episodes for a national TV program, the details of which are currently embargoed. Maria owes much of this success to her ubiquitous presence in society photographer HughE Dillon’s party pictures, which turned her into an object of gossipy fascination. “She was absolutely famous,” HughE says, “until I made her famous on a bigger scale.”

Famous is a relative term. In Philadelphia, it doesn’t take much to get there. Here’s one route: A society photographer decides that you’re a bona fide member of said society. He befriends you, makes you his muse. Hundreds of photographs later, your name and face have become inextricably lodged in the city’s consciousness, and the rest of the local media begin to play along. This dynamic is in full force at Feastival, where HughE Dillon of PhillyChitChat.com photographs Philly.com contributor Maria Papadakis and her soccer-player boyfriend Chris Konopka—their relationship was first reported by the Philadelphia Daily News, which is principally owned by the same guys who own Philly.com—and promptly sells the image to Philadelphia magazine, which sponsors Feastival.

All of this incestuousness makes it more or less impossible to figure out if Maria’s fame is, in fact, warranted. Is she a pretty blond legacy kid taking advantage of a celebrity-starved city? Or a bright girl squandering her impressive credentials by spending her time smiling for the camera? Put another way, does she owe her current station in life to the city’s insularity? Or is it Philadelphia that’s holding her back?

ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio Was a Nobody in High School

Illustration by Andy Friedman.

Illustration by Andy Friedman.

My name is … Salvatore Anthony Nicholas Paolantonio. “Sal Pal” for short.

I was named after … my mother’s oldest brother, Salvatore Giardina, who served in the Army in World War II. He was legendary in my family.

I am a … reporter. My job is to find out new stuff and tell our audience about it. It’s really that simple.

I got my big break … when I got out of the Navy and was hired at the Albany Times Union. I was only at the paper 16 months when they sent me to cover the famine in East Africa, because I had been there for the Navy. Right after that, the Inquirer hired me.

My people are from … a little town called Calitri in Abruzzo, Italy. It’s a sheep-herding and farming town in the mountains. My grandfather came here in 1920 with his two brothers. The two brothers went back, and he stayed. Or else I’d be a sheep-herder.

When I was seven years old … we were all ducking and covering under our desks. Then Kennedy was shot. Thank God the Beatles showed up a couple of months later and gave us hope again.

When people don’t like what I have to say … they tell me about it, and I like that.

The next Philly team to win the championship will be … the Eagles. It’s easier to prevail in the NFL than in the other professional sport leagues. And they’ve just invested $30 million in Chip Kelly, so they’ve got no choice.

One bad habit I just can’t break is … ice cream. Chocolate water ice from Rita’s with vanilla ice cream in it.

People would be surprised to know … that I love to garden. I spend a lot of time planting flowers and weeding with my iPod in my ears.

My favorite Philadelphian … is Frank Rizzo, who embodied everything there was about the city.

The best Philly athlete alive today … is Chase Utley. Fundamentally great. Tough as nails. And instinctively knows what’s going to happen next. That’s rare. You can’t teach instincts.

If I owned the Eagles … I would make Ron Jaworski general manager. He’d win a Super Bowl in three years.

The farthest I’ve ever been from Philadelphia … is Diego Garcia, a Navy base in the Indian Ocean. I served from 1978 to 1983, and I spent the summer of 1981 chasing Russian submarines around the Indian Ocean.

I met my wife … in 1976, when I moved her into the dorm at SUNY Oneonta. I was the R.A.

Andy Reid was … respected but not revered. He got close but didn’t get the Super Bowl, and that’s how people will always remember him here.

My dad always told me … it’s not how you act; it’s how you re-act. In other words, don’t show on your face how your ass is getting kicked.

For Thanksgiving, I will … be working. We play NFL football on Thanksgiving. Just the nature of my job: I work on holidays. God bless my wife.

The most misunderstood Philly athlete of all time … would have to be Dick Allen, but only slightly ahead of Donovan McNabb. Not everybody gets to win a Super Bowl. Dan Marino didn’t win a Super Bowl. And remember: As a human being, as a teammate, as a member of the community, there aren’t any players better than Donovan McNabb. He finished a game with a broken leg.

In high school, I was voted … nothing.

Machete Kills Danny Trejo Was on the Cherry Bomb Bus


Machete Kills actor Danny Trejo got around town last night. We know he was at the Flyers game but he also made an appearance at the Ritz East movie theater. There, he and director Robert Rodriguez joined Christina Clark and Jennifer Zavala on the Cherry Bomb Bus. Trejo and Rodriguez hopped on the bus and housed some walking tacos and giant Mexican chocolate chip cookies.

The Cherry Bomb Bus was on hand to give out free tacos to customers who attended an advance screening of the movie.

Ashton Kutcher Comes to Penn, Talks Behind Closed Doors

ashtonHollywood big shot Ashton Kutcher came to Penn campus on Monday to give a big talk—but gave it behind closed doors, away from the prying eyes of the press.  The Daily Pennsylvanian reports: “For the event, Kutcher sat down with 1984 Wharton graduate Bobby Turner to discuss his career not only on the big and silver screens but also in the world of tech investing and children’s rights advocacy.” Luckily, Philadelphia Magazine had an undercover camera there:
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Philly Restaurants Host Celebrity Diners as Movie Business Makes Its Way to Philly

When in town for work or pleasure, the world’s celebrities have to eat somewhere. This being Philly, a city of great restaurants, celebs have their pick of virtually any cuisine their famous little hearts desire. From Chinese to Italian, Philly fine eateries fill the bellies of even the beautiful people among us.

Which, of course, is why Justin Bieber went to the Olive Garden on Broad Street the last time he was here. Only the best for the world’s hottest teen star.

Philly girl Taylor Swift keeps things a little more refined when in town, shirking the ketchupy marinara of the Olive Garden for Ralph’s massive chicken parm platter. She even leaves exorbitant tips behind.

Everyone, though, is trying to catch the plate of Philly favorite Bradley Cooper. Who, to no one’s surprise, is apparently just a regular dude:

Bradley Cooper is a big star now, but he’s a Philly guy at heart. And when he wants pizza, he heads to Slice on Sansom Street.

“His pizza is a Margherita, which has fresh mozzarella, fresh basil on it and he also puts prosciutto on it”, says Slice owner Jason Dilks. “I just felt like I could have been friends with him, that’s how friendly he was.”

Other Philly favorites like Patti LaBelle and Will Smith hit up Ms. Tootsie’s for some classic soul food. Which, of course, proves that Philly is a good enough town to do lunch in for our favorite stars—but they wouldn’t want to live here. [CBS]

PHOTO: Chazz Palminteri Ate at Cuba Libre, Drank at Happy Rooster, Loves Philly Paparazzi

Actor Chazz Palminteri (below, left) hung with Barry Gutin. Early in the evening they ate at Cuba Libre, then headed over to Happy Rooster. Palminteri is doing a one-man show, A Bronx Tale, at the Prince Music Theater Sept. 19, 20 and 21. I happened to be walking by the Happy Rooster at around midnight, and they called me in to take the shot. Chazz is excited about his one-man show opening tonight, and as I was leaving, he said to Gutin, “Your paparazzi in Philly are so nice.”

Chazz Palmenteri and Barry Gutin at Cuba Libre in Philadelphia

Josh Homme Seriously Hated Made in America

Oh, Philadelphia. What have we done? We try to have a nice time, maybe take in some music, and look what happens. A celebrity got upset here!

Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme was all in a tizzy on CBC radio recently over this year’s Made in America festival—and not in a good way. Turns out Homme had some trouble before his band’s set at MiA, which, of course, makes Jay-Z a “kook” for making QOTSA play a festival where they “don’t belong.”

The root of the problem is that Homme took none too kindly to being searched before his set by a security guard for the festival. As a rock god, Josh Homme is not accustomed to having his belongings examined like us normies.

As he suggested on CBC, this is the proper protocol to follow should you see Josh Homme in public: “You shouldn’t frisk my guys, you should fuck off.” Got that, authorities?

Homme also didn’t appreciate being handed a bottle of Armand de Brignac champagne, a brand Jay-Z profits from. Josh Homme does not pose with champagne, so he “destroyed it” for being a “marketing tool,” the festival he was playing at the time (sponsored by Budweiser) obviously not being a massive extension of that concept.

So, Philadelphia, take note: Do not frisk Josh Homme. Do not give Josh Homme champagne. Do not even look at Josh Homme. You are not worthy.

Looks like Elliott Sharp wasn’t the only one unsatisfied with the fest.  [Philebrity]

PHOTO: Marc Vetri Hovers Over Obama’s Shoulder During Navy Yard Shooting Address

Speaking to the press this afternoon, President Obama vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the “cowardly” mass shooting this morning at the Washington Navy Yard, and urged citizens to follow directions from first responders at the site.

Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that President Obama brought along an official Philly dignitary to his public address:

Yup, that’s Philly superchef Marc Vetri lurking over Obama’s left shoulder. Being a superchef, he, of course, wasn’t there to provide commentary or guide our national grief process. No, he was there for something much more simple:

Well, you picked a hell of a time to do it, Marc. [Fox]

RIP Bobby Martin, Purveyor of Fine Philadelphia Soul

The Philadelphia Sound is weeping today at the passing of classic R&B producer and composer Bobby Martin, who passed away Friday at a San Diego, Calif. hospital. He was 83.

Best known for his arrangement of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” and his work on the Soul Train theme song, Martin started his long-running career right here in Philly in 1959. Through Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble’s Philadelphia International Records, Martin helped to establish the soulful Philadelphia Sound, earning him his moniker, “Grandaddy of R&B and soul music.”

Throughout his career, Martin teamed up with major artists like Whitney Houston, Dusty Springfield the Bee Gees and Lou Rawls. He even gave Patricia Holte-Edwards her stage name: Patti LaBelle.

Publicist Belinda Foster addressed Martin’s death via a statement:

“Through his gift in arranging music, he has birthed hit records that have risen to the occasion to become timeless classics. His warm smile, kind heart, and passion for creating music shine on in our memories of Mr. Bobby Martin. He will forever be the Maestro of the Philadelphia Sound to all who knew him well.”

At the time of his death, Martin was working on a compilation of previously unheard Philadelphia Soul tracks while simultaneously starting his nonprofit, the Bobby Martin Foundation.

Funeral plans are currently forthcoming. In the meantime, play us out, Billy Paul:


Hillary Clinton to Discuss Syria on Eve of Benghazi Attacks at Constitution Center

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to Philly tomorrow, the eve of the anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Organizers expect Clinton to address the Syria situation during her Liberty Medal acceptance speech.

The one and only Jeb Bush will present Clinton with the award. Earlier this summer he said she “has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy” via a press release. Both Bush and Clinton, of course, are potential presidential hopefuls in 2016.

Fomer Liberty Medal recipients include presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Robert Gates. Last year’s winner was Muhammad Ali. But at least one conservative organization has a problem with this particular Clinton getting this recognition:

Don Adams, an organizer of the Independence Hall Foundation, said in an email to POLITICO that the group’s mission is to “seek to promote the ideals of the United States as embodied in its founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We recognize and honor Independence Hall as the physical and symbolic foundation of the American nation.”

“To give her a liberty medal on the eve of the Benghazi attack is an affront to the victims, it’s an affront to the American people. Frankly, it’s a sheer disgrace,” Adams told POLITICO.

Clinton’s talk will kick off at 7 p.m. at the Constitution Center. [Fox]

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