Frank Rizzo Returns in Remastered 1978 Documentary

Still images from the 1978 movie "Amateur Night at City Hall: The Frank L. Rizzo Story."

Scenes from the 1978 movie “Amateur Night at City Hall: The Story of Frank L. Rizzo.” (Courtesy of Robert Mugge.)

Frank Rizzo is having a moment.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia magazine contributor Jake Blumgart explored the sense of deja vu that people felt while watching Donald Trump‘s bombastic and routinely offensive presidential campaign grow increasingly popular across the country, and found echoes of Rizzo in Trump’s schtick — tough-guy talk and populist messaging that resonates with working class and middle class whites who want a leader who will just tell it like it is.

The New York Times made a similar Rizzo-Trump connection earlier this week. And now Rizzo’s posthumous role in this election season is going to take on another dimension with the looming re-release of a long-forgotten documentary from his heyday. Director Robert Mugge filmed the stellar Amateur Night at City Hall: The Story of Frank L. Rizzo in 1977, when Rizzo was in his second term as mayor, and the city was as divided over Rizzo’s character as voters are today over Trump’s.

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Flyers, Philly Fans Embarrass Selves in Playoff Loss

Members of the Philadelphia Flyers Ice Crew pick up wristbands that were thrown onto the ice during the third period against the Washington Capitals in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.

Members of the Philadelphia Flyers Ice Crew pick up wristbands that were thrown onto the ice during the third period against the Washington Capitals in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.

The Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues once played a game on January 6th of 1972. The Flyers, an expansion squad in its fifth season, were two years away from the first of the franchise’s only two Stanley Cups. It was Fred Shero‘s first year as coach. The Flyers were ahead, 2-0, after two periods, when a riot broke out.

Blues coach Al Arbour — the third employed by St. Louis that season — chased after the ref toward the dressing room. He was complaining about the way the puck was dropped on a face-off earlier in the game. As he berated the ref in the exit runway, a fan reached over and poured a beer over Albour’s head. (Stadium beer was cheaper in those days.)

The incident is recalled in fantastic detail in Glen Macnow and Anthony L. Gargano’s The Great Philadelphia Fan Book. The authors even got Ed Snider to comment on the incident.

“Fans started cursing the Blues and throwing things,” he said. “Then Arbour reached over into the seats and some cop hit him over the head with a billy club. Well, that was it. It became instant mayhem.”

The Blues players rushed to the tunnel entrance, defending their coach. Led by Bob Plager, Blues players rushed into the stands and began fighting fans. One-hundred fifty police officers had to be called in to quell the mayhem. Blues defenseman John Arbour, no relation to the coach, needed 40 stitches. Three Blues players, and coach Arbour, were arrested.

“That was the worst case of police brutality I’ve ever seen or heard about,” Blues owner Sidney Salomon told the Daily News. “It was worse than the riot in Chicago at the convention.” Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo was his usual self: “This community will not tolerate hooliganism. We probably didn’t need our police officers in that situation. I believe our residents could have taken care of the matter on their own.”

Snider bailed the Blues players out of jail. As he told the authors of the book, he was angrier at the way his team reacted than with the fans. The Flyers gave up three goals in the third period and lost to the Blues, 3-2. “I was angry,” Snider said. “Not about the fight, so much as the game. Blowing a two-goal lead made me sick.” The embarrassing fight and loss were on Snider’s 39th birthday. Read more »

Donald Trump Is Frank Rizzo, Reborn

Frank Rizzo, 1968, and Donald Trump, 2016. Photographs by Bill Achatz and Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Frank Rizzo, 1968, and Donald Trump, 2016. Photographs by Bill Achatz and Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Rocco DiSipio is a small-business owner in a working-class neighborhood where times aren’t quite as good as they once were. He isn’t used to being interviewed by reporters, but it’s primary season, and journalists want to know what the man-on-the-street thinks of the brash conservative candidate who seems to do everything wrong — and keeps winning anyway.

“This election has some racism,” admits DiSipio, acknowledging that his candidate can be blunt, or worse. His pick doesn’t have the typical qualifications, either, but for DiSipio, that’s part of the appeal. “He’s going to stand behind his word if it kills him. He can flunk at it, but you can’t say he won’t try.” Read more »

From Stage to Screen: Actor Scott Greer to Play Frank Rizzo In Tigre Hill Film

Scott Greer in a publicity photo for Theatre Exile's production of Rizzo | Tigre Hill in a publicity photo

Scott Greer in a publicity photo for Theatre Exile’s production of Rizzo | Tigre Hill in a publicity photo

It’s been quite a week for Scott Greer, the 2014 Best of Philly Theater Talent. On Monday, a rare night off from his critically-acclaimed run as Frank Rizzo in Theatre Exile’s Rizzo, he accepted the Barrymore Award for Best Actor for his gripping work in The Whale, also a Theatre Exile production. Then came word that the rest of the run of Rizzo, which was already nearly impossible to get into, was completely and utterly sold out. And now, Greer tells us that he just signed on to play former Mayor Rizzo in American Zealot, filmmaker Tigre Hill’s biopic about legendary Philadelphia civil rights leader Cecil B. Moore. Read more »

REVIEW: Theatre Exile’s Rizzo

Photo by Paola Nogueras

Frank Rizzo (Scott Greer) and Marty Weinberg (Paul L. Nolan)| Photo by Paola Nogueras

A special theatrical alchemy happens when a great actor plays a bigger-than-life, flawed but charismatic personality. Think of Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane, Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry, and Robert Preston’s Harold Hill. A couple of years ago, Bryan Cranston won a Tony portaying one such figure from the real world — Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Opening of Theatre Exile’s Rizzo

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Last night was the long-anticipated opening of the play Rizzo from Theatre Exile [Read David Fox’s review of the play here]. The event drew lots of political powerhouses from years gone by like Frank Rizzo strategist Marty Weinberg as well as the current the Democratic contender for mayor, Jim Kenney. There were also family members in the audience, friends and people who weren’t fond of Rizzo on hand to see the show. Before the performance, there was a cocktail party down the street at the home of long-time theater supporters Pam and Gresham Riley, where author Sal Paolantonio, who wrote the book the play is based on, appeared. Also there was Joe Canuso, founding partner of Theatre Exile, and director of Rizzo.

Following the play, there was an after party held at The Plough & the Stars. Rizzo is running at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. through November 8.th I was glad to catch it last night; Scott Greer and the cast were amazing. Everyone I talked to really enjoyed it, and said it really captured the angry and morose Rizzo as he tried to change his personality, and run for a third term as Mayor of Philadelphia in the early ’90s before his untimely death.
Photos after the jump »

Papal Panic! Could the Pope’s Visit Be a Giant, Embarrassing Flop?

Pope Francis | giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com. Frank Rizzo | AP

Pope Francis | giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com. Frank Rizzo | AP

I’m starting to get a little worried about this papal visit.

I think it was a story in the Inquirer about gunmen on the Parkway during the outdoor Mass that got to me. Here’s what it said: “The most critical monitoring will likely come from snipers on the many rooftops lining the Parkway. Their job, frankly, is to spot trouble, not necessarily to shoot it … they’re the ones who pick up someone who’s moving in the wrong direction in the crowd or moving a little faster than they need — anything out of the ordinary, they’ll report from above.”

The speaker there is Steven Bucci, director of the Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. I find it kind of scary to think that becoming disoriented in the crowd or walking too fast could put a bead on my head. Then there was this, from Henry Willis of the nonprofit RAND Corporation, which according to the Inky also focuses on national security:

Events like a visit from the Pope can bring out all sorts of people, and you have to be concerned about security from everything from very purposeful malicious sophisticated threats to attackers who are upset or deranged individuals.

Welcome to Philadelphia, y’all! Read more »

You Can Own Guns Mayor Frank Rizzo Used to Own

Baby Hammerless .22 short caliber revolver previously owned by Frank Rizzo, via Stephenson's Auction

Baby Hammerless .22 short caliber revolver previously owned by Frank Rizzo, via Stephenson’s Auction

Stephenson’s Auction, a Southampton based auction house, is currently selling numerous firearms and Nazi war memorabilia at auction. Also included in this collection? Three pistols once owned by Mayor Frank Rizzo.

The guns come with certificates of authenticity that call Rizzo “A True Larger Than Life Legend in the History of a Great City.” They’re signed by Rizzo’s son, Frank Rizzo Jr., and were previously sold to a collector. Rizzo died in July 1991 while attempting another run for mayor.

Cindy Stephenson, who owns the auction house, told NBC 10 the guns came from the estate of a man who was “a big Rizzo admirer.” They certificates of authenticity came from a previous sale of the three guns. Read more »

Lynne Abraham: Can a Woman Win the Philadelphia Mayor’s Race?

Photograph by Colin Lenton

Photograph by Colin Lenton

It seems an unlikely thing to be doing with Lynne Abraham.

On a cool, breezy Friday in New York in December, we’re at the Frick, looking at paintings. Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid is a favorite of hers, and we gaze intently; it depicts a servant handing her lady a letter. Abraham points out the lady’s ambiguous expression, either worry or hope over the letter’s contents, and perhaps the servant has already read it — we don’t know. “Vermeer was a great master of light,” Abraham notes. Sunlight floods the lady’s writing desk and picks out her pearl earring, bathing the moment’s tension. “What’s the message she’s getting?” Read more »

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