Muhammad Ali speaks at an anti-war rally at the University of Chicago on May 11, 1967.
On June 7th, four days after Muhammad Ali passed, I was on Facebook when I saw it: a meme posing as a promotional ad for a fictional fight in heaven (“Holy Fighting Championship”) between recently deceased MMA fighter Kimbo Slice and American icon Muhammad Ali atop a set of heavenly clouds. Billed as “Rumble at the Pearly Gates,” it was your typical (knee-)jerk internet hot-take for a laugh; the two prized fighters preparing to duke it out in the type of “What if?” motif usually reserved for dead hours on sports talk radio and Marvel Comics.
Both men were framed in a heavenly glow: Ali with his gloved fists raised and at the ready, and Slice with his long, languid limbs hanging like loose wires at his side; heaven’s pearly gates cast open wide behind them. Read more »
Willie L. Williams,, then Los Angeles Police Chief, in his office on March 30, 1995.
Funeral services for former Police Commissioner Willie Williams will be held this weekend in North Philadelphia, according to a statement from the Philadelphia Police Department. Read more »
Photo by Bebeto Matthews/AP
The high-pitched chime of Mister Softee’s ice cream truck is one of the first signs that summer has reached Philadelphia. The upbeat, instantly recognizable notes awaken the streets of the city and remind us that there’s life to be lived outside. Young kids run out of their homes, demanding a few buck from their parents for a chocolate-and-vanilla swirl.
The famous jingle was born in Philly, from the mind of Les Waas. He created the tune in 1960 for a Mister Softee’s radio ad, not knowing it was bound for fame. It was adopted as the song for Mister Softee’s trucks and is still in use across the nation almost 60 years later. Mister Softee’s has more than 600 trucks that span 15 states, as well as a franchise in China.
Waas died on April 19that the age of 94, reportedly of pneumonia. Read more »
Willie Williams. Photos | Philadelphia Police Department
Sylvester Johnson‘s memories of Willie Williams stretch back 50 years, to a time when both men were young Philly cops, working for a Police Department that wasn’t exactly bending over backward to create opportunities for African-Americans.
The two men lived around the corner from each other. When promotional exams rolled around, they huddled together and studied, hoping like hell they’d do well enough to have a crack at moving up a rank. Williams climbed the ranks a little faster than Johnson, but didn’t forget his friend. “He was the one who made me a captain, and then made me an inspector,” Johnson said. “He was a mentor to me, and to a lot people.”
Johnson rummaged through these and other memories on Wednesday afternoon, just hours after he learned that Williams had died in Atlanta at age 72, following a lengthy illness. Williams was a trailblazer who will go down in history as the first African-American man to serve as police commissioner in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Read more »
Artist Joseph Tiberino outside of The Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum. Photo courtesy of Phil Sumpter.
Philadelphia artist Joseph Tiberino passed away on Friday, February 19, 2016 in his Powelton Village compound, an oasis of artistry nestled in West Philadelphia. He was 77.
The local art legend was born to Ernest and Cecelia Tiberino on July 8, 1938, in the Kensington area of Philadelphia.
After attending Saint Boniface Parish School and Saint Joseph’s Prep, Tiberino entered the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now the University of the Arts), where he cultivated a passion for mural painting, studying the works of Michelangelo to Diego Rivera.
On a fateful evening in the early 1960s, Joe’s artistic fervor further prospered when he met fellow artist Ellen Powell at her going away party after finishing her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
“My father decided that night that was the woman he wanted to spend his life with,” said the couple’s eldest son, artist Raphael Tiberino. Read more »
Harry Jay Katz in an undated file photo. | Scavullo
Harry Jay Katz — the wealthy Philadelphia playboy whose reputation as a libertine and raconteur brought him both attention and much criticism during his heyday — has died, according to reports. He was 75.
His biography defies a conventional obituary.
Katz was an Army veteran and a Penn graduate, the father of four children and a nightclub owner — he re-opened the Erlanger Theater at 21st and Market streets in the late 1960s — as well as a publisher, broadcaster, columnist, restaurateur and (perhaps above all) a great embracer of celebrity, known for friendships with Maria Shriver, Frank Stallone, and more. He’s also remembered for his failed attempt to open a Playboy Club in Philadelphia.
“That’s the image Katz has painstakingly created. The bon vivant. The last boulevardier. The man about town. Philly’s connection to the stars,” Stephen Rodrick wrote in a devastating 1997 profile of Katz for Philadelphia magazine.
But, Rodrick wrote, there was also a dark side, much of it involving his treatment of women: Read more »
Robert Chartoff, the Oscar-winning producer of Rocky and a slew of other iconic films from the mid-’70s and ’80s, passed away yesterday at his home in Santa Monica after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.
Chartoff, a New York native, began his film career in the 1960s producing films like Point Blank, The Split and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? The last of which was nominated for nine Oscars. Rocky came out in 1976, and he won a Best Picture Oscar for it the following year with his partner Irwin Winkler. He also got Best Picture nods for Raging Bull and 1983’s The Right Stuff.
Check out video from his Rocky win in the video below. He’s the guy to the right of Stallone.
Legendary blues man B.B. King passed away this morning at the age of 89. You’ll find moving profiles on him all around the web, including this one from The New York Times, which chronicles his life “from the cotton fields of Mississippi” through a career as one of the defining voices and guitarists in the history of recorded music. He was an original crossover artist, “marrying country blues to big-city rhythms” and eventually making his way to Philadelphia to tinker with TSOP with producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. King worked with them in 1974 on an album called Friends. That’s where I’ll leave you today, with with a catchy instrumental track from the album called “Philadelphia,” a nice blend of King’s wailing guitar and the unmistakeable funk of TSOP. R.I.P.
“He’s a character out of a Tom Wolfe story.” That’s how a friend of mine describes Craig Drake, who died on March 15th at age 79. The metaphor is apparently apt: One of Drake’s oldest friends, speaking of him at a packed memorial service yesterday at The Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, also compared Drake’s life to a novel, with one important caveat: “It would all be true.”
Read more »
British singer-songwriter Joe Cocker has passed away at the age of 70. The Huffington Post reports that he died after a long battle with lung cancer. His rep, Sony Music, released the following statement:
John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on December 22, 2014 after a hard fought battle with small cell lung cancer. Mr. Cocker was 70 years old.
Joe Cocker was born 5/20/1944 in Sheffield, England where he lived until his early 20’s. In 2007 he was awarded the OBE by the Queen of England.
His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day. Joe created nearly 40 albums and toured extensively around the globe.