6 Questions With Summer Fiction’s Bill Ricchini

Photo by Niels Alpert

Photo by Niels Alpert

Archbishop Ryan and LaSalle alum Bill Ricchini has earned praise from Rolling Stone to NPR’s World Café to Vogue for his brand of wistful, thoughtful pop. With this week’s release of Himalayahis second record under the moniker Summer Fiction, Ricchini says his material is “more fully realized and ballsier, not afraid to be eccentric.” We caught up in advance of his record-release show this Saturday at Boot & Saddle to discuss the new tracks, recording in England and stalking Morrissey.

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Kate Gosselin Talks Summer Plans, Eating at Talula’s Garden and She Clears Up a Rumor About Being From Philly

Kate Gosselin takes a break to pose for a photo at Penn's Landing. | Photo by Alyssa Mutryn

Kate Gosselin takes a break to pose for a photo at Penn’s Landing. | Photo by Alyssa Mutryn

Over the weekend, dozens of TLC stars were in town for TLC’s first summer block party event at Penn’s Landing. Among those who showed up was Kate Gosselin and her 14-year-old twin daughters Mady and Cara. We got a chance to sit down for a chat with Gosselin. She shared anecdotes about raising eight kids in the public eye, how she spends most of her days at Target, and how she wishes she could visit Philly more often.

You live in Pennsylvania. Do you come to Philadelphia often?
Every once in a while, I’m not here often. I usually stay within a 5-mile radius of my house, but occasionally I do different things down here. Just to clear up the rumor: Everyone says I am from Philadelphia, but I’m not. I live in Hershey, PA. Philly is the next big city, so everyone just says that.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Philly? A favorite store?
I don’t know all that is available in Philly. There is nothing in my area, so I don’t get out enough to have a favorite restaurant. I am usually at Target or the grocery store. That’s the truth. But, when I do get to Philly, it is very beautiful, and I should come more, because it is right in my backyard.

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INTERVIEW: Yoko Ono

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Next month, Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, will debut an exhibit of artworks by John Lennon. Curated by his wife Yoko Ono, “The Art of John Lennon” comprises limited edition prints adapted from the “Imagine” singer’s original drawings—from his iconic pencil-scribbled self portraits, to whimsical, comic book-like illustrations with sayings like, “He tried to consult the stars, but no one returned his calls.”

“The Art of John Lennon” is a traveling exhibit created by Ono around 15 years ago with the intent of not only sharing her husband’s work with the masses, but to support local nonprofits. In this case, Ocean Galleries requests that guests donate $5 to see the exhibit, which will be given to Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

I chatted with Ono this week in anticipation of the exhibit. She shared anecdotes behind some of the works in the exhibit, told me a funny story about Philly, and opened up about falling in love with Lennon’s music again after all these years.

Let’s talk about this exhibit coming to Ocean Galleries. Why is it important for you to exhibit John’s work in small galleries like this across the country? 

I really think that it’s very important—even if it’s in a very small space … because it has a power and that power you’re going to get anywhere.

How did you go about selecting the pieces that would appear in the exhibit? 
In the beginning—15 years ago when it was starting—I [chose based on] what hit me the most. And then, gradually, I realized that each one was hitting me very strongly. I started to get into his work more. Now, I really feel that each one is so special. So I rotate them: This time I show some things, next year I’ll show something different.

Photo courtesy of Yoko Ono

John Lennon’s Let’s Have a Dream. | Courtesy of Yoko Ono

One of my favorite pieces is Let’s Have a Dream (right). What’s the story behind that sketch?
John was really getting into the family scene. He was really getting into [his son] Sean, actually. I was surprised at how he felt so strongly connected with Sean. Maybe in some ways, subconsciously, he knew he wasn’t going to have much time with us. I don”t know. But there was that feeling.

I also like On Cloud Nine (below, right), which pictures the two of you naked sitting on a cloud. Nudity was a recurring theme in your works and activism. Why? 
It has to do with softness and the fragility of human beings.

How did John’s work influence the art you were making? 
I was doing my artwork for about 30 years before I met him. I was eight years older than him … I was very much deep into my own artwork, and I think that there were a lot of technical things I knew … So there was more giving than taking.

So he was more influenced by you?
I don’t think so. That’s another thing that was very interesting: He was an artist before I met him—he started when he was 9. He was very good, and extremely different from my kind of work. In a way, we didn’t really influence each other, but we loved each other, which helped in a way. … You know what I think: We were in Japan together, and I think he was influenced more by classic Japanese paintings.

John Lennon's On Cloud Nine. | Courtesy of Yoko Ono

John Lennon’s On Cloud Nine. | Courtesy of Yoko Ono

You guys met in an art gallery, right? Can you take me back to that moment?
[Singing] We met in an art gallery … When he came in, he was looking around, but not expressing his emotions so much. When he went up to see a [canvas on the ceiling], he went all the way up the ladder and saw it and came down. He said, “Hmm,” and sort of gave a little smile and left—never explaining how he thought about it. Later, on a TV show, he said, [imitating Lennon’s voice] “Well, you know, I saw this thing and I didn’t like it.” So  he felt something, but he was too shy to tell me about it at the time.

There are a lot of themes of peace and love in John’s art. How do you think his images speak to what’s happening now in the world, especially in places like Ferguson and Baltimore? 
He was so upset about people killing each other and hurting each other. … He would have hated what’s going on now in the world.

What are your thoughts?
Ditto. I’m with him, okay? … We tried hard to bring peace and a better world. And we still do. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.

Do you have any memories of Philadelphia?
Yes. It’s so funny: John was in L.A. and I was in New York, and they wanted me to come to Philadelphia to do a show or something. I went with a very attractive, tall girl, who was my assistant at the time. And she had glasses on. Everybody went up to her thinking it was John. She said, “I don’t look like a guy, do I?” She was a little bit offended. [Laughs]

Do you have a favorite John and Yoko song? 
Any song that John wrote—especially when it was about us—I love very much. I used to have favorites, but now I’m starting to listen to his songs more … and I’m starting to like all of them, really. … I didn’t usually like to listen to John’s songs. It reminded me of John not being here, but I started to listen to them because I had to, because of business. Then I started to really like them.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Ten years is a very long time these days. … In 10 years, maybe we’ll all be moths, or something. [Laughs]

It seems like you work really hard to preserve John’s legacy. How do you want to be remembered?
I don’t know. … I don’t know how people see me. I have no idea. I’m more concerned about John’s legacy, because he’s not here. I’m the only one who can work on it.

“The Art of John Lennon” will be on display at Ocean Galleries for a limited time only, from June 18th to 22nd. For more information on that and special events around the exhibit, go here. Check out more works from the exhibit below. 



6 Questions for Podcasting Sensation Sarah Koenig

Sarah Koenig | Courtesy of X

Sarah Koenig | Photo by Elise Bergerson

Serial was a riveting, record-breaking, 12-part podcast series that re-investigated the murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of the crime, but he has always insisted he is innocent.

As a fan, I’m in awe of the show’s reporting, which revealed deep flaws in the criminal justice system, as well as its deft storytelling that hooked listeners.

As a journalist, I have questions: Has Serial changed podcasting forever? Does its success mean all the wonderful things I want it to mean for investigative reporting? And on the flip side, was it worth it to reexamine a murder case if it wasn’t obvious in the end whether Syed did it?

In advance of Serial creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder‘s live presentation Thursday night at the Kimmel Center (details here), I interviewed Koenig. Our questions have been paraphrased her responses have been edited lightly for clarity.

Ticket: Serial was the most popular podcast in the world. Now that some time has passed, why do you think it caught fire?

Koenig: We had no idea why, we had like no idea, and now with a little bit of time, we’ve kind of started to think about what just happened and why did that just happen. And I think it’s a bunch of things. It’s funny, none of the elements that we did are new, you know what I mean? To re-investigate a murder case is not a new idea. A serial is not a new idea. Podcasts are not new. But there was something about the combination of all the elements that we chose to put together in one medium that felt really new.

And I think people weren’t used to hearing journalism in that form, in a sort of serialized audio podcast where you had to stick with it week to week, where I was a very strong narrator, so I’m leading you through almost like a character. And I think all of that felt new and I think that’s what was interesting for people. And then crime stories are unfortunately very, very popular for people, which I also weirdly had not understood going in. I didn’t get that, oh, it’s a murder story and people are going to be interested. I didn’t foresee that. Because I’m an idiot [laughs]. Read more »

The Interview: Philly-Born Opera Great Eric Owens

The Philly native turned bass-baritone opera great has performed in concert halls the world over. This month he returns to star in Don Carlo at the Academy of Music. Opens April 24th. 

Eric OwensGive us your Philly bio.
Born and raised in Mount Airy. Went to Central, then Temple and the Curtis Institute of Music. And Settlement Music School. So my connection is not at all tangential.

Why opera?
I started out with piano and oboe, but I had been a fan of opera for quite some time, since I was eight or nine—just listening to it on LPs. I saw Tosca at the Met at 16, and opera won the battle.

I know you’ve performed at the Met, Carnegie Hall, throughout Europe. Any favorite houses?
Well, actually, the Academy of Music. It’s the oldest continuously operating opera house in the country. It’s just beautiful.

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Our Chat With Super Cute Out Actor/Director Michael Urie

Michael Urie

Michael Urie had just graduated Juilliard when he was offered a starring role in Brian Sloan‘s new play, WTC View, which chronicled the life of a young gay man named Eric living in New York City in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. It was 2003, only two years after the towers fell. To say the play was a risk is an understatement. Yet, Urie not only took on the part in the play, but also in the 2005 movie adaptation of Sloan’s work.

“It was interesting,” Urie told me as we chatted about his role in the play-turned-film. “It was a beautiful way to revisit those weeks after 9/11 because the play is a microcosm of New York in late-September 2001. The city became very much a city of familiarity. Normally, in New York, people don’t talk to strangers, and, if you have to, you deal with people, but people aren’t outgoing or friendly without a need to be. But in those weeks after 9/11, people became protective of each other. In New York specifically, everyone was talking about the same thing. We became a closer-knit group.” Read more »

INTERVIEW: Andy Cohen On Teresa Giudice, the Passing of Joan Rivers and How His Dog Opened Him Up to Dating

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Shutterstock.com

Andy Cohen, host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens: Live and maestro of the “Real Housewives” franchises, releases his second book today, cheekily titled The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year. We rang him up to chat about his latest literary effort, his emotional bond with soon-to-be-jailed Teresa Giudice, dealing with big egos and rumors of a possible “Housewives” series set in Philadelphia.

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INTERVIEW: Boyhood Director Richard Linklater

Writer/Director Richard Linklater has released a steady stream of critically adored indie films since 1988’s It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, but it’s taken the Texan much longer to connect with larger audiences. He doesn’t move in grand plot schemes or subversive genre machinations, his films are content to spend their time exploring lengthy, engrossing philosophical discussions between protagonists—be they young, yet-to-be-lovers in Before Sunrise, an animated character exploring a dream world in Waking Life, or an undercover cop in the near future who tries a new drug and begins to unravel in A Scanner Darkly.

His new film, Boyhood, takes the idea of time passing (another frequent obsession in his work) and actually builds it into the fabric of the film. The result, shot over 12 years, begins with a 6-year-old protagonist and follows him through the day he leaves home for college. It is easily one of the best films of the year. He spoke with us about his body of work, his life outside filmmaking, and the female protagonist with whom he most identifies.

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GIRL TALK: Ross Mathews On the Future of His Talk Show, Favorite Red Carpet Moments, and Wedding Plans With Salvadore

ross matthews

I had a quick chat with television personality Ross Mathews yesterday afternoon while he was in a car driving from New York City to the airport. He’s currently making the media rounds to chat about his involvement with Pennsylvania-based company OraQuick, the oral, in-home HIV-test that’s changed the way we know our status by giving results in 20 minutes—in the privacy of our homes.

I’ve always admired Mathews as an out-and-proud gay man who really seems to be living his dream—and he seems so grateful. As you probably know, he got his start as “Ross the Intern” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. From there he moved on to become a regular correspondent on the show before getting in good with Chelsea Handler, who put him on Chelsea Lately as a regular—amazingly quick-witted—roundtable guest. Today he’s the host of his own talk show, Hello Ross, on E!, and the best-selling author of Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence.

During our conversation, I asked him about all that, if the rumors about his talk show getting axed are true, and if he’ll be following Chelsea to her new gig on Netflix.

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INTERVIEW: Michael Alig on Readjusting to Gay Life After Prison, Dealing With Murderer’s Remorse, and Crying Over Cronuts

george alley michael alig

Philly performance artist George Alley (left) interviews original Club Kid Michael Alig (right), who recently finished a 17-year prison term for the murder of Andre “Angel” Melendez.

Original Club Kid Michael Alig made a name for himself in the ’90s for his outrageous parties at the Limelight (that era’s answer to Studio 54) and in precarious, site-specific spaces, like subway trains and Burger King. He and his friends created a rebellious and self-expressive style and attitude that informed global nightlife in the late ’80s and early ’90s. His personal story was immortalized in the book Disco Bloodbath, which was later turned into the successful 2003 movie Party Monster, written by Club Kid co-founder and Alig’s best friend James St. James. Alig was recently released from prison after serving 17 years for manslaughter for the death and dismemberment of Andre “Angel” Melendez, Alig’s friend and drug dealer.

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