In 2009, during his first term in the U.S. Senate, Bob Casey voted to allow guns on Amtrak trains. He was not a believer in gun control, and his votes showed it.
A little more than three years later, 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. In a matter of days, Casey flipped positions. The Democrat has since become a gun control advocate. He was the first to introduce gun control legislation after the massacre in Orlando.
Sen. Casey sat down with Philadelphia magazine on Friday for an interview about his reversal, his bill that would prohibit those convicted of hate crimes from buying guns, and the future of gun control measures in the Senate. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you come to change your stance on gun control?
In some ways, it happened over a three- or four-day period — from Friday to Tuesday. That tragedy in Newtown changed my view forever.
It wasn’t just “How will you handle this issue going forward,” but: “How will you vote?” At that point and time, I had been in the Senate six years, we never really had significant gun votes. We maybe had 1 or 2, but they weren’t three major up-or-down votes like we had with the military-style weapons, the clips/magazines and the background checks — they were the major three, in the spring of ’13. Read more »
When you look good, you feel good — that’s a fact. And when you feel good, you’re more likely to confidently walk into your job interview and crush it. The innovative people that run the Paschalville Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia know the value of this, and are making resources available to residents of this Southwest Philly neighborhood.
With 48 ties available in the ‘tiebrary,’ members of the Free Library of Philadelphia can check out the job interview’s most important accessory for up to three weeks at a time, just like one might check out, say, a book. This resource is an invaluable addition to the Paschalville neighborhood, which, TakePart reports, has high rates of poverty, unemployment, and ‘returning citizens’—ex-offenders recently released from prison. The tiebrary, which Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted about, is just one of the library’s many resources aimed at helping neighborhood residents break into the workforce. Read more »
Jennifer Shahade is a woman of many talents.
The Rittenhouse Square area resident is not just a two-time United States women’s chess champion and the author of books like Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport and Play Like a Girl. She’s also a professional poker player, and a pretty successful one at that.
Shahade, who went to Masterman High School, will be appearing at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City this weekend as part of the PokerStars Run It Up Rumble. The event features a $30 buy-in no-limit tournament at the casino, and a $10 buy-in no-limit event online across the state. Shahade will be at a breakfast Meet & Greet at Resorts along with Jason Somerville, Vanessa Selbst, Barry Greenstein, Chris Moneymaker and Liv Boeree.
Philadelphia magazine sat down with Shahade in Atlantic City last month to chat with her about poker, chess, Philadelphia and other topics. Read more »
Photo courtesy Brian Grubb
Danger Guerrero was a name you might know. No, not the Cuban League baseball player, but the writer for pop-culture site Uproxx. He’s done hundreds of posts there and written countless hilarious tweets. He’s one of the funnier writers working today. He’s also very popular: His post about Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow was shared more than 22,000 times.
Danger Guerrero was, obviously, an alias. And, in March, Guerrero revealed himself by writing: “My name is Brian Grubb. I am 33 years old. I am in a wheelchair.”
Grubb, grew up in Berks County and Allentown and went to Temple. He flunked out his first time. His second time, he did better in school — but fell off a loft bed one night and fractured the C4 vertebrae in his neck. But he eventually returned to the school, got his undergraduate degree and later graduated from Temple Law School.
I recently interviewed Grubb — who now lives in Allentown — about his former alias, his injury and how he became a writer.
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Judah Friedlander | Photo by Yoko Haraoka
Judah Friedlander is probably best known for his work on the television comedy 30 Rock, where he played the lazy, porn-loving skit writer Frank Rossitano. He’s also known for his signature disheveled look: bespectacled, unshaven and sporting a trucker hat with ever-changing messages on the front. But Friedlander has also morphed his look for roles such as the critically acclaimed American Splendor and The Wrestler, as well as for cameos in cult favorites including Zoolander, Wet Hot American Summer and Sharknado 2.
Friedlander explores another area of creative expression in his new book, If the Raindrops United: Drawings and Cartoons, published just last month. The 208-page book provides a window into the actor’s quirky, original brain. His previous book, a self-help karate manual titled How to Beat up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion, was written by his alter ego, the World Champ, whose specialty is deadpan narcissism with a touch of supremely inflated ego. The World Champ has been an integral part of the comic’s standup for years and talks like a twisted amalgam of comedian Steven Wright, boxer Muhammed Ali and martial artist Bruce Lee — a lethal blend of low-energy, raging confidence.
Friedlander is currently on tour doing standup and visits the Helium Club for a four-day run beginning this Wednesday. Friedlander says he plans on stopping by a table tennis club as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art while in town. (He’s a devotee of both ping pong and the visual arts.) We caught up by phone with the actor from his hotel in Buffalo to discuss 30 Rock, cartooning and his plans for taping his own comedy special next year.
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Tiny German dynamo Dr. Ruth Westheimer is as busy as ever in her 87th year. She comes to town next week to speak at the National Museum of American Jewish History for its annual Dreamers and Doers series. The therapist who made her reputation with frank talk about sex, still has plenty to say.
On Monday, Westheimer speaks about her two most recent books (she’s penned 37!): Her memoir, The Doctor is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life and Joie de Vivre, and her children’s picture book about courage, Leopold.
On Tuesday, Westheimer attends the preview of the play about her life, Becoming Dr. Ruth at Walnut Street Theatre. It follows her life beginning when she fled the Nazis and Frankfurt at age 10. Taking part in Kindertransport, the evacuation of Jewish children to Switzerland, she never saw her family again. The play follows her as she gets older and joins the Haganah (Israel’s freedom fighters), through her years in Paris, marriages, children, single-motherhood and life in New York City. Westheimer will participate in a talk-back live session that follows the show. Get your sex questions ready!
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Photo by Laura Domela
After I posted a list of the “must-see” fall concerts, a friend of mine in San Francisco let me know about a big one I had missed: Singer Storm Large and her band Le Bonheur perform this Thursday to the Prince Theater’s Rrazz Room. My friend also sent a link to a video of her meltingly beautiful rendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Who was this 46-year-old, six-foot blonde, this crazy cocktail of open-heart, punk rage and mischievous stage banter? He also sent me a picture of the massive tattoo arcing across her back in big, gang-style letters saying, “Lover.” More on that later.
Portland-based Storm Large must have heard the phrase “Living Large” more times than she can stand, but her gypsy life has indeed been lived in capital letters. In her memoir, Crazy Enough (2012) — based on her one-woman show of the same title — she chronicles her early years in a family at the mercy of a mother suffering acute mental health problems. Large wondered if she, too, would become afflicted — one of her mother’s doctors told her it was inevitable (It wasn’t). After high school, she moved to New York and struggled her way through the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Later Large journeyed through hyper-sexuality and heroin addiction, all the while hanging on to her music like a lifeline. After Large ended up in Portland, where she and her rock band, The Balls, gained a significant following, she took a gamble with her credibility and became a contestant in 2006 on the reality CBS TV show Rock Star: Supernova. She didn’t win, but attracted a lot of enthusiastic attention. In 2010, Large began touring with Portland’s elegant, glamour lounge band, Pink Martini, while continuing with her solo career.
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Image by Paul Heartfield
John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, the king of the punks, lit the match for cultural revolution at age 20 when he penned the lyrics to the Sex Pistols iconic 1976 single, “Anarchy in the U.K.” and howled: “I am an antiChrist. I am an anarchist. Don’t know what I want. But I know how to get it.”
The Sex Pistols took on England’s Houses of Parliament, its monarchy and the establishment by speaking for the less fortunate who were stagnating in a quagmire of economic hopelessness and poverty. Johnny Rotten was hailed by young Brits as a cultural revolutionary. He was happy to provoke, make scenes, throw some punches and thumb his nose at the rules of convention. The MI5 declared the Pistols “subversive,” and they were banned from performing live anywhere in the U.K. But after only 26 months together, this seminal band was over. (Julien Temple’s documentary, The Filth and the Fury, chronicles the band’s chaos-filled rise and fall, including the fatal overdose by Sid Vicious.)
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The contrast is difficult to get my brain around. I’m talking with the well-mannered and apparently highly responsible Cheryl Della Pietra, who at 46, is a mom, wife, writer, copy editor at Us Weekly, Penn grad, and (full disclosure) former Philadelphia magazine intern. She’s so nice. But the stories she’s telling me are so naughty. It’s hard to believe that this novelist is the same woman who made a drug buy for cultural icon and creator of “gonzo” immersive journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, her boss for five months back in 1992. Della Pietra also romanced a Hollywood A-list actor, shot pistols with Thompson while high, consumed staggering amounts of cocaine, shrooms, and other illicit drugs, not to mention drinking enough alcohol to drown a sailor.
Gonzo Girl (Simon and Schuster/Touchstone) opens with a tense scene during her actual weekend “try-out” when she visited Thompson at his ranch outside Aspen, Colorado. You know you’re in for a delectably bad-behaviored tale with phrases such as: “The tray of coke never really settles on the table. It just keeps getting passed around like it’s crowdsurfing at a Hole concert,” and “Despite the substances and the guns, I’ve never felt unsafe. Until this moment.”
But yes, it’s all there in the Connecticut-based author’s first novel, which chronicles the adventures of her first literary job out of college. She’ll be reading from it at St. Joseph’s University on October 27th at 6:30 pm, and Barnes & Noble, Rittenhouse Square on October 29th at 7 pm.
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The good news for all you reggae fans is that Philly welcomes Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Bob Marley’s second son, Damian “Jr. Gong,” Bob’s youngest son, and Jo Mersa, his grandson, this Saturday as they kick off their Catch a Fire tour at the Mann Center’s Reggae Fest. The bummer is we don’t get even more of the Marleys: No Ziggy, Julian, Ky-mani.
It’s notable that those Marley men are now all older than their father was when he died in 1981 at age 36. Stephen is 43 and Damian is 37. Yet, Bob Marley’s musical presence and message of love and tolerance in the world seem as in demand as ever. (Forbes magazine’s 2014 ranking puts Bob Marley behind only Michael Jackson and Elvis in postmortem earning power. And only the Marley estate’s income is on the rise.). I spoke with Stephen, an eight-time Grammy winner, over the phone to talk about Saturday’s upcoming show and his impressions of Philadelphia.
And yes, it did sound like I was talking to Bob himself. Their voices are eerily similar. And yes, he did address me as “mon” a few times.
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