The Sad, Sad Auction of Monica Lewinsky’s Lingerie

Bidding on Lot #375 closes at 8 p.m. today. What’s up for auction? “An Extraordinary Lot of Items From Monica Lewinsky — Used by Kenneth Starr in His Case for Impeachment Against Bill Clinton” in 1998.

The story of these goods has many plot twists and surprises. I usually love surprises, but in this case I’m just sad — and I don’t know which is sadder: 1) that her items would be auctioned off at all, or 2) that the anticipated selling price was $50,000, but the current bid is just $8,639 and barely budging with each (scarce) new bidder. And here’s a sad, sad complication: The items have been in the possession of Kathlyn Bleiler, the ex-wife of the high-school teacher with whom Monica was also having an affair. To refresh your 1998 memories (yes, Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” was at the top of the charts, confirming once again that truth is stranger than fiction), Monica had befriended the wife of the other married man she was getting busy with and bestowed upon her gifts like a worn extra-large negligée and a large navy blue velour tracksuit. (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.)

Read more »

Guess How Much Money We Still Owe for Building Veterans Stadium

For its first 10 years, Veterans Stadium was, as its architect called it, the “Crown Jewel of Philadelphia”—hyperbole, perhaps, but at least it could stand as the crown jewel of Pattison Avenue. Then, as stadiums do, the Vet became stale, yesterday’s state-of-the-art, and insufficient to the demands of the Phillies, Eagles, and their fans. Thirty-two years after it was constructed, the Vet was demolished, relegated to a place of nostalgia and perpetually written about as a place people associated with “fond memories.”

But the wistful can find comfort here: The Vet is still very much alive—on the city’s debt service list.

Nearly 50 years after the initial $25 million dollar bond was approved in 1964, the city is still paying for the construction of a stadium that no longer even exists, making Veterans Stadium one of two of the oldest debts on the books, according to available bond data and interviews with the Controller’s Office. The other debt, also wrapped in the same $162 million loan authorized on the 1964 ballot, is the SEPTA expansion of the El to the Northeast and the Broad Street Line to Pattison—constructed to service the Vet.

The remaining balance on the Vet has been paid down to $183,000, and the city still owes more than $1 million on the subway expansion. Both projects were financed with 30-year bonds, putting them about 20 years behind repayment schedule, but have been refinanced multiple times, most recently in 2012, allowing the city to defer payment. Bond data indicate that the Vet will finally be paid off sometime in 2014, and the subway not until at least 2022.

“It’s not typical, but it’s not unusual” says Rick Eckstein, a professor of sociology at Villanova who co-authored the 2003 book Private Stadiums, Public Dollars with Temple professor Kevin J. Delaney. For example, after Pittsburgh demolished Three Rivers Stadium in 2000 after 30 years of use, it was still paying off the initial debt by the time the Pirates had moved to PNC Park and the Steelers to Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, says Eckstein, both aligned themselves with a familiar theme and chronology of American stadiums: Multipurpose stadiums were built in the 1970s, then demolished at the turn of this century in favor of stadiums that were sport-specific, catering to an illusion of economic development that has been, says Eckstein, widely debunked.

The problem is that the stadiums aren’t self-supporting, so team owners have to subsidize their construction with bonds that are repaid with public subsidies. And the Vet was financed multiple times, first in 1964 and again in the early 1970s (for reasons that neither the bond nor City Council explained), making it difficult, if not impossible, to determine which refinancing pertains to which bond.

“When issuing a bond to build a facility, the debt payment on that bond should not outlast the facility,” said Harvey Rice, the deputy controller. When asked why it happened in this case, Rice replied, “I don’t know. But the treasurer should be able to tell you that.”

The Office of the City Treasurer would not provide data or comment on how much money has ultimately been paid on the Vet since its original 1964 financing.

Smooth Jazz Makes Philly Comeback, Proves It’s Immortal

Do you have a place in your heart that’s been empty for five years, one that can only be filled by Dave Koz, David Sanborn and Kenny G? If so, this is your lucky week.

That’s because that much-maligned yet very resilient musical genre, Smooth Jazz, has mounted a comeback, at least here in Philadelphia. The Inquirer reported over the weekend that WJJZ, the Smooth Jazz channel that had gone dark in 2008, was coming back, and the music began playing again on Monday. Michael Tozzi, the station’s longtime programming director and on-air personality, has returned to the fold as well. Read more »

12 Great Moments at the Penn Relays

Today, the first guns will go off for the Penn Relays, which each year draw the country’s top high school, college, professional, and masters track and field athletes to Franklin Field. Penn, considered one of the great incubators of the “relay” as a regular track and field event, has built an illustrious tradition through this competition over the decades. Here are some of the most memorable moments over the years.

1895: Just-dedicated Franklin Field hosts the inaugural Penn Relays Carnival. At the time, there were just bleachers, and no locker rooms. Tents were set up on the perimeter of the track, and athletes ran on a dirt-and-cinder track. Harvard beat Penn in the mile relay to win the first championship.

1914: The British invasion. Oxford, the first international team in the Relays, joins the four-by-mile, entering future world record-holder Norman Taber, and the reigning Olympic champion, Arnold Jackson. Penn hangs on in the mud and rain—still no AstroTurf—but Oxford breaks free in the last few strides to win.

1928: After a week of heavy rain in Philadelphia (the most dramatic sports moments are always in the rain, aren’t they?), the south wall facing the track literally falls under the weight of fans trying to watch Charley Paddock win a 175-yard sprint. Paddock, who was later portrayed by Dennis Christopher in Chariots of Fire, hurdled piled bricks and fans to set the world record. (Worth noting: The 175-yard sprint isn’t really a thing, so the story is more impressive than the record.)

1962: Women compete for the first time in the 100-meter dash. The next year, a female Olympic development team competes, and high-school girls are added (in small doses, of course) in 1964.

1967: A synthetic track finally replaces cinder blocks and mud. Unsurprisingly, but still historically, everyone goes much faster, and a handful of records are set. AstroTurf isn’t laid until 2004.

1968: Villanova mile-relay anchor Larry James runs 440 meters in under 44 seconds for the first time during his leg of the one-mile relay. He went on to break a 400 meter record at the 1968 Olympics, where he is also remembered for his and his teammates’ Black Power demonstrations.

2001: Michael Johnson—then the “world’s fastest man—has his final race on U.S. soil. It was just one leg of his “Golden Victory Lap Tour.” Johnson remains, to this day, perhaps the only track and field star famous/cocky enough to arrange a “farewell tour” for himself.

2002: Alan Webb, then renowned as the fastest-ever high-school miler, runs his first college race ever. It’s not pretty. Webb is Michigan’s anchor in the distance medley relay, and after the opening runner falls 10 seconds behind the leader, all hope is gone. In the end, the winner is Arkansas. (Oof). Webb transferred a couple years later to run professionally, and eventually set the grown-up American mile record, too.

2002: That same year, at the other end of the age spectrum, 100-year-old Masters champion Everett Hosack breaks the 100-meter dash record for 75-plus-year-olds by four seconds, finishing in 43 seconds. An Inky article recalls how other runners in the same race “bounced around … and stretched to stay loose. Hosack sat on the back of a golf cart … [and] did knee lifts for stretching while sitting.”

2002: After winning five Olympic medals at the 2000 Summer Games, Marion Jones and her Olympic Development team easily win the 1600-meter relay. Five years later, of course, the International Olympic Committee would strip Jones of those medals after they found she’d been doping.

2007: As four teams battle neck-and-neck-and-neck-and-neck for the high-school boys’ 4 by 400-meter championship, pandemonium ensues in the bleachers. It was, as race director Dave Johnson describes it, “the loudest race ever,” with fans drowning out the announcer after just the first 50 meters.

2010: Usain Bolt runs the anchor leg of the four by 100-meter relay, his first race in the U.S. since breaking the 100- and 200-meter world records in Berlin the previous summer. The crowd goes wild, and he finishes the leg in 8.79 seconds. As several high-school athletes recalled, “it was like we weren’t even there.”

[Photo: Aspen Photo/]

Let the Philly Accent Fade Away

Historically, Philadelphia has had a bad case of cainophobia. Whether we’re talking about building a highway or bumping up trash day, Philadelphians generally don’t react to change too well. “It’s my city,” we say, “I like it the way it is.” Reinvention, alteration—these things are a threat to the very identity of native Philadelphians everywhere. Progressives, generally speaking, we are not. Read more »

PA Senate Declares “Peeps Are the Best”

In case tax season has left you grumpy about the productivity of your tax dollars, buck up! Last Tuesday, at the Pennsylvania State Senate, which has been toiling away at liquor privatization and budgets lately, Senator Lisa Boscola issued a mood-lightening memorandum to her fellow senators:

“I intend to introduce a resolution in the near future to recognize the accomplishments of Just Born, Inc., on the 60th anniversary of the Marshmallow Peeps candy.” Read more »

Terry Gross: The Queen of “Like”

The first time I heard my father say it, I was seven years old. We were waiting for an elevator in New York, where we lived, when he dropped a casual, grammatically unnecessary “like” into a sentence that has otherwise been lost to history. Understand, I grew up in a household where saying “like” was a moral failing, a practice reserved only for the most helplessly vapid second-graders. The slip-up was a betrayal—as if I were raised strict kosher, only to catch him in the kitchen at midnight, preparing a BLT. Read more »

« Older Posts