One of Us: Bart Blatstein, Developer

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Bart Blatstein. But that’s not my legal name. Bart is short for Barton, but I haven’t used Barton since first grade, for obvious reasons.

I am a … real estate developer with few hobbies. My golf game is so bad that my hobby is real estate development. I’m the worst golfer at my golf club. They all laugh at me.

I bought my first property … on May 15, 1978 — a very small three-story rowhouse shell in Queen Village. It was the result of me not getting into medical school. I had to pursue something.

I live in … Montgomery County, but we’re moving back to Philly next year. We’re empty nesters, and it’s time to transition. Read more »

One of Us: Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Rufus Seth Broussard Williams. It’s a mouthful.

I go by “Seth” because … my parents always called me that. And “Rufus Doofus” is a tough one on the playground.

I grew up in … Cobbs Creek, West Philadelphia.

My relationship status is … divorced.

I started working … at age 11, packing bags at the A&P on Baltimore Avenue right outside Philadelphia.

I knew I wanted to be a lawyer when … medical school proved to be impossible. I got a medical discharge from West Point, because I was allergic to math and science. Read more »

One of Us: Eric Bazilian of the Hooters

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Eric Bazilian, which is apparently really hard to spell. I’ve gotten every imaginable permutation.

I am … a guy in a band.

I was born … at the University of Pennsylvania hospital, at 1:37 a.m. on July 21, 1953. I have four generations of connections to Penn: my grandfather, parents, me and my daughter went there, and my son is starting in the fall.

I live in … Wayne. And often in my car.

The most famous song I’m known for is … “One of Us,” hands down. I wrote it to impress my girlfriend, now my wife. I happened to be working with Joan Osborne at the time, and she wound up singing it. She was born to sing that song, and the song was born to give her a career. Read more »

One of Us: Ramona Africa, MOVE Member

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Ramona Africa. My mother named me Ramona, and Africa comes from my membership in MOVE. It symbolizes the origin of life, which is, of course, Africa.

I am a … committed revolutionary, which is not synonymous with violence in any way. It’s a commitment to putting things right.

I grew up in … West Philadelphia. I’ve lived in Philadelphia all my life. Now I live in Southwest Philadelphia.

My neighbors … love us. My brothers and sisters do work for them. We’re good neighbors. We cut their grass. We shovel their walkways. Read more »

One of Us: Dom Streater, Fashion Designer

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Dom Streater. It’s short for Dominique. Growing up, I had myriad nicknames: Domo, Domino, Domino Brown Sugar, Dom. And Dom was the one that stuck.

I am a … fashion and textile designer.

My childhood home was at … 58th and Chestnut in West Philadelphia.

These days, I live in … Francisville. At least, I think that’s what it’s called. There are new names for these neighborhoods every day. But I’m near 15th and Poplar.

My most closely guarded beauty secret is … coconut oil. I use it all over. It’s like nature’s miracle. Read more »

One of Us: Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Yannick Nézet-Séguin, since I was 16. I was born Yannick Séguin, but I decided to legally add my mother’s last name, Nézet, because we were the only family in North America with that name. And my mother is the only child of her family, so I wanted to make a future for that very strange name. People assume I am Egyptian or Hungarian or Turkish, but it is very plainly Celtic French.

My friends call me … Yannick. I was desperate when I was younger to get friends to call me Yan or Nick. But I never got anyone to do it.

I am a … lover of life.

I grew up in … Montréal, in the city and very close to everything — so much so that I never bothered to take driving lessons. I still don’t have a driver’s license. A conductor but not a driver.

My secret junk food obsession is … poutine. But the problem is, I am lactose-intolerant. So when I have those cheese curds and poutine, I assume the consequences.

The thing most people don’t understand about my job … is how much psychology is involved. I have a mysterious job to begin with, but everything has to do with using the right amount of psychology and diplomacy.

Read more »

One of Us: Patti LaBelle

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Patti LaBelle. I was born Patricia Louise Holte. Patti LaBelle came from Harold B. Robinson, a car dealer in Philadelphia, who was our manager at the time. He gave me the name. It means “beautiful.”

I live in … Wynnewood. I’ve lived here for about 30 years. It’s okay, you can tell people that. Let them come and find me.

I grew up in … Southwest Philadelphia, at 5819 Washington Avenue. Kenny Gamble and I used to hang out at my mother’s home. We were finding ourselves.

My mother always taught me … to be nice to others and to maintain my innocence. Don’t go out there all trashy and the wrong way, so that people wouldn’t perceive me as a hooker.

The prettiest place in Philadelphia … is Kelly Drive, where those little houses are. I don’t drive, so someone takes me there. I never wanted to drive. I tried once and I ran into a tree.

My secret junk-food craving … is Cheetos, hot and spicy.

When people call me a diva … they may be correct. I’ve paid the dues, as have Gladys, Aretha, Barbra and Bette. So it doesn’t bother me. It bothers me when they call some of the newcomers divas who should never deserve it. I’ve been a diva for about 30 years.

If you’re coming to my house for dinner … expect to eat like a pig. I wrote three cookbooks, and I just released a line of hot sauces, marinades and barbecue sauces at Walmarts across the country. I love to cook. I make special crabcakes and fried corn. Fried porgies. Mmm.

My favorite song I’ve ever recorded … is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It’s so positive. I sang it for Coretta Scott King and her children, and it was beautiful. I promise you, I felt like I was flying, levitating.

To stay in shape … I walk my dog, Mr. Cuddles, my shih tzu. And I walk in my pool. I can’t swim. Otis Redding tried to teach me when we were touring years ago. He said, “Just let go.” Well, I let go, and I almost drowned him.

For my 70th birthday in May … I ate crabs in my backyard.

The thing many people get wrong about me … is that I’m soft and easy to trick, a pushover. But don’t get it twisted: I see everything that people are trying to do.

If you really want to annoy me … chew crunchy hard pretzels loudly. It drives me crazy. People who chew lettuce or pretzels and don’t even hear
themselves—it grosses me out. I can’t take it.

On Friday nights … I watch Shark Tank. And then I watch TCM movies on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night.

If you’re pouring me a drink, make it … iced tea. Diet. I used to drink red wine like crazy, but I stopped eight months ago, cold turkey. I never got high off of it, and I said, why am I putting all of these calories into my beautiful body? But now and then, if I have a bushel of crabs, I’ll have one beer: a Sapporo.

The biggest problem with the music industry today … is that they let all these sorry acts through.

The first concert I ever went to was … Diana Ross. Kenny and I went together.

My hair has always been … a wig. Onstage, at least. They are easy.

My relationship status is … empty. I’m not looking. He will find me. I’m not looking, honey. No looking for Miss Patti. But I’m open. Very much so.

Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

One of Us: Burger Guru Tommy Up

one-of-us-tommy-up-friedman-illo-400

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Tommy Up. My real last name is Updegrove, but it’s really difficult for people to spell for some reason. So to eliminate thousands of wasted hours of my life, it’s just Tommy Up.

I was born in … Fishtown, way before it was cool. At Montgomery and Girard, which is about 10 blocks from where PYT is now.

The most famous person I’ve ever met … is Jay Z. I was standing on a chair in the front row at his concert, and he stopped and said, “Insurance requirements for this building say that no one can stand on a chair.” I took out dollar bills and started throwing them at him. He told me to save it for a cab. That is a 100 percent true story.

The last book I read cover to cover was … a classic from the ’90s, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy: Creating Disruption for Fun and Profit.

The thing most people get wrong about me … is that they think I can’t be serious. I do joke around a lot. But I like that. Being taken seriously all the time must be incredibly boring.

Ten years from now, I will be … on my yacht. I will name it The Yachtsman, which is the name of my tiki bar that will open this month.

For my last vacation, I went to … Costa Rica. I went by myself, lost my cell phone on the first day and learned how to surf.

I got my first tattoo … from a Japanese-speaking gentleman who does tattoos for the yakuza. He drew me a very special dragon on my arm, back and shoulder.

The biggest problem with Philadelphia … is that we don’t believe in ourselves enough. We always look to see what New York and other places are doing, but the reality is that we’re influencing the culture of food and drink more than New York is. We’re taking more chances. We don’t have to play it so safe because we’re not as “important.”

The first concert I ever went to … was on the beach in Atlantic City with New Kids on the Block and Debbie Gibson, back when Donnie was the dominant Wahlberg.

The second-best burger in Philadelphia … is at PYT. The first is at Village Whiskey.

My favorite Philadelphian of all time … is Ben Franklin. A classic. He did it all. He was the first American Renaissance man.

When I want to relax … I … oh, I can’t tell you. No comment.

My most prized material possession … is a fine screen print of Biggie Smalls that Shepard Fairey did. An ex-girlfriend left it with me. She didn’t know what it was.

The thing most people don’t understand about this business is … that it’s 99 percent work and no play. But if you’re lucky, sometimes the work can resemble play.

If I were mayor of Philadelphia … I would probably shoot myself.

Philadelphia Eagles Owner Christina Lurie Once Squeezed Through The Dog Door

Eagles Owner Jeff Lurie's Ex Wife Christina Lurie

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Christina, a.k.a. Christina Weiss Lurie. I’m definitely keeping the Lurie. It’s who I am.

I am a … film producer, Eagles limited partner and dog lover.

I live in … Philadelphia. Well, the Main Line, but I consider it part of the city. I’ve been here for over two decades.

My divorce was … very amicable.

If I weren’t doing this … I would be sailing around the world.

The prettiest spot in Philadelphia is … the Barnes. And Lincoln Financial Field, of course.

One accessory I can’t do without would be … my shoes.

My last trip overseas … was to Cartagena, a family vacation. Actually, most recent was Haiti. I support a lower middle school in the slums of Port-au-Prince. It has about 300 students.

If you want to take me out to dinner … there are just so many great choices. I like all the Vetri restaurants, all the Garces restaurants, all the Starr restaurants. And Vernick Food & Drink. Then there are all the great places in South Philadelphia. So many great places to eat.
Read more »

Buzz Bissinger Is Trying to Chill Out

Friday Night Lights Author Buzz Bissinger

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Buzz Bissinger. I was born Harry Gerard Bissinger III. “Buzz” was a nickname given to me at birth by my mother.

I grew up … in New York City, on the Upper West Side. It was great. The city was different, and my parents gave me the full run of it at the age of 11 or 12. It was incredibly stimulating.

I live … between my apartment in downtown Philadelphia and a home in Long Beach, Washington, which I bought in October. It’s basically where Lewis and Clark ended up, with the Pacific on one side and Willapa Bay on the other. I’m in Philadelphia a week a month, sometimes more. But I dress the way they do in Washington now. More Carhartt, less Gucci.

I am most proud of … canceling my Twitter account, despite 25,000 followers.

On Sunday mornings … I read the New York Times online. Then I lie in bed watching NFL football to see how my fantasy football team is doing.

My parents taught me … both the importance of culture and, much more, the importance of working and trying to succeed. Which is a double-edged sword, because there’s a limit to ambition, and when you’re always trying to reach the next level of success, you are never really satisfied.
Read more »

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