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.

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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.
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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.
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One of Us: Bob Brady

Democratic Boss Bob Brady

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Bob Brady, or Robert A. Brady. The “A” stands for Alan. My father was Robert G. Brady, and he didn’t want a junior, and my mother liked Alan Ladd, so…

I am a … nice guy.

My job is … a pain in the ass.

I live in … the greatest city in the United States. And I mean that.

Governor Corbett needs to … get a filter between his brain and his mouth.

When I was 16 … I was cool. I had nice long hair, and I was hanging out at dances. Well, at least I thought I was cool.

My most prized material possession is … my car. I have a Corvette, a ’95 ZR-1. It only has 2,500 miles on it. That’s the sad thing: I don’t even have time to drive it.

I wanted to grow up to be … an athlete. I played football in high school. I was a linebacker. And then I played semi-pro for 10 years.

If I’m at Wawa, I always get … French vanilla coffee.
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Preston Elliot From Preston & Steve Loves to Sing Journey’s ‘Stone In Love’

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Preston Elliot. There’s an uncle somewhere in the family tree named Preston.

I am … an avid golfer. My handicap is a 12.

One thing about Philadelphia that drives me crazy … is the traffic. It just fucking sucks.

My secret talent is … juggling. I do it whenever I see three objects that need to be thrown into the air.

This year for Christmas, please don’t buy me … booze. I quit drinking. I’ve been having a bad run with migraines, and the booze just made it worse. Did you ever have a migraine and a hangover at the same time? It’s awful.

The best video game ever is … Zelda.

My wife is always telling me … to shut the fuck up. No. I’m kidding. She’s actually always telling me to leave her alone when she’s cooking. I like to move in and take over when I see her doing something incorrect. I mean, she puts the burner on high no matter what she’s cooking. It’s ridiculous.

One song I love to sing at the top of my lungs is … “Stone In Love” by Journey. That’s so embarrassing, but it’s true. I can’t even begin to hit the notes, but I still sing it. Loudly.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this about Steve … but when he is on the phone with his wife, he baby-talks a lot. It’s really weird.

My favorite material possession … is a book from my childhood called The Golden Treasury of Caroline and Her Friends. I recently had it restored for $500. It’s been a favorite of mine since I was a baby. It’s definitely an heirloom and will be passed down.

If you really want to piss me off … start preaching politics. I don’t care.

I am deathly afraid of … dying. It’s something that crosses my mind maybe once a day.

When I was 16 … I was even more of an idiot than I am now.

The most famous person I ever met … was Paul McCartney. Met him in 1993 on the New World Tour. I thought I was just going to be getting a quick picture, but without my knowledge, I was scheduled to interview him. They said, “It’s time to interview Paul.” And I said, “What?” He knew I was nervous and not ready, and he made me very comfortable. The most gracious man I have ever come across.

If I wasn’t doing this … I’d be living off my wife somehow, because I can’t do anything else.

One game you will never beat me at is … foosball.

I got my first tattoo … at 24 years old. It’s an eighth note on my left shoulder. I got it just to see what it was like to get a tattoo.

When I want a cheesesteak, I go to … Jim’s on South Street. It’s not as gristly as some of the other places. But you stink like a cheesesteak for the rest of the day when you come out of there.

My DVR is always set to record … Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’ve always been a fan of Marvel.

When I want to relax … I jump in my hot tub and chill out for a while. It’s open year-round, and when it snows, it’s a requirement that the entire family get into the hot tub.

My kids are always telling me … to leave the room before I fart.

* For an interview with the other half of Preston & Steve, Steve Morrison, visit phillymag.com/steve.