The Most Famous Weatherman in Philadelphia
THE DINNER FOR the Freemasons Lodge at Colleen’s on the Parkway is a lavish affair, with a seafood buffet and a canopy decorated with white tulle and flickering strobe lights arching over a parquet dance floor. Schwartz, tonight’s guest speaker, sits on a dais next to the podium, where the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, clad in a suit and tails, is presenting an accountant with a crystal statue in front of a crowd of mostly senior citizens.
Once introduced, Schwartz opens by telling the audience a little bit about himself (“I see you as the anti-Bolaris!”), then segues into his global-warming speech. Afterward, he sits down to eat, and the waitress flutters her hand on his pinstriped shoulder. The weatherman turns around. “Before you eat, can I just ask you one question really quick?” she says nervously. “My family’s gone on a cruise to Puerto Rico, and with this nor’easter and everything, and I haven’t heard from them, I’m just a little bit worried? And I want to make sure they’ll be safe?”
“It’ll be choppy,” he says. With his salmon cooling beside him, he elaborates, stressing that all will be well. “But they might not want to go on a cruise again anytime soon!” he finishes, giggling. They waitress thanks him profusely, and as she walks away, there’s a little less tension in her posture. If Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz told her it was going to be okay, then it was.
It’s a touching moment, and it makes you wonder if Hurricane Schwartz’s celebrity isn’t as closely related to the silly, shallow stuff he’s wrapped up in — the bow tie, the gossip columns, the ridiculous publicist — as it is to a somewhat purer form of celebrity, the real kind, the original kind. He’s the guy in the city, or the village, or the collection of caves, who knows about the way the Earth works — the guy the regular people trust to inform, direct and comfort them.
In the midst of Fit Fest’s madness, back at the Convention Center, a family had approached the NBC 10 booth. With them was a frail, elderly woman in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank strapped to it. Tubes were snaking into her nose. “Every night I watch you,” she said quietly to Schwartz and Doug Kammerer, who were chatting amiably with her daughter and couldn’t hear her over the noise. “You do that little wave at the end, and I wave back every night.” She lifted her hand, so thin and white it looked transparent, and imitated a neat sign-off arc. “Every night I do it,” she said again, as her daughter wheeled her away. She’ll wave back to them tonight, maybe for many more nights, until one night, when she won’t anymore. But the weathermen will continue waving, and someone who needs them will always be watching.