Joey Vento Makes My Eyes Bleed

The anti-immigrant, cheesesteak-making blowhard is in the headlines again. What will it take to make him go away?

Bad enough nobody can find jobs, bad enough city services have been whacked, bad enough the school superintendent makes more dough than the mayor and governor combined for doing a job no more than 23 people approve of…  and bad enough that the weather’s been hotter than the sight of a blissfully toasted Mary Louise-Parker sashaying down Sansom Street in a sundress to die for.

(Sorry, chalk that last reference up to heat induced delirium.)

Fact is, we’re from Philly yo, we know from bad.

Dealing with bad we can’t control is one thing, but to have to live with Joey Vento and his pissants-against-illegal-immigrants movement as a daily part of our urban experience on top of all that? [SIGNUP]

It’s enough to make living in Yardley or Burlington County look inviting.

Five years into his anti-illegals speak-only-da-English-when-ordering-at-my-cheesesteak window signature rant, Vento is still spewing toxic drool.

The Vento doctrine goes thusly: immigrants of the non-registered variety don’t want to learn the language; they cross the border with criminal intent; and (he actually said this) they’re just not the same kind of people as our grandparents.

And when Vento gets really fired up, like he did at a rally in Harrisburg a few years back, best hide the women and children. In the Harrisburg spiel, border crossers became drug dealers, murderers and even child molesters. And his proof: “… they’re killing like 25 of us a day which we already know. They’re molesting about eight children a day.”

Huh. What. May I see your papers to back that up, Mr. Vento?

With Vento, there is no backup. It’s the same dreary story, just different day, whether he’s telling it to Glen Beck or a yahoo on local AM radio.  Arizona’s new law did provide him a treasure trove of new vitriolic opportunities, however. He even took a trip to the Arizona state capital where he got to tell his cheesesteak-speak-English-only story to anyone who would listen. Then, when he got home, he whipped up a rally in South Philly in front of his Ninth Street cheesesteak joint in support of all his new Arizonian buddies.

Guy loves nothing more than a good detestation party.

And now just this week Vento was back in the news again when a man named Jose Oveido walked past Vento’s joint in the hours just before dawn, saw a truck unloading frozen meat and noticed that the boxes of frozen meat were stamped Uruguay and dated November 2009.

Oveido found this perplexing, it seems, and began asking the workers about the words he saw stamped on the boxes. The workers didn’t like the interrogation much, so they called the cops, who’ve always had an appreciation of Vento’s friendship and generosity. Events get way foggy after that. Oveido apparently drifted away for a spell, had himself a couple brews somewhere, and then wandered back and ran a key across the side door of Joey Vento’s Cadillac Escalade.

Now keying a car is not cool, even when it’s a Cadillac Escalade. Not cool at all. And in this case it’s not cool for another reason: it put Joey Vento back in the news, and worse, it made him look like a victim. Again.

We’ll leave it to others to decide whether the words stamped on Vento’s frozen meat boxes reveal stunning hypocrisy, or whether eating said meat should be of concern to cheesesteak aficionados. But the bet here is that either way, somehow, someway, the stamped boxes of frozen meat will disappear from the storyline, if it hasn’t already, and we’ll be left with Joey Vento working this very twisted and murky event into his anti-immigrant narrative arc. That’s simply the way things seem to go.

Unless, of course, we all just stop listening to Joey Vento—including, and maybe especially, the media. We just shut him down. Turn away. Because, look, we all know that what Vento does is not news. It’s lowest common denominator grandstanding, the kind of stuff that’s easy to report on because it’s a storyline with a simpleton plot: good people with old time Ellis Island values versus evil border jumpers who want to rape our children.

The sad part is that Vento stages his tragic comedy in a neighborhood that’s been changing for the better for some time now.

So… for all that is sacred in the rich South Philadelphia legacies of Mario Lanza and Marian Anderson, for the sake of all that went horribly awry last year at South Philadelphia High School, for all the toil and sweat that’s gone into making South Philadelphia a place people want to move to instead of running like jackrabbits to Cherry Hill or Haddonfield soon as they’ve saved enough loot to split, can we all agree once and for all to not allow Joey Vento a platform to sully this glorious and historical swath of Philadelphia geography with his soulless stream of mean-spirited declarations?

Joey Vento represents Philadelphia the way it used to be. Tired, uninspired and unwelcoming.

It’s time to stop giving Vento the attention he craves.

Por favor?

Tim Whitaker (, a writer and editor, is the executive director of Mighty Writers.