A.D. Amorosi on City Paper: I Have a Slightly Different Take on Things
Philadelphia City Paper ends today, and with it, we lose a large part of what made alternative media great in the first place: the loosening of language restrictions, the unique investigative looks at news and arts, and the creation of new stars in every field. City Paper was written for the young at heart and the avant-garde of spirit and penned by people who were passionate about providing that script.
All the warnings about newspapers dying mean nothing when an outlet actually closes. The thud is still deafening. What will be louder, though, is the hooting and hollering that CP’s staff and freelancers, friends and family will make come Saturday when its funereal celebration is held at Pen & Pencil.
These pieces are all tender, true-hearted reads filled with amusing anecdotes and lovely look-backs at how starting at CP formed their careers. Each writer/editor/intern was allowed to express themselves fully through City Paper, whether or not they had ever done so in the past (reading Molly Eichel‘s tale about being thrown into writing about bars at age 19 is hilarious with a very real feel to how things were there).
I, however, have a slightly different take on things. You see, being afforded freedom as a staffer is one thing – that’s the perks of the job. You’re blanketed by tenure and contract and paid (if barely) to handle “x” amount of pieces. A.D. Amorosi on the other hand was a glorified freelancer, who, as a first-time columnist, was given an outrageous amount of liberty to write Icepack. That was the name of my weird news and gossip column that ran (I think) from the very end of 1989 to 2014 when I moved it (sort-of) to Metro Philadelphia (yes, they bought CP, then sold CP to Broad Street Media who ended CP).
I couldn’t have been greener than if I had been dipped in absinthe when I started at CP. Before that, I was a big mouth club promoter and bitchy town gossip who had previously written texts for Play Works Company and Theater Center Philadelphia (I still hear the late Albert Benzwie in my head, telling me to never forget the unforeseen possibilities) and reviews for Billboard magazine.
CP ad guy Miguel Gonzales (who had THE best hair) told me to consider writing about nightlife, something City Paper was sorely lacking (sorry Frank Blank) and one late night, I walked into the shared office of editors Bruce Schimmel and David Warner at 13th and Chancellor, and said “here.” That was it. No resume. No clips. Seriously, I could’ve been a mugger, or worse, another writer, yet that’s not how they treated me. Those two printed that column, and kept printing any and everything I wrote without ever changing even one stream of conscious-sucking word.
When I dug up dirty laundry about some of this city’s biggest names and took heat, they fought for me with all the freedom-of-the-press force they could legally muster. I slapped people, made people cry, rubbed people the wrong way in the column.
To have that level of trust from those two pros was devastating; even more so considering that most of the editors I worked with after them at CP did likewise. Not every one of my editors was happy with my William S. Burroughs backwards-talking psychobabble. Schimmel wasn’t pleased when I spent $12,000 on my bar tab during a three-day-stay at a Manhattan hotel for a New Music Seminar or a CMJ or what-ever-it was. No matter – I was liberated. Beyond Icepack, I was given free rein to write similarly themed features and covers on Philly’s burgeoning music, theater and culinary cultures. I even got to pilot a blimp for a story. Man, I couldn’t even drive a car (never got that license) or steer a bike, let alone fly. Just the other day, I started Tweeting out cover stories of mine, if you check @ADAmorosi.
I didn’t exist within the camaraderie of an office politic or policy. I had to make my own way, which was lousy for connecting with most staff (sorry I wasn’t at the office more – then again, they were probably happier), but amazing for a first-time columnist. Being allowed to have one’s own language, syntax, rhythm, cast of characters, even (in regard to the column) my own deadline. That was a real feat, and I owe that all to City Paper. Anything I made of myself as a journalistic entity comes from that first moment that I met Schimmel and Warner. I’m surprised that they even let me in the door, literally and figuratively.
Like all things I truly care about, I wish we had more time together.