On the Town with HughE Dillon

Philly's Hollywood connections; Plus: A local Guinness World Record holder, and an Equality Forum Award for Frank DiCicco

An old friend political writer/film producer Mary Patel flew into town this past week to take care of some business and to celebrate Cinefest developmental director Thom Cardwell‘s 65th birthday with a few friends at Del Frisco’s. Mary moved to Long Beach, CA last year as she fell in love with boxer/actor Jack O’Halloran, who coincidentally was born in Philadelphia. The happy duo are engaged, and a June wedding is in the works. Mary tells me that Jack is building a state-of-the-art film studio in Long Beach. Others in attendance at the gathering were attorney David Wisniewski, attorney and developer Jeffrey Rotwitt, who is building a state-of-the-art film studio in Chester County, and ad-man Elliot Curson. Mary tells me that she just started a job as creative producer on a 3-D animation film by Porchlight Entertainment. She’s in the process of securing Courtney Cox, Elliot Gould and Philadelphia’s Mark Webber to do the main voices. She’s also excited to work with one of the best animators in the business Flint Dille. She says the project will take about two years to produce and that the film’s humor is equivalent to The Simpsons, but not as racy as South Park.[SIGNUP]

A new neighbor on the 700 block of Chestnut Street has a soft opening today, and a grand opening on Friday, May 7th at 6 p.m. on First Friday. One of my favorite book stores is The Book Corner behind the Philadelphia Free Library at 20th & Wood streets (a place I spent hours in before I became PhillyChitChat). Well now they’ve expanded into Center City with The Next Page. Jonathan Sipes is the GM, here with Amy Dougherty, the executive director of the not-for-profit bookstore. Their website states “the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to support the Free Library of Philadelphia… We promote cooperation and communication between the community and the Free Library and advocate for library services for all.”  Their shop operates on the generous donation of books and other items that they resell; and money also goes to various community programs. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Last night I attended the celebration party for Ristorante Panorama in The Penn’s View Hotel, at Front and Market streets in Old City, marking their inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest winekeeper/cruvinet. The custom-built keeper was designed by owner Luca Sena (left) in 1990 when he opened the restaurant. City councilman Frank DiCicco (right) attended and thanked Luca for taking a chance on the neighborhood back in 1990 when it was a very different atmosphere and not too many people were brave enough to open a business there. Others enjoying the celebration included Toni Brownstein, her father Berney Brownstein, attorney Robert Greenbaum, ABC6’s Kristie Gonzales, CBS Radio’s Melony Roy, Laura Burkhardt, the Visitor Center’s VIP concierge Al Lee (Mr. Philadelphia), Corie Moskow, and Dena Robbins, formerly of the Philadelphia Film Office. Dena is the “Official Housing Locator of GPFO.” I was unable to pry out the info on where Bradley Cooper or Robert De Niro are staying during the filming of Dark Fields. She did recommend a good film to see: the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film Secret in their Eyes. Ryan Derfler from Mural Arts was there. Ryan tells me to watch for the “Nurses” mural at Broad & Vine as it’s about to get a makeover. Look for LED lights and a whole new painted concept. Many of the local health organizations are contributing ideas for the new mural. He also talked about upcoming Mural Arts walking tours to begin in May, as well as self-directed iPod tours in June.

This weekend is packed with events. Tonight, as I wrote in my Monday column, is Dining out for Life. I will be attending the VIP dinner at Butcher & Singer; if I had wings, I would also fly over to the Utley’s All-Star Animals charity casino night benefiting the Pennsylvania SPCA at the Electric Factory. The 18th annual Equality Forum kicked off with a VIP party at the Hotel Palomar on Monday. Spotted in the crowd was Jeff Guaracino, vice president of communications for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), Bruce Yelk, director of gay marketing for GPTMC, gubernatorial candidate Joe Hoeffel, along with Terry Ruggles, Dawn Timmeney, news director Chris Blackman, and Dennis Bianchi, president and general managerall of NBC10—who are sponsors of the week-long festivities that end with a giant festival at the Piazza on Sunday from noon til 7 p.m. Also there: Thom Cardwell, Judge Dan Anders, Tami Sortman, Steve McCann, and Malcolm Lazin, founder and executive director of Equality Forum. The Equality Forum presents its Distinguished Service Award to city councilman Frank DiCicco.

Thanks for reading me today, and for more about what’s going on around town and who was where, check out my blog at PhillyChitChat.com or follow me on Twitter @iPhillyChitChat. I’ll be back Monday with more On the Town with HughE Dillon.