I be-LEE-ve

There is a new cool.  A new definition of cool.  A new embodiment of cool.  It is “Cliff Cool.”  …as in Cliff Lee.


I wouldn’t call it greed. I would say self-preservation is the number one motivation in Harrisburg and it is why I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we do need some type of legislative term limits.  I know there are problems with term limits, but I think you have got to eliminate a concept that this is a lifetime job and I’ve got to protect my lifetime job.”  So says Governor Ed Rendell in a conversation with me about the legislature.  The Governor had a few things to say to me about the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the tobacco industry and the Phillies.

Should the Phillies pay for a parade if they win the World Series?  Ed Rendell says, “I think the Phils could share those costs like they did last year, but I also think the city should kick in a little bit because remember the city’s gained a significant increase in their amusement tax for every single game that is played.”  He points to the 2 games with the Colorado Rockies, 3 with the Dodgers and potentially 3 with the Yankees.
Pennsylvania has one of only 4 full-time legislatures in the U.S. I said to him, “We’re not getting our money’s worth.”  The Governor responded, “No, there’s no question.”…”Though a lot of the legislators do good constituent work.”  So why does all the self-preservation and corruption go on?  “The reason this stuff goes on is because people don’t generally pay attention.” 
Rendell again called the 101 day budget delay “reprehensible” and again apologized for it, but he clearly the blames the legislative mindset of today for most of the trouble.  “This incredible polarization that’s occurred in politics today, where it’s all about getting over the other side.”  And part of it on the absence, no longer alive or in office, of consensus building veteran legislators.  “We don’t have people like Matt Ryan, Joe Loeper or Leroy Irvis leading the legislature anymore.”  The Governor continues, “It’s far too partisan. That’s number 1. Number 2, too many legislators when they’re running for office take a no tax pledge…that’s crazy.  There’s good government spending and there’s bad government spending.”   He counts his increases in education  infrastructure and health care spending as examples of the good.
Rendell warns wile there will likely be no budget crisis in the remainder of his term, he is concerned about 2012 and that the legislature rejected his budget proposal this year that would have prevented a crisis or softened the blow that could come that year when the stimulus money is gone and pension obligations explode.
I asked Ed Rendell, “It says something doesn’t it, that Pennsylvania is the only state not to tax smokeless tobacco?”  Says the Governor, “It does say something.”  “No excuse.”  And,  “You look at the sales tax exemptions and virutally every one of them is there because some special interest group hired a powerful lobbyist who convinced the legislature to do that.”
I asked him if intends to kick some derrier in the remainder of his time in office?  “Oh, yeah,” says the Governor, who pointed to ongoing major issues of climate change, alternative energy, the economy, education and, he hopes, helping the federal government implement health care reform.
More on my conversation with the Governor later.

Keep on Mummin’

Stop on by Woodland String Band’s Anderson Hall this evening, between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. for just $5 you get great food and fun and most importantly, a chance to help Ron Fanelli.  Ron, of Avalon String Band, you may recall, suffered a terrible loss a couple of months ago when fire struck his home, killing his wife.  Thanks Woodland for stepping up to help Ron.  You can, too.
Durning String Band had a party last night and lots of other folks are getting ready for their fundraisers.  GK has its Halloween Party this Friday night.  The Hogs have Diva Night on November 4th.  Aqua is getting it together on November 7th for their 3rd annual Beef and Beer; Greater Overbrook, too, on the 7th.  The Fancy Brigade Division golf outing has been pushed to November 14th.  Polish American String Band has its Jokers Ball at the Polish American Club on the 14th.  Check in with your favorite Mummers and support the cause and have a great time.
All this and more as the costume making, prop building and rehearsals pick up speed. 


 ActII_outsideThe Act II Playhouse in Ambler, Montgomery County, in suburban Philadelphia is a roaring success.  Just into its second decade of life, the playhouse has gained national attention, including scores of Barrymore nominations and a few winners among them.  Act II  is fascinating.  The theatre seats just 130.  What I love about their story is not only the quality of work that they do, but also how they have revitalized a great little town.  They are successful even in these tough times and every day others appreciate the life, energy and opportunity Act II brings to the Ambler area.  Mary Aversa, Ambler Borough Manager, tells me  Act II Playhouse has been a key component of the borough’s ongoing renaissance. 

Boeing-Boeing SETUPS 087On golden Pond_postcard_FIN I spoke with Bud Martin, Producing Artistic Director, who speaks proudly of securing the first off-Broadway rights for “Boeing Boeing,” which is directed at Act II by Harriet Power.  The show is sold out. And now, Bud is preparing for “On Golden Pond.”  Actor Tom McCarthy will take the male lead.  (Tom assures me he gets that it’s a romantic story.)  “Pond” starts its run in November.


phillyfan_0051 Also, plan to see Tom McCarthy in the highly enjoyable “Philly Fan” starting in February, 2010.

Mummers Rock NY

The Bacon Brothers performed at B.B. King’s in Manhattan Thursday night.  They were assisted on “New Year’s Day” by members of various Philadelphia String Bands.   Tom Loomis, of Woodland String Band, a great sax man, tells me they broke out their instruments and got right into rehearsal before the show and a happy Kevin said, “You guys were practicin’.”  The NYC appearance follows last weekend’s show in Phoenixville.  Earlier that day Kevin and Michael had signed CD’s in Manayunk. (see pic)bacon

 Loomis says of  last night’s New York performance after getting a standing ovation from the crowd at B.B. King’s and seeing Michael’s smiling face, “It was unbelievable.”   Tom says he also got to meet Kyra Sedgwick.  He was pleased.

Save the Mummers.  Go to savethemummers.com.  Also, tickets for the December 5th concert are on sale.

Irish American String Band has their anniversary dinner tomorrow night in the Northeast at 9151 Old Newtown Road.   Also, Greater Kensington SB enjoys their kick-off party tomorrow night.

Walk Like MADD

MADD PIC 2Another day to save a life.  Team after team of walkers gathered along MADD PIC 4Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive near the Philadelphia Museum of Art to raise awareness about drunk driving and raise money for support programs, education and prevention.  From my position as emcee I saw hundreds of people trying to save the lives of people they will never meet.  Some of them know the anguish and life-long loss, the emptiness that will never fade that ripped into them when a drunk driver took the life of a loved one.  I am reminded of those no longer with us, of a young medical student named Jim, a 13-year-old named Hannah, of a young man named Dante and so many more whose images or names fill t-shirts and whose deaths line the faces of the survivors.  Drunk driving and distracted driving kill thousands and thousands of people each year. 

MADD PIC 3 MADD and its supporters through 29 years of effort have likely saved thousands more and Pennsylvania MADD and these walkers have made sure the effort will go on.

Gift of Life

woodland2woodland1Mummers perform countless acts of kindness and rarely do they get attention for it.  Woodland String Band has held its 6th annual American Red Cross blood drive at Anderson Hall, its clubhouse in South Philadelphia.  Check out Jim Wolfinger and Scott Greco “laying down on the job.”  That is, giving the gift of life.  Below, that’s me with Mike Dingler, at-large Director with Woodland, and that’s Scott  on the table behind us.  Lots of folks stopped by, including some runners who took part in an unrelated event earlier that morning.  Thank you, Woodland!  woodland3

Philly D.A. Race: Will he spend?

Republican Michael Untermeyer is the underdog in the race for Philadelphia District Attorney.  Can he win? The town is about 7 to 1 Democratic.  But, Philadelphia has elected Republicans to the D.A’s position before, though not recently, and that occasional GOP win and a possible very low turnout give Untermeyer hope.  This year it is also an open seat.  D.A. Lynne Abraham, in office since 1991, is not seeking re-election.  Candidate name recognition is lower. 

Democrat Seth Williams tells me he is concerned that too many voters might not remember that there is an election on November 3rd or that they take for granted that he will win. (He tells me that after a crowded, noisy Democratic Primary which he won, often while he’s campaigning average folks on the street or at an El stop talk to him as if he is already in office.)  Williams plans to work hard to get out the vote.  He tells me he’s raised about $750,000.  That compares to about $150,000 for Untermeyer. 

But, and here’s the big question, how much of Michael Untermeyer’s own substantial wealth might Untermeyer spend above that?   He tells me, “Whatever it takes.”  If he plans a major media blitz and GOP turnout effort and if the Democratic turnout is historically low, Seth Williams could be in trouble.  Lots of ifs in a Democratic town.  At least up until recently, Untermeyer’s ads have been on cable, which still leaves out a lot of folks.  And, a larger media blitz, if not well done, could have a double edge, reminding sleeping Democrats that there is an election.   Interesting 3 weeks ahead.


This is a weekend to get going! The annual “Walk Like MADD” fundraising event takes place this Saturday, the 10th, along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive near the Museum of Art. Ceremonies start at 9:30 a.m. I’ll be there along with other myphl17 personnel. Congressman and candidate for Governor Jim Gerlach is also scheduled to be there.  If you cannot take part, feel free to contribute at walklikemadd.org.  Go to Find Events and then Philadelphia.

Later in the day the Bacon Brothers will be autographing copies of their new DVD “New Year’s Day.” Michael and Kevin will be in Manayunk at some point between Noon and 2 p.m. at Main Street Music in the 44-hundred block of Main Street. Mummers from String Bands and Comic Clubs will also be on hand. The Mummers and the Bacon Brothers are teaming up as part of savethemummers.com to raise money for the January 1, 2010 parade. They are promoting the big December 5th concert that will raise funds for the Mummers.

Many Mummers organizations are hot into raising money to make it up the street New Year’s Day and many still find time for charity. Woodland String Band is holding it’s annual blood drive this Saturday at Anderson Hall on 3rd Street, just off Snyder. It runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stop by and give the gift of life.

Among some of the fundraising galas, parties and otherwise good times going on, Duffy String Band has its Captain’s Night this Saturday evening. On Sunday, the Hogs have their family appreciation barbecue. It starts at 1.  Greater Kensington is in action next Saturday night at their clubhouse.  On the 24th, Durning is throwing a good time party at the Sacred Heart gym in Riverton. All the clubs are busy. Of course, remember the big picture, the parade itself. Visit and support savethemummers.com.

“It Girl”

16-year-old Alexa Dectis is a driven young lady. Her 5-song CD is now available (www.alexadectis.com) and part of the proceeds will go to research into Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA.. Alexa has SMA, but more importantly, this Allentown area resident has talent, a mischievous wit and a desire to help others. I have witnessed all three at MDA camp in southeastern Pennsylvania and at the annual MDA Telethon.

What’s also cool about Alexa’s project is the music, the fact that she wrote the songs as well as performs them. With the aid of professional studio musicians, the project has come to life. Her mom, Julie Dectis, says, “I am so thrilled to see Alexa’s dreams come true. She wanted to inspire people through her music for so long…She has been given a challenge in her life and has used that challenge as an opportunity to bring peace and inspiration to others.”

Of watching their daughter write music and record, Julie says she and her husband, Peter, have learned that Alexa is very driven to achieve her goals. Says Julie, “We spent many hours in the car driving back and forth to (the recording studio) New York City to make this happen, and it wasn’t always easy balancing school and music. However, Alexa never let anything stop her from reaching her goal.”

 I think one track in particular really strikes a chord with folks facing struggles. It’s called “Make It Through.” Alexa told me it was inspired by the kids who never came back to MDA Camp because they were too ill or had passed away. Alexa believes that one day there will be a cure. I know that when that day comes, it will be because of people like Alexa.