Thursday's metro column began with a tribute to Ernest "Smashy" DiStephani really because when I went upstairs to the newspaper morgue to look into the clippings about this infamous Philly wreck chaser, I got transfixed by his mug.
We have a half dozen photos of Smashy, taken different times, different places. But they're all the same. Smashy sits over breakfast at a diner or the old Horn and Hardart. Before him sits a plate of poached eggs, either waiting to be devoured or already devoured. He's in a trademark t-shirt - reporters described how he wore red for everyday, black for special occasions. His look said, 'Whaddya want of me?" And his hair was perfect.
A reader was similarly moved.
He (or she) forwarded the photo I reproduce here. Smashy seemed to suggest another lovable operator, Pvt. Duane Doberman, the one played by Maurice Gosfield in "The Phil Silvers Show." I'm not sure I see it as clearly, but there's some connection, the reader write. Gosfield? - yup, a Philadelphian. (Click for the right arrow for the pic.)
Another correspondent says he was in the wreck chasing business for 18 years before he figured it was bad for his heart and soul. He forwarded a prescription, free of charge, for fixing the city's time-honored tradition of chasing after disaster and gouging distressed drivers:
I would organize a group of legitimate tower's that are already established with legal and up to date info and records of their business in conjunction with L&I and the Mayor's Office. Second of all I would only issue a certain number of Towing License's per year to who would qualify,that alone would weed out 75 percent of the Riff Raff alone. Companies would be bonded and certified and have the proper facilities within the City limit's and within there respective territory. A 24 hour help line would be established for the consumer,a certified rate program would be established,there would be no sales pitches or recommendations to customers. All this can be done privately alone or jointly along with PPA and with PPA being the entity with authority of overlooking the everyday operations. There is a lot more to be said,that would include all the fraud that has been in place for many year's and that now it would be capped. There is a reason why it was never stopped or would you say shelfed in the chamber's of City Council !
Would it work?