A Philly love affair that comes with sequels

Ellen Blum in 1965 with her Northeast High prom date, Sylvester "Mike" Stallone.

'If we had met in high school," Jim Cole was saying a few days after he and his wife, Ellen, celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary on Dec. 15, "she wouldn't have given me a second look."

"I wouldn't have," Ellen confirmed matter-of-factly. In the social caste system comfortably in place at Northeast Philadelphia High School in the mid-1960s, a drop-dead gorgeous Jewish American in-crowd goddess like the former Ellen Blum would have been as approachable to a fast-talking Irish Catholic disciplinary transfer student from Father Judge High School like Jim Cole as Princess Leia would have been to a Wookiee.

Jim, Class of '64, was a year ahead of Ellen, Class of '65, and that age difference, plus the distraction of 3,000 other students, prevented Jim from making a bad first impression on his future wife.

That would happen about a decade later, following Jim's discharge from the Marine Corps. By the fall of 1976, Jim was involved in a number of construction projects in the Northeast. During a business meeting at his attorney's office in Center City, he was introduced to a strikingly familiar looking legal secretary named Ellen Blum.


"It was all coming from my side," Jim said of the instant attraction.

The same day at 5 o'clock - what a coincidence! - Jim happened to be on the same end-of-the-workday elevator with Ellen.

"Hey, I'm headed in your direction. Can I give you a lift home?"

Well, one ride led to another and . . . spoiler alert!

"And he never left!" Ellen shouted into the phone with a laugh from their home in Chalfont.

Part of the Cole/Blum family lore is that Grandmom/Nan was such a hottie as a teenager that a young Sylvester Stallone was her date to the Northeast High senior prom in the spring of 1965. In fact, the pre-prom photo taken by Ellen's parents first appeared in The Inquirer on June 3, 1977, accompanying an item I wrote in the "Scene" column about Stallone's years growing up in Philadelphia.

Stallone attended Lincoln High School while living in a house on the Holme Circle with his mother and stepfather, Anthony Filiti, who happened to be partners in a specialty-foods company with the father of Ellen Blum's best high school friend, Charlotte. When Filiti heard that Ellen didn't have a date for her senior prom, he volunteered the services of his 19-year-old stepson, Sylvester.

"I knew him as Mike," Ellen said of her date, the future Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa. In Northeast Philadelphia in 1965, a first name like Sylvester made you a candidate for a daily beatdown in high school. "He was very quiet."

"It was a shame, really. All the girls had dates who were family friends rather than boyfriends," Ellen said. "We girls had a ball hanging out together at the prom, but the boys, who didn't know each other, were mostly left to themselves."

A lot has changed in the four decades since the original Rocky premiered, launching a seven-film franchise that established a fictional over-the-hill Philadelphia prize fighter as a global icon representing the indomitable spirit of the underdog, as well as transforming the 72 steps leading to the Philadelphia Art Museum into an internationally known high-cardio workout destination.

When the latest Rocky movie, Creed, opened recently, Ellen's prom picture with Stallone was being introduced to the younger members of the family, one of whom, 15-year-old grandson Dylan, was singularly unimpressed. In fact, he was downright dismissive. He thought the prom picture had been Photoshopped.

So let me clear up any lingering doubts:

"Yo, Dylan! It's all true. Now give your grandmom a hug."

Of course, this requires me to pretend that I believe that a 15-year-old will actually read a newspaper.

Clark DeLeon writes regularly for Currents. deleonc88@aol.com