WE INTERRUPT my usual "You gotta do better, people!" rant with a column full of gratitude.
I know . . . let's embrace the fleeting moment.
It was kind of a nutty idea, I admit. But after hearing Jennifer Pownall's story, I couldn't resist.
The Northeast Philly mom was diagnosed with three meningioma brain tumors last year. Sometimes, she told me, music was the only thing that got her through the pain. So, she created the Rock Out Brain Tumors Air Guitar Challenge to raise money for the National Brain Tumor Society by asking people to make videos of themselves rocking out for a good cause. Please consider donating here: http://bit.ly/1R1OmQk.
Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph recently was diagnosed with a brain tumor, so besides writing about Pownall I also asked my colleagues to make a video on his behalf. They came through big time with the help of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train."
It's no wonder that the stars of the video, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, are Pulitzer Prize winners. No one commits to a story - or to an air-guitar challenge - the way these two do. And who knew that Daily News Editor Michael Days could channel Shaft the way he did? (If you're under a certain age, look it up.) In the meantime, go on with your bad self, Mr. Editor Man.
But the wonderful craziness didn't end there. We challenged SEPTA and the Inquirer to make videos for the cause - and I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous that they wouldn't go that far out on the silly ledge. But they not only put themselves out there, they left it all out there.
SEPTA's folks turned to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," and their killer moves were outdone only by the narrative arc of their video. No joke, their creation had a beginning, a middle and an end. Also dancing cops and dogs I would pay to see again, and a brief appearance from SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel. Some viewers expressed disappointment that there wasn't more Nestel, but everyone knows you should always leave your audience wanting more.
For their part, our colleagues at the Inquirer added star power to their take of ZZ Top's "La Grange" with a cameo from a wonderfully wigged Mayor Nutter getting down with a shovel. He got an adorable assist from a trio of Inquirer reporters. Media editor and writer (and air-guitar video director) John Timpane playing post-office bins is nothing short of inspired, as is the rest of our sister paper's video.
A lot is wrong in the world these days. A lot is wrong in this city. We don't always do right by each other. But then, sometimes, someone puts out a call for help, and people step up to answer it as so many have done for Jennifer Pownall and Gar Joseph.
So, what'd they think?
Gar's review: "SEPTA was terrific with trains, subways, buses, dogs and excellent talent led by Chief Thomas Nestel. Loved the Inquirer because it not only featured Mike Nutter, the best professional entertainer I've seen, but also had Martha Woodall, a reporter I've had a crush on forever." For those of you who don't know, the joker is married to Woodall.
Pownall emailed after watching all the videos: "I am sitting at my desk at work right now in tears of complete joy! Thank you, thank you."
During this Thanksgiving week, it's only fitting that I add my thanks for those who read my columns and so often get behind the people and causes I write about. I'm grateful.
In the meantime, the Rock Out Brain Tumors Air Guitar Challenge continues: SEPTA challenged PATCO and the Philadelphia Fire Department to rock out. The Inquirer challenged WHYY and Philly.com.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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