Attack the icons

Two beloved icons, at least for many: the Phillie Phanatic and former Gov. Ed Rendell (Staff File photos)

HERE'S A FLASH: "The Eight Things You Can't Say in Philly," in the July Philadelphia mag, was conjured up to stir controversy, or as it's called in the "biz," buzz.

How? Attack the beloved.

So I am a suckerfish for taking the bait.

Knowing how the mag works, I believe most of the writers were copping an attitude. I have done that once or twice in my long career. (Or am I copping an attitude by writing that? Life can be so complicated.)

For instance, Christine Speer Lejeune's smackdown of Wawa. It's a funny name, she says. (So is Lejeune. At least we can pronounce Wawa.) She can't understand why we love it. But by the end of the piece she concedes someday (she's not from around here) she probably will love it.

Simon Van Zuylen-Wood thinks Philly cabs are better than New York and D.C. That's like saying a skunk is better than a porcupine. I'd be surprised if Simon is a 6-footer because if you are over 6 feet tall you must be double-jointed to fit into the back seat. I don't hate Philly cabs, but "great" as the headline says? Drivers are supposed to display their ID in plain sight. Do they? (Rarely.) Passengers are entitled to air-conditioning. Most turn it on reluctantly. Last week I got into a cab in front of the Kimmel Center. The driver needed GPS to get to 30th Street Station. (Simon, ask colleague Victor Fiorillo about Philly cabs. He bitches about them enough online.)

The Phillie Phanatic is "a raging, first-class a--hole," writes Brian Howard, attacking the beloved mascot (which has been done before in the same magazine. Is there no institutional memory?) Since Brian writes that Philadelphians demand this kind of behavior, I ask him if Philadelphians are a--holes too?

"No," replies a terse and nervous Brian. His piece was distinctly halfhearted.

Liz Spikol's defense of New Jersey was very spirited, but unbelievable. You mean it's not an armpit? Too much time in the Pine Barrens, I suspect.

In "Enough With Rendell, Already," Malcolm Burnley attacks an icon with the stature and taste of the Phillie Phanatic. Malc wasn't around for the Ed Rendell reign, but says "he's devolved into a nanny version of Statler the Muppet." Anyone making Muppet references cannot be taken serious as, or by, an adult.

Patrick Kerkstra, a registered member of the Anti-Car Brigade (Inga Saffron, chair) serves up warmed-over Noel Weyrich with "Parking in Philly Should Be Harder. And Cost Way More." This tired attack on the middle class has been tried before (I do not own a car) and is a flat tire. Pat notes it costs more to park in Manhattan. Everything costs more in Manhattan. Duh.

"Water Ice is Just Sugar Ice, People," writes Annie Monjar, probably because attacking cheesesteaks was just too obvious. Like LeJeune, she's not from here she admits. I'm not from here, but I get it. Annie says water ice is "cheap empty calories designed to curb adolescent sugar cravings, poor man's ice cream." OK, she does get it.

The worst thing not to get, which is why I saved it for last, is WHYY's Terry Gross, the doyenne of the long form radio interview. In a primordial rant, Sandy Hingston spews astonishing venom at the host of "Fresh Air." Listen: "That vaunted air of interview intimacy is all smoke and mirrors . . . You alienate 99 percent of the human race," Sandy hisses, oblivious to Gross' 1994 Peabody Award citing her "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." Sandy says, "Listening to you is like going for dinner at my rich brother-in-law's, you make me want to scratch myself and pick my nose."

Sandy obviously has family and envy issues going.

Terry told me she was impressed "when I read that I 'alienate 99 percent of the human race,' but she's giving me credit for a much larger audience than I actually have." Classy response.

If buzz and clicks are what Philly mag wanted, I wish them well (and hope I get a few, too).

It was safer than a takeout on race relations in Philly.



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