Philly-born Gere has heart for homeless

Richard Gere
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jenny DeHuff and Actor Richard Gere before a red carpet screening of "Time Out of Mind", Thursday Sept. 17, 2015, at the Ritz Theater in Philadelphia.

Comcast capitalist David Cohen has a funny story about Richard Gere.

As probably all of Philadelphia knows by now, Richard was just here. I was one lucky reporter who got to interview him on a red carpet laid out Thursday at the Ritz East (125 S. 2nd St.), in Old City. He was in town for the premiere of his new movie, "Time Out of Mind," in which he plays a homeless man trying to survive the mean streets of New York City.

But back to Cohen.

When the Comcast executive chaired the Marian Anderson Award dinner in 2007, Gere was the award recipient. (He's had a long history of social activism and philanthropy - look it up.)

Before the ceremony, a photo was taken of Cohen, his wife and Gere in the middle. Later, someone gave Cohen a beautifully framed copy, which the Cohens then displayed in their home.

"About two months later, I'm wandering around the house and I'm oblivious," Cohen told me.

"I look at the picture and I see a picture of Richard Gere and my wife - in that frame. Originally, in the frame, it was all three of us. I say, 'Rhonda, did you get your own picture taken with Richard Gere?' She said, 'No, I had you cropped out.' "

The photo hangs in the Cohen house - sans David - to this day.

Gere, who will be back next month when the Dalai Lama receives the 2015 Liberty Medal, at the National Constitution Center, was just as pleasant in person as he was pleasing to the eye.

He said that "Time Out of Mind," which he produced, was designed to get a reaction out of viewers.

"I'm looking for feeling, empathy," he said.

"If people don't feel something that's personal, it's very hard to get up the energy to do something in this world. So, it's important to me that people identify with this character and see him as a human being and worthy of concern."

Gere spoke first with NBC10's Jacqueline London. I tried to dodge the camera, but was nonetheless captured in the background of his live interview, looking as though I'm trying not to be obvious about my ogling.

Sen. Bob Casey was on site, too. He told me that he'd met Gere earlier in the year at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. That's where he heard about the movie, which Gere took on as a labor of love.

"I walked up to him," Casey said, "and said, 'Have you brought this to Philly? Have you met Sister Mary Scullion?' Tonight, he'll be [making] that happen."

In fact, at the end of his interview with London, Gere called Scullion over into the shot and slung his arm around her as if they'd been friends forever.

Fun at Feastival

I'm embarrassed to admit it was my first time at Feastival. Little did I know what I'd been missing.

The outdoor food-and-beverage extravaganza celebrated its sixth year Thursday night at Fringe Arts (140 N. Columbus Blvd.).

Sponsors Stephen Starr, Michael Solomonov and Audrey Claire Taichman were happy to feature samplings from more than 70 restaurants and bars from around the city. Then there was the live art - silver spray-painted, nearly nude bodies doing modern dance on pedestals - and, just as unexpected, performances by the Australian circus troupe Strange Fruit, which mystified onlookers by seeming to effortlessly balance on their sway-pole apparatus. It was all very impressive.

I bumped into bar owners and men-about-town Fergie and Jason Evenchik, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger, author and former Daily News editor Larry Platt, former Gov. Ed Rendell and Fox 29's Alex Holley, whom I finally met for the first time.