When a friend gave us a fabulous photo album crammed with Philadelphia area nightlife photos from the 1960s, we had no idea how to identify the hundreds of celebrities, politicians and “just plain folks” in its pages.
But that’s before we learned that – while the rest of the world operates on six degrees of separation – Philadelphians know just about everyone in this city of neighborhoods.
“HE’S A BUM….HE’S FROM BROOKLYN!”
Early on, we took our album slide show to the South Philadelphia Older Adults Center and the Charles Santore Library, both on Passyunk Avenue and both filled with longtime residents. (And many thanks to Older Adults program director Deborah Hoffer and librarian Jeanne Hamman for setting up those shows.)
Audience members identified everything from South Philly’s Venus Lounge to middleweight world boxing champion Joey Giardello, whose life-sized statue stands on Passyunk Avenue.
(Joey Giardello, left, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter before their legendary 1964 bout. That’s Arthur Tavani, the original owner of the photo album, at center.)
One of the perks of researching our fun and fabulous 1960s South Philly photo album has been meeting the families, friends and fans of the many entertainers, athletes and other public figures it contains – and, a half-century later, meeting some of those same celebrities ourselves.
FINDING CARMEN DEE
Last year, we were charmed to meet Carmen Dee, the celebrated bandleader at South Philadelphia’s famed Palumbo’s restaurant and nightclub for over 30 years.
(A Palumbo’s postcard from the late 1930s. Palumbo’s opened in 1884 as a hotel
for Italian immigrants, and morphed into a top entertainment and wedding venue.
And, yes, that should actually read “Catharine” Street.)
If you’ve followed our blog and website, you know that a friend gave us a fabulous housewarming gift: a 12-pound photo album from the 1960s, packed with images from nightspots in and around South Philadelphia.
You also know that we’ve been on a grand hunt to identify the hundreds of entertainers, sports figures, business people, politicians and “just plain folks” cavorting on its pages, with the goal of donating them to Temple University’s Urban Archives for safe-keeping.
(South Philly nightclub favorite Jimmy Durante, left, with Arthur Tavani, the nightlife
columnist and photographer who assembled the photo album in the 1960s)
Now we’d like to get you involved in the hunt… Continue reading
Thanks to everyone who came out for “Are We There Yet?”, Kate’s mid-century, bad-postcard travel tour, and part of the 2015 Philly Fringe Festival…
(Want to understand the Baby Boom generation and their parents?
Look no further…)
Guests were offered bad ’60s appetizers, like pigs-in-a-blanket and a scary-looking port wine cheese roll with Ritz crackers. And, yes, everything predictably disappeared – except for the healthy vegetable bowl…
(Fellow Philadelphia Dumpster Diver Ann Keech, right, helps unload the goods. See her work at the Fringe Festival “Pope Up” show, weekends through Sept. 26.) Continue reading
Houses built from bottles. Room-sized loaves of bread. A restroom in a redwood tree. Mid-century Americans could see it all – and now you can, too – along with dinosaur parks, wacky food festivals, and museums celebrating everything from atomic bombs to cypress knees…
(Your tax dollars at work at the Fort Hayes Experiment Station in Kansas)
Join me on Tuesday, Sept. 8 (7:30 pm) or Sunday, Sept. 13 (5 pm) for “Are We There Yet? Roadside Delights of the 1950s and 1960s”, a free-wheeling postcard tour of America’s oddest tourist attractions, all part of the 2015 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
(Kate resumes the story….)
It was March, 2014 as I nervously approached Virginia Tavani Romano’s front door with a laptop full of photos in one hand and a potted plant in the other. For months, I’d been poring over Art Tavani’s magical 1960s photo album, trying to unlock its mysteries. Now, only four blocks from home, I was about to meet his sister and her nieces Suzanne, Clair and Elaine.
“Let’s hope they have a sense of humor,” I fretted, yanking at my newly dyed violet and teal hair…..
(Hey, even middle-aged girls just wanna have fun…)
(Back from vacation, Kate continues the story….)
Discovering that the mystery owner of our star-studded 1960s photo album was named Arthur Tavani and that he once worked for two South Philadelphia newspapers was pretty exciting….
(Art Tavani, with his trusty camera, joins the crush around singer Tony Bennett.
And, yes, the patterned carpet identifies this as Palumbo’s.)
Discovering that Art’s sister Virginia lived just 4 blocks from our house was….well, disconcerting. Continue reading
Kate continues the story…. (Click here for Part 1.)
It was January, 2013. Our 8,001 moving boxes had been emptied and recycled, and our new walls were painted — sometimes three or four different times. And, yes, we could have easily opened a used-paint store from our kitchen colors alone….
Finally, there was no use delaying it: It was time to open the 1960s mystery photo album.
Sometimes the biggest adventures are the ones you don’t see coming….
It was April, 2012 and we had just moved into our South Philly home, which meant we could barely find the bed, let alone the sheets, and we needed a trapeze to navigate the shoulder-high boxes.
After three frustrating days and many tears (some of them Kate’s), we finally did the sensible thing: We ran away to the Columbus (NJ) flea market. At least if we bought junk there, we’d be able to find it.
But when we hooked up with our friend Jerry at the Bagel Bums booth, he announced that he had a housewarming gift waiting in his trunk. Jerry (not his real name; we’ll get our revenge later….) has a wild sense of humor, so we followed him through the parking lot with more than a little trepidation.
THE MYSTERY PHOTO ALBUM
What could it be? A Mayor Rizzo bobblehead doll? A second-hand Eagles beanbag chair? But when he threw open the trunk, we saw…..well, something we couldn’t quite identify:
“Wow,” I said, “I’ve always wanted one of those…” Continue reading