It’s hard feeling good about much this week when a big bully is trying to muscle-pummel someone smaller into submission.
Of course, this means Russia and the Ukraine. And of course, nothing is at peace until the cease. This also means any governing body with any anti-gay and trans legislation up their sleeves. This also means the man who stabbed two Museum of Modern Art employees in NYC only to get nabbed sleeping on a Philadelphia bus terminal bench (Who stabs museum employees? Who actually sleeps at the Terminal?). This also means the Phillies front office for alleged domestic violence abuser Odubel Herrera another shot at Citizens Bank Park infamy. This also also means friendly-faced (but truly diabolically dog-eat-dog) West Philly native Will Smith whose two wins for best actor for ‘King Richard’ at the BAFTA and Critics’ Choice ceremonies means he’s out to push away any nominator’s campaign that tries to get near him. Now, I’ll take the Fresh Prince’s overly-competitive nature, especially since his is a sporting movie about the Serena and Venus’ dad (don’t let Jane Campion near this), but let’s do drop the bullies from the rest of 2022. Shall we?
On the more welcoming Latin continuum tip, as of the other day, the local division of the national, large-scale radio corp, iHeartMedia Philadelphia, debuted Rumba 106.1, # 1 Para Reggaetón Y Variedad En Philadelphia – this city’s first full-power FM signal Latino station, filled with what they claim is a playlist crammed with “high energy contemporary top 40 hits from the most popular genres in Latin music today, such as Reggaetón, Urban Pop, Bachata, Salsa and more.” Does that mean Rosalia and Bad Bunny and J Balvin? You bet.
As far as people singing out goes, Jason Kelce did a fine job with the National Anthem at the 76ers game the other night. Can we say though, that, just like the immediate turnaround from retirement that is all-things Tom Brady, having Kelce return to the Philadelphia Eagles is worth an even warmer reception? And Nate Herbig too? Dag. Now, if the Eagles can just get the cornerback we’ve been eyeballing, Xavier Rhodes, we’re set.
How do these two things stand up next to each other: Yes, this area’s first zero-proof bar, The Volstead (from the peeps at Unity Yoga) will open in Manayunk with an all vegan and alcohol-free menu. OK. Sounds cool. Yet, I got that info the same day that University of Pennsylvania researchers announced the conclusion of a study with findings that stated how but one drink a day – even beer or wine – would shrink the brain, or at least have some negative impacts. I’ll buy it. BUT. If I find out someone from Unity Yoga went to U of P, man, am I going to be pissed off. I might even have a drink.
What’s huge, bright yellow and brimming with cake? A lemon méringue pie space ship? A frightened Jolly Green Giant? The guy from the “I’m a Banana” meme? No. The just-opening, yellow painted Kouklet Brazilian cake shop down the street from Dos Segundos on East Passyunk Avenue.
Back in January, we sent love to my fellow Southwest Philly native auteur Lee Daniels for having his next flick, ‘Demon House’, go to Netflix (for $65 mil) while reuniting with his ‘United States vs Billie Holiday‘ bio-pic star, Andra Day for a Philly filming date. Now, it’s looking like Winning Time’s Rob Morgan, Concrete Cowboy’s Caleb McLaughlin, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Close, and Will Smith’s ‘King Richard’ co-star Aunjanue Ellis will commence their ‘Demon House’ filming in-and-around Philly at April’s end/May’s beginning.
Handsomely mustachioed Stina chef and owner Bobby Saritsoglou loves his charities. That’s why his South Philly BYO-i-o-i-o is psyched to get back to its Guest Chef Charity Dinner Series, first, with Chef Kevin Yanaga from way-up North in Fishtown. To benefit the Asian Arts Initiative on March 22, the man behind autumn 2021’s Izakaya by Yanaga and spring 2022 Omakase by Yanaga hooks up with Saritsoglou for a multi-course prefix AND a curated sake flight from Pennsylvania’s only sake brewery, Sango Kura Sake. I’m in for the full package.
Unmasked Philly: David B. Devan
Here at Unmasked Philly, we’re all about the hidden selves and inner workings behind local celebs. This week, it’s David B. Devan, the General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. Before announcing his basso profundo company’s epic 2022-2023 season and the return of the annual O Festival of live and virtual events (see below), Devan spoke to me about who he is when the bow tie gets loosened, and he’s hanging out away from divas and mivas.
“I always knew how to swim, but during the pandemic I started swimming laps – real laps, something I never did my entire life,” says Devan. “Now I swim three times a week for 30 minutes, nonstop. It’s a great meditative, as well as a physical activity because when you’re out there, all you’re doing is swimming. It’s one of the best stress relievers that I’ve got.” A regular exerciser, swimming has replaced going to the gym for Devan. “I love being active – I’m an exercise guy – but this is more peaceful. Ruminative. Here, in the pool, the water supports you. It’s a two-for.”
The other non-pressurized activity that Devan likes to participate in regularly, is one in which he is very familiar, which puts him on top of the water rather than being submerged: ice-skating once a week. A Canadian figure skater in another life, before coming to opera, Devan is back to training on ice, “just as an act of personal joy,” he notes. “I’m not doing triples any more, but I can still manage flying camels. (Yes, I get it. I used to ice skate too). “Plus, figure skating prepared me for being an opera producer because it’s highly technical but looks effortless. It taught me the psychology of looking other performers in the eye. And it connects me to live performance which, of course is very meaningful with what we have coming this season.”
As we speak, Devan was packing his bags for Amsterdam (from where he sent his selfie) and Paris in order to see events at the Opera Forward Festival at the Dutch National Opera and take part in partner meetings. The business at hand, however, is March 15’s new season info drop involving more treasured classics than you could shake your pince nez at (Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’) as well as Sept. 22-Oct. 2’s O Fest 2022 featuring Philly fave Lawrence Brownlee’s ‘Otello’, the world premiere film-meets-rock-opera of ‘Black Lodge’ from David T. Little and Anne Waldman, and Opera Philly’s premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s ‘The Raven’, based on homeboy Edgar Allan Poe classic.
Check it all, and reserve quickly, at operaphila.org
“We’re super excited about all of this,” says Devan. “All of the events of O Fest and the upcoming season are new, but they all feel exactly like us, like Opera Philadelphia.”