Friday, July 8, 2011

The Etc.--A Tale of Two Fourths, Celeb Profiles, Commercial Wives

Though I've only lived in Bucks County for less than a year, I really like it. One reason is that it's near Philadelphia, a city that is completely without airs.

I lived within a train ride of New York for years and years. I love the city and its neighborhoods and its quirky urgency. But I'm always aware that I'm not part of the club and its pricey perks. I can see it in the stares of some New Yorkers when I tell them where I live. It was even worse when I called New Jersey home. I could feel people imagining me standing in line at the Olive Garden or spending my weekends shopping for discount James Patterson novels at BJ's.

Never mind that I didn't work in New York or couldn't afford to live there unless I roomed with four dudes in a studio apartment the size of a garden shed. To some people, not living in New York was an irredeemable character flaw.

The difference between Philadelphia and New York can be found in its holiday celebrations. Last weekend, I switched back and forth between their July 4th events, which took place on a sultry evening.

New York's emcee and setting: An immaculately groomed Nick Lachey in front of a gorgeous backdrop of the Hudson River and gloriuously phallic buildings.

Philadelphia's: In the downtown, where some dude in a t-shirt and shorts drenched in sweat to the point that he looked like he had just run through a car wash.

New York's star musical guest: Beyonce, who looked like a million damn dollars.

Philadelphia's: The O'Jays' Eddie Levert, dressed in the event's t-shirt, who was straining so hard and sweating so profusely, I thought about calling 911.

New York's crowd: Enthusiastic, but subdued.

Philadelphia's crowd: During Boyz II Men's performance--yes, they're still around apparently--a large woman got onstage and started grinding on one of the singers. After he retreated to warble the remainder of a 15-year-old hit, the modern-day Moms Mabley danced for at least another minute before anyone escorted her off. The Roots' tuba player was in hysterics.

New York's fireworks: Spectacular

Philadelphia's fireworks: I don't know. I never saw any and I watched for an hour. The fiancee watched longer before calling it a night.

But here's the thing. I loved Philly's celebration, because it felt like a terrific outdoor barbecue complete with embarrassing family members and mistakes. In short, it was the kind of place where I'd have a good time, where anyone was welcome.

Philly is growing on me.

--I love "GQ" but it has to stop assigning young female journalists these "nights on the town" pieces with hunky celebrities. I realize that profiling boring matinee idols like Channing Tatum and Chris Evans is torture, but this approach doesn't work for several reasons.

a.) It takes away from the subject. It's just my opinion, but a reporter should never make him or herself the subject of the story.

b.) It's gimmicky -- you're not catching the subject in his element -- and it takes the place of real reporting. That's what made Gay Talese's legendary profile of Sinatra so good--he chased outside sources. Chris Jones excels as these because he captures Benicio del Toro or Naomi Watts at a certain time in their lives.

c.) Unless subject and writer get down to business in the bathroom stall of a trendy nightclub, it's just an orchestrated PR stunt to make the subject seem like a regular guy.

--Is there a reason why the wives on TV commercials are so bitchy? Have you seen the one for "5 Hour Energy" where the wife is angry that her previously sleepy husband now has the temerity to work out with her? Or what about the one for NBA merchandise where the alarm rings and the wife punches her jersey-wearing husband?

At some point before I dide, I'd love to see a sitcom or a commercial where husbands are not portrayed as clueless bozos so grateful to have a reasonably attractive partner that they put up with surly, patronizing behavior.

--Articles to read: Ryan D'Agostino's brilliant profile of Dr. William Petit; Robert Huber's examination of Philadelphia's scandal-plagued Catholic priests in "Philadelphia"; Michael J. Mooney's look at a high-school basketball hoax in Texas.

--"Hoarders" is back, which makes me wonder: Why are there never any attractive hoarders?

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