As far as the Philadelphia Decade goes – and I’ll call it that, as beyond its separate tech, restaurant, real estate, and arts renaissances, everything all came together as one within the 2010-2019 period – it’s been lousy for the things that ceased to be or went away.
Some are familiar faces we saw all the time – such as Dan Kenney, the bartender, and general manager of the Pen and Pencil, Philly’s lone journalist-only private club, who just passed away. Or photographer Robert Mendelsohn who died suddenly several months ago. Or bar owner-scene leader Kurt Wonder. Some are but longtime institutions not so much of flesh and blood such as Beneficial Bank and Dimitri’s in Queens Village.
Here are a few valuable Philadelphia totems I have been thinking about as of late that we lost within this decade…
Le Bec Fin
Georges Perrier’s tower to French culinary traditionalism and exceptionalism may be currently rivaled by new Philly greats such as Pierre Calmels, Peter Woosley and Townsend Wentz. Yet, in its time, LBF was unmatchable and its cigar-chomping owner and chef was (and is) a personality with which to be reckoned.
Philadelphia City Paper
Though I and my Icepack and the spirit of independent print media all moved on to the Philadelphia Weekly, founder Bruce Schimmel’s cherished weekly newspaper was a powerful tool in how free media and energetic inventive re-created themselves, beyond the impact of the Village Voice, into the mad, bad modern era.
There’s really no such thing as a nightlife impresario anymore. There used to be plenty, however, women and men whose very touch and signature concepts drove clubs, bars, and whole neighborhoods. And I don’t mean real estate developers, although that is part of the deal. David Carroll was all that, a man who made the music of Philadelphia without ever playing a note, at venues from Peanuts and Carroll’s Lombard to Artemis, the Hot Club, Bar Noir and more.
Sigma Sound Studios
Long closed, the house that Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Thom Bell – and of course, its owner and engineer, Joe Tarsia – built was home to The Sound of Philadelphia’s most soulful sounds, David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” and more. The indignity however of having Sigma Sound sold off for an apartment complex in 2015, with but a tiny metal placard in which to celebrate its triumphs is pretty lame.
Philadelphia’s Bastille Day with Marie Antoinette
OK, our Marie Antoinette was Terry McNally in a big white wig. And instead of having peasants eat gateau, she threw Tastykakes at her minion. But, for like 25 years, this and she is how Bastille Day got celebrated in the city’s Fairmount section at Eastern State Penitentiary.