Degree of simplicity


Being a bit of a nerd, I became interested in the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon parlour game a few years ago, finding it fascinating to connect performers with the Philadelphia-born character actor. Realizing that I have had the pleasure to write about some of South Philly’s most prominent natives, I wondered how I could connect contemporary people and events with 10 local figures and came up with this list, with the bold-faced type representing the occurrence or person who will establish the tie with the products of our turf.

10) “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”: The blockbuster film that resumed the Star Wars saga came out on DVD on Tuesday. For the fifth installment in the series, “The Empire Strikes Back,” George Lucas enlisted South Philly’s own Irvin Kershner to direct. That work and other movies helped to make Mr. Kershner a valued contributor to the industry, and I wrote an In Memoriam for this publication when he lost his battle with lung cancer in November 2010.

9) Karl-Anthony Towns Jr.: When this towering figure likely claims the Rookie of the Year trophy for his feats with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the hardware will bear the name of Eddie Gottlieb, the esteemed basketball guru and South Philly son who helped to implement many of the components of the National Basketball Association. In May 2014, I wrote a story dealing with the placement of a Gottlieb-lauding historical marker outside of South Philadelphia High School.

8) Proud Camden Gallery: Last month, the Proud Camden gallery in London opened an exhibit from photojournalist Michael Gaffney, a former personal image capturer for heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Many of the shots show the icon training in the Miami-situated Fifth Street Gym under the direction of South Philly product Angelo Dundee. When he passed Feb. 1, 2012, I penned a tribute to him for this paper.

7) “My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends”: On May 6, the National Museum of African American Music will host “My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends” in Nashville and will honor music producer and songwriter Kenny Gamble. The South Philly standout granted me an interview in February 2011 in conjunction with the receipt of a $500,000 Promise Neighborhoods Initiative grant for his Universal Companies. I also wrote about him for our May 2013 Throwback issue.

6) The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament: When the top NCAA senior basketball players head to Portsmouth, Virginia April 13 for this showcase/pre-draft tournament, they will be following in the fleet footsteps of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe,” who hoisted jumpers in South Philly before taking his talent to the NBA. I interviewed the sharpshooter in June 2012 as he promoted healthy eating through Merck & Co. Inc.’s Diabetes Restaurant Month outreach.

5) Lancaster Barnstormers: Come April 28, fans of the Lancaster Barnstormers will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people doing the Twist and will enlist none other than Queen Village product Chubby Checker to encourage them. The Grammy Award winner became a subject of mine in March 2012, as he returned to Settlement Music School, where he received tutelage as a boy, to help to endow personnel with a $250,000 grant.

4) Janesville Performing Arts Center: Last Thursday, the Wisconsin-situated Janesville Performing Arts Center Board tapped Nathan Burkart as its next executive director. In conjunction with his hire, Burkart will attend May 7’s gala, with West Passyunk’s Frankie Avalon, whom I interviewed in May 2012 as he peddled Avallone Tomatoes at ShopRite, set to perform.

3) Unmasked series: New York City’s Village Underground will tape a segment with comedian Jim Norton on April 19 as part of the Unmasked series. Numerous funny bone ticklers have appeared in interview segments, including South Philly’s own David Brenner, with whom I conducted a December 2013 phone interview surrounding his promotion of young comedians through the Valley Forge Casino Resort-situated Comedy Stars of Tomorrow spectacular.

2) College Basketball Hall of Fame: Kansas City, Missouri’s Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland will host Nov. 18’s induction ceremony for the newest College Basketball Hall of Fame inductees. LaSalle University great and South Philly native Lionel Simmons will be among the enshrined figures, with yours truly happy to say I interviewed him in Dec. 2014 when South Philly High School retired his jersey.

1) Change is Possible Program: On March 9, the Upper Darby Police Department launched the Change is Possible program to connect those battling substance abuse with Gaudenzia Inc. Superintendent Michael Chitwood, a South Philly-reared law upholder whom I profiled in Dec. 2014 as he completed his 50th year on the force, lauded the campaign as offering “a safe haven” for troubled individuals. ■

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.