BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
PW: Some riveting, rip-roaring shit this week, courtesy of former motorcycle gang leader John Hall. His story has crime, violence, deviant behavior, and nostalgia for all of the above. You might be freaked out at first, but then you’ll lap it right up.
Spawned on the marshy flatlands of Southern Maryland, we were a band of motorized highwaymen who ruled the roads from the Pine Barrens of Long Island and New Jersey to the glistening moonlit peaks of the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains. Across the Dutch farmlands of Pennsylvania and down the Great Valley of Virginia, in the back alleys of the old steel, mining, railroad and paper-mill towns of the Appalachian rustbelt, it was all Pagan country.
By the late ’70s we had wormed our way from the wide-open roads and cornfields of Dutch country clear down to the narrow streets and crowded stalls of the Italian Market in South Philly, where some of the brothers were getting caught up in the shadowlands of the Philadelphia underworld and popping up on the radar screens of Frank Friel and his FBI task force.
The shit finally hit the fan on a March morning in 1980, when someone put a gun to the head of Angelo Bruno, the man they called the Gentle Don because he believed he could run a criminal empire by peace and persuasion rather than violence and coercion. When the gunman squeezed the trigger, Bruno’s head burst into a river of blood, and so did the streets of Philadelphia. All peace and persuasion died with Bruno and the city was engulfed in the most violent crime war in American history.
Stories on biker gangs – Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, Mark Singer’s New Yorker piece on a big rally in California – have a special fascination for me and for other law-abiding folks, but getting this side of the story from an honest-to-God buster of skulls is a whole ‘nother barrel of crude. Plus, Hall’s got an advanced degree in European literature. Smart and handy with a chain. Man, I wouldn’t wanna be his editor.
CP: Winning streaks come and go at the South Philly Sports Complex, but E. James Beale’s cover story addresses one of the only constants at South Broad and Pattison: scalpers. Beale brings out the hidden side of a common sight, starting with two sellers, Lee and Greg, and opening up an entire culture and mini-economy.
The guy selling you a ticket in the parking lot is less like a fan with an extra seat, and more like Ticketmaster. Greg has made a living re-selling tickets for the past 37 years. The South Philly Sports Complex is a work site, and scalping is a career.
Why scalping? Well, you’re your own boss, and set your own schedule. You have the freedom to travel the country, the ability to gain access to nearly any major event, and you get to be a part of some stories — scalpers talk proudly of providing tickets for clients from Frank Sinatra to Fat Joe, and often pass time reminiscing about such experiences. There’s a certain allure. And, of course, there’s money. A scalper’s income is hard to nail down precisely — the cash they make per game fluctuates — but on an average day, at a baseball game, a decent scalper will make between $100 and $300, and no scalper I spoke to found the idea of a one-day, several-thousand-dollar haul ludicrous.
It’s a strong portrait, grounded with solid reporting and dollars-and-cents practicality. The questions about legality remain — will cops always look the other way? — but it’s a powerful enough piece to counteract feelings of sketched-outedness and shame the next time you’re asked “Need tickets?” These guys are just trying to get by.
INSIDE THE BOOK
PW: The first rule about Chuck Pahlaniuk is… The key to longevity: eccentric facial hair. A reading list for laid-off brokers wondering where it all went wrong. Housing crisis? My cardboard box is holding up just fine, thank you.
CP: Washed-up celebrities put up their dukes for your amusement. Bad-ass chef David Katz: Mother Mémé I. Giant eyeballs and tophats? Well, I guess it beats phallic Lotto mascots. On a serious note: our city’s Finest are our toughest, too.
WINNER: Hat-tip to PW this week for scaring the living daylights out of me. I should be dreaming of Phils playoff domination, but instead, all I’ve got is chain-wielding biker-gang nightmares.