PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY 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

CP: It might be a book tie-in, but hats off to CP’s Carolyn Wyman for her cheesesteak detective work and this week’s feature on overlooked and underrated steaks. Some are within the city limits, though far-flung — one in Roxborough, two in the far Northeast — and Wyman effectively captures the backstories behind many of the stores. SEPTA’s interference in the operations of Leo’s in DelCo? She’s got it. Or how about a divorce that led to the creation of two additional top-notch places?

Best friends who don’t see each other anymore, marriages that go kaput: They’re usually bad for the principal cp_2009_06_25.jpgplayers. But they turned out to be good things for fans of Northeast-style cheesesteaks. Where once there was only one good place to get these sandwiches, there are now at least three: at Steve Iliescu’s original Steve’s Prince of Steaks, at Steve’s ex-manager Pete Varanavage’s Mr. V’s and at Varanavage’s ex-wife’s Frusco Steaks.

Iliescu was best man at Marlene Frusco and Varanavage’s wedding. But Varanavage and Iliescu have barely spoken since Varnavage left Steve’s and Frusco opened her steak shop in 1994. Varanavage opened Mr. V’s just outside the Franklin Mills Mall shortly after he and Frusco went splitsville two years ago. Both spots mimic the Prince’s enclosed outdoor stand building design and slab-style ribeye sandwich doused in the white American cheese sauce that is found only in the Northeast.

Who’da thunk it? Biggest surprise on the list is the inclusion of the Claymont Steak Shop. Yes, it’s in Delaware; yes, it’s in Joe Biden’s hometown. Betcha you didn’t know Wyman calls it “my personal favorite cheesesteak of all I tried for my book.” It takes guts to do good reporting of any kind, but even more guts to give honors to a place so far from Philly and so far off the beaten path.

PW: A glossy but thin profile of Philly-born-and-bred DJ Diamond Kuts lands the cover this week. Famous locally for her Saturday Night Live show on Power 99, Diamond — real name Tina Dunham, though she’s called “Diamond” throughout — has moved up to a show on BET and is now splitting her time between NYC and Philly. First, the Roots, and now Diamond. Can’t we keep these homegrown artists here?

cover_1.DjDiamondIn middle school and high school, Diamond would hang out downtown at Armand’s record store, where she learned even more from local DJs Fat Cat, Ambush and Obi One. By 18, she had the streets buzzing with numerous mixtapes, was spinning at local clubs and had a job DJing at Sneaker Villa.

But “DJing” is a bit misleading. Like “punk rock” the term has been so diluted, it’s all but meaningless. Diamond isn’t a DJ the way Wendy Williams is a DJ or the way the average novice who’s spinning at a bar is. She’s got more in common with producers like Diplo and Switch and DJs like A-Trak than the average DJ night sees a hack here or there rifling through their favorite tracks on iTunes.

“Putting ‘DJ’ in front of your name does not make you one,” she says matter-of-factly. “Today some people say they’re DJs and haven’t touched a turntable a day in their life—they just think it’s a way to become successful. You have to love the technique and the art of it, learn the history and ?always want to grow.” Make no mistake, Diamond is a real DJ.

 

That seems like a good place to jump in: She’s a real DJ, but there are no pictures of her spinning. There’s a video included on the website, and the inside photo has something resembling a turntable next to her right elbow. On top of that, there’s little about the demands or pressures of being a female in a male-dominated music form, and there’s no commentary from experts that have impressively beefed upPW’s music covers of late — just quotes from Diamond herself. Overall, the article seems like something that was either forced through before it was ready or cut back drastically from its original form. Either way, it’s a poor showing, especially after such deft coverage of hip-hop and other non-indie-rock formats in recent months.

INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: Thumbs-up to All-Star Game campaigning; thumbs down to Napoleon Dynamite references in 2009. Jewish deli opens; guts bust city-wide. Fish in a barrel: reevaluating the Dave Matthews Band. Impulse donations: why not?

PW: Big ups to coverage of environmental issues. Super-weird format for Adam Erace’s review, but fortunately his writing remains intact. Eagerly anticipated: B-Mac’s R. Kelly book. Investigating a long-distance but very public friendship.

WINNER: CP takes it, for making me gnawingly, unspeakably hungry. A solid-chocolate cheesesteak, matzoh balls that could knock over bowling pins, plus all the meat-cheese-onions combos… time to go engage in some “conspicuous engorgement” of my own.

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