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
CP: The Fall Arts Guide lands a couple really interesting stories, including a substantial art exhibit based on something delicate: lace. Who knew Kensington had a huge lace factory back in the day? Elsewhere, we discover that Reading Rainbow isn’t just a pro-literacy PBS show or a spectrum seen over Eastern Pennsylvania; it’s a killin’ two-piece lo-fi act. Finally, A.D. Amorosi brings us a look at the rise of intimate, salon-styles arts events in the city.
What’s the difference between your standard-issue rock show or open mic and a salon? For starters, nobody ever offered me a free freshly baked oatmeal cookie at the First Unitarian Church.
For that kind of treat, you’ll have to stop by pianist Andrea Clearfield’s home in Center City or another of the increasingly popular salons that are popping up around town. Simply put, salons are cozy gatherings, often in the living room of a charismatic host, where music, poetry and ideas flow like wine.
Way in front of the trend — or behind it, if you count those 17th-century Parisians — Clearfield’s been using her home as a live event venue for 23 years. “It’s great that these salons are happening in response to the growing need for alternative, intimate and non-commercial spaces to experience artistic expression,” she says. “Many of the performers tell me that one of the things they appreciate most is that the audience is truly listening — and the performers, especially jazz and folk artists who might otherwise play in noisy clubs — love the chance to be really heard.”
I’d heard of Clearfield’s salons, but ones put on by James Reilly, Jacqui Cunliffe or Megan Bridge and Peter Price were new to me. They’re not all strictly musical – Bridge and Price is dance- and theater-intensive, and Cunliffe recently hosted a night of magic – but just the idea of a smaller space, a less amped-up crowd and the possibility of interaction and feedback makes all of the endeavors seem somehow more enlightened, like the product of an earlier era. Cookies or no cookies, I hope to snag an invite to one of these this fall.
PW: Tara Murtha charts the unconventional career of comedian-performance artist David Dingwall. The cover and subhead plays up the sensational elements — Dingwall performs a striptease act in a popular online video titled “White Boy” — but ultimately, it’s kind of a touching piece about a performer with big but scattered ambitions who, at 64, still struggles to define himself.
Picture a shorter, stockier version of a South Philly Al Pacino, but with kinder eyes: an Archie Bunker type in a shiny gray toupee peeling off his tuxedo striptease-style for a horrified crowd (including a cameo by Maxx of the Goats). He twirls his cummberbund around and rotates his basketball belly in circles as his arms flail, a drowning, oceanless swimmer.
The Rocky-inspired montage shows a sweatsuit and skullcap clad Dingwall training as he knocks back raw eggs, jogs through the Italian Market, and gets a palms-to-the-stage booty-bouncing lesson before taking the stage where he swings, grinds and thrusts his way into our hearts. It’s fitting that this video serves as Dingwall’s comeback vehicle. While all of his characters (aggro blue-collar guy and spastic bus boy, to name a couple) are exaggerated facets of himself, the struggling character in White Boy seems the most personal, and most autobiographical, of all.
Like the real Dingwall, the White Boy character has spent years ogling strippers jiggling their junk at the J&J Trestle Inn—Philadelphia’s notorious, black stripper joint. One day he decides it’s time for him to take the stage and writhe in the spotlight. Figuring he has nothing to lose, White Boy asks the owner for a chance to give the pole a whirl. “If you crazy enough, then I’m crazy enough,” replies the owner.
Dingwall has overcome childhood illness, crippling stage fright, and the loss of numerous family members to make it to this stage in his career, and the skills that brought him this far – singing, stand-up, and impressions – aren’t taking a backseat to exhibitionism. He seems ready to draw on any and all of them at a moment’s notice. Great story.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: Has Obama hit a wall? Have his volunteers? Violent Femmes: Wisconsin’s finest. Bearing the mark: A single tattoo across bodies and the ages. Libraries or no libraries, read this book.
PW: Come meet the New Asshole, same as the old asshole? Getting schooled: washing out as a teacher. Philly’s rep as “City of Second Chances” extends to the theater. The Fuck-It List: Aggressive aspirations.
WINNER: PW picks up CP’s by-now-usual nudity, but that’s not why CP takes it this week. They made their guide a nicely-designed insert and kept things concise, both in the larger stories and in their listings.