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!


CP: Finally! A People Who Died obit wrap-up that’s all local and all produced in house! Huzzah, City Paper! Suck it, Baltimore’s paper of the same name! (Just kidding, you’re alright.) Where to begin? How about with the names that are hardest to spell and pronounce: the victims of the Ride the Ducks crash.

On a blast-furnace July day, police near Penn’s Landing sprung to action as news broke that a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle, disabled in Delaware, had been struck by a mammoth sludge barge. Though most of the passengers swam to safety, a macabre flotilla patrolled for the capsized craft — and the two passengers who remained unaccounted for. Sixteen-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prém, both Hungarian students here through the Atlantic Bridge exchange program, never made it back to their hometown of Mosonmagyarovar, their bodies pulled from the river in the ensuing days, bringing to a grisly end a story that had morbidly transfixed the city.

Now, from a story that was sadly inescapable to one that barely happened in 2010: the death of young actress Melissa Lynch.

Melissa Lynch was all set to take 2011 by storm. The 27-year-old Philadelphia actor, whose stunning turn as Sonya in Lantern Theater Co.’s Uncle Vanya earned her rave reviews this fall, had garnered upcoming roles in Theatre Exile’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Inis Nua Theatre Co.’s Dublin by Lamplight, and was engaged to be married this June. Her Dec. 30 death, caused by a car accident, has left an enormous void in the young theater community. “It is a terrible, stupid tragedy,” says Corinna Burns, Lynch’s good friend and would-be wedding officiant. “We will all miss her joyful, fiery spirit tremendously.”

Not all those featured died so young and so senselessly; two classical music performers lived to the ripe old age of 101 (Orlando Cole) and 87 (David Soyer). As for Prince Chunk, the fat cat who came to fame around the time I moved to Philly, I hardly knew you. I hope you’re scarfing down lasagna in heaven, big guy.

PW: A big, thoughtful appreciation and reassessment of Philadelphia noir author David Goodis and, in general, of the whole genre. I knew it had roots in this city, but I had no idea how deep they went. is noir, a literary genre that does the sobering and thankless work of describing the life you’ve been dealt, not the one you wish you’d had. Crime writing without the detectives. Or, as famous Washington, D.C., crime/noir writer George Pelecanos described it at NoirCon—held in Philadelphia since ’07—in November at the Double Tree hotel on Broad Street, the idea that “things are not ever, ever going to get any better.”

Goodis’ work exemplified Pelecano’s description. His books, it was once said, are not books at all. “They are suicide notes.”

“I disagree with that,” says Lou Boxer, a doctor of anesthesiology and Goodis fanatic. “I think they’re very dark and depressing, but it’s almost his way of dealing with life.”

Boxer discovered Goodis’ work in “2006 or so,” and has been borderline obsessive ever since—“compulsive,” as he says. He’s on a mission—along with a few other dedicated fans, so-called “Goodis Guys” or “Goodisheads”—to keep Goodis’ name alive in his native Philadelphia.

It’s an honorable mission, no doubt, and BMac is equal to the task, bringing in the heavyweight critics and noir-o-philes and bringing Goodis’ own story to the front. He’s way more than “a fourth-rate football player, a frustrated racing driver, an unsuccessful landscape gardener and an unhappy automobile mechanic,” as he described himself in 1946. It’s nice, too, to see that today’s noir authors don’t seem concerned with living like a character in their novels. If you can go dark, go for it.


CP: Ding ding ding went the Belle. Geographically confusing: Philadelphia’s An American Chinese, with roots in… Albuquerque? Bell Curve gives up… twice. Now I will, too, because I know I can’t top this subhed: “Kiosk-er the Grouch

PW: Candidates for City Commission: No veiled threats from any of ’em, which is a plus. Behind-the-scenes guy wins Theater Artist of the Year. Bravo! Kensington blues: Trying to cover a killing spree. Smoky meat perfume: Also a great name for a band.

WINNER: Even three lame titles — “The Goodis, The Bad and The Ugly,” “Better Off Dead,” and “Stranger than Fiction” — can’t drag down the awesome PW cover on David Goodis. They take the first title for 2011. It’s on!

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