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: Primary elections next week, huh? Who, oh, who will tell me what to think and who to vote for? Underinformed voters can’t count on CP to make their choices for them—the paper offers no endorsements this year. They do offer some helpful pointers, though, to help you educate yourself, dammit!

Here’s the truth: For this year’s primary election, preposterously low voter turnout is not only predicted, but counted on by the city’s political machinery, which expects to assert its will with minimal interference.

But this election matters, dagnabbit, and it’s fascinating — not because it’s supposed to be but because it really, truly is. No CP_Vote_Click_To_Read.jpgfewer than five City Council seats are utterly up for grabs, largely due to Council members retiring in the face of possible defeat because of their enrollment in DROP. As many as six more seats are hotly contested. Into this mix throw a battle, nearly Shakespearean in its intrigue and complexity, between Mayor Michael Nutter and various political forces over the City Council presidency; an unheard-of rebellion within the Republican Party; and an energetic attempt by reformers to throw a wrench — or, rather, themselves — into the Democratic machine in a bold attempt to thwart it. You should consider yourself lucky: All you’ve got to do to get in on the action is vote on Tuesday.

And if you voted in ’08 — and we bet you did — and didn’t move, you’re registered to vote on May 17, even if you’ve done doodly-squat since.

Don’t worry, we’ll help you — but not by telling you who to vote for. This year City Paper chose not to make endorsements. When it comes to district races especially, we feel residents know their neighborhoods best; what’s more, we fear that endorsing candidates can make it seem like newspapers are just part of the game. What we will do is tell you who’s running and decode how your vote might fit into a bigger picture. And for each race examined here, we’ve also got a reason to vote that you likely hadn’t thought of.

No juicy judgeships or other obscure backbench elections to pore over; there’s plenty in the mayoral and Council races, thank you. Read, soak it in, and then get out and push that button/pull that level/however it’s done on Tuesday.

PW: “Murder-mystery” doesn’t quite cover PW’s cover this week. Someone was killed, and things remain unsolved or unresolved. It’s not the stuff of a pot-boiler, a whodunnit or, God forbid, a Dan Brown novel, but as Tara Murtha unearths a story of violence and its lasting hold on Charles Stecker, she taps into something poignant and compelling.

As Stecker, now 48, relays the life-defining incident, sentences flow like waterfalls, peppered with details culled from a memory bolstered by newspaper clippings, birth and death certificates that he carries around in a folder. Today, he’s also carrying a baby book with locks of Eddie’s hair Scotch-taped to a page.

Philly_Confidential.jpg“It’s horrible,” says Stecker. “Sometimes I wish I never remembered anything.”

Stecker says he held on to his brother even as his foster mom was “beating me to get me off of him.” Finally, she yanked him so forcefully the bones in his left arm broke—he would never straighten his arm again. Doctors suggested re-breaking and re-setting the bones when he was 18, but he refused.

News accounts later revealed that Bedford tidied the floor before tending to the dying baby. Then, Stecker says, “she … carried [Eddie] to the bathroom put him in the tub trying to rinse the blood off. I remember her making a phone call; then the police were there.”

Two-year-old Edward John Stecker was pronounced dead at Germantown Hospital at 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 28, 1967. The death certificate lists the cause of death as “subdural hemorrhage, bilateral.” Under “circumstances of significant injury,” one word is typed in all caps: BEATEN. Eddie’s funeral at St. Leo’s Roman Catholic Church in Tacony was widely reported. He was buried hugging a teddy bear—a gift from his big brother—in a small white casket in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. The city’s Welfare Department paid for the funeral and burial plot.

Decades later, Stecker is still trying to figure out what happened: How did he and his brother end up in the hands of a killer foster mom, and what happened to her after Eddie’s death? “The ultimate goal is for me to be able to answer the question of what happened to the woman who killed my brother,” he says.

The layering of details is rich and impressive here, and the blend of determination and serendipity that has nudged Stecker’s case comes through brilliantly. Honestly, it’s like something I would expect to see in Esquire or another top-notch national magazine. A great piece to see the week after PW scribes of decades past reflected on what used to be; the paper’s shorter and ads are scarce, but they’re still capable of digging deep and delivering. Mega-kudos.


CP: Snack food smackdown: Tasty takes on all comers. Coyle-d, like a snake in the grass. Maximum fear and Gov. Corbett. Compulsory vaccination: This aggression will not stand.

PW: Freaks and Greeks. About Schmidt: Jack Nicholson plays a politico taking on the Republican establishment. Milton Street: self-declared people’s champ. Obscure no more: Crash Test Dummies ride again.

WINNER: Civic education is cool and all, especially in the week before an election, but with two solid election pieces on top of a stellar cover story, PW clearly takes the cake this week.

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