Although I don’t watch sports events often, I do have a deep-rooted love of baseball. Its balance of team play and individual achievement has always fascinated me. I love both the Mets and Yankees equally, and have enjoyed friendships with members of both teams over the years. I have many friends down in Philly, where I maintained an office until recently. In fact, I lived there part-time for many years. The Phillies’ recent ascendancy to the World Series has allowed me to reconnect with many old pals who are having great fun with their 15 minutes of fame.
When my last ex-girlfriend was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, she woke up cranky one morning, and along with her seven roommates demanded I do something about the state of Philly nightlife. It was decided I would open a joint. I got a list of every place in town and went to them all one Saturday night, long ago. At each place, I waited on line, paid admission, and went to the bar and bought a Heineken and an Absolut and tonic. I was gauging what was charged, watching the staff, listening to music, figuring each place out. I took a sip of the booze and went on to the next spot. As most of my readers know, I don’t drink (yes, only two or three times a year, whenever I have sex), so by the time I got to the tenth place, I was extremely tipsy. The cab driver — who was to take me to Deco, the last club of my scientific survey — dropped me in a mini-mall in front of a velvet-roped joint. Inside, it was all glitz and ugly guys and bad music, and I thought it must be the worst gay club ever. I waddled over to a staircase that I thought would take me to another floor, and a mostly naked girl was coming down. I looked around again and realized I was in a strip joint. It was Delilah’s Den, next door to Deco. I took one last, long glance to make sure my scientific survey wouldn’t be compromised, and then I skedaddled next door. Deco was not my kind of place: a very large, loud, and unruly crowd with steroid-enhanced attitude that made it clear I wasn’t welcome. I returned to my home and then back to New York with very little hope for Philly nightlife. Not one place had a door policy, and only a little diner, which had been converted to a dance club, had any music that wasn’t straight up radio.
The next Friday in New York, I was approached by a lady at the Tunnel who talked a mile-a-minute and kept on telling me how great the Tunnel was and how she wished somebody would open a place like it in Philly, her hometown. I told her of my experience, and she promised to put me in touch with her boss, as something had to be done. The next day, Barry Gutin called and we started doing business. We did a quick redux on his Egypt nightclub on Delaware Avenue, which — although a bit tacky — was easily the best run club in town. I brought down RuPaul one weekend, Grace Jones another, and then Lady Bunny and Joey Arias and a busload of queens, and we were off to the races. We then took over the old Milk Bar space, a club with more attitude than substance — but at least an attempt at New York glamour. We opened Shampoo and we brought in international DJs, including Jackie Christie, as a Saturday resident. Josh Wink, a local, also spun. The first night, I did the door with a queen named Phoenix, to whom I bequeathed my faux fur Jean-Paul Gaultier coat. It was, according to all, the first time a pick-and-choose door system had been tried in the City of Brotherly Love. I made lots of friends and legions of enemies, but nightlife in Philly was never the same. That was a long time ago, and many very relevant joints have opened since. Shampoo is still there doing its thing. I went there a few months ago and saw many familiar faces. Barry Gutin presides over a bunch of sophisticated restaurants and clubs in Philly, AC, and Florida, and we remain friends — all this because my girlfriend whined to me about how bored she was.
An interesting side story I heard was a local mobster and his buddies were drinking at Egypt one night when a couple of newlyweds approached for an autograph. The mobster accommodated and noticed the seeker’s watch. “Is that a new Rolex?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” the young man replied. “Can I try it on?” “Oh, of course.” It was shown around, and then the gangster turned his back. The young man sheepishly asked for his watch back. “What watch?” came the answer. “What the hell are you talking about?” The young couple was chased away, and the story spread through the scene. Many thought it funny — Philadelphia funny. Others shook their heads. Needless to say, this happened a long time ago in a city far, far away, and the mobster in question is no longer around to tell his side of the story. I might catch a World Series game, get a cheese steak at Geno’s, wit wiz, and stop by Shampoo. I will bravely be wearing my Timex.
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