October 25–November 1, 2001

cover story


CP Choice 2001: Citylife

Best Place to Stock up on Action Figures and Japanese Animation


photo: Christina M. Felice

All you die-hard collectors should haul your asses over to Quakerhead on South Street for a full-on array of action figures from Star Wars (big and small), Star Trek, Marvel, DC and other superheroes — plus, a glass case of vintage action figures like the original Luke Skywalker and C-3PO, ranging from around $20-$30. And its selection of Japanese animation videos ranges from new to old to rare. Isn’t it about time to stock up on your collection of Devilman and Sailor Moon videos? Sean O’Neal

533 South St., 215-923-9462

Best Rush Hour Comedian Who’s not Chris Tucker

Cattle-herding is such a thankless job, but at Suburban Station, Brian Morrow has a knack for eliciting smiles from haggard commuters by finding the fun in the mundane. The Regional Rail announcer has a host of one-liners and witty inflections that range from boarding announcements à la sports color commentary to gentle admonishings to put out the cigarette (or whatever it is you’re smoking), to friendly (and funny) reminders to get out the vote on Election Day. He reminds us that we’re all in this together — well, aside from that one guy who didn’t parse the change in boarding location the first seven times it was announced. Morrow says he aspires to be a schoolteacher someday. Tap this guy for the morning announcements, OK? Helen Thompson

Least Appropriate Public Art (post-9-11)

For decades, people passing by Harold Kimmelman’s 1977 sculpture, “Burst of Joy,” at Ninth and Market have wondered what it was. A broken stick? A firecracker? A burst of joy? Today, viewers can’t help but see the destruction of the World Trade Center in the abstract metal sculpture. Daniel Brook

Best Departure From a Radio Station

Weekday mornings smelling a little sweeter these days? That’s because shock jock Wendy Williams has vacated the city. She hastily departed WUSL Power 99-FM and left the Dream Team morning crew in the lurch. Tossed out of New York for “outing” artists on the air, Radio’s biggest plastic-surgery advocate picked up where she left off upon arrival in Philly. Word is, Williams was angry that the station hadn’t made good on a promise to help brand her personality by plastering up billboards with her ugly plastic-fantastic face on ’em and refused to rename the morning show “The Wendy Williams Show,” and that maybe, just maybe, she had personal beef with co-host Colby Colb. Now, if we could just clean up the nighttime slot and get rid of the obnoxious, childish and sexist Hot Boyz DJ team. Ainè Ardron-Doley

Best Place to Tangle up and Unwind

If you’re a member of 12th Street Gym, then you know its included-with-membership classes are primo for non-self-starters. It’s got a fine group of yoga instructors, but the most enjoyable class is Stephanie’s Qigong class (it’s billed as “athletic yoga”), which is held during spring and summer evenings on the gym’s roof deck. There’s no better way to take in the city lights than twisting up into a pretzel, striking poses, smoothing out your chi and then gazing Rear Window-style into the nearby apartment buildings. The indoor version (during winter and inclement weather) could use a bigger studio space, and I only hope that this mention doesn’t make it impossible for perpetual latecomers like myself to get some floor space. Brian Howard

204 S. 12th St., 215-985-4092, www.12streetgym.com

Best Chic, Comfy, Cheap Shoes for Women

Aerosoles shoes have come a long way from those frumpy original styles that were known for being bendable. Without sacrificing their trademark cushiony comfort, the latest models on display at the new flagship store on Walnut Street look more like sexy heels, tall boots and clubkid sneakers than practical flats. My first pair of Aerosoles maintained its great look and feel through many transcontinental travels; I’m now up to my fifth pair. Karen Gross

Aerosoles Shoes, 1700 Walnut St., 215-546-5407, www.aerosoles.com

Best Place to buy Real Art, Cheap

The world-class art throughout The Print Center is truly budget-priced. But for an art economics revelation, check out the boxes of neatly stacked original art at the back of this very Philadelphian institution overlooking a neat, urban backyard. Much of this work can be acquired for a little less than the price of a Center City lunch. Dirty little secret: If the city’s major corporate offices shop here for the swank art that line their paneled walls, why shouldn’t you? Peter Burwasser

1614 Latimer St., 215-735-6090

Best Gym to Spot Strange and Unusual Creatures

From the oldest man alive (or so it seems) lounging on the exercise bike pedaling every few minutes; to the man who sweats buckets on the elliptical trainer, working himself into a frenzy and almost breaking the machine with his force; to the man who growls when lifting weights, not grunting, but growling (you know, like a bear) — this is the Central YMCA at 15th and Arch streets. Oh, and then there’s Nippy, the woman with the world’s smallest nipples. How do I know this? Oh, only because she hangs out in the locker room naked, always naked, at the sink, sitting and watching TV, in front of the mirror, at her locker, in the sauna, etc., etc., etc. Welcome to the Y! Ainè Ardron-Doley

1425 Arch St., 215-557-0082

Biggest Scare in Old City

Finish up your business at the outside ATM at the First Union building at Fifth and Market. Now you want your card back, don’t you? That’s why you chose the get-card-back option. So why does the machine wait eight seconds to give you back your bit of plastic? Sure, eight seconds might not seem long, but you’d be surprised how many paranoid fantasies of what’s happening to your life savings you can have in that time. Michael Pelusi

Friendliest Post Office

How often do you walk into a post office, arms packed with parcels, and receive a heartwarming smile and “hello” from the clerk? Finally, the Penn’s Landing main Post Office, on Fourth Street near Bainbridge, tenders the most cheerfulness I have ever seen at any post office ever. I often consider dropping by without anything to mail — just to say hi and continue some pleasant conversation from my previous visit. Sean O’Neal

622 S. Fourth St.

Best New Thrift Store

Finally, a thrift store that is for the hipsters, by the hipsters. Retrospect transforms the old Blockbuster on South Street into a warehouse-style thrift-haven chock-full of kitschy furniture, housewares and stylish clothes like pants, sweaters and T-shirts for under $20. Without smelling like mothballs and without being grimy, this new hot spot that opened last May dishes out a pleasant flashback into the ’60s and ’70s. The sign on the wall says it all: “New this week … nothing.” Sean O’Neal

534 South St., 267-671-0116, www.retrospectvintage.com

Best New Use for The Academy of Music

In December, the Philadelphia Orchestra will moving on up to fancy new digs at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Why not spread the good fortune around a bit by turning the Academy of Music into a homeless shelter? Think about it: The Dante-esque Family Circle section could finally live up to its name. And there’s probably enough loose change stuck in those seat cushions to fill a dozen empty coffee cups. Andrew Ervin

Best City Landscape Artist

I grew up in the city, and therefore had a lovely cement box as a “backyard.” Now when I drop by to visit the fam, I hardly recognize the place. Gorgeous plants and flowers bloom all over the place, arranged artfully in planters and along the walls. Did my parents suddenly develop green thumbs? Not a chance. It was all the work of Warren Lewis, a landscape artist whose work you most likely have seen even if you’ve never been lucky enough to hang out in my backyard. Lewis has done work all over the city, turning eyesores into lovely mini-gardens on street corners and formerly dirt-filled parks. Debra Auspitz

Warren Lewis Landscape Design, 610-688-7030

Nicest People Who Your Pets Will Still Fear

Going to the vet — cold scales, needles, thermometers going into private places — must be the animal equivalent of a House of Horrors. At least there’s a place where you know your pet will be in the gentlest of hands. Queen Village Animal Hospital, led by Drs. Howard Wellens and Marty McGuire, recently underwent a large renovation and now has twice the space to tend to Fido or Kitty. True animal lovers populate the office, and the staff is so caring that sometimes even the finickiest of pets can forget that this is supposed to be torture. Debra Auspitz

323 Bainbridge St., 215-925-5753

Best Place to Go to Make Your Dog Très Chic

The name, written in neon lettering in front of a window display of doggie goods, says it all. Le Pooche is the place to go to get your dog groomed. Actually, on the inside, it’s neither swanky nor intimidating, run by Bob the groomer, possibly the world’s biggest dog lover. Bob will talk to your pet (no word on whether they ever respond) throughout the grooming session and always accepts personal requests to make the stay more pleasant. Your dog’s afraid of the hair dryer? No problem; Bob will towel dry the pup, and probably make up a cute nickname for your pet in the process. Debra Auspitz

Le Pooche, 404 S. 20th St., 215-985-1002

Most Inspiring Window Display

The ladies at the buy/sell/trade accessory and clothing store Buffalo Exchange are fashion mystics; with one wiggle of their noses they can morph fogey into fabulous by combining the right balance of outdated and nouveau for outfits in their always-inspiring window displays. Okay, maybe it’s more than nose-wiggling. These queens of the fly getup are waging war on passe style guidelines — making new and improved use of colors, textures and eras that sat boxed in a basement, attic or closet before someone brought them in to sell. Their unwritten rule of not having any — like, say, teaming beat-up cowboy boots with a chic dress — is what’s got them ready for a new age in urban style. Hamida Kinge

1109 Walnut St., 215-627-4647

Most Unsettling Ongoing Fashion Trend Among Black Women

Sistas in Philly love their “www” to death. No, this time I’m not referring to the World Wide Web. I’m speaking of wigs, wig caps and weaves. More than any other place I’ve been, Philly’s black women just can’t get enough of “100-percent human hair” of every color — including the unfortunately ever-popular burgundy — that is 100-percent made in Asia. Why do we give in to the Euro-influenced standard of beauty so effortlessly? Mostly gone are the West African braid styles of the ’90s which, even though they incorporated synthetic hair, were somewhat reflective of the mother continent. Wig shops and hair-suppliers: Let my people go. Hamida Kinge

Least Improved Service for the Money (or, Best Reason to Buy a Bike)

It’s a Saturday night, and I’m where I’m supposed to be on time: the bus stop. In fact, I’m a little early for my SEPTA bus. A half an hour and a pack of gum later, with two college-age girls who have been waiting longer than I have, I split a cab. SEPTA, oh how I love thee. The last several times I’ve had to be punctual, you made sure I wasn’t. The other day, I saw five buses going in the opposite direction, but none coming my way. Question: Where do those buses disappear to? SEPTA, you’ve deserted me. But, I will survive. I’m walking where I can and saving those hiked $2 fares to buy my first bike. Hamida Kinge

Best Lingerie Saleswomen

Even if the selection weren’t as great as it is (Calvin, DKNY and all the other big names) and the sales as appealing (25 percent off? Hello), the five-woman sales crew at Lord & Taylor makes lingerie shopping more enjoyable than at any other Center City store. My favorite is Shirley Levin, who goes back to the store’s Wanamaker days and has clocked in almost 14 years on the job. She always compliments your selection (or purse, or jacket), and will make fun chitchat about the slowpoke ahead of you who just bought all the granny panties. “It’s a beautiful place to work, and the best place around for lingerie,” says the blond Levin. Their one peeve? The crew finds that hardly any women know their correct bra size. “You measure some women and they’re like, ‘I don’t wanna hear that!’ Just like in shoes.” I thought larger was better in bra sizes. Alex Richmond

1300 Market St., 215-241-9000

Best (almost) Pain-free Bikini Wax

Getting hair ripped off your bikini area can sometimes be a traumatic and certainly painful experience. However, for those of us who must get it done regardless of whether it’s bikini season, Sarah at Gomo’s Nails makes the experience more bearable. Sarah has an almost motherly approach as she calmly applies the hot wax with expert precision and then presses down for a few seconds with the gauzy fabric. Then she immediately applies a soothing lotion to the newly waxed area and in less then 15 minutes you forget you even had it done. And, she doesn’t chatter in your ear the whole time. A great deal at $15. Mary F. Patel

130 S. 17th St., 215-567-8819

Best Day Job for a Vampire

It’s tough making ends meet when your 9 to 5 spans the darker hours, but the Dancing Ferret himself, Patrick Rodgers, has been doing just that with a juggling act that’s been keeping Philadelphia square in the forefront of the international goth-industrial circuit. Dancing Ferret Records’ act the Cruxshadows spent the summer being THE American band at such powerful European music festivals as Eurorock in Belgium and Zillo in Germany. But Philadelphians know and love the fanged promoter best for his long-running Nocturne party and his toothy grin behind the counter running Digital Ferret CDs at Fifth and South. Helen Thompson

Win of the Year

In a flashback to their Valentine’s Day victory over the Lakers, the Sixers pulled out a stunning OT win in L.A. in Game 1 of the NBA finals, averting the much-ballyhooed sweep and sticking it to the over-confident L.A. fans. Put those damn brooms away! Remember when Raja Bell stripped Kobe of the ball? Priceless. We’re starting out the season a beat-up bunch once again, but ain’t no stopping us now. Ainè Ardron-Doley

Worst Local Sports Fans

In 1995,
28,000 Phillies fans trekked six hours to rural Cooperstown to watch Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt get inducted into the Hall of Fame. This nyear, the Phillies won 86 games, took the always-tough Braves into the final week of the season — and averaged only
22,800 fans per home game. Yes, the Vet’s a lousy place to watch a ballgame, but with a team that looks ready to contend for the next decade, is there any reason for the stadium to be two-thirds empty, summer night after summer night? Andrew Milner

Most Blatant Unrequited Love

The X Games were a big plus for the city, raining $40 million to $50 million in tourism
and pushing the First Union Center to capacity nearly all day every day. The city and commerce leaders who brought the event here are doubtless proud of themselves, and they’re probably even more antsy about hosting the games in 2002. But regardless of which city reps went to the negotiating table with ESPN, the municipal mokita surrounding the coup is that if it weren’t for the hometown heroes at Love park, there wouldn’t have been a Philadelphia X Games. Or at least, it would’ve been a more level playing field competing for it with Richmond, Va. The international renown that local skateboarders have brought to the city via Love is unmatched, thanks to Josh Kalis, Kerry Getz, Ricky Oyola, Kevin Taylor, Steve Williams, Bam Margera, Anthony Pappalardo and a slew of others, not to mention photographers, filmers and artists — about 15 years’ worth of ’em. So now that the city has witnessed the value that skateboarders can bring (the touted figure of 10 years of damages was recouped 50 times over in one week), how about a little recognition? Getz, Habitat Skateboards pro and Nocturnal skate shop owner, took top honors at the X Games’ first street contest, which was held four floors below City Council on Dilworth Plaza. His closing words in accepting his medal: “Free Love park!” Rick Valenzuela

Best Night Out Out of the City

Despite the fact it’s in the middle of a high school, there’s nothing auditorium-like about the Washington Township Center for the Performing Arts. This $7.2 million, six-story, wood-paneled theater has 2,500 upholstered seats, a balcony and professional-caliber lighting and sound. Plus, there’s plenty of parking. Since New Park Entertainment started booking shows there, it’s hosted everyone from k.d. lang to Steve Earle to Natalie Merchant. And for a chic dining experience beforehand, try Ramona’s, a terrific, tiny Spanish restaurant in Haddonfield. With tapas-style and full-size entrees like pollo y chorizo, to their smooth-as-silk flan, Ramona’s has a buzz for good reason: It’s on par with Center City’s finest — with less impact on your wallet. (Speaking of which, bring cash or a checkbook; they don’t accept credit cards.) Nicole Pensiero

Washington Township Center for the Performing Arts: 519 Hurffville-Crosskeys Rd., Sewell, N.J., 856-589-8500, ext. 7645. Ramona’s: 403 Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, N.J., 856-428-8021