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STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com

EDITORIAL Art Director: Emily McLaughlin emily@pittsburghcurrent.com Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Special Projects Editor: Rebecca Addison Rebecca@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Staff Writer, Arts: Amanda Reed Amanda@pittsburghcurrent.com Staff Writer, News and Food: Haley Frederick Haley@pittsburghcurrent.com Columnists: Aryanna Berringer, Sue Kerr, Mike Wysocki opinions@pittsburghcurrent.com Craft Beer Writer: Day Bracey info@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Kim Lyons, Jody DiPerna, Mike Shanley, Ted Hoover, Mike Watt, Ian Thomas, Matt Petras, Thomas Leturgey, Nick Eustis info@pittsburghcurrent.com Logo Design: Mark Adisson

CONTENTS Vol. I Iss. XI Dec. 18, 2018

YEAR IN REVIEW: 6-11 OPINION 12 | Rob Rogers 12 | What We Learned 13 | Shooting Blanks? ART 14 | Tom Terrific 17 | Hershey Felder MUSIC 18 | Pittsburgh Plays McCartney 24 | Blood Pressure 25 | Making Space FOOD 26 | The Year in Pittsburgh Food 28 | This Tastes Funny 30 | Day Drinking NEIGHBORHOODS 31 | Wilkinsburg 33 | A Conversation THE DOG POUND 37 | Christmas Love Story, Part II EXTRA 38 | Crossword 38 | News of the Weird 39 | Savage Love

ADVERTISING Vice President of Sales: Paul Klatzkin Paul@pittsburghcurrent.com Senior Account Executives: Andrea James Andrea@pittsburghcurrent.com Jeremy Witherell

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT WILL BE JANUARY 8.

Jeremy@pittsburghcurrent.com Account Executive: Mackenna Donahue Mackenna@pittsburghcurrent.com

ADMINISTRATION Operations Director: Thria Devlin

THE FINE PRINT The contents of the Pittsburgh Current are © 2018 by Pittsburgh Current, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this publication shall be duplicated or reprinted without the express-written consent of Pittsburgh Current LLC.The Pittsburgh Current is published twice monthly beginning August 2018.

Office Manager: Bonnie McConnell

The opinions contained in columns and letters to the editors represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pittsburgh Current ownership, management and staff. The Pittsburgh Current is an independently owned and operated print and online media company produced in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, 1665 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA., 15216. 412-204-7248.

Bonnie@pittsburghcurrent.com

Email us or don’t: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.

thria@pittsburghcurrent.com

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‘CURRENT’ YEAR IN REVIEW BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

I

t would be pretty difficult for me to write a Year in Review, without starting right here at the Pittsburgh Current. I started 2018 as the editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper; quite honestly, a job I hoped to hold until I entered the wonderful world of retirement in 20 years or so. But that goal ended on May 15 when I was relieved of my job by management. The story has been told a few times, but it all boils down to philosophical differences on what the paper’s voice, tone and purpose should be. And while I didn’t know it at the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. This paper started in late May with an idea over breakfast in Dormont with my partner Bethany Ruhe. We decided to launch the Pittsburgh Current and got to work. Friend and former Pittsburgh PostGazette writer Kim Lyons came on board to help us get started. The three of us met in Bethany’s kitchen, talked about ideas and decided to launch a Kickstarter. In fact, it was at that meeting that Kim gave us the idea for one of our signature pieces, This Tastes Funny. She gave us that idea and so much more and I will be forever grateful. A lot has happened since that first meeting. We launched a paper in five weeks with the idea of going monthly at first. However, when Bethany and I are were approached by Paul Klatzkin about leaving CP and bringing his immense talent and sales ability to us, we quickly decided to print twice monthly and haven’t regretted the decision since. From the beginning, people

have supported us and our concept of influence-free, reader-first journalism. Our coverage isn’t beholden to corporate influence. We don’t operate in fear that something we cover will cost us money. Our first priority is our content and our readers. The readers know that and our great crop of loyal advertisers know it as well. We are humbled by the support we received. Our readers and supporters pledged more than $21,000 in our initial Kickstarter campaign. That’s the only reason we are here today. We have a dedicated staff and assemblage of freelance writers who believe in our mission and are committed to seeing this project succeed. One of our earliest supporters was activist and sex columnist Dan Savage. Upset at my dismissal, Savage surprised me with a phone call in early June saying that he wanted to bring his column to our paper once we were up and running. That along with a deal to print Rob Rogers’ editorial cartoons were important to our early successes. Other people vital to that first issue was my old CP friend and colleague Rebecca Addison who wrote our first news piece ever. Her husband, Mark Addison, designed the logo, which I instantly fell in love with and my friend D.J. Coffman has helped us in a thousand different ways, including by designing our first cover, an image that couldn’t have more perfectly told the story of this paper’s purpose. From there, my friend Margaret Welsh stepped in to handle music and I was thrilled that Mike Shanley, who I first met in my

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old In Pittsburgh days also agreed to contribute as did old friend/great writer Jody DiPerna and longtime, respected theater critic, Ted Hoover. Because we wanted a strong editorial voice, we recruited Aryanna Berringer to write a political column and Sue Kerr to cover LGBTQ issues. And while there are countless other contributors who have helped us, my three regular editorial staffers Haley Frederick, Amanda Reed and Jake Mysliwczyk have been invaluable to this product. I’ll admit it, we looked pretty rough in the early days. We were figuring out our look, blowing print deadlines and, unfortunately, leaving a lot to be desired in our proofreading (something we work to improve on a daily basis). Designwise we were given an immediate upgrade when freelance designer Mary Beth Eastman came on board with Issue 3. And beginning with Issue 8, we added a full-time art director, Emily McLaughlin. Emily is immensely talented and is already one of the best designers I’ve ever worked with. This collection of people and others including Operations Director Thria Devlin and sales associates Andrea James, Mackenna Donahue and Jeremy Witherell are dedicated to making this endeavor into a news media company this city can be proud of. You will never have to wonder where we stand on important issues; you will never have to question the veracity of our reporting; we are a company that is in this business to offer honest, hardhitting journalism regardless of who it pisses off. Going forward, we intend to challenge ourselves daily and be held accountable for the promises that we made. That’s why the Pittsburgh Current is proud to announce today the formation of two boards. First, we will be forming a community editorial advisory board. Members will meet four times a year to help guide the paper’s coverage into areas of the most importance to our citizens. To volunteer for the board or to nominate someone,

please send an email to charlie@ pittsburghcurrent.com. We pledge that these boards will be diverse and represent a cross section of our community. Secondly, we are now taking resumes or nominations for the Pittsburgh Current’s new advisory board of directors. We are looking for members with experience in growing a company and preparing it to last well into the future. We are looking for directors from several different disciplines including corporate strategy, new company growth, accounting, startups, the law and community relations. The board will be chaired by the Pittsburgh Current’s newest equity partner, Robert Malkin. Malkin, who serves as Engineering Director at Google in Pittsburgh, became a minority shareholder in November. Email resumes or nominees to charlie@ pittsurghcurrent.com I’m excited for what 2019 holds. We’ve only been doing this since June and we’ve learned a lot in that time, including the importance of partnerships with a wide-ranging coalition of organizations, nonprofits and even other media companies. In my old life, I was short-sighted in my thinking and I never would have considered co-hosting an event with ‘competitors’ like The Incline, for example. But, I’ve learned that the way to improve this city’s media landscape is by similar companies working together whenever possible. An isolated newspaper or media company with a chip on its shoulder isn’t going to survive in the new media world. We think we’ve got a new way of doing things; a better alternative that we can’t wait to show you more of in 2019. After all, I think we’ve already learned more in six months than some people have in, say, more than 25 years.


Pittsburgh Current Issue 1 Cover Art by D.J. Coffman

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 7


2018 FROM THE PAGES OF THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT BY CHARLIE DEITCH AND HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM We are aware, of course, that news actually happened prior to July 11, 2018—the day the Current’s inaugural issue hit the streets—but we thought we’d do our inaugural Year in Review issue straight from the pages (print and web) of the Pittsburgh Current. A lot has happened in our first year of operation. Here are the moments and stories that made an impact on us and the city. The launch of the Pittsburgh Current On June 6, 2018, our really poor-looking website went live with a story about how we were here, independent and begging for money via Kickstarter. We were overwhelmed by everyone’s response. We surpassed our goal of $15,000 and we were well on the ill-advised road to starting a print newspaper! Our first print issue hit the street July 11 and we haven’t looked back. The paper begins offering a weekly comics section in Issue 2 and adds to powerhouse contributors when the cartoons of fired PostGazette political cartoonist Rob Rogers begin showing up in the Current and nationally known sex columnist and activist Dan Savage leaves his old Pittsburgh paper and begins publishing his column in the Current. Also we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that on Aug. 2 we got a visit from Nick “Fucking” Nolte.

The killing of Antwon Rose Unarmed and just 17-years-old, Antwon Rose Jr. was shot in the back by an East Pittsburgh police officer on June 19. Rose was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by police because it fit the description of a car used in a drive-by shooting. Rose jumped out of the vehicle and began running away when Officer Michael Rosfeld opened fire, hitting Rose in the face, arm and back. On June 26, Rosfeld was indicted on criminal homicide charges. Rose’s death was a catalyst for protests that lasted more than a month. At a massive protest downtown June 22, those in attendance began calls for justice, fearful that this case of a young black man assaulted by a police officer would end up like others. “This is a referendum on District Attorney Stephen Zappala, he has always stood with the brutalizing police officers and he’s never stood with the oppressed black and brown people of Allegheny County,” said Jasiri X. “He didn’t prosecute police officers, but he put charges on Jordan Miles. He didn’t prosecute those police officers that brutalized Leon Ford but he put charges on Leon Ford.” Later on June 22, hundreds of protesters shut down the Parkway East hours after they began protesting at the East Pittsburgh Police Department. Protests continued with the intent to disrupt commerce and transportation lines in the city until charges were filed against the officer. Said one protester: “We shut down the whole damn Interstate. Nobody

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got to work; nobody got home. Yesterday, we shut down the whole downtown; then we went up and shut down a Pirates game. We had a group in Homestead that shut Protestors in Homestead following the Police Shooting of Antwon Rose Jr. down a Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk bridge. This is what unity looks like when black people…plan and Pittsburgh native Mac Miller and organize. Until we get justice died suddenly in his California for Antwon, we will shut shit down home on Friday, Sept. 7, at the age everyday.” of 26. Miller, born Malcolm James Allegheny County Controller McCormick on Jan. 19, 1992, made Chelsa Wagner also wrote in an music a part of his life almost from exclusive op-ed in the Current: “It the beginning. The artist, who scored is far more important that we all big with records like Blue Slide Park, take ownership of our racial divide K.I.D.S., Watching Movies With the more than we do the superficial Sound Off, The Divine Feminine designations that land us on the and this year’s Swimming, seemed best-of lists.” destined to it at an early age. Recently, Rose’s family sued But, like so many others, he the University of Pittsburgh, where struggled with substance abuse. On Rosfeld worked as an officer prior to Nov. 7, officials announced Miller’s joining East Pittsburgh. The lawsuit official cause of death: an accidental claims the university let Rosfeld overdose from a fatal mixture of quietly leave his old job without fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol. documenting “prior misconduct.” Four days after his death, thousands of fans gathered to Death of Mac Miller celebrate his life and music at The news broke that hip-hop star Squirrel Hill’s Blue Slide Park, the

Thousands gathered to celebrate Mac Miller’s life and music at Squirrel Hill’s Blue Slide Park Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk


namesake of his first full-length record. Miller loved Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh loves him back. Tree of Life A gunman opened fire on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 27 at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life Synagogue killing 11 people who were attending religious services there and injuring several others, including responding police officers. The victims were Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland; Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross; Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood; brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, of Wilkinsburg, who were married; Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill; Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill; and Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington. Later that day, the shooter would be identified as Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin. His anti-semitism and racism are well-documented online, as well as overheard by witnesses in the things he shouted at the scene. For the victims and their loved ones, as well as the larger jewish community, in the days and weeks following there was an outpouring of support across Pittsburgh and the nation. There were of course the funerals, and then there were vigils, memorials, marches, fundraisers and tributes. For Bowers, there were charges. He is accused of 44 federal crimes, 32 of which carry the maximum sentence of the death penalty. He is now awaiting trial. Pittsburgh protests President Trump’s visit to Tree of Life Despite being specifically asked not to visit Tree of Life in the days following the massacre because of comments he made, President Donald Trump came any way. He was met by scores of protesters who felt Trump’s attitudes and words helped breed the kind of hate that was on display at the Tree of Life. Members of Bend the Arc PGH, a coalition of progressive Jewish

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Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk

citizens objected to Trump’s visit writing in a letter: “For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” they read. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but [Saturday’s] violence is the direct culmination of your influence.” Pregnant Chargers fan choked at Steelers game A San Diego woman was choked

by a Steelers fan more than twice her size Dec. 3 when she tried to stop the man from continuing to assault her husband. Pittsburgh Current learned about the assault when it saw a photo taken by freelance photographer Shelley Lipton. The San Diego couple said they had been harassed all night by the man and despite requests for help from security, they were ignored. In fact, no security personnel ever arrived on the scene of the fight. The case is under investigation and details about the assault and the

Pregnant San Diego fan was assaulted at a Dec. 3 game at Heinz Field Photo by: Shelley Tipton 10 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

photo were picked up by news sites nationwide. Despite a clear photo of the attacker’s face, Pittsburgh Police would not confirm whether they’ve received any information about who the man is. Pittsburgh DIY Punk Ambassador Jessi Flati dead at 40 Flati was an outstanding musician and fervent cheerleader for Pittsburgh’s DIY punk scene. Just a few months before his death Oct. 26, Flati and his wife, Steph, who performed collectively as The Lopez, held a record release for their new single, “Like a Prayer.” A new album was due out by year’s end. Flati is remembered for his talent and dedication to the music scene as well as his sense of humor and love for his wife/bandmate. “I remember Jesse playing his noisy guitar leads, leaning his whole body into Steph with a wide-legged stance as she screamed into the microphone, then stepping back in silence as soon as they were finished so she could field questions,” said recording engineer Madeleine Campbell. “Their powerful chemistry and partnership were instantly recognizable to everyone who met them.” Silk Screen Film Festival shut down amid harassment allegation Less than a week after the close of Silk Screen’s 13th annual film festival, the non-profit organization

The Lopez. Photo by: Ryan Michael White

appeared to have shut down amid allegations of workplace and sexual harassment against its executive director, Harish Saluja. Sereny Welsby, a programming and operating assistant at Silk Screen contacted the Pittsburgh Current on Oct. 1, a day after the festival closed. On Aug. 29, Welsby filed a formal complaint about Saluja with Silk Screen’s board, which included several statements from former employees and interns alleging a history of inappropriate conduct by Saluja. Following Welsby’s call for Saluja’s termination, in early September Silk Screen staff were told that he was resigning effective Dec. 31. Until that time, when he worked in the office, Saluja was to be chaperoned by a board member and have no direct contact with interns. However, Welsby says, the board has never investigated her complaints or complaints by previous women. Unhappy with the way the board had handled the complaints, which she learned are a part of a pattern going back several years, Welsby decided to take the story to the media. On Oct 2, Welsby says she arrived at work and was fired. She was offered $1,000 severance if she signed a document agreeing not to make “disparaging, insulting or critical” comments about her former employer. The agreement also


required that she give up her rights to any sort of legal redress, including the filing of a lawsuit and any other future claims. She declined the cash payment. “From day one it was an uncomfortable work environment,” Welsby says. The festival has since shut down citing “financial challenges.” Rap music apparently banned at Arsenal Lanes Peter Guellard, a DJ at Arsenal Lanes was fired after he posted a picture of a sign in the DJ booth telling jocks: “do not play RAP/ HIP-HOP.” “I can totally understand if the note said, ‘No explicit lyrics’ or ‘Play Rock’n’Roll music,’ which is supposed to be the theme, but I think the picture of the note that I posted stinks of racism. I also felt very uncomfortable explaining to people who were requesting hip hop that the owners don’t want me to play it,” Guellard told the Current. The establishment’s owner told the Current that there was a ban on offensive lyrics, not hip hop. Republicans contest Lindsey Williams’ victory In a year when women candidates made a splash by running and winning in what seems like record numbers, Lindsey Williams has had one of the toughest treks to victory. Williams ran against rightwing zealot Jeremy Shaffer. Shaffer was a typical far-right Republican, bad on issues like LGBTQ rights. He ran a dirty campaign which included tricks like posting phony signs claiming WIlliams was a socialist. She beat him in the General Election and is currently dealing with more horseshit from the GOP, who is challenging her residency.

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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 11


OPINION

Rob Rogers

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT POLITICAL CANDIDATES IN 2018

BY ARYANNA BERRINGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT POLITICAL COLUMNIST ARYANNA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

I

t’s hard to believe that 2018 is coming to an end. When January hits, not only will we see candidates in the 2019 election cycle pressing the flesh for votes, but others will begin to gear up for the big one in 2020. As always happens in these cases, those allegedly “in the know” can’t wait to start offering advice and imparting their wisdom to the candidates. They think they know the perfect formula to get someone elected, from the right talking points

to the best way to dress and act in public. But, what I hope they remember is just one thing — 2018 was the year that authenticity won. We saw it here locally with the Primary election wins of Sara Innamorato (full disclosure, I am her campaign chair) and Summer Lee. These women ran for seats in the Pennsylvania House as themselves. They didn’t listen to establishment-types who told them to dress differently or wear their hair

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a certain way. Most importantly, instead of sticking to the tired playbook of avoiding saying too much on policy for fear of offending a potential voter, they got out there and talked about the issues that were important to them and their community in a very personal and thoughtful way. They talked about race, and class, and the economic struggles of people. This authenticity inspired people to come out and knock doors in the rain, even on Mother’s Day. And the candidates themselves were out there getting drenched with their supporters. This authenticity also moved people to come out and vote. We saw that with voter turnout in districts across Pennsylvania that surpassed historical bests. It also translated into not only general election wins, but tighter races in districts that were typically

written off by Democrats across the Commonwealth. Candidates who were authentic pushed the boundaries and gave a new found hope like never before. We saw competitive races in Delaware County with Kristin Seale (HD168) and in the state Senate win of Lindsey Williams (SD-38). Emily Best stayed true to herself in her state Senate (SD-30) race. She ran for office as a young mom and often had her little one out on the stump with her. We saw this authenticity in Congressional districts nationally as well. Just take a look at Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in New York. You saw many of this “keepin’-itreal” class of candidates expressing themselves in person, in front of town hall meetings and on social media. They opened themselves up and it made a personal connection with their constituencies. Yes, these candidates organized, but more importantly they made politics finally feel accessible to all, not just the donor class. There were no coattails to ride in Pennsylvania from the top of the ticket down to local races; the opposite happened. These candidates who kept it real should be credited for increasing voter participation that provided substantial margins of victory for Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. The reason 2018 is being labeled as the “Year of the Woman” is because women figured out that they were going to make it the “Year of Authenticity.” So if you’re running for office in 2019, burn your copy of the “buttoned-up, stodgy, play it safe, say little, stay-vague-and-vapi- inyour-talking points” playbook. Go out there, run for office and be yourself; choose convictions over calculations. When you do you will continue to reshape the structure of what a political candidate should be. That’s the difference between making change and making authentic change.


Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk

T

his country’s refusal to put reasonable limits and restraints on gun access, use and ownership is asinine. Kids keep getting killed, adults keep getting killed, synagogues, gay bars and courthouses have all been attacked by hate-mongering cast-offs because it’s too easy to legally get a firearm. That said, you’d naturally think that I was thrilled when Mayor Bill Peduto, Gov. Tom Wolf and several elected state and city officials gathered outside Pittsburgh City Council to announce the city’s intent to introduce a whole host of laws restricting firearms. But I wasn’t thrilled. In fact, I’m pretty annoyed by it. Why? Because I don’t believe these measures are anything more than political grandstanding on a hot-button issue because the city has been down this road before. And instead of standing to fight the good fight, Peduto and city council slinked away from a battle they once pretended to welcome. In 2009, Peduto, along with

SHOOTING BLANKS? BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM former councilor Doug Shields, was one of the main champions of a law that required gun owners to report to law enforcement if their guns were lost or stolen. The idea of the law is to crackdown on “straw buyers,” people who legally buy guns and sell them to people who can’t. If you don’t report the gun and it’s later used in a crime, you’re on the hook for criminal charges. The reality is, it’s nearly impossible for municipalities to enact gun control laws without having them overturned. But this law was enacted with city council’s knowledge that they would be sued and they welcomed the challenge. One year after the law was enacted, it had never been enforced under former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The city was sued briefly after the law was enacted but the case was thrown out when a judge ruled that you can’t claim a law is a constitutional violation if it was never enforced. Then when Peduto ran for Mayor in 2013, one of his major campaign points was

the enforcement of the lost/stolen ordinance. However, to this day, he’s never enforced it, neither has his police department. In 2014, my friend and colleague Rebecca Addison asked the mayor why he hadn’t enforced the law after making powerful statements like this on the campaign trail: “My first order of business as Mayor will be to fully implement the Lost and Stolen Handguns legislation I authored and passed through Council.” Peduto told her: “If we try it, we’ll be sued, and under present state law, we will probably lose.” It is true that in 2014, the state legislature drafted a law that allowed a group like the NRA to sue city’s like Pittsburgh for enacting local gun laws. But that law was overturned and still to this day, the law has never been enforced. I’m past the point in my life when I’m impressed by goodintentioned gestures and that’s what last week’s announcement seems like to me. Why should I believe that this time will be different? This

announcement and potential new laws, which would ban assault rifles in the city, comes on the heels of the horrible race-fueled massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October. Honestly, I’m all for legislation like this, somebody has to act. But after doing this for more than 25 years, I’ve been to my share of these types of “united we stand” press conferences. What happens is, there will be a big photo op where all of our very real rage is on display. City Council will debate these laws for a couple of months and they will likely pass. That’s the easy part. Without the proper enforcement, this law will have as much bite as a toothless doberman. We have enough of those already and I’m sorry to say that I don’t have much hope that this will be much different. If it’s one thing I know about Pittsburgh politicos, it’s that they are masters of the press conference but a complete disaster when it comes time to put up.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 13


ART

Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk

TOM TERRIFIC

ACTOR, DIRECTOR, SFX ARTIST AND TEACHER, TOM SAVINI IS STILL GIVING BACK TO THE INDUSTRY HE LOVES BY MATT PETRAS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

P

ittsburgh-based filmmaker and special effects master Tom Savini starts every morning the same way. His wife, Jodii Christianson, makes him a smoothie and then he heads to another room to exercise while he watches old game shows on TV. “Every day’s a different body part,” Savini says. His health and his appearance are important to him. He even has an annual tradition to make sure he stays in top form.

“Have you seen my 72nd birthday picture on Instagram?” he asks. It’s kind of a tradition. It’s motivation, actually. Really keeps me going.” I hadn’t. He whips out his phone and pulls it up on the screen. A tattooed, shirtless Tom Savini holding a birthday cake with the number “72” written in icing in between multi-colored balloons. He looks good, and not just for 72, but for any age. “I take a picture without my shirt

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on,” he says. “And I’ve done it since 1960.” He needs to stay in shape because he’s still working. According to the Internet Movie Database, he’s got four film roles in the near future. Savini still keeps himself busy teaching makeup effects at the Douglas Education Center, working on two books and appearing at pop culture and film conventions. He still lives in Pittsburgh along with his wife, cats and an impressive, expansive collec-

tion of film memorabilia. Savini is best known as a director, actor, special effects artist and for working with famed director George Romero in a career that has spanned 44 years. Savini got his start in Romero’s 1978 film, Martin, as both an actor and effects artist. He would do four films with Romero and in 1990, he directed a remake of Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. His career took off from there. He did makeup and effects for many films


including Friday the 13th, Monkey Shines and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And while he’s done a ton of work behind the camera, he’s done even more in front of it. He has 66 acting credits including From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete (and its sequels), Planet Terror and Creepshow. When he isn’t traveling for work, he’s hanging out at home with his wife Jodii Christianson, surrounded by loads of toys, masks, statues, posters and more. Christianson, 38, liked Savini’s home since her first visit. She was living in Australia when they first met on Facebook about a decade ago. She reached out to him to pick his brain about special-effects makeup, because she wanted to help a filmmaker friend of hers. Soon, they began talking about so much more. In 2010, she came to America to visit him. “It really is like a haunted mansion… I wasn’t creeped out. I was actually really comfortable here,” she says, laughing. Now, she lives with him in the eclectic house. Movie posters adorn the walls of the home and statues of movie characters ranging from Franken-

stein’s Monster to Mini-Me from Austin Powers stand on the floor. His shelves are jammed with dozens of VHS tapes, DVDs and Blu-Rays. In his backyard stands a giant statue of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He has a room set up with a modest projector. He also has a container of 3-D glasses because, he says, it’s the best way to watch Star Wars. Savini doesn’t just stick to classic films, though. He saw the new Bohemian Rhapsody film with his wife and loved it. The horror aficionado didn’t see the new Halloween and says he didn’t even enjoy the original. He admits, however, that he may be too judgemental of the film. The filmmaker tuned out in the first scene when Michael Myers stabs his older sister to death. The first-person scene is shot from Michael’s perspective and Savini says it’s angled in such a way to make it look like someone much taller than a little boy is doing the deed. “What?! You’re going to convince me that kid is the killer when I just saw his point of view is up here?” Savini said. “That’s a huge mistake,

so I tuned out of the movie.” Savini is not a complete film curmudgeon. He has enjoyed some recent horror films like The Witch, a 2015 film directed by Robert Eggers. And though he hasn’t watched it yet, he’s looking forward to popping in his copy of the horror movie, Hereditary, a critical favorite released this past summer. Savini has many fans who appreciate his perspective on film and horror. Before speaking with the Current, he had just got back from a horror movie festival in Manchester. Throughout October, he’d been going to horror conventions every weekend, including in North Carolina and New York. “October’s the busiest month of the year, usually, for me,” Savini said. Many of Savini’s fans have been greatly inspired by his accomplishments over the years. Savini has been reflecting on such successes as he works on two books, one a picture-heavy autobiographical coffee table book to be called “Savini” and the other is a collection of storyboards for his Night of The Living Dead film.

Savini also gives back by teaching his craft at the Douglas Education Center’s “Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program.” Recently, he directed some episodes of Flicker, a horror web-series developed by the students at the private, for-profit school, which has been picked up by the horror website Bloody Disgusting. He’s enormously proud of the school, which has trained alumni who have worked on films like Avengers, The Conjuring and Lincoln as well as television series like American Horror Story, Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. “When [the Douglas president] first approached me about the school, and I went to visit Monessen, it was like a ghost town,” Savini says. “Tumbleweeds, ya know? The movie theater had burned down but it was still there, the marquee and the cinders.” Now, some of his favorite restaurants are in Monessen, he says. “There’s a lot going on, even though it’s a tiny little town,” Savini says. One Douglas graduate, Jason

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Baker, 36, now serves as Savini’s assistant. He helps with whatever needs done, from filmmaking tasks to building shelves. Their relationship extends far beyond a working one. “I would say this even if [Savini] wasn’t sitting right next to me. [Savini] is a father-figure to me,” Baker said. “[Savini] has been more of a father figure to me than my real dad. I absolutely love this man.” Savini chimes in with some fake weeping noises during Baker’s testimonial. “I have fought with him. I have argued with him,” Baker said. “But then 10 seconds later, I’m ready to do anything.” Baker directed the 2016 documentary about Savini called, Smoke and Mirrors, and was careful to focus on portraying Savini’s personal life. “If you want to know about [Savini’s] career, just throw in a DVD extra. If you wanna know about the man, come and watch this film. That was the mindset,” Baker said. “It wasn’t so much let’s talk about how

awesome [Savini is] or how he went and threw 50 gallons of fake blood all over the Monroeville Mall. I wanna know about the guy who went and threw fake blood all over the Monroeville Mall as a single parent. That’s the story that interested me.” Savini gets tattoos with the names of his children and grandchildren. “He’s a sweetheart,” Christianson says. “He’s got a heart of gold. He’s a family man. He loves his family… he’s very close with his family which is lovely.” Still, Savini has a deep love for filmmaking. Undeniably, this love is a large part of his identity. “It’s great fun. That’s when you feel the most alive. You feel that’s what your purpose is, and you’re fulfilling it in those moments,” Savini says. “I live in the moment.”

2 5 th A N N IV E R S A RY

S I LV E R J U B I L E E

IN PIT TS BU RG H’S

C U LT U R A L D IS T R IC T

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Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk

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TRUSTARTS.ORG/FIRSTNIGHTPGH


Photo: Pittsburgh Public Theater

HERSHEY FELDER BRINGS IRVING BERLIN SOLO SHOW TO THE PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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t’s believed that famous American composer and lyricist Irving Berlin — who penned classics like “White Christmas” and “God Bless America” — could only play in the key of F-sharp, often using a custom piano with a transposing lever. Actor-pianist Hershey Felder, who embodies Berlin in an upcoming show at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, says that this helped him create more than 1,500 ear-pleasing songs. “It’s very clear that his ear did all the guiding, unlike other composers who sort of leave the melody and let the interpreter or musical arranger interpret it as they see fit,” he says.

“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” runs Dec. 19 through Dec. 30. Felder, who wrote the script and performs as Berlin, leads the audience through Berlin’s life and career, playing beloved songs and unknown tunes in a night that combines storytelling and song. Felder has portrayed classical composers like Franz Liszt, Beethoven and Chopin. But he was inspired to write a show about Irving Berlin after being introduced to his daughters, who liked the concept of a oneman storytelling experience. From there, Felder realized Berlin’s story — of being a Jewish immigrant and bringing himself and

his family out of poverty through music — was one worth telling. “I realized just what a committed American he was in the very real sense of the word, that this was a story worth investigating despite the fact that it was not quite my wheelhouse of things that I do,” he says. According to Felder, the show is not about nailing Berlin’s mannerisms. Rather, it focuses on the background of the songs he wrote, utilizing “theatrical impressionism.” “I give the impression of what it’s like to have been with this man, hearing him tell his story but not to play out the story in full-blown drama in front of you,” he says.

If you’re expecting to see a dramatized version of Berlin’s Wikipedia page, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. “[The show] is really sort of the humanity of a person that is using elements of his story to tell a much larger one,” Felder says. “And the much larger one of course is an American story that you get to feel.”

HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN.

7 p.m. (2 p.m. on Sundays). From Weds., Dec. 19 through Sun., Dec. 30. $25-$65. 621 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412-316-1600 or www.ppt.org

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 17


MUSIC

Photo: Darin DiNapoli

PITTSBURGH PLAYS MCCARTNEY BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

“I THINK IT’S STILL UNPARALLELED THE AMOUNT OF QUALITY MUSIC THAT MCCARTNEY HAS GENERATED.”

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ack in October, after performing to a packed house as part of Pittsburgh Plays Petty, guitarist Byron Nash was approached by a woman and her mother. Through tears, the woman explained that her father, who had recently died, was a musician and a Tom Petty fan, who especially loved the song “American Girl.” “Something about the way we had played that song touched them,” Nash recalls. He felt almost uncomfortable accepting the woman’s praise – “Like, well, it’s not my song” – but he realized “That’s how [music] transcends. It doesn’t matter if it’s your song or someone else’s song,” he says. “I gave it a lot of integrity and I cared about it and that was someone I reached.” Tribute shows like Pittsburgh

Plays Petty occupy a strange and sometimes divisive space in the world of live music. Nash’s experience represents the best sort of outcome. But done poorly, or for the wrong reasons, audiences -- subjected to self-indulgent or questionably-conceived renditions – will wish that they’d stayed home with their record collections. And, of course, there are the sneers that come from a certain kind of purist for whom original music is the gold standard. Organizer Josh Bakaitus – a longtime promoter who has managed several tribute bands over the years – knows this as well as anyone. “There’s always this kind of ‘original bands vs. cover bands [thing],” he says with a laugh. But the Pittsburgh Plays series – the second installment, Pittsburgh Plays McCartney,

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happens Dec. 28th and 29th at Mr. Smalls Theatre – feels more conceptually rich than your average cover show. “I think that this event merges those two [types of performances] which is kind of an interesting thing.” More than just allowing musicians to channel iconic artists, or giving audiences a chance to squint and pretend they’re watching the “real thing,” Pittsburgh Plays provides a platform to grow the music scene in an organic way. Bakaitus and his business partner Cory Muro, bummed about missing Tom Petty’s last-ever stop in Pittsburgh, decided to organize a tribute to his music and his life, which would also allow them to see the songs they loved performed live. (For the second installment, several people suggested the Beatles, which

Bakaitus thought was too obvious. But McCartney’s vast catalog, and the fact that he released a record this year, made him seem like an interesting and relevant compromise.) Unlike many cover shows, which feature already-existing bands, the Bakaitus and Muro assembled several brand-new bands, each comprised of five to seven musicians from a wide variety of scenes. For Nash – a Pittsburgh music veteran known for bands like SPO-

PITTSBURGH PLAYS MCCARTNEY.

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28 and Saturday, Dec. 29. Mr. Smalls Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $25. www. pittsburghplays.com


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RATIC, Formula412 and Byron Nash & PlanB – that’s part of the appeal. “It’s all mapped out for you. The organizers and the promoters, they picked all the music, they picked the order of the songs, and who was going to play what,” he says. “It’s not a typical gig where you have to do so much as an artist.” Bakaitus notes that a few new collaborations formed from Pittsburgh Plays Petty, between musicians who would have never otherwise met. “That’s one of my favorite parts about the whole thing, we put them together and they hopefully mesh and then collaborate. To me that feeds the music scene.” Andre Costello who, like Nash, was part of the Petty show and will return to jam McCartney, says that usually bands themselves organize these sorts of events, which often limits their scope. “But when Josh does it, since he works with bands from every circle in the city, he’s able to pick people from all over,” he says. And because musicians are delivering classic songs rather than writing their own, there’s less creative angst or conflict. “You just play,” says Costello, of Andre Costello and the Cool Minors. “Everybody just does their best and there comes a certain amount of relaxation.” Two of the four Pittsburgh Plays Petty shows sold out, bringing the kinds of crowds that most promoters would kill to draw. “The audience we reach is so broad,” Bakaitus says. “I think it is safe to assume that [a lot of ] the people that come don’t go very frequently to see local artists.” Often, he says, people really do want to know what’s happening in the local music scene, but don’t necessarily know where to start. “They have a lot going on and they just don’t know where this stuff happens. So this kind of gives them the space to find out what’s going on in their community, which is kind of cool.” Costello agrees that it can be easier to attract an audience that knows what it’s getting into. “If it’s a band showcase [playing original music] people aren’t going to go unless it’s their friend,” he says. “But this is cool because it’s like a little taste-tester. ...

It’s like, ‘Let’s see what all these singers sound like trying to sing like Paul McCartney. What sort of influence can I hear in them doing this artist?’” Nash, for one, saw that reflected in the social media followers he gained after the Petty shows. “The demographic definitely changed”, he says, and included people “I probably wouldn’t have been able to reach based on the music I usually play.” In addition to opening new avenues between artists and audiences, Pittsburgh Plays is working to incorporate a scholarship component. The details are still in the works, but Bakaitus explains that a certain percentage of ticket sales (after the musicians are fairly paid) goes into a savings account that will eventually support various local music-related projects. “If you’re a Pittsburgh music lifer and you have something that you want to ... if you want to start a record label, if you want to open a record store, something where you need some capital to get started, we want to be able to help you get started through Pittsburgh Plays.” But ultimately, the underlying goal is for artists to share the songs they love, as well as they can. “I think it’s still unparalleled the amount of quality music that [McCartney] has generated,” Costello says. “Petty is the guy that has written more awesome rock songs than anyone else, and Paul’s his own island in the same respect. Here we’re trying to perform as if it’s an orchestral piece, so you’re going to see people trying to play it respectfully and trying to play it as closely to the actual version as they can.” And there’s a certain responsibility when it comes to playing someone else’s music, Nash notes. “I think it’s up to us to deliver the music as [well] as possible. You kind of really want to own it and not deviate too far from what the original is. You don’t want it to be carbon-copied but people are coming to hear the songs the way people are used to hearing them. It’s not really about us, at all,” he says. “It’s a nice lesson in humility.”

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 23


PITTSBURGH HARDCORE BAND BLOOD PRESSURE CALLS IT QUITS WITH TWO END-OF-YEAR SHOWS

BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM BLOOD PRESSURE with KNOWSO, KILLER OF SHEEP, BARLOW. 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28. AIR: Artists Image Resource. 518 Foreland St., North Side. www.artistsimageresource.org. BLOOD PRESSURE with 9 SHOCKS TERROR, SUBMACHINE, SCAVENGER OF DEATH. 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29. The Rock Room, 1054 Herron Ave., Polish Hill. 412-683-4418

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hen it comes to bands calling it quits, you know what they say about burning out vs. fading away, and which path is preferable. But rarely does anyone talk about the third option: making the conscious choice to call it quits at just the right moment. That’s the direction that Pittsburgh’s Blood Pressure seems to be taking, in any case. The hardcore band is calling it quits with two yearend shows, Friday, Dec. 28 at AIR, and Saturday, Dec. 29 at the Rock Room. “I guess we just felt like we’d done everything that we’re going to do,” explains frontman Adam Thomas, who took my call while browsing records at Cruel Noise in Polish Hill. “Better to go out on a high note than to drag something out.” If he sounds a little bummed, it’s because he is. “It’ll be ok,” he laughs – he’s got plenty of other projects to keep him busy. “But this band was a big part of my life for a while.” Blood Pressure, which played its first show on New Year’s Eve 2013

going into 2014, originally featured Ed Steck of Brain Handle on vocals. When Steck moved away, Thomas, who was then playing bass, moved up front. But more recently, as Thomas faced one of the darkest years of his life, Blood Pressure served as a particularly therapeutic outlet. That comes through on the band’s final record, Surrounded, which was released domestically in October on Richmond, Va.-based Beach Impediment Records. It’s the band’s wildest, angriest offering, which – given the band’s rage-fueled catalog – is saying something. From day one, the goal was to produce some mix of ’80s U.S. hardcore and Scandinavian hardcore, and in that spirit, the songwriting is relentless. There are no mosh breakdowns, no melodic slow parts, just pure, unyielding ferocity. It’s a band that always sounds like it’s trying to keep up with itself, holding you on the edge of your seat (not that anyone is sitting down) while everything threatens to spin out of control. “Musically those guys, they’re

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the best,” Thomas says of guitarist Eric Montanez, bassist Bryan Toupin and drummer Tom Moran. “That’s what I loved, the faster side of hardcore, and those guys can deliver it.” Mark Shubert, who runs Beach Impediment, agrees. “I once heard someone refer to Eric as an ‘all-youcan-eat riff buffet’ and it’s true,” he writes via email. “Truly an honor student of hardcore punk.” “And that’s the worst part, for me,” Adam says of the breakup. “If I was going to start a fast hardcore band in Pittsburgh, I already found the right guys. … They were sonically exactly what I wanted.” For Moran, Blood Pressure was a rare band that never felt like a chore to be a part of. “[It] always got me wound up,” he says. “It’s the only band I’ve been in where after practicing for a couple house I wanted to go home and blast records. It was exactly what I wanted to be playing the whole time we’ve been together.” One time, he adds, “I flew from

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Tokyo to New York, caught the bus to Pittsburgh and got taken straight to the Rock Room to play a [Blood Pressure] show. Dumb? Yes, but it ruled.” That cathartic looseness and breakneck urgency is especially present on Surrounded, which makes sense since – in addition to the mental turmoil in which it was written -- it was put together pretty quickly. “On my end I definitely wrote the songs in, like, two weeks,” Thomas recalls. “And we definitely shouldn’t have recorded when we recorded because there are songs on the album that we maybe only played one time before recording. But we were like, ‘Let’s just do it.’” Even so, “They are one of those bands that just got better with every record they did,” says Shubert. “Surrounded is the perfect final statement on their part - they’re going out on top in my opinion, which is more than a lot of modern hardcore punk bands can say.”

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Steph Tsong (left), Adam Shuck and Ricky Moslen (Photo courtesy of Sean Carroll)

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ew Year’s Eve at Spirit promises to be an event to remember, but the real fun will be happening underground, in the Lodge. To close out the year, the queer dance party trio Jellyfish will be downstairs at Spirit spinning their favorite forgotten international dance hits. “We’re psyched to bring an unabashedly queer party to a hopefully open and accepting crowd,” says Steph Tsong, one of three DJs behind Jellyfish. Back in September 2017, Tsong, along with other local Pittsburgh DJs, Ricky Moslen, and Adam Shuck combined their forces (and record collections) to form Jellyfish. “Jellyfish got started through our friendship and mutual love of postpunk, new wave, and Italo disco,” says Tsong, who notes that it’s really a combination of three former dance parties: her own Bubblepop!, Moslen’s TOTAL TRASH, and Shuck’s Ganymede. “We each had our own respective parties for a while, but bonded over our similar music tastes. It seemed only natural to col-

and right at home (despite ‘home’ being thousands of miles away). To accomplish that the party had to be at a venue that doesn’t normally hold dance parties in order for the space itself to feel fresh.” These days, whether the party’s indoors at P-Town or outside in its courtyard, one can just barely eke out enough room on the dance floor to get down on Jellyfish nights. But there’s this synergy among the crowd. The soundtrack and the visuals combined create an experience that’s totally unique in the city of Pittsburgh. “We’re so lucky to have an amazing crowd at our parties,” says Moslen. “It’s also such easy music to dance to.”

SPIRIT NYE 2019 FEAT. DIANE COFFEE, JELLYFISH, MORE.

8:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31. Spirit, 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $25-40. www.spiritpgh.com

laborate, given our shared creative vision.” Every month, Jellyfish takes over P-Town, a gay bar on Baum Blvd in North Oakland. Shuck says they chose P-Town because “it was important for us to do it in a gay space, planted specifically so that its queer attitude would feel inherent.” “We wanted to create a safe space to party that prioritizes individuals who don’t identify as cis or straight,” Tsong adds. “I think it’s extremely important right now for the queer community to know that they are not only welcome at Jellyfish, but are prioritized.” “I’m in love with the mystery, uncertainty and excitement of traveling to a completely foreign place but digging deep within the culture to find my niche,” says Moslen. “I think my original idea for Jellyfish came from wanting to create a dance party that mimicked the feeling of walking into a dark Berlin club, or a sketchy gay bar in Mexico City, or a crazy punk show in Japan and having no clue what to expect—but very quickly making new friends and feeling safe PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 25


FOOD THE YEAR IN PITTSBURGH FOOD 2018 BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

The news about Pittsburgh’s culinary offerings that put the city on a national stage started a few years ago. In 2018 the industry continues to grow and evolve as fast as ever. We took a look back at the year’s biggest restaurant trends, the city’s favorite food events and bid farewell to those we’ve lost.

BEST EVENTS Food Truck A Palooza, March 9. All of your favorite food mobiles in one place. Picklesburgh, July 20-22. The destination for all things pickled. Pittsburgh Vegfest, Aug. 4. Bringing together the best plantbased food in the region. Pierogi Festival, Sept. 23. Savory, sweet, on a shirt—its ‘rogis all around. Savor Pittsburgh, Sept. 27. Chefs compete for Dish of the Year.

BIGGEST TRENDS Restaurants serving BBQ and southern cuisine popped up all over the city this year. Spork Pit in Garfield and Walter’s Southern Kitchen serve up tastes of Texas, while North Oakland’s Ribs N Bread does their BBQ South Carolina style. Choppin’ Block in the Strip offers their BBQ through a walk-up counter service for hurried lunchtime diners. As for other southern faire, Carmi isn’t new, but it did move it’s soul food to the South Side this year. And Sugar and Smoke brought southern eats to Bloomfield’s Little Italy. Several beloved pop-ups and food trucks have shed their wheels for some brick-and-mortar this year. Highlights include spots like Baby Loves Tacos in Bloomfield and the popular pizza spot Driftwood Oven in Lawrenceville. The team behind the monthly Duncan St. Dinners series opened Duncan St. Sandwich Shop in Millvale and Iron Born, a concept nurtured inside Smallman Galley, is now serving its Detroitstyle pizzas in Millvale, too. The new Pittsburgh Food Truck Park (again in Millvale!) hasn’t made anything stationary, but it does conveniently gather a good selection of food trucks in one place. Is it just us, or is there more surf in our turf? Continuing a trend from last year that started with places like Merchant Oyster Co. and Or, The Whale, restaurants featuring seafood are on the rise. Penn Cove Eatery opened Downtown, offering grab-and-go options like fresh sushi and fish sandwiches. Kahuna Poke and Juice Bar does fast-casual Hawaiian street food. And the Pacific Northwest inspired surf and turf spot Coast & Main opened up in the Monroeville Mall. 26 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Chefs Stand Against Hate, Dec.2. A dinner to benefit the Tree of Life victims.

IN MEMORIAM Avenue B, Shadyside. 2010-2018. Owner Chris Bonfili moves on to Bonfire in the South Side. The Elbow Room, Shadyside. 1979-2018. Unless it is resurrected once more. Houlihan’s, Station Square. 1981-2018. One location lost; 70 more still kickin’. Red, the Steakhouse, 2017-2018. Too much red meat will even kill those who serve it. Six Penn, Downtown. 2005-2018. So long to the fanciest sibling in the Eat’n Park family. Tilted Kilt, North Shore. 2011-2018. Leaving a legacy of short skirts and two-star Yelp reviews.


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Matt Parsons Current photo by Haley Frederick

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LUNCH WITH MATT PARSONS AT SUGAR AND SMOKE BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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hen I looked back over 2018’s new restaurants for our “Food Year in Review,” the list of BBQ and Southerninspired spots that recently opened around the city gave me the kind of craving that only a tender slab of slow-cooked meat would satisfy. So when I had to pick a place to meet comedian Matt Parsons for lunch, brisket was on the brain. Bloomfield’s Sugar and Smoke sounded like it could deliver the goods. The restaurant itself is modern looking, with a simple elegance that reflects their approach to classic Southern dishes. We decide to order an appetizer of Cajun Hush Puppies.

Parsons chooses the Shrimp Po Boy for himself, replacing the side of chips with mac and cheese. He clearly isn’t here to mess around. The brisket’s description on the menu at Sugar and Smoke says ‘19 hour slow smoked.’ Have you ever read a more beautiful series of words? I order it with collard greens and mac and cheese, because I’m not here to mess around either. It wasn’t that long ago that Parsons started doing stand up, but he dove in head first right away. In the past year—after getting his start at Trixy’s in the South Side and doing a few months of self-described ‘bombing’—he started getting booked for shows around town.

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“From there I wanted to expand the mic time that comics had access to so I started a mic over at Dee’s in the South Side and then after that I started one in Dormont at the R Bar,” Parsons says. His latest project is a monthly showcase he’s producing and hosting at Redbeard’s in Mt. Washington along with fellow comedian Ron Renwick. The first show on Jan. 25 features Mike Travers. I ask what he looks for in a stand up and Parsons doesn’t hesitate before he answers, “perspective.” As a part of the Army Reserve for twelve years, Parsons himself has an interesting perspective to offer

in comedy. He has completed tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, spending ten years in Psychological Operations. To explain how he ended up there, Parsons puts on a gruff, stern voice to imitate the recruiter he met with as a sophomore at IUP. “He was like ‘what do you do in school?’ and I said ‘well, I’m a marketing major.’ He goes ‘we kinda got a job like that.’” The recruiter put on a video of a humvee driving down a road with a speaker on top. “I’m like ‘great video...what do they do?’ and he’s like ‘I don’t know, but it’s cool and you should do it.’” Apparently that argument was good enough for Parsons. What


he actually ended up doing were things like running a radio station in Afghanistan. They would have representatives from Doctors Without Borders come on and provide lifesaving information to the local village. Mothers who had been taught that they should just wrap their sick children up in blankets were told that actually hydration is the most important factor. “[We were] really trying to understand the people and their perspective, because it’s nice for us to come and say ‘oh well you just have to do better.’ No, we have to understand what’s going on in their neighborhood, what’s going on with them and help them how we can,” he says. Our food arrives. The hush puppies were good, but we’re both far more taken by our main courses. The brisket is perfectly tender with a delicious char on the fat cap. We both love the creamy mac and cheese, and Parsons’ Po Boy is stuffed with huge, golden-brown fried shrimp. He asks for a hot sauce to add to his sandwich. He likes heat, and in the army he would trade parts of his

MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) away to get other people’s tiny bottles of tabasco. Sometimes, though, they would get to eat local food. The best he can remember was a curried goat on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “The entire goat was curried yellow and they barbecued it right there and they had the fresh flat bread that they’d cook daily and some rice.” Parsons says that a large part of his act is figuring out marriage (he runs all of the jokes by his wife first, “she’ll kick my ass”). It took him some time to figure out how to talk about being in the military. He didn’t want to tell the hacky jokes every vet has heard, and he also didn’t want to badmouth his service. “I talk about dealing with the elections process in Iraq at that time and democracy was very new, so you go to a town and you meet a guy whose name roughly translates to ‘pimp of bitches’ and you’re like, ‘... you’re in charge?’ He’s looking at you dead serious like you’re in his town. And when you correlate that to the current state of American politics, you’re like, ‘wow, they really were ahead of where things were going.’”

Current photo by Haley Frederick

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 29


DAY DRINKING:

KEEPING TABS ON PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY: DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Dec. 8, 3 p.m.: I’m at North Country’s Harmony Inn in Harmony. It’s a small town where a horse drawn buggy wouldn’t surprise you and people might believe cameras steal your soul. I may be crazy, but I swear the faint smell of burnt witches permeates the air. It’s a German restaurant, so I order the most German sounding thing on the menu, the Jagerschnitzel. It’s basically a pork chop smothered in bacon gravy. They have Saugatuck’s Neapolitan Milk Stout on nitro, and it’s the best beer I’ve had all year. It tastes like an ice cream float and I’m on cloud nine. It’s not too sweet, not too heavy, and just enough spice to keep you interested. Swipe right on this hookup. Dec. 8, 4 p.m.: Lauren Baker, Production Manager of North Country Brewing, walks in and I order a flight. Me: So, how are we going to drink this? LB: I like to go light to dark, then hoppy to sour. First up is our rye saison. The name of that beer is Nuclear Unclear. It’s a farmhouse ale with peach and apricot. It was our Brewtal Fest collaboration.

We teamed up with a band called Ryperion from Allentown. When we were planning for the festival, we thought heavy metal, dark saison with black cherries. But when they got here they were like, “We like sours & Belgians.” They ultimately wanted something crushable. Something they could chug after playing. Me: That’s a real collaboration. “Can you make something I would drink?” Rather than, “I have a beer I want to sell, can you put your name on it?” LB: Exactly. We had our own ideas at first, but the bassist in the band owns a vegan restaurant called Onion Maiden. So, we went a different direction than we thought, using the vegan influence. We’re really happy with it and using it in a beer/dinner pairing next month at North Country. Me: What’s next? LB: Strawberry Milkshake IPA. Bob and Jodi, the owners of NC, met here in the 90’s bartending. The same year NC opened the production facility, Jon’s father got sick, and needed to sell the Inn. Bob and Jodi didn’t feel right not buying it. They employed Jon first as a pub

30 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

brewer, then production manager, and eventually head brewer. His son, Austin Barnes, started out cleaning kegs, then working in the cellar, and now he’s our pub brewer. At 22 years old he’s making some great beer. He brews in the basement of the Harmony Inn. We don’t do it often. It’s only a two barrel system. But he grew up running around here as a child, and now he gets to brew here. Me: I was doing far worse things in basements at 22. Next? LB: This is the Muddy Creek IPA. It’s in cans. We started the Creek series this year. Me: Is this your hazy? LB: Yes. It has Citra, Amarillo, and Mosaic hops. Each beer is named after a creek in our area and each can has a map of the creek. Our former brewmaster didn’t want to make NE style IPAs. Me: A lot of brewmasters do it begrudgingly. LB: This beer is expensive to make. You use so much hops & waste a lot of beer on it. It’s really heartbreaking at the end of the day to look at how much beer you have left after brewing all of that. Me: Kinda like looking at my bank account after all of the comedy I do.

LB: You do comedy? Me: What’s next? LB: This is the Imperial Firehouse Red. Me: I’ve never had an Imperial Firehouse! LB: This is our first time brewing it. We slightly resent Firehouse because it’s our flagship ale and makes up 30% of our sales. I told our brewers that I would like it better if it had double the alcohol content, so we doubled the malt build & cut the water in half. It’s the same beer, just a higher ABV. We were drinking it the other day and somebody said, “We’re going to kill all of our regulars with this beer.**” Me: Final thoughts? LB: We just formed the Butler County Brewers Co-op with eight breweries in Butler County, including Shubrew, Cellar Works, Reclamation, Butler Brew Works, NC, Stick City, Missing Links, and Recon. Instead of having member dues, we’re going to hold a beer festival April 27th. **No witches were harmed in the making of Firehouse Red.


NEIGHBORHOODS

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE:

WILKINSBURG

“Stay Woke” Flyboy by Hebru Brantley in Wilkinsburg Current photos by Jake Mysliwczyk

THE ‘HOLY CITY’ IS EXPERIENCING A RESURRECTION

BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

M

arita Garrett has been Wilkinsburg Mayor for a year now, but she’s been impacting Wilkinsburg since she made it her home eight years ago. In 2013, she ran for a seat on Wilkinsburg Borough Council and won, taking office in January of 2014. In 2016, she became vice president of council. In 2017, she claimed victory over the three men also running in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Wilkinsburg. That fall, she handily beat the Republican

running against her. If people thought her leadership was going to bring big changes to Wilkinsburg, they were right, but maybe not in the way you would think. To Garrett, the key to growing a successful Wilkinsburg wasn’t courting out-of-town developers or businesses; it was building on what they already had and making it better. Beverly Garrett is the volunteer coordinator for the Free Store Wilkinsburg. Her last name is not a

coincidence—she’s Marita’s mother. “I know I’m her mother, but this much is true: she is a presence. The Mayor before was in office for 12 years, and he was hardly ever visible. People didn’t even know he was mayor. I didn’t even know. She has elevated the role.” Garrett wasn’t going to be a silent Mayor. She was going to be out there, in the community, talking to people, finding the service gaps and filling them. Which is exactly how Free Store Wilkinsburg came to be.

“When we first started the Free Store, we kicked off in 2015. I remember Giselle (Fetterman, who started Free Store Braddock) posted ‘I have a lot of baby formula, if anyone needs it’. So I get it, and then I said, wait, now who do I give this to? It took me two days to get it to the people who needed it. And I thought if it took me 2 days, and I’m connected, the person who really needs the formula just really needs to know where to go.” So they expanded to allow

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 31


Wilkinsburg Free Store

connecting people to the services they need, and they added on to what was offered at the Free Store. As Beverly explained, “At first we only provided clothing, but people needed more. So we started getting household goods. But people needed more. We started getting furniture. Then we started doing food. Then we created a partnership with The Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Then 412 Food Rescue came on board.” Driving around Wilkinsburg is an experience for the senses. There are brightly colored murals around almost every corner, beautiful architecture, and folks bustling around the wide sidewalks. There is also the inescapable blight that dots almost every block, sometimes making it seem like the entire block itself is full of crumbling houses. Because Wilkinsburg has been around for a long time, many of the houses still retain a haunting beauty that transcends Mayor Marita Garrett even the

thickest ivy. It’s a depressing reminder of the population flight out of Wilkinsburg over the past decades. Progress against blight has been made, though. Two years ago, Wilkinsburg Council created a blight committee and in the past 18 months they’ve been able to apply $1.8 million toward cleaning it up, with more to come this spring. All told, over 110 blighted properties have been demoed. Another way to combat blight is through getting people to invest and maintain their own homes. As Garrett is quick to point out, “We have a high tax burden here. We’ve worked with other governing taxing bodies, like our school district. We’ve also worked with our community development corporation on programs such as residential and commercial tax abatements to offer up to residents and also to keep our residents in their home. We’ve taken steps to alleviate the tax burden as

32 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

much as we can.” Garrett was referring to the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC). Formed in 2008, the WCDC quickly set about making it easier to do business in Wilkinsburg and to help get the word out on things that were already happening. One of the big wins was toppling the liquor license ban that had been in effect since 1870 (except for two years in the early 1930s). You do notice a lot of churches in Wilkinsburg, and that isn’t by accident. Founded by religious European immigrants, Wilkinsburg had such a reputation for its churches that it was once referred to as the ‘Holy City.’ Now, though, you can sidle up to the counter at Salvatore’s, a pizza house that has been on Penn Avenue since 1984, and get a beer with your pizza. They are the first, and currently only, operating business with one of five liquor licenses allotted to Wilkinsburg when the ban was lifted. The hope is that the remaining four will attract a few new places to join Salvatore’s. You can’t talk about Wilkinsburg and its future without talking about schools. Aside from the blight, it’s the most visible manifestation of a borough in distress. In the past couple of years, the School District closed all but two of their schools, leaving their 6-12 grade students to be farmed to Westinghouse High School. reaching an agreement with Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS). They are also eligible for PPS magnet schools.

Now in its third year, Garrett thinks the partnership is a positive for the community and students. “Students have exposure to more extracurricular activities, like debate club, students have an opportunity to attend magnet school. Our current school board was able to lower school taxes, it’s been so successful.” Johnston Elementary School sits overlooking Wallace Avenue in Wilkinsburg. The century-old school saw it’s last class in 2013, when it was closed due to low enrollment and plummeting performance ratings. It sat vacant, like many properties in Wilkinsburg do, a somber reminder of better times for the community. Then in 2017, Community Forge, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for Wilkinsburg, purchased the building. Just like that it went from blight to hope. Community Forge didn’t build a new building, they were building out an existing vacant school, making it better. Good All Over has long been the slogan of Wilkinsburg, emblazoned on the back of train tokens back when there was still a train line. It’s still the slogan there, hanging from lamposts along each street. And it’s been ingrained in the heart and mind of Mayor Marita Garrett. “There are a lot of great things happening in our community that we can build on as a foundations. There are already great things going on. We are great already and we will continue to build and be even greater.”

James Floral & Gift Shoppe


Ms. Jean Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk

A CONVERSATION WITH MS. JEAN OWNER AND CHEF AT MS. JEAN’S SOUTHERN CUISINE

BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

M

s. Jean is a legend in Wilkinsburg. Her southerncooking and anything-goes personality ensure a brisk business, especially during her epic brunches. You can get southern cuisine at other places, sure, but you can only get Ms. Jean at Ms. Jean’s. Ms. Jean, how did you get here? I’ve lived in Wilkinsburg since 1968. I did a lot of other things before I decided to open a restaurant. I worked with handicapped residents for about 26 years. I started just cooking for my church, then going to churches and cooking for their events. Then I started cooking from my home and taking food out to beauty shops. They encouraged me to open up a restaurant, because they enjoyed all the food I made for them.

I come from a cooking family. All the people in my family cook, the men, the women, we all cook. My mom cooked until she was 83. I am originally from the South, from Jacksonville, FL, so that’s where I learned to cook, from home. What are your best sellers? Macaroni and cheese and I have a fried cabbage that people love, that I’m out of today, because that’s how much they love it. My own favorite is my macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and my chicken. My seasoning for my chicken is a recipe that I brought with me from Florida. What are the best times to visit Ms. Jean’s? All you can eat buffet on Sunday, and it starts at 1:30. Every third Sunday we have a wall-to-wall buffet with live gospel entertainment, and

for that I do suggest calling for a reservation. We get people coming in right from church, and it gets crowded. You’re in a very interesting location here, tucked inside Hosanna House. How did you land here? I moved into this location in 2012, after the airing of my episode of the Gordon Ramsay show (Kitchen Nightmares). A friend of mine wrote in, I used to watch it all the time, and he used to hear me say ‘Oh, I wish I could be on that show!’ I didn’t know he wrote in, until they called that they were coming out to interview me. Gordon Ramsay is a nice person, really. It’s a show, so...in real life, he’s a pretty nice person. He helps you. You may think all the criticism you get is hard, but if you’re a person with a passion for cooking, you’re going to learn something from him. Were you sort of famous? We did get a lot more people coming in, a lot of people calling. Still, even now. I’ve had a person

come in from Hawaii and say hello because they loved the show. I have people from Alaska that call me. And the show came out in 2012! They still show it a lot though. You haven’t seen it, so I’m not going to tell you about, you gotta go watch it (Ed: seriously, go watch it). What do you like to eat when you go out? I can tell you I don’t go out and eat chicken. I love to eat all of the foods I don’t make. I love Olive Garden, and I love Texas Roadhouse. They give you a lot of feed! I like a large portion of food. How do you give back to the community? Every year since I’ve been open for business, we do Thanksgiving Dinner, and everything is free. We have a full-course meal for everyone. We don’t turn anyone down. We get over 125 folks in for that. For the last three years, we’ve been giving free toys away and give the kids a free holiday brunch. The kids love it, and I do, too!

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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 33


EVENTS

Cat Power Photo: Matador Records

THE CAN’T MISS AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION

Dec. 19

Cat Power — aka Chan Marshall — plays tonight at Mr. Smalls Theater as part of her “Wanderer” tour. Her album of the same name, released in October, was one of Pitchfork’s Best Albums of 2018. With melancholy lyrics and bluesy instrumentation, Cat Power is perfect for expressing your winter blues. Check out her stripped-down, soothing cover of Rihanna’s “Stay,” off her latest album beforehand to get in the mood. 8:30 p.m. $39.50. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. 412-821-4447 or www. mrsmalls.com Lights! Flowers! Music! The Plum Brass Quintet makes their third

return engagement to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Winter Flower Show tonight in the Tropical Forest area of the show. The group plays two 50-minute sets featuring classic carols, popular Christmas songs and even some Hanukkah hits. The Plum Brass Quintet consists of alumni of Plum High School and its music program. 7 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. Free with admission. 1 Schenley Drive, Oakland. 412-622-6914 or www.phipps.conservatory.org

Dec. 21

Head to Arcade Comedy Theater tonight for Single Player Stand-up featuring Danny Palumbo, Molly Sharrow, Tyler Ray Kendrick and Julia Metelsky. Known for its sketch

34 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

and improv shows, Single Player Stand-Up, hosted by Pittsburgh Magazine associate editor and local podcaster Sean Collier gives audiences a chance to listen to some one-on-one comedy. 9 p.m. $15. 943 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-339-0608 or www.arcadecomedytheater.com Comedian D.L. Hughley, host of “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” on CNN, brings his wit to the Pittsburgh Improv beginning tonight. On his CNN show, Hughley, indeed, broke the news by speaking with guests

like former White House secretaries Scott McClellan and Ari Fleischer. Previously, Hughley hosted the 2008 BET Awards and hosted his own Comedy Central late night show, “Weekends at the DL.” 7:30 p.m. Through Sunday, Dec. 23. $35$85. 166 E. Bridge St., Homestead. 412-462-5233 or www.improv.com/ pittsburgh

Dec. 22

Beach Bunny plays tonight at the Mr. Roboto project. Known for its “sadgirl” sound, Chicago-based Beach Bunny is the singer-songwriter project of Lili Trifilio, Matt Henkels (guitar), Jon Alvarado (drums), and Aidan Cada (bass). Field Medic. Shay Park and Princex fill out the bill


for a night filled with angst and pop. 7 p.m. $10 advanced, $12 at the door. 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. www.therobotoproject.com

Dec. 27

The Roots of Steel benefit concert and silent auction, in memory of the Tree of Life shooting on Oct. 27, happens tonight at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. The concert benefits the Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, and New Light congregations. Carnegie Mellon University alum, Tony Award winner and Pittsburgh native Billy Porter is billed to perform, as is local band Milly the Band, CMU alum Zachary Prince and Chris Jamison, who placed third in the seventh season of NBC’s “The Voice. 7 p.m. (6 p.m. for silent auction). $18-$154. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. www. rootsofsteel.org

Jan. 3

“Dancing with the Stars LIVE” sashays its way into town tonight at Heinz Hall. The Monday night reality

show comes to life, featuring every kind of dance — from the foxtrot to the tango — you see on screen. The show features a rotating cast of ballroom masters like Brandon Armstrong, Alan Bersten, Witney Carson, Artem Chigvintsev and Sasha Farber, with choreography and creative direction by Emmy Award-winning choreographer Mandy Moore and “Dancing with the Stars” Executive Producer Ashley Edens-Shaffer. 8 p.m. $69.50-$89.50. 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. www.pittsburghsymphony.org

4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. www. pittsburghlectures.org

Jan. 8

John Fried, a creative writing professor at Duquesne University, speaks in conversation with local author Irina Reyn in celebration of his debut novel, “The Martin Chronicles,” today at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh lecture hall, sponsored by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh,

Duquesne University McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, and Duquesne University English and Theater Arts Department. “The Martin Chronicles” details a young boy’s upbringing in 1980s Manhattan, detailing the series of firsts in eponymous Marty’s life, from first kiss to first loss. Free. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. www. pittsburghlectures.org

Jan. 6

Erin Entrada Kelly speaks today at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh as part of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures. The winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal for her 2017 children’s novel, “Hello, Universe,” Entrada Kelly also is the author of “You Go First,” about family, bullying, spelling, art, and the complicated world of middle school friendships bound together by games of Scrabble. 2:30 p.m. $11.

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THE DOG POUND

CHRISTMAS LOVE STORY, PART II BY: JIMMY CVETIC - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS THE SECOND PART OF A CHRISTMAS STORY BY JIMMY CVETIC, STARTED IN OUR LAST ISSUE.

I

already told you that a story usually begins at the beginning … that’s usually the best place to begin any story … I already told you how Alfie was born to all the colorful lights and how a star was traveling north and a snow cloud was traveling south and when they bumped together, all kind of magic happened. Then Alfie followed his heart and the little footsteps of other elves; he wandered to the North Pole. He fell asleep in Santa’s big chair after eating all of Santa’s cookies … Mrs. Claus found Alfie sleeping and brushed all of the cookie crumbs away and took him home. Mrs. Claus knew it was time to teach the little elf that 1+1=2 (most

of the time); and about the Magic of Christmas; and about all the toys that go round and round and bump and bang. Mrs. Claus took Alfie to the Grand Elf so that he might even learn about Foo-Foo Dust. And Alfie did learn and it was as easy as ABC and with his friend Ludwig and the magic of Foo-Foo Dust together they wrote every Christmas Song ever written… which were given to the world through the magic of the Northern and Southern Winds. (This can all be verified in the Elf in Myself Story.) A further note: Alfie, purely by accident, also invented candy canes and the magic of Mistletoe and that’s when he kissed Chloe and that was the beginning of a Christmas Love

Story. (Also verified in the Elf in Myself Story.) Alfie also teaches us there are no dumb kids or bad kids or even naughty kids; only kids that do naughty things. THERE ARE NO BAD KIDS (And all the big people should know and remember that they were all once kids.) And it’s okay to dream of being an astronaut or a pirate; and it’s okay to make funny faces and to sing out loud even when you don’t know the words; and to jump up and down on a bed. And sometimes it’s okay to forget to wash behind the ears and to chase puppies round and round in a big circle and to listen to all the Magic of Christmas Bells. (As the story continues …while

listening to Christmas Bells.) On Christmas Even Alfie helped load up Santa’s sleigh and a little box with a red ribbon fell from the sky and Alfie was told by the Grand Elf to deliver the little box with the red ribbon to Will B. Grump’s home, which was located at Dead End Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All stories have an ending and sometimes the end is just the beginning … and with a topsy and turvy and glimmer and glamour and please remember that Christmas is everyday and everyday is Christmas.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 37


NEWS OF THE BY THE EDITORS AT ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION WEIRDNEWSTIPS@AMUNIVERSAL.COM GIVING UP THE GHOST In January, Amanda Sparrow Large, 46, of Belfast, Ireland, stretched the May-December union to new lengths when she wed a 300-year-old ghost of a Haitian pirate. “I wanted the big traditional wedding with the white dress. It was very important to me,” she told the Irish Mirror. Large said that “Jack,” who was executed for thieving on the high seas, became known to her one night in 2014, when she felt the energy of a spirit next to her while lying in bed. Large has worked as a Jack Sparrow (of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies) impersonator, and she believes her job opened the door for her spirit-husband to reach out to her. Alas, the Mirror reported on Dec. 8, things didn’t work out for the odd couple: “I will explain all in due course,” Large wrote on social media, “but for now all I want to say is be VERY careful when dabbling in spirituality. It’s not something to mess with.” SCROOGE VISITED BY GHOST OF LUNCHES PAST The Cranston (Rhode Island) School District is taking its response to delinquent school lunch accounts up a notch, reported WJAR TV on Dec. 6. District COO Raymond Votto Jr. sent a letter to parents notifying them that a collection agency will be contacting those with lunch overdrafts starting on Jan. 2 and noted that the current deficit is almost $46,000. “The district lunch program cannot continue to lose revenue,” Votto wrote. The letter specified that students will continue to receive food regardless of whether their account is in arrears. Families with unpaid charges of more than $20 will be notified by mail, which

the district called a softer approach. UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT Dominick Breedlove of Spring Hill, Florida, doomed his chances of landing a job at Kohl’s on Dec. 5, reported Fox 13 News, by getting arrested for shoplifting after his interview. Breedlove arrived for his appointment with Human Resources around 3:20 that afternoon, Hernando County Sheriff’s deputies said, and afterward stopped to browse in the shoe department. A loss prevention officer watching Breedlove told police the suspect went outside to his car, retrieved a Kohl’s shopping bag and returned to the store, where he stashed two pairs of Nike athletic shoes worth $150 in the bag. Breedlove was charged with shoplifting, and the sheriff’s office confirmed he was not hired. WEIRD SCIENCE Scientists are likening the strange occurrence of eels getting stuck in monk seals’ nostrils to “one of those teenage trends,” according to The Washington Post. Charles Littnan, lead scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, posited, “One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing, and now the others are trying to mimic it,” but he and other scientists are stumped about the phenomenon. Hypotheses suggest that the eels jet up the nostrils as seals poke their faces into eels’ hiding spots, or seals regurgitate the eels and they exit through the nose. Over the last two years, three or four incidences have been reported, all with good outcomes -- for the seals. No eels have survived.

38 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


Savage LOVE BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

Your life is a monstrous affront to God, and your life’s work, your ridiculous “advice” column, encourages people to act on their worst impulses. Advice column? Take the “D” away! You write A VICE column! I was involved in the gay life once, Mr. Savage, but the love of Jesus delivered me from homosexual sin. Embrace Christ, and you too can be delivered. I pray for you every day. Someone has to. Christ Even Saves Savages P.S. I have read what you’ve written about your mother, who you claim to have loved. Your mother died relatively young. I’m not suggesting God punished you by cutting your mother’s life short. No, your mother died of shame. You pray for me, CESS, and I’ll gay for you—because all the delicious dicks you left behind when Jesus raptured you out of homosexual sin aren’t gonna suck themselves, are they? P.S. “Jesus is love,” my Catholic mother liked to say. If she was right, CESS, he surely finds the things going into my mouth less offensive than the shit coming out of yours. I’m a kinky single woman who keeps attracting the wrong men for me—specifically, submissive guys into face-sitting. I’m submissive myself, and face-sitting is not a turn-on for me. But the vast majority of men who hit on me have this fetish. I think it’s a size-related issue—a my-size-related issue. I’m a full-figured/curvy woman with a big butt. Granted, it’s a fabulous butt, but my butt sends the wrong signals, apparently. I’ve tried several times to word my FetLife and other dating profiles so that I’ll attract dominant men, but the messages from submissive wannabe face-sittees pour in. Dating when you’re not thin is hard enough. Help, please. Baby Got Back You’ve worded your dating profiles to attract Doms, BGB, but

it doesn’t sound like you’ve worded your profiles to repel—and crush the hopes of—submissive wannabe face-sittees. Let’s fix that: “I get a lot of messages from submissive guys into face-sitting. I’ve got a great butt, I realize, but I’m a sub, I’m not into face-sitting, and I only want to hear from Dom guys.” Some submissive guys will message you anyway—guys who will be letting you know they have a hard time taking no for an answer, BGB, so not guys you’d ever want to meet up with IRL. Delete their messages and block their profiles. My cousin was a victim of revenge porn. A bitter ex-boyfriend of his sent several videos they’d made to everyone on my cousin’s contact list, including me. I’m a straight woman who prefers gay male porn, and my cousin and his ex are beautiful men— they’re both dancers—and I couldn’t help myself: I watched the videos, more than once, before deleting them. So how bad a person am I? Sick And Wrong You’re a better person than the asshole ex who sent those videos to everyone your poor cousin knows, SAW, but a worse person than those who deleted the videos without wanking over them first. My boyfriend of three years has not left his wife for me, even though he says he will someday. He doesn’t want to hurt her. He feels a duty to her. But he loves me more and swears he will leave her someday. In the meantime, we carve out half an hour a week for sex and it’s super hot. Two questions (and please answer honestly): He’s not going to leave her, is he? And I’m a cliché, aren’t I? Don’t Understand Men No, he isn’t. And yes, you are. DTMFA. On the Lovecast, sex-toy expert Erika Moen discusses strap-ons for men: savagelovecast.com. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DEC. 18, 2018 | 39


40 | DEC. 18, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

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Pittsburgh Current Vol. 1 Issue 11  

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Pittsburgh Current Vol. 1 Issue 11  

Pittsburgh Current Year in Review