Monday, April 13, 2009

Chestnut Hill Yokels: Tapdancing with the Stars

by John Lombardi

Always liked Greg Welsh. A mensch. A tough Jew from the nabe with brains, a '60s era terror who straightened out and became a successful businessman, like Larry Magid from Electric Factory Concerts . . . I remember in 2000, when there were a series of stick-ups around the Chestnut Hill Hotel (and Grill, which he still manages), we cut a deal on coverage in the Local (which I managed at the time): "Hold off a couple of weeks, while I get some rent-a-cops in place," Greg barked over a draft beer at the Hotel bar. "Then we'll have some good news to report, instead of grim stuff that makes the neighborhood sound like it's in trouble . . ."

We did that -- the only time I've ever held a story -- and then ran it on page one. Greg was leaning on the railing of the outside porch, his arms folded, squinting at Jimmy Pack's camera like Moshe Dayan in front of a tank in Nablus. The reaction from the CHCA "safety" faction headed by Caroline Haussermann, and CHBA hardliners like saloonista Anne McNally, was horrendous : Hausserman came and screamed at me on the steep steps of the Local office at 8434 Germantown; McNally blitzed Len Lear and I when we went up the Hill to her joint to apologize for some misprints in another matter entirely . . .

I've always felt there was a classist basis to much of the bickering and undercover slander that marks Chestnut Hill's intramural fighting (I came to call it the "Phone Mafia"). And I'll never forget my ex-father-in-law, Herb Weintraub, who owned a factory and lived on Roumfort Rd., in West Mt. Airy, and liked to stroll the SEPTA tracks toward Chestnut Hill East to digest dinner; he'd always stop at the Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy line, however: "You don't wanna go over there, Johnny," he'd warn. "Those people are crazy!" And that was 33 years ago.

Didn't like Jews, wops, blacks, Indians, Polacks -- though they were tolerated in benign forms like Frankie Smacks, the barber, or Lou Aiello, the fixer-upper guy and perennial CHCA gofer, or Dr. Arlene Bennett, the psychiatrist and former community activist . . . they'd even let you "edit" the Local , if you obeyed orders . . .

There's certainly been some progress: Sanjiv Jain and his minion Vijay Kothare, both active in the "developer" sphere, have been allowed to play the Chestnut Hill business game, which came on in force starting with the late Maurice McCarthy, an insurance agent and Dem politico, and his partner Tolis Vardakis, the about-to-retire president of the CHCA, nine years ago. That's when the Civil Code was introduced, a rule which further restricted free expression in the paper than anything thought of previously, during the tight-butt Lloyd Wells era . I remember being dumbfounded by the readiness with which prominent Hillers like Janine Dwyer, Mary Sue Welsh, Mary Anna Ross etc. -- her name is too long to print -- and Mary Cunningham, accepted the ban on names in "controversial" letters and stories in the Local. All for the sake of a more "mannerly," less "hostile" "dialogue."

How names contribute to hostility in a free press still beats me, but the selectively dumbed-down pattern for today was set then -- though insiders like Jain and Kothare could get away with calling opponents like Lawrence Walsh, Martha Haley and Ron Recko, plus "rebellious" staffers like Jim Sturdivant and Jimmy Pack "parasites" and "terrorists," and act to drive them out.

Historically, the CHBA has always been more conservative than the CHCA, but then both groups had the advantage of boasting men of the quality of F. Markoe Revinus , and Keen Butcher in the old days.

In the present, you've got Richard Snowden, backing the "Positively Chestnut Hill" election slate. People like Ed Feldman see him as Mephistopheles, the root of all evil on the Hill, though when he was gone south to play with his coal mines recently, for long periods, things didn't markedly improve. I say Snowboy is a spoiled brat, still angry with the Local for a mildly critical story by the present editor some years ago, which he's never forgiven -- for reasons best left to Dr. Bennett to explain. Why Snowden isn't going after Charlie McCoy and the Inquirer investigators who blew him out of the water publically shortly after the softball Local story appeared, is a measure of his seriousness. He probably figures he might be able to wangle some payback in Chestnut Hill's perpetual soap opera, rather than in real life.

Greg Welsh, who is the president of the CHBA, told me recently he came up with the idea of the PCH slate, as an alternative to the candidates already in place behind the Dina Hitchcock crew -- my words, not his -- because he and a group of businessmen were tired of the constant fights, and "lack of forward motion", lack of transparency, etc., under Dina's direction. (Again, my words.) "Of those 63 votes from last year's election? -- oi vey! is all I can say. Not illegal, but . . ."

Welsh claimed not to know the identity of the associate publisher who is coming to the Local from the Delaware Valley Times shortly, but said he felt the paper would not be "taken over" by CHBA thinking, and that the editor's job was not in jeopardy: "Hey, where are we gonna go? He knows the job, he knows the community . . . He could be a little more of a mensch, but what you gonna do? . . ."

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6 Comments:

Blogger Ed Feldman said...

Why they Hate Us-and Why we hate Each Other
I've gotta do it John- Because,
A. I can't help myself, and B. I won't miss his food-(Mozzerella Sticks are not part of my culinary ethos)
I get to write it this way-on the blog anyway-for the same reason Black comedians get to say-well, you know.
Greg Welsh is the kind of Jew that delights in bullshitting goyim like you. It pleases him. He even tries it with me. It's his LANGUAGE.
His rationalization?-One part "It's necessary for business"- One
part "With all they've done to my people, I must use all my guile to survive", and one part "Man, can I bullshit"
The ease in which people like Greg can bullshit is his BADGE OF HONOR, he's PROUD of it.
He, like Levittes, a Jew who called his store, John Alexander Antiques start out just tring to fool the goyim to make a buck, but as we have seen with Madoff, it's like eatin' peanuts, you just can't stop.
So now he hooks up with Snowden, who he used to call insane, and together the jew hater and the goy fooler will get their zoning, their paper, and their portion control Appleby's-by-another name cuisine. "The goyim will eat ANYTHING".
And now he lays a raft of Positively bullshit in the Local so thick that he must have gone to bed laughin' about the Miracle Whip eatin' fools all eight days of Pesach-or is it seven?
Greg's been dining out on his Mamet tough jew rep because of something that happened two generations ago. Being a business goniff don't count as balls in my world.
If Greg was tough now, he wouldn't be bending over to Prince Dick for ten pieces of silver. Ain't middle age a bitch?
This won't hurt Greg. He's already rationalized his answer by the time you got to the end of this sentence.
The only test is this. If he's the kind of Jew I grew up with, he'll just laugh and say, "good one Ed", next time I see him. Cause he knows this can't hurt him where he lives-in his wallet, and tough guys can take a good rankin'. And he would never alienate a potential customer,no matter what he thought of him.
But if he shuns me, then he's caught the Chestnut Hill virus, he's one of them now, not a tough guy, and really no Jew at all.
Ed Feldman
Beth Emeth Bar Mitzvah April 1966

Wed Apr 15, 03:04:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should we be surprised at the operations of the CHCA? We hava accepted and condoned this behavior in the USA for at least a decade.

For example: The USA enters and bombs Iraq with really no basis except lies and more lies(CHCA send someone who has no clue or right to monitor and interfere with the LOCAL all based on conjecture and nonfacts)

The USA is brutal and uncaring in its assault, killing hundreds of thousand of people ( the CHCA representative makes abusive, horrible and threatening remarks to LOCAL staff)

When the Iraq citizens began to kill Americans or in other ways defend themselves, THEY are labled horrible people and terrorists. (When Jimmy Pack defends himself, he is considered "out of control" and effectively a terrorist.)

Why do you have to wonder why Chestnut Hill is in the state that it is in?

Thu Apr 16, 08:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger reverend chris said...

I used to get a kick of the CHBA's automated Security Alerts. Granted: I would rather pick up the phone and hear Gary Owens reading off the description of suspicious characters rather than Kate O'Neill, but we can't win them all.

I recall, a few years back, when a woman (described to be around 70 years old) successfully shop lifted from one of our local Knitting Stores. Yarn Gangs are gateway groups to Chain Gangs, I guess. It makes for a fun mental image.

But today angered me. Today's message basically said that an African American man entered Caleb Meyer and had a check with an amount already filled out. He was told their store policy and left without making a purchase. Then the CHBA called all their member stores to warn them of this individual.

What I want to know is: What is this store policy? They don't accept checks? They won't allow purchases after 11:00am?

I think more than a few of us have been given a check to purchase something for a friend of family who had gotten the total and wrote out the details. Further more, I have seen a gaggle more suspicious WHITE people on Germantown Ave and can't remember the last time any alerts were posted regarding them.

Anyone else tired of all of this? I used to be paranoid about the FBI, CIA and FEMA... lately it has been the self-elected offials on the 8400 block that are haunting my slumber-flix.

Thu Apr 16, 02:59:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed ,You are a smackes ass!

Sat Apr 18, 11:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ed Feldman said...

Does this mean you want to give me some "smackes" hon? I know the "s" is right next to the "d" but doesn't spell check draw a little red line under all the words you misspell?
I love you, you big dummy-Ed

Sun Apr 19, 10:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jeremiade said...

Lombardi gives some factual CHCA history and some insight as to Greg Welsh. Welsh has always been good for the Chestnut Hill business environment, unlike the other business people who were mentioned. But he will not be good for the Chestnut Hill community because he has never given any sign that he has ever even thought about the larger community away from the Avenue. In years past, this would not be a concern and a business slate would simply not have been electable because the community understood that the CHBA ably represents business and to have them control both organizations would be a disaster for the residential community. However, recent events such as past block purchases of CHCA memberships and recent resignations of Larned and Spaeth (very different characters) over board liability (Larned's reason) and board violence (Spaeth's reason)have opened the door for such a takeover. I am not overstating what is happening here. Hopefully there are sufficient candidates running that a CHBA takeover will not happen. Local business people have always served on the board and many have been officers such as Dwyer, Cove and McMaster. These people usually were also residents and identified with community issues. They did not run on business platforms or as part of a business slate. O'Donnell is another business man who has ably supported the business community but shown little concern for the residential community. Unfortunately the strength of name recognition may trump issues in the upcoming election.

Mon Apr 20, 07:30:00 AM EDT  

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