Meet Dolores Paolino, a South Philly grandma known as Dolly Broadway to her more than 1 million followers on TikTok and Instagram.
• The White Claw way: “I love White Claw because it comes in all flavors. If you get tired of one, you can go on to another.”
• Speak easy: “A lot of people don’t feel like they can say what they want. And I want them to feel like they should.”
If Danny DeVito was an Italian grandma from South Philly who made red gravy three times a week, he’d be Dolores Paolino.
Blunt as a pickax handle with a fierce fervor for White Claw hard seltzers, the 4-foot-5 Paolino earned the nickname “Dolly Broadway” growing up in South Philly, where she spent every night out on the town.
“I was a party animal,” Paolino said. “It’s a shame kids don’t know that kind of fun today.”
Not bad for someone who doesn’t own a cellphone.
“I don’t want everybody tracking what I’m doing!” she said.
The mastermind behind Paolino’s social media accounts — and her wild viral video skits — is her 17-year-old grandson, Julian Giacobbo.
“She would always get up and just start dancing and doing crazy things, so I put her up on Instagram," he said.
But it wasn’t until Giacobbo created a TikTok account for his grandmother in November — and their first video got 30,000 views overnight — that her social media stardom took off.
“When he told me what happened, I couldn’t believe it,” said Paolino, whose videos now average around 300,000 views — but can get up to 11 million.
Many of the videos are skits about Paolino’s love of White Claws — which she calls “a real woman’s drink” — and involve a fictitious, off-camera character named Bethann who is always trying to steal them from her.
Curse-laden and booze-infused, the videos are not suitable for children or the easily offended. In one, Paolino reenacts her own birth — with her first bottle being a can of White Claw. In another she makes a “White Clawantine” with White Claw, orange juice, and MiraLAX, but forgets to put the top on the blender.
Recently, Paolino got into character as the curmudgeon Carl Fredrickson from the Pixar movie Up. In that skit, she grabbed onto to a case of White Claw attached to a bunch of balloons, which carried her away (via the magic of video editing) to “Alcohol Falls.”
If this all sounds entirely ludicrous, that’s the point.
“A lot of the old people can’t believe I do these videos,” Paolino said. “But especially now, there should be a lot of laughter.”
Paolino grew up in South Philly where she worked as a tailor, and later, as a hotdog wrapper at Phillies and Eagles games. She still works today, as an Avon lady, a job she’s held down for 47 years.
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Three times a week she makes red gravy, including on Sundays, when her three children and five grandchildren come over for dinner. Her husband, Louis, died four years ago after a battle with Alzheimer’s.
Giacobbo said a big part of the reason he and his grandma make their videos — which sometimes feature her grandkids — is so they have stories and experiences to share together.
“That’s the whole reason she does this, to make memories for us,” he said.
Sometimes in the middle of filming a very silly video, Paolino will tear up because she’s so overwhelmed by the joy of being with her grandkids — and the thought of knowing she won’t be around them forever.
The ideas for the skits come from Giacobbo, who said it can sometimes take an hour to film a 15- to 60-second video. Most of the skits are scripted in advance, and many include costumes and dances.
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While Giacobbo said most responses are positive (“People say, ‘You make us laugh on these days that are hard’”) he’s heard from some who are worried Paolino might be drinking too much.
That’s just part of the act, said Paolino, who claims she’s never been “drunk, drunk" or hungover.
“I just keep dancing so I don’t get tired,” she said.
Before the coronavirus quarantine, Paolino was getting recognized all over the city by people, some of whom even ran up to her car when she was stopped at red lights.
“I can’t go anywhere without someone spotting me and wanting to take pictures with me,” she said. “Wherever I go people yell ‘Yo! I’m drinking a White Claw!’”
But what feels the best, she said, are the unforgettable moments she’s making with her family, in the way she wants to make them.
“Just get up and do what you want,” she said. “And make a lot of memories.”
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