Kurt Wunder, 53, of South Philadelphia, whose knack for creativity and culture helped create the hip nightclub the 700 Club and who later in his career coordinated special effects on TV shows and movies, died at home Aug. 10 of glioblastoma and leptomeningeal disease.
“Upon realizing that his medications would never involve tequila, Kurt William Wunder acquiesced and peacefully surrendered his battle,” as his wife, Margo, wrote in a death notice posted on Pennsylvania Burial Co.'s website.
Mr. Wunder, a longtime DJ, started spinning Frank Sinatra records at Silk City in Northern Liberties in 1991, long before the Chairman of the Board had enjoyed a resurgence among hipsters. His monthly Rat Pack Nights were popular. He also played trumpet with the Rabble Rousers comic brigade in the Mummers Parade.
Perhaps Mr. Wunder’s most visible contribution to city life was the 700, which opened during Northern Liberties’ revival. In 1997, Mr. Wunder, Tracy Stanton, and Chris Sey bought a ramshackle, long-abandoned butcher shop at Second Street and Fairmount Avenue for $35,000. "The idea was to make it like a mom-and-pop bar, where Mom and Pop live upstairs,” Mr. Wunder told an interviewer in the late 1990s. The bathroom was a DJ booth, and the kitchen was an upstairs bar. A massive wooden antique pharmacy cabinet, donated by friends, became a liquor shelf.
In his spare time, Mr. Wunder worked in special effects on Philadelphia-shot projects. Most recently, he is credited as the special-effects foreman on 21 Bridges, a thriller starring Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller due in theaters in November, about a New York detective who shuts down the city to find two suspects. Among his other credits were the films Creed and Creed II and one season of the TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Mr. Wunder was an avid hockey player and captained the team at Hatboro-Horsham High School. He attended Temple University but left to attend flight school, a fitting change given his zeal for adventure. He didn’t get his pilot’s license, his wife said.
“'Voracious experiencer’ puts it mildly,” Margo Wunder said. "We did it all and had a blast. Kurt greeted everyone and everything with open arms. Our life together was a nonstop adventure that packed more in our all-too short time together than most do in a lifetime. I loved him fiercely and completely, as he did us. He sets the standard for father, lover and friend.“
They met in the 1990s when she was a barista at a coffee shop in Old City and Mr. Wunder was a regular who ordered cappuccinos. “I made a great cappuccino, but he admitted later that he just got coffee in order to see me,” she said, adding that their crush, as she calls it, “lasted our entire 18 years of marriage.” They have two children, a daughter, Georgia, 18, and a son, Spencer, 16.
On their first date, over drinks, Mr. Wunder recounted a story about fly-fishing with renowned rod maker Tom Maxwell before he died. “I didn’t know much about fishing, but just listening to this beautiful story and the care he took to tell it, I knew that Kurt was the one.” When Margo had him over for dinner for the first time, “I baked a cheesecake for dessert because he had said previously that he hated cheesecake.” He ended up liking cheesecake, she said.
Besides his wife and children, he is survived by his mother, Dolores, and brothers Robert and William.