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Excerpts from the blogs of Inquirer critics.

Fillmore no more; TLA lives!

From Dan DeLuca's "In the Mix"


A bad idea has bitten the dust. The concert promoters at Live Nation confirm what's clear if you look at the ads for the venue at 334 South St.

The lame attempt to re-brand the Theater of the Living Arts as The Fillmore at the TLA has been given up. It's now Theater of the Living Arts again, TLA for short. The name was adopted last year in a misguided effort to magically transplant the 1960s countercultural hippie vibe of Bill Graham's historic Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, which was at the center of the psychedelic Grateful Dead-Jefferson Airplane way back in those Wavy Gravy days, to the touchy-feely City of Brotherly Love.

It's one small victory for local tradition, which in the TLA's case goes back to Philadelphia's own counterculture history, since the original Theater of Living Arts was an experimental theater troupe founded by Andre Gregory (who went on to conversate so fascinatingly with Wallace Shawn in

My Dinner With Andre

), and later became a repertory art-house movie theater, which eventually gave way to the TLA video store chain.

The Fillmore branding concept keeps hanging on in other cities, apparently: A Live Nation search still lists shows at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza in New York, and at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, despite Ralph Kramden's protestations from beyond the grave.

Big kids, too

From Ginny Smith's "Kiss the Earth"


On May 25, it being a gloriously sunny Sunday, we ventured out to Morris Arboretum to take a walk and see how the rose garden was doing. Cars were lined up along Northwestern Avenue waiting to get in. Were they giving away plants?

Actually, it was opening weekend for the 2008 garden railway, an event you might not suspect would generate so much excitement. This year's theme is "Architectural Wonders of the World." It runs till Oct. 13.

I remember being drawn to my brothers' toy train set back in the dark ages, especially the small-scale towns, bridges and mountains and the pale puffs of smoke that came out of the engine.

This is a grander thing. The trains - one has Thomas as the engine - were amusing and interesting in their own right as they passed replicas of some of the world's most fascinating buildings and sites - the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Giza pyramid.

Fifty-six in all, including some close to home. Hey, how'd these guys get in there? Betsy Ross House, Elfreth's Alley, historic houses in Fairmount Park and - OK, so Morris gets a pass - the Fernery at the arboretum. The miniature replicas, whatever their pedigree, were absolutely great, and we ended up doing the whole circuit. There's also a small train for kids to ride.

There's a long history of garden railways in Europe, starting in the mid-19th century. The fad hopped across the pond in the crazy 1920s and '30s, dropped out of sight in the boring '50s, and re-emerged about 30 years ago.

Fashionista reading

From Elizabeth Wellington's "Mirror Image"


So I'm back from five days of sunnin', tannin' and Margarita-drinkin' in Cancun. While there, I enjoyed two great reads by Philadelphia-bred authors - an action-packed werewolf saga,

Bad Blood

by West Philly's own L.A. Banks, and an amusing tome about a just-dead fashionista,

The Ten Best Days of My Life

, by Adena Halpern. These books aren't eye-opening, change-your-life sagas like

Eat, Pray, Love

by Elizabeth Gilbert, but one couldn't ask for better beach reading. . .