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Mummers & grudges

Looks like an African-American marching band will lead the Mummers Parade. Or maybe not.

EXPECT NO massive makeovers, but continued family-friendly tinkering, in the 114th Mummers Parade, says parade director Leo Dignam, who oversees the Mummer Monster.

One important development, I think, is the surprise inclusion of an African-American marching band from Denver. It will not compete, but it will perform with the (always-triumphant) Murray Comics and lead the Comic Division up Broad Street, Dignam says.

For details I call Richie Porco, the captain of Murray, who doesn't want to talk to me, the result of some long-ago statement of mine he felt was insulting, something about Comics being drunks.

I probably said something like that, but I'm sure I never said just that. I probably said then what I say now to people who say all Mummers are a bunch of drunks.

I say drunken behavior - before a performance - would not be tolerated by String Bands, Fancies or Brigades. There's too much at stake, too much perfection is expected.

Among the Comics, less so. If you are going to see a guy collapsed in a drunken stupor, most likely it will be a Comic.

I marched as a Comic for a decade and no one in my King Kazoo club strutted up the street drunk and that's true for 90 percent of the other clubs.

Nursing his grudge, Porco wouldn't confirm the Denver group is African-American, and demanded to know why their race should matter.

It shouldn't - but it does, especially after last year's manufactured accusation of racism against the Ferko String Band because of a thoughtlessly selected minstrel image used in its theme.

I know what critics do not - the Mummers are not racist and inviting an African-American group would be welcome. The Denver band would be the first group up Broad Street.

Porco says if I report the group is African-American "it will not be accurate," but won't tell me what is accurate. I guess I won't suggest a Beer Summit with him.

The truth is that minorities have been welcome in the parade for decades. Until five years ago, when city prize money was eliminated, Comics used to invite outside groups to perform with them, as Murray is doing this year. Those groups included African-American marching bands and high-steppers, square dancers, clog dancers and Falun Gong, the persecuted (by the Chinese government) minority.

Last year, amid the controversy, Mummers Museum executive director Palma Lucas said, "It doesn't matter what we do. People who aren't part of this will keep thinking we're just a bunch of white, racist, sexist drunks."

Facts don't matter to the hysterical critics who neither understand nor like Mummery. Under other circumstances, most of them would count themselves as sworn defenders of the working class, the very people who comprise the Mummer majority.

To the hypersensitive, rooting around for offense as pigs for truffles, do me a favor and take a day off from political correctness. If you can't, watch a college bowl game and examine the mascots for traces of some phobia or ism.

Most Mummers haters are homegrown Negadelphians. They hate our city, they hate our Mummers, they hate our sports teams, they hate themselves. They offer nothing positive and lack the grace and gumption to leave.

The city rightfully extols the Mummers experience and people who move here from elsewhere (like me) are more open to it.

Dignam believes new Philadelphians account for growing parade attendance in Center City. They not only get it, but enjoy it, as a great, if somewhat nutty, folk celebration - even though all Comics are not always in the best of taste nor completely sober.

The parade is like its fans.