S

TRIPER

,

Neil Stein

's beloved boxer, arguably the most popular dog in the city, died last weekend.

He was 10 and lived in Old City.

"He's been an amazing part of my life," Stein tearfully shared with us yesterday.

"He was the most lovable thing," Stein recalled.

For years, Striper was a fixture at Stein's restaurant Rouge (205 S. 18th), which is now owned by his daughter Maggie Wasserman and her husband, Rob Wasserman, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Striper had suffered from severe arthritis and his paws were bleeding from dragging his legs. He was euthanized over the weekend at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, which also handled his burial.

Striper's health woes were related to his weight, a whopping 115 pounds. Stein says that Striper "never lost his appetite" and enjoyed the Rouge cheeseburger.

Stein has been fielding calls of support from friends and family members, who all knew how much he loved the dog, who almost never left his side. When Stein spent 14 months in federal prison on tax-evasion charges, friends cared for Striper.

Striper came to Stein when he was 7 weeks old from LaRae Derr, of Blue Star Farms Specialty Meat, who also raises boxers on her Lancaster County farm. Stein said yesterday that photos of Striper were displayed outside of Rouge, and that he planned to install a plaque there as well as possibly sponsor a bench in Rittenhouse Square in memory of his dog, whom he called "an icon." He was named after Stein's other baby, Striped Bass (15th & Walnut), which Stein co-founded and ran for years. It's now owned by Stephen Starr.

Is Larry the new Alycia?

Does CBS 3 have no choice but to fire Larry Mendte in order to defend itself against Alycia Lane's current wrongful-termination suit against the station?

"If they don't get rid of Mendte somehow, they're going to have a problem," says local attorney J. Conor Corcoran, who does not represent Mendte or Lane.

Mendte is currently benched by the station pending further investigation by federal authorities as to whether he illegally hacked into Lane's private e-mails. He has not yet been charged with a crime.

CBS 3 fired Lane in January during the fallout from her New York arrest on charges that she assaulted an NYPD officer. Even though the assault charge was later dropped, she was terminated by the station. She filed suit, by form of writ of summons, a less common method of initiating a lawsuit, in late January.

Corcoran says that CBS 3 would be shooting itself in the foot by not firing Mendte, as Lane's civil attorney, Paul Rosen, could point to a double standard as to why his client was fired and Mendte was not. Both anchors, like nearly everyone in local television, had a morals clause in their contracts.

A CBS 3 spokeswoman had no comment yesterday other than to say that the station is cooperating with authorities and that Mendte will not be on the air pending investigation.

Mendte's attorney Michael Schwartz said that he is working with CBS 3 to try to come to a mutually agreeable resolution as to his status. As to whether Mendte would be offering his resignation, Schwartz only repeated his previous comment.

Rosen told us that his civil case against CBS 3 is "not based upon or related to the separate and independent investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office into computer crime."

The main difference between Mendte and Lane seems to be how their colleagues and former colleagues feel about their fates.

Mendte "had a tremendous track record in the Delaware Valley, from giving his time and energy both professionally and personally to charities, and using his bully pulpit as a journalist to champion the stories often untold, while Lane was someone with a very thin resumé. He had so much potential, and he was such a good person, and now he's done," said a former employee, echoing sentiments of some current staffers.

Meanwhile, CBS 3 is frantically re-editing a portion of its Thursday programming related to a pledge drive for the Alex's Lemonade Stand, a charity close to Mendte and on which he served on the board until last week.

The special was supposed to include snippets from last year's "Alex Scott: A Stand for Hope," which Mendte directed and hosted. The station had to do similar editing for a holiday special to remove Lane from the program. A station spokeswoman confirmed that Mendte will not appear in Thursday's broadcast.

It's always Iggles in Philadelphia

Eagles Jon Runyan, Chris Gocong, Dan Klecko and Mike Patterson will shoot a scene for "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" outside City Hall Friday afternoon, along with former Iggle Jeremiah Trotter. Danny DeVito will sign autographs and greet fans at the set of the FX sitcom during the 2:30 to 5 p.m. shoot. 93.3 WMMR's Preston & Steve play construction workers in a scene with Charlie Day and Kaitlin Olson. South Philly native Rob McElhenney, who co-created the series, will be on hand, as will Glenn Howerton.

I've seen brake lights and I've . . .

Many James Taylor fans said "Screw it" or dirtier versions of that phrase Sunday night and turned around when stuck on the Schuylkill Expressway near the Mann Center exit.

Both directions were nearly at a standstill as Taylor took the stage.

"Although the Schuylkill is one of the easiest ways to get to the Mann, there are also a number of other entrances including South Georges Hill Drive, 52nd Street, and Parkside Avenue," Mann Center spokeswoman Lynda Bramble told us yesterday when we asked about the fiasco.

"The gates for all of our concerts open two hours prior to start time and we encourage people to allow plenty of time in order to park and find their seats."

As a result of Sunday's traffic nightmare, Bramble says, the Mann will put more emphasis on the alternate routes on its Web site, manncenter.org.

Out and about

Legendary music men Quincy Jones and Kenny Gamble broke bread together at Smith & Wollensky at the Rittenhouse Sunday, with political consultant Charlie Breslin and insurance mogul Andre Duggin. Jones was in the area to receive an honorary doctorate from Princeton yesterday.

_ Rappers Ray J and Yung Berg partied at Cebu (123 Chestnut) after Wired 96.5's Summer Kick Off Party at the Electric Factory. The club played Ray J's "Sexy Can I" a couple of times. Lots of ladies were flirting with Ray J. Maybe they saw his sex tape with Kim Kardashian and know just how equipped he is.

The guys hung with Wired's Chio, his wife, Shawn, Chio sidekicks Justice and G-N, and Wired's Casey and Kannon.

False alarm for weathercaster

While doing the weather at 6:15 Sunday morning, NBC 10 meteorologist Michelle Grossman, due to give birth in July, said on-air that she felt short of breath and left the set. Ted Greenberg, who was anchoring at the time, took over and by 7 a.m. meteorologist Dave Warren was suited up and reading the forecast. A station spokeswoman says Grossman was having contractions, which also happened Thursday, but she did not go into premature labor and is better now. Her first child is due July 9. *

Visit PhillyGossip.com for Dan's latest stories. Have a tip? Call 215-854-5963, or e-mail grossd@phillynews.com. For recent columns, visit go.philly.com/dangross.