There's a power vacuum in the Ben Franklin world.

Ralph Archbold, the city's busiest and best-known Franklin interpreter, is in the hospital, recovering from what friends call a mild stroke last week.

With the high tourist season approaching, other Franklins are stepping in to fill Archbold's buckled shoes. Lots of benjamins are at stake here.

From his hospital bed, Archbold suggested longtime interpreter Bill Robling to handle some of his work at Historic Philadelphia Inc., which runs a full slate of programs in the historic district. "It takes a few Franklins to do this," Robling said modestly Friday after an engagement at the Betsy Ross House. Dean Bennett, who's been conjuring Franklin since 1981, is also a major player in the Ben biz.

Archbold's friend J Nathan Bazzel said Archbold was undergoing tests at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, but had been asking for Diet Cokes and ice cream - "he can't have that" - and cracking jokes.

Meanwhile, Archbold grins from the cover of the magazine Philly Beer Scene, which debuted last week. For a story headlined "Ales of the Revolution," Archbold (as Franklin) assessed 12 craft beers with mag founders Scott Willey, Neil Harner, Mat Falco, and John Galster.


The 2000 block of Delancey Place, near Rittenhouse Square, was a jumble of film production Friday for The Best and the Brightest, a fish-out-of-water comedy starring Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville as a simple couple trying to get their tyke into a posh Manhattan kindergarten. Philly plays New York, meaning a "considerable savings" for the movie's sub-$5 million budget, says producer Nicholas Simon.

The manse at 2032 Delancey, used last year to film the romantic comedy Arlen Faber with Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham, was holding space for the cast and crew, and line producer Jason Pinardo was handing out slices of pizza there at dusk. The house at 2037 served as the New York brownstone.

Amy Sedaris, who plays a woman advising the couple on school admissions, says director Josh Shelov sold her on the script. "I'll do anything to work with Neil," she says. Though known for quirky character roles (Jerri in Strangers With Candy), Sedaris is playing this one straight. "The character is already in the writing," says Sedaris, who spends weekends in New York, where her 61/2-year-old rabbit, Dusty, is being cared for during the week by bunny-sitters.

Locations also have included Rittenhouse Square and Bryn Mawr College. Before the Philly wrap on July 7, they'll shoot at Center City's G Lounge, doubling as a swingers' club.

Speaking of swingers: One of two 1970 "Shaguar" Jaguar convertibles used in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery will be shown today at the Father's Day Muscle Car Show, a benefit run by WOGL-FM at Franklin Mills Mall in the Northeast from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The car - as the lefthand-drive version, it was seen only briefly in the Mike Myers comedy - is part of the collection of Alan Lewenthal of Marquis Auto Restorations, who will also set up a restored 1970 Mustang dubbed the WOGL Boss Mustang.

The Bollywood film New York, which was shot here last year, will get its wide release Friday. The action drama stars John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, and Neil Nitin Mukesh.

The reason for a celebratory lobster lunch Friday on the set of The Last Airbender: Director M. Night Shyamalan screened the movie's trailer for the cast and crew. The trailer will be attached to the soon-to-open film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which shot scenes at City Hall and Eastern State Penitentiary last year. Airbender - due in theaters July 2, 2010 - will wrap just before July 4. Days after that, James L. Brooks' big-budget comedy How Do You Know, starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Owen Wilson, moves in.

'Awakening' local ties

It'll be a homecoming for two stars of the national touring production of the musical drama Spring Awakening, playing the Academy of Music Tuesday through next Sunday: Yardley's Christy Altomare, a 2004 Pennsbury High grad who will turn 23 on opening night, and Northeast Philly-bred Blake Bashoff, 28, a 1999 grad of Washington High.

Altomare was six weeks out of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music when she won the role of the tragic heroine, Wendla, in the story of repressed teen sexual feelings in late-19th-century Germany. Spring Awakening is based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind.

Bashoff, a vet of film and TV (Bushwacked, Big Bully, Lost), played the troubled, wild-haired Moritz for a year on Broadway before going on the road. "This has opened my eyes to the world of theater," he says.

Asked what she likes about the show, which she first saw with her parents before it reached Broadway, Altomare says: "Everything. I love its depth. It's not like a typical musical. It's set in the late 1800s, but it has this indie-rock score. You can see all this was going on the late 1800s, and it's going on with people growing up today. We haven't come that far." Altomare brushes off the partial nudity as being integral to the plot. "It's not about the nudity. It's very tame - half of a breast and half of a boy's bottom. If you're in the balcony, you won't even see it."

TV appearances

Jamie Lewis, 25, a leasing agent from Bucks County, is still in the running on the second season of ABC's I Survived a Japanese Game Show (9 p.m., 6ABC). The wacky game show, taped in Japan, eliminated Philly teacher Kimberly Whitaker in its first week. Winner gets $250,000.

NBC has revived The Chopping Block, a restaurant-themed reality show that features mother-daughter Angie Brown and Samantha Johnson of Chestnut Hill's Soul restaurant. It's now on 8 p.m. Fridays. NBC aired three of the eight episodes in March before putting the series on hiatus. Meanwhile, unaired episodes were placed online on, so the results are no secret.

The Food Network this week starts a summertime series called The Best Thing I Ever Ate, in which network personalities give screen time to sundry food meccas. In coming weeks (9:30 p.m. Tuesdays), Aaron McCargo Jr. will extol the virtues of Panzarotti Pizza King in Camden; Bolete in Bethlehem, Pa.; the Jug Handle Inn in Cinnaminson; and Yellow Submarine in Maple Shade. Marc Summers will delve into mini-doughnuts at Old City's Buddakan and the pizza at North Philly's Osteria.

Charitably speaking

The Great Chefs Event, which brought noted pot-bangers to Osteria on Wednesday to help Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, started its auction with a video of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley saying he would "give the shirt off my back" - as in a signed jersey, plus four seats to a game in his seats; this sold for $3,000. Bobby Flay offered to cook dinner for six in his New York apartment, and sold it for $15,000. Jeff Benjamin, co-owner of Osteria and Vetri, got donors to kick in $70,000 to fund two years of research into childhood cancer.

No corned beef for you!

Jerry Seinfeld, here to play the Academy of Music, delighted the lunchtime crowd yesterday at the Kibitz Room (1521 Locust St.) with a sit-down comedy appearance. Out with fellow comedian Mario Joyner, he ordered a honey turkey on rye with mustard and a side of coleslaw, plus chicken soup. Whereupon owner Neil Parish told him that he should be eating a pastrami-and-corned-beef combo with a potato latke. "He told me he chooses life," said Parish, who replied that the notion of too much red meat and too much fat being bad for you is a government conspiracy.

Now that cracked up Seinfeld.