Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, May 16, 2021

Whenever an old episode of “Good Times” pops up that includes the bit character Lenny, I can’t help but wonder whatever happened to Dap Sugar Willie. Who, as you can see from the album cover above, was from north Philadelphia.

The online record is pretty thin. While he made a handful of movie and TV appearances in the ’70s and ’80s, his bigger claim to fame was as a local standup comic who released a couple of Redd Foxx-style adults-only comedy albums. In fact, it appears that he and Foxx were compatriots, which led to Willie’s first television gigs on “Sanford and Son”. But there’s scant information about Willie after his heyday. There’s an unconfirmed report of his death a few years back; if he is still alive, he’s dropped well out of sight.

Not that Willie was a remarkable onscreen presence. But there was something about him that was memorable: The cadence in the way he delivered his lines, that weird longhair-moustache facial combo, and especially that handbrush he would pull out to brush himself off after getting dissed. One of a kind, if nothing else.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/16/2009 07:10pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, TV
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garden partyWith the economy putting a drain on public funds, the Garden State is taking the opportunity to put the squeeze on the multiple layers of townships and hamlets that plague the civic landscape:

Some New Jersey lawmakers believe they’ve found a solution in having their cash-strapped state act as an ersatz Match.com for towns looking to merge. The state is offering to pay for studies and give a property tax credit to homeowners whose taxes would rise. The aim is to save money and escape Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s plans to slash aid to more than 300 towns with fewer than 10,000 residents. If that doesn’t work, these towns risk losing state aid.

“Whenever we’ve tried to bring people to the altar it hasn’t worked; what we need is a few shotgun weddings,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Princeton, who wants “doughnut hole” towns — small boroughs surrounded by larger townships — to share services or merge within the next decade.

The small towns of Chester Borough and Chester Township, nestled in the rolling hills of west-central New Jersey, provide a good example of the problems in making these forced marriages work.

Relations between the two towns are friendly. Children in both towns attend the same schools and check out books from the same library. A single fire company handles calls for both towns. They pay for other services separately, including police and a total of two mayors and 10 council members. The fact they are separate exemplifies what many see as a critical problem in a state where a whopping 566 municipalities vie for a shrinking pot of state aid and homeowners suffer property taxes that are double the national average.

The “donut hole” phenomenon isn’t unique to New Jersey. I made indirect note of it in my native New York State regarding the elusive sub-community of Oniontown. My own hometown of Newburgh, NY is another prime example: It’s divided into City of and Town of, which is ridiculous when you’re talking about a combined population of under 55,000.

Most often, these divisions are strictly between the old city core, which tends to be more rundown in older Northeastern small metros, and the more affluent suburbs/exurbs. In other words, it’s needless class-based separation and replication all for the sake of property taxes. Most outsiders and newcoming residents usually aren’t even aware of the political separation. Ultimately, it all generates just another layer of red tape.

UPDATE - A defense of New Jersey’s overloaded localities, centered around native Garden State poetry.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/16/2009 01:29pm
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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I scored tickets for a performance of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” next week. It’s a Roundabout Theatre Company production held in, of all places, Studio 54 (long ago resurrected as a theater venue, well removed from its disco days), with a star-studded cast including Nathan Lane and John Goodman. It’ll be my first time seeing this play onstage, so I’m thinking I couldn’t ask for a better setting.

Funny thing about the title: As a kid, I came across a comic-strip panel that parodied it. I don’t remember where I read it, but I recall the way it looked: A black-and-white cartoony drawing of a desolate landscape, with two raggedy-looking bearded figures at the bottom, sitting on a log and with their feet submerged in water. There was a long string of word balloons above their heads, and I don’t remember the specific dialogue (it may have been mimicking Beckett’s original) but it culminated in the punchline, “We’re wading for Godot”.

I’m pretty sure I came across this pun before I had even heard of the original; it probably prompted me to seek out the real play just so I could fully understand the joke. The longer-lasting effect is that even now, whenever I hear “Waiting for Godot”, I can’t help but process it as “Wading for Godot”. I guess it’s just stuck in my brain that way, forevermore.

Which, actually, isn’t that much a stretch away from the existentialist “waiting” theme of the play. As much as the characters are waiting in anticipation, they’re also “wading” about, flirting with deeper meaning throughout. I guess that’s what makes the joke work.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/16/2009 10:38am
Category: Comedy, Creative, Wordsmithing
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