Sometimes I’ll write something so insightful, error-free and sensible I’ll pause and without humility say, “Gee, that could have been written by a real writer.”
That happened a year ago today when I wrote that Pittsburgh ought to construct a statue honoring native son Gene Kelly.
So what’s happened in that year? Almost nothing. A good seed championed by an unheralded blogger has found no purchase.
But I have gained a few more readers.
On the chance that one of them is Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, I’m running the post again and adjusting the dates to keep the piece current.
Then I’m taking the rest of the day off.
Just like a real writer!
Two years from today will mark the 100th birthday of beloved actor and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly (August 23, 1912).
That gives me plenty of time to make an iconic popsicle stick statue of him “Singin’ in the Rain” and affix it to a lamp post in Pittsburgh’s landmark Market Square.
I think that kind of eyeball evidence might be what it takes to get city officials interested doing what ought to come naturally.
Ever since I returned from a 2008 trip to write about golf in Wisconsin, I’ve been consumed with the idea of Pittsburgh building a Kelly statue in the heart of the city. The city just completed a $5 million Market Square beautification project Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says will make the square “an even better destination for residents, visitors and families.”
I love Pittsburgh, but sometimes I want to take its leadership and bat them over over their collective heads with a hearty loaf of Mancini’s Italian bread. A statue of Kelly singin’ in the rain from a Market Square lamppost would bring international attention to the city, not to mention tourist dollars.
Yet, I can’t get any of the magazines to let me write a story about it and my fledgling efforts to convince opinion makers have been met with shrugs. I might have to resort to writing a letter to the editor, a stinging surrender by someone who still likes to pretend he’s professional.
I wish I had the eloquence to convince city leaders that the Kelly statue would earn Pittsburgh accolades and loot.
If I can’t maybe The Fonz can.
David Fantle of Visit Milwaukee told me that the statue of Milwaukee “native” Arthur Fonzarelli of “Happy Days” fame the city erected in 2007 has been an wholesome godsend to downtown tourism.
“It cost us $90,000 in donated sponsorships to build and has in just two years earned us more than $9.5 million in worldwide media value,” Fantle says.
Today, a steady stream of visitors to central Milwaukee stop by the downtown river plaza to ape it up with the “Bronz Fonz.”
Now -- ehhh! -- we all love Fonzie. But Gene Kelly is one of America’s most sparkling icons.
And for me it’s all because of that joyful dance he made famous in the 1952 movie.
The American Film Institute in 2007 ranked “Singin’ in the Rain” as the fifth greatest American movie of all time. These experts in cinematic glories ranked it ahead of “Gone With The Wind” (6), and “The Wizard of Oz,” (10).
Only “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “Casablanca” and “Raging Bull” ranked (in order) better than the great Kelly vehicle.
Not a man or woman alive can’t relate at some level to that euphoric dance. Released nearly two years before the birth of Howard Stern, that dance is an upraised middle finger to anyone who finds themselves caught without an umbrella in the crapstorm of life.
Check it out. The sequence is 4:36 seconds of pure magic.
It’s particularly relevant to a perpetual underdog of a city like Pittsburgh, despite consistent top rankings in numerous “most livable city” listings.
Once dubbed “Hell with the lid off” because of its smoke-belching crush of fiery factories, Pittsburgh today is as green and fresh as a salad bar. The mills, gone thirty years, have been replaced by high-tech upstarts, downtown universities and riverside fitness trails. Skies once choked with smoke, today crackle with free citywide WiFi.
It’s a city you can still put your arms around. Downtown is geographically incarcerated by the waters of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers. The only direction downtown can sprawl is straight up.
Leaders from all over the world discovered its charms last year as they came to town for the G-20 summit.
Guaranteed, many of the leaders of the industrialized world learned what America is all about by watching movies like “Singin’ in the Rain.”
I hope somebody in the city picks up the baton and runs with it. Three years is plenty of time to raise awareness, funds and construct a statue that will give Pittsburgh a joyful jolt of publicity and a euphoric new image that will resonate around the world.
I’d do it myself, but I’ve got a full plate. I need to go out and rent “Singin’ in the Rain.”
I don’t want to rain on my own expertise, but I’ve never seen the flick.
I hear it’s pretty good.
Causes Chris Rodell Supports
Democratic National Committee, UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, Sierra Club, Smile Train, Salvation Army