THOSE PHILADELPHIA KELLYS--With a Touch of Grace by Arthur H. Lewis


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That mix of personality, talent, eccentricity, and drive that pitched the Philadelphia Kellys into prominence is spread thin by raconteur/voyeur Lewis, who appears to believe that if you collect enough Kelly stories and ask enough embarrassing questions, you'll have a book. He may be right. Here's Grandma Kelly rebelling against The Falls' English nabobs (""To hell with your pennies! No Kelly's going to stand up in front of a Protestant church and cheer the Dobsons, now or ever!""); Pulitzer Prize-winning son George disguising his origins and insisting on a daily high tea; vaudevillian Walter on the boards as the (Negro-baiting) ""Virginia Judge""; Olympic sculling champion Sack, generous to strangers, loyal to friends, susceptible to women, gregarious, unpretentious. . . and father of ""awful stick"" Grace. To say nothing (how can one?) of young Kell, who broke with family tradition by leaving his unwanted wife, and his matriarchal Ma, who blocked his chance for the mayoralty by threatening to publicly denounce him (chiefly for seeing a notorious transsexual). Not just folks--but better unexamined than crudely laid bare. Grace retained her virginity, opines a real estate man who ""tried""; homosexual George's servant/lover was or wasn't seated at table, taken on drives; transsexual Rachel is a woman for real (somebody peeked and told). Lewis, a veteran Philadelphia reporter and proclaimed Kelly fan, would have done better to skirt both bed and couch and stick to his theater clippings and programs (not everyone can make entertaining pages of those) and his fund of anecdotes. Poolside reading in any case, to be nibbled with Chee-Whiz.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Morrow