Marco Fontana | Mojitos and Mystery

Tag Archives: Marco Fontana

Gayborhood News: Rainbow Crosswalks

As reported by PGN: The gayborhood is expected to get rainbow crosswalks soon. Several cities in Canada have them already. It’s not a bad idea and will bring some color and maybe more than a few smiles to the gayborhood.

Considering how neighborhoods often change, painted crosswalks is a good idea. They’re less permanent. You can take the rainbows to whatever neighborhood we happen to choose next. The gayborhood wasn’t always where it is now. It used to be west of Broad — the only vestige of those days is Stir Lounge.

Marco would certainly like it. It’ll add some color when he chases down a miscreant through the streets of the gayborhood.


Maybe they’ll look like this:



Or we may get something brighter and livelier. In any case, should we pick ourselves up and move to some other part of the city (don’t laugh — look at Montreal, they did it beautifully), but should we make a new gayborhood somewhere, we can take the crosswalks with us.

Chicago made the mistake of installing more or less permanent pylons in what is now Boystown. Apart from the obvious jokes one can make about them, they’re a llittle klunky and if the Boys ever decide to leave Boystown for another locale, these pylons won’t be easy to move.



So, here’s to something that looks good and makes us look good.

31 Mar 2015

Latimer House — A Crime on Latimer

In Crimes on Latimer, Marco Fontana opens his first office as a private investigator. It’s located in a building on Latimer St. near 12th Street. At some point in his adventures in that office, he mentions an abomination of a building that was built on the corner of Latimer and Twelfth — the Latimer House (at least that’s what people are calling it these days). You can’t tell from looking at the exterior what exactly it is. A slaughterhouse? A factory? Some kind of lair for a killer or a spy? A mad scientist’s hideaway? None of the above. It’s just a home with pretentious longings.


The dark and brooding building has always been an eyesore and an affront to the neighborhood in which it resides.

The drab building is a monstrosity. Dull gray, sulking, and out of step with its neighbors, it challenges people to guess what strangeness it holds. With evil glee, a sign on the building informs you that your comings and goings are being recorded. An unfriendly greeting which fits the building’s mood.

Latimer House completely defies the red-brick nature of its surrounding neighborhood. Red brick structures are part and parcel of this town and have been since colonial times. A number of new mansions have gone up in Center City over the past twenty years and just about all of them have been respectful of the neighborhoods in which they landed. Not Latimer House.

This fortress hunches on the corner, ferocious in it’s blank angry stare. It dares a passer-by to linger and look — mostly because there’s no reason to look and less reason to linger. There’s nothing pretty or uplifting about it. It’s a hunk of stone, out of place in a rich red-brick neighborhood. It symbolizes nothing except disrespect for the city, recalls no history, and lifts no spirits because it gives the city and it’s inhabitants a cold gray shoulder.

According to an article on the Philadelphia Inquirer magazine in 1993, the designers wanted a suburban home in the middle of the city. They didn’t want to look at the city and so they turned most of the structure inward to face a courtyard. The ribbon of windows, high above any human head, are broken by the corner window which is the nicest feature of the facade.

To be fair, the designers claimed to love city life: the noise and dust and clutter. At the same time, they designed the building “to make the inner city into fabulous suburban living.” The question that arises is: If suburban living is so fabulous, why destroy the character of a city neighborhood to recreate something so foreign to its nature? Just move to the burbs and live fabulously.


30 Mar 2015

The Gayborhood — an occasional look at Philly’s gay neighborhood

Philly’s gayborhood is a developing center of activity where gay bars and clubs, gay businesses and restaurants have located and built a loyal following. Marco Fontana lives just on the edge of the gayborhood and knows it well.

Though Marco Fontana is not limited to Philly’s gayborhood, he certainly does a lot of his work there. Of course,he takes on cases that don’t center around people and institutions in the gayborhood but many of his cases have some connection to gay life and the gayborhood. And, at the very least, being a gay Private Investigator, he’s known and trusted in the gay world and many of his clients tend to be gay. One thing he likes to do is spend some time in cafes. Preferably a gay cafe where the men are cute and the coffee is strong. Marco enjoys a caffeine jolt as much as the next guy.


A feature that every gayborhood should have is at least one cafe where gay men and lesbians can gather, cruise, gab and gossip. In New York’s Chelsea, a gay haven, The Big Cup served that purpose for a long time. Greedy landlords ended their run as the neighborhood’s gayest, cruisest, best coffee spot to gather in 2005 by raising the rent from $16,000 a month to almost $22,000 a month. That’s New York.

Philly’s gayborhood is lucky, there are several good cafes from which to choose. One of the old guard is Cafe 12 which, oddly enough, is on 12th Street.

It started out as Millennium Coffee and was an immediate hit in the gayborhood. At the time there weren’t any gay cafes and with the throngs of people who packed the place as evidence, there was a real need fir such a place. Business at the Millennium was always brisk. Every seat was filled and, depending on when you arrived, you’d have to wait a while for someone to give up their rime seating. Tables spilled out onto the sidewalk and all around the door — and even they were seldom empty. It got so that passing by the place, you could feel all the sets of eyes on you as you walked by. A friend of mine got to calling the outdoor section of Millennium Coffee “the Reviewing Stand” because it felt to him that you could see the patrons of the cafe passing silent judgment on passersby.

There was an excitement about the place, not to mention cute help behind the counter. It helped create a fun atmosphere. Sure, it was cruisy but it was also a quite place to sit and talk, to meet friends, to keep an ear open for hot gossip, and, of course, to have that all important cup of coffee.

Then, the news came that it was closing. But not for long. New owners rode to the rescue and reopened the cafe as Brew Ha-Ha. And it was everything Millennium Coffee had been. But somehow the glow was dimmer. Maybe it’s because more cafes were beginning to open up all around Center City and elsewhere. People had more choices — but none of them were gay. Not like Millennium Coffee and Brew Ha-Ha. It was still filled with customers every day and night. It was still difficult to get a table at times. And it was still a great place to meet friends, read a book, or study. And best of all it was a gay and lesbian place in the gayborhood. A place we could call our own.

Brew Ha-Ha percolated along for a number of years until it, too, decided to call it quits. The cafe was immediately snatched up by new owners — quite a nice family who knew just what to do. They understood they were located in the gayborhood and made sure to keep the cafe a friendly and welcoming place. But, as things go, they decided they wanted to move back to their home country to raise their child and the cafe once again changed hands.

Still called Cafe 12, the new owner brightened it up, overhauled the menu, and has made the place new yet again.

It remains a center for gay men and lesbians in the gayborhood with a welcoming atmosphere for anyone else who wants to find a place to chat or read or just daydream with a cup of coffee in hand.

Next time: Toast

23 Jan 2015

Marco and Mojitos

Marco Fontana loves a good mojito. The first drink he orders in a new establishment is a mojito, so that he can judge two things — whether or not a bar even offers the drink and how good the bartenders are at mixing one up for him. Lots of times he’s disappointed — the drink is too diluted to be good, or there’s jot enough sugar or maybe too much. The quality of the lime has to be just right and the kind of mint (or it’s close relative yerba buena) must be better than good. If he gets an actual stick of sugar cane to stir this drink, he’s happy.

In his current outing, Death on Delancey, Marco has the opportunity to test mojitos at The Waverly, the newest bar in Philly’s gayborhood. And, he’s pleasantly surprised. He’s also kind of happy about the bartender who muddles the nearly perfect drink for him.

Just how and when Marco’s taste for the minty summery mix got started is something he hasn’t yet divulged. Suffice to say, though, that it’s his favorite. Especially when he’s working on a case. Fontana’s not a booze hound like some P.I.s. You won’t catch him hiding a stash of rum in his desk.

He like the tropical memories a mojito brings with it. The lush humid warmth, the sun on his face, the gentle breezes. Lazing by the pool, watching guys trot around the edge or take a naked swim. Dozing in the sun. It’s all packed into a mojito — the sweet simple syrup and the gentle sourness of lime, the minty freshness and the bubbly club soda. Even the appearance says “relaxation.”

For him it’s a mini summer interlude in the middle of a case. Or a tropical reward when a case is solved.

12 Jan 2015