At 6 o'clock tonight, Jim Gardner -- America's highest-rated and longest-serving affiliate news anchor, Philadelphia's Voice of God who has covered every major event since, well, The Creation -- and every other local newscast kicked off with helicopters up in the Center City sky, cameras focused on the tower of Philadelphia City Hall. Rick Mariano, a colorful City Councilman (D) who's facing down an indictment on federal corruption charges, declared that he would jump from the seventh floor observation deck.
Talk about your incredible television moments.
Between this and the gay priest coming out on Canadian telly tonight (see post below), this is a red-letter day for the medium. We haven't seen anything of this kind in Pennsylvania since Bud Dwyer, the State Treasurer who called a press conference after being indicted on a corruption rap in 1987. Dwyer walked in, pulled out a .357 magnum and shot himself in the mouth as the cameras rolled.
I kid you not.
Fortunately, things turned out differently tonight. The Mayor and Police Commissioner were able to talk Mariano down from the tower, and Mariano left City Hall in the embrace of his political patron, Bob Brady, a Congressman who hates being a Congressman but loves his real job: Chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.
Suffice it to say, it made for apprehensive viewing; our 6PM newscasts became, for all intents and purposes, a 30-minute liveshot of City Hall's North Tower.
Whatever the case, Ricky's too entertaining to go anywhere. Thank God he's OK.