Jenice Armstrong: Fox29's Mike Jerrick goes bar- and art-hopping with Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jenice Armstrong

Mike Jerrick makes a quick stop at Gigi in Old City before gallery-hopping on First Friday.
Mike Jerrick makes a quick stop at Gigi in Old City before gallery-hopping on First Friday.
Posted: April 01, 2011

"DO I LOOK ALL RIGHT? I feel like poo," Fox29 anchor Mike Jerrick says, adjusting his mic.

He's wearing jeans, an open-collared shirt and a sports jacket. It's a pleasant March evening, and we are in the lobby of the Fox headquarters about to head out for First Friday, Old City's monthly open house for neighborhood art galleries. Jerrick, an avid art collector, invited us along as he made his rounds. The "Good Day Philadelphia" co-host is rested from an afternoon nap but pressed for time since he's hosting a charity fundraiser later that night.

"This is kind of how it works," he announces as we hit the sidewalk. "I leave the station here at 4th and Market and head over that way, eastbound, to Old City for First Friday. I don't get very far because here at Fox29, we head to Gigi's almost every day. That's kind of our local bar and eatery, Gigi's. So, c'mon."

Jerrick jaywalks across Market Street.

"What did we walk, 15 feet, to get the evening started? A lot of times I'll have three or four people with me, people that are into art, which I am. A lot of times we'll bring people down from New York. I have a friend Shelda, Shelda McDonald, is her name. She's my girlfriend," says the 50-something Jerrick, who's divorced with two grown daughters.

"It's still a little cold for crowds, and we're early," Jerrick says as we settle in at Gigi's. "In the spring, it would be packed out there," gesturing toward the Old City gallery district.

If you watch Jerrick anchoring weekday mornings with co-host Sheinelle Jones, then you know this is one guy who never runs out of things to say. Over a glass of chardonnay, Jerrick chats collegially with the bartender and a passer-by and asks me how long I've been at the Daily News. When I tell him, he quips, "You look good. Black don't crack."

I'm halfway through my drink when Jerrick's ready to move on. We step outside.

"So, Jenice, that's Gigi's. Cuba Libre is the next stop. That's the next stop. For mojitos."

"Mojitos after wine?" I say, trotting alongside him.

We don't get far.

"On the way to Cuba Libre's, I always check Charlie's Jeans, for a new shirt, you know," Jerrick says.

We breeze in, take a quick look around and then head out. We pause to chat with a random guy in a black sweatshirt with a white skeleton embossed on it before heading down Market. People are milling about. Traffic isn't too bad.

"It's fun. It's modern," Jerrick says of Old City, making a sweeping movement with his arm. "But then you've got Christ Church. It's the history of our country. Right here. Isn't this great?"

He spots a rooftop lounge deck.

"In the spring, that place is going to be jammed on the upper deck. It's going to be great."

Inside Cuba Libre, we snag seats at the crowded bar and order mojitos.

The restaurant has laid out one heckuva spread for Jerrick - empanadas, plantain chips and guacamole, ceviche with shrimp and salsa in a glass. A waiter walks toward us.

"You have nice balls," Jerrick tells him. "Uh, I mean, what are those?"

"These are meatballs, pork and beef meatballs," the waiter replies.

Do you always get the royal treatment like this? I ask.

"Of course. Why do you think I keep coming back here?"

We barely make a dent in the food before we're back outside and Jerrick is announcing, "Let's go to a gallery."

I'll confess right now, I don't buy art. My last really artistic purchase was an oversize reproduction from Costco. But I archly announce, "I'm ready to buy something." It's the alcohol talking.

We sprint across 2nd Street and head north. A taxi driver recognizes Jerrick.

"Good to see you. What's happening, man?" Jerrick says, trotting over.

The driver looks thrilled and rolls down his window.

"I see you every morning, man. I love your work," he says, shaking Jerrick's hand.

"Thank you. Thank you. I'll see you Monday," Jerrick responds.

A passer-by glances Jerrick's way.

"How are you doing? What's up?" Jerrick says automatically.

Some people give him double-takes, not sure who he is.

I hear Jerrick tell someone, "I'm Brad Pitt. I'm in town shooting a movie."

I feel overlooked; nobody is recognizing me.

"Does anyone read my column?" I venture.

No response.

"They don't recognize you from that picture," Jerrick says consolingly. "That's a good picture, though. That's a sexy picture."

I feel better.

A few blocks later, Jerrick gets stopped again.

"It's nice to see you again," a middle-aged woman tells Jerrick.

"She said the funniest thing to me yesterday," Jerrick confides as we move on. "She came up to me and said, 'Do you remember me? I'm from the Alzheimer's Association.' What? Remember?"

Jerrick's jokes never let up. I ask where he got his sense of humor.

"I think people just have it or they don't. And I think it comes from being shy when I was growing up," he says. "I was really, really shy. I was in high school and they forced us to take speech class at an all-boys Catholic school. I got up and I didn't know what else to do. Being funny is a diversion. . . . I had no idea I was going to make a living with it."

We finally wander into a gallery. All the artwork, by Bonnie Gross, is in gorgeous pastel shades.

"This art is gross," Jerrick quips.

"I love the colors," I say.

"I do too. Love it instantly. It's called representational art because it actually represents real life . . . like that barn. The thing about art is you either love it or you hate it in an instant."

We go back outside and pause outside another gallery.

"Hey, look, there's a dead guy on a rock," Jerrick says, pointing at an oil painting of a pale, shirtless man with a soft belly.

"He might be sunbathing," I suggest.

"It kind of looks like me, actually. I've got to get to the gym. OK, let's move on."

Through another gallery window, we spot a sculpture of an armless and legless male.

"Now, I actually posed for this sculpture. Very small penis."

"This is one of my favorites," Jerrick says to the proprietor, as we enter the Art Jazz Gallery. "I think I have two of your pieces. This is a new exhibit."

He trades hugs with the owners, who greet him warmly. But Jerrick's not in a buying mood. We look around briefly and head back outside.

Does he have any advice for art newbies?

"It's like anything else, like people who say, 'I've never had Chinese food, but I don't like it.' You just have to put your foot in the water," Jerrick says. "I think a lot of people think it's a waste of money, maybe."

"But you can always sell it," I interject.

"You can always sell it, but I would never sell it."

No?

"I'd never sell it."

What if hard times come?

"It becomes a part of you."

As Jerrick prepares to head off to his next event, I ask him about his career plans.

"I don't know how many more years I can ride the pony. I guess I shouldn't say that because Regis [Philbin] is almost 80," Jerrick says. "I think I'm like him in that sense that I don't ever want to retire. My dad retired at 65 and he instantly got sick. He bought aircraft parts for Beech Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas."

Jerrick, the fifth of six kids, said that during his formative years, he went to Mass six days a week.

"That's how I know First Friday. First Friday used to be a time when you wouldn't eat meat. That's how I know the term. Now look at what we're doing on First Friday. We're drinking . . . "

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