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This Week in City Paper History

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COVER ILLUSTRATION BY PAT LEWIS AND PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Cover illustration by Pat Lewis and photo by Heather Mull

City Paper’s Issue 22 should probably be known as the marriage-equality issue. On May 30, 2012, staff writer Lauren Daley began a multi-part series describing the difficulties that same-sex couples face when they try to get married, using her experience as the backdrop. Daley and her girlfriend were planning their wedding in New York (where same-sex nuptials were legal at the time; they were banned in Pennsylvania). But once they came back home, it was like their marriage wouldn’t exist. Daley writes: “Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t want my girlfriend and me to ever get married. But once we’re married out of state, those same officials seem equally intent that we never, ever part. At least not without a lengthy court battle. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ which defines marriage solely as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples have a murky legal status — even if their union has been ratified in another state.” Unfortunately, Daley and her wife had moved to New York before May 21, 2014, the day same-sex marriage was declared legal in Pennsylvania. And on May 28, 2014, CP ran just a photo on its cover of a woman, smiling and triumphantly thrusting her fist into the air. No words accompanied the image; words weren’t necessary on this day.

The Grand Re-Reopening (May 31, 1995)

After opening in 1914 and going through previous revitalization efforts, the Regent Theater in East Liberty was having its third grand opening as part of the annual Mellon Jazz Festival. Spyro Gyra and Sonny Rollins were the first acts in the new digs. The $1.1 million revitalization project completely gutted the venue, making way for a modern 425-seat theater that local officials said would spark struggling East Liberty’s resurgence. “When you assemble a large positive gathering of people via arts and culture, the negative elements in the neighborhood retreat,” said Bill Royston, the facility’s executive director, when asked whether large crowds would gather despite East Liberty’s stigma as being unsafe. “They do not become a threat. They are threatened.” Unfortunately, the theater closed again in 1996. But in 2000, it was reopened as the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater; the name it still holds today.

Bringing Down the House (June 3, 1998)

Writer Sean Whelan profiles the residents of Squirrel Hill’s Forbes Cottages. The row-house complex on Forbes Avenue had long been a haven for indie-rock musicians, thanks in large part to the inexpensive rents and “remarkably tolerant neighbors.” But the musicians were told to vacate the buildings, which were scheduled to be leveled for a playground. Aside from musicians, the cottages were home to several elderly residents, who were also relocated. Said Ted Tarka, resident and leader of the band Mud City Manglers: “I’m afraid that we’re gonna move all our crap to another house only to find that the neighbors don’t want rock ’n’ roll scumbags practicing in the basement and drinking Black Label.” These homes were next door to another complex, also with several artists and elderly residents living there, known as Forbes Terrace. Those residents would be evicted two years later so the homes could be renovated and the rents raised.

A Promise Is a Promise, Unless It’s a Problem (June 1, 2005)

After several tries and several classic battles with former Mayor Tom Murphy, former Pittsburgh City Council President Bob O’Connor finally won a Democratic mayoral primary (which of course in Pittsburgh means you’re the mayor because the general election is meaningless). But O’Connor made a lot of promises in the primary, promises that staff writer Rich Lord wonders in this week’s cover story can actually be kept. “The very fact that business, labor and most of officialdom supported O’Connor may prove to be among his biggest challenges. Each group brings expectations and priorities and they will inevitably clash.” 

Feat of Clay (May 29, 2008)

If you sat down to write a story about a small-town Rust Belt kid making good, you couldn’t come up with anything better than the real-life tale of Rankin boxer Monty Meza-Clay. By 2002, Clay was a state Golden Gloves champ and training for the U.S. Olympic team. In January 2002, he was cuffed and beaten by police officers in his hometown. He was left bloody in the snow. No police report was filed, but Meza-Clay sued the departments involved. A few months later, he was arrested for drug-dealing. He would be acquitted two years later when the undercover informant recanted his statement and said police coerced him to set up Meza-Clay; surveillance footage from the alleged buy also showed no evidence of a sale, despite initial police claims to the contrary. By 2008, the featherweight was poised to become the No. 1 contender for the world title. Boxing politics kept him out of that fight, and he last fought in 2015. But even if he never fights again, he remains one of the most entertaining CP profile subjects of all time. “I look at it like things happen for a reason,” Clay said in the story. “God says ask and ye shall receive, but he never said when it was coming and what you had to go through to get it. All he says is ask and I’ll deliver. Well, look at where I am now, you dig? God sure delivered."


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