Picture Stories: Stepping out in style
  • Picture Stories: Newspaper photos
  • Picture Stories: Ruth St. Denis, Jacob’s Pillow, MA, 1968
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    Auction Finds

    Picture Stories: Chubby Checkers at Krass Bros. men’s store, Philadelphia

    The wonderful photos kept coming. For several weeks, black and white photos with a mix of people, events and celebrations turned up on the auction table. An auction-house staffer told me that a dealer brought them in each week. Most were historical photos, a few were portraits, and all were embedded with stories that I couldn’t wait to release.

    Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of those old photos and the stories behind them in a series called “Picture Stories.”

    Chubby Checkers, Krass Bros. men’s store, Philadelphia

    Up-close view of Chubby Checkers at Krass Bros. men's store in Philadelphia.

    Up-close view of Chubby Checkers at Krass Bros. men’s store in Philadelphia.

    Chubby Checkers of the Twist fame was not the only high-profile customer of the Krass Bros. men’s store on South Street in Philadelphia. Billing itself as the “Store of the Stars,” Krass Bros. prided itself on having famous people wear its clothing:

    Muhammad Ali, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Jackie Leonard, Buddy Greco, Willie Mays, the Harlem Globetrotters, Bobby Rydell, Redd Foxx and Johnny Mathis.

    The first store was opened in 1948 by three brothers – Ben, Jack and Harry – who came up with a slogan that they figured would make their business excel: They would be the first discount business with one store, one floor, one price, one dollar profit. Twice a year, they offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove that they got even a one-penny profit on any garment advertised during their “No Profit Sale.”

    Full view of Chubby Checkers at Krass Bros. men's store.

    Full view of Chubby Checkers at Krass Bros. men’s store. The photo was not dated.

    Brother Ben became famous himself through commercials for the stores. He became the face of the company, declaring in cheesy late-night 10-second TV ads, “If you didn’t buy your clothes from us . . . you’ve been robbed!”

    Krass Bros. became one of the largest men’s stores in the city – selling suits, sports coats, trousers, raincoats and accessories. It opened a boy’s department in 1953. As more men began to trade suits for jeans and sneakers, the company lost favor. It closed in 2002.

    There’s no date on the photo, but Chubby Checker was mentioned in a 1966 news story as a customer. He had been raised in Philadelphia and was living there at the time.

    Billy Eckstine, Boscov’s department store, Wilmington, DE, 1987

    An autographed photo of Billy Eckstine from his appearance at Boscov's.

    An autographed photo of Billy Eckstine from his appearance at Boscov’s in 1987.

    Jazz legend Billy Eckstine was one of several entertainers who performed during the opening of a new Boscov’s department store at a Wilmington, DE, mall in August 1987. He was joined by other famous 70-something performers like himself: actors Dorothy Lamour and Morey Amsterdam; singers Patty Andrews and Fran Warren, and comic Henny Youngman.

    The company began using movie stars for its openings in 1980, and Lamour had been along for the ride. “We couldn’t open a store without her,” a store rep said in a newspaper article.

    The entertainers didn’t work for free, but their costs were way lower than some younger artists. And many of them were still working.

    “Certainly, they don’t command the rate a Bruce Springsteen would, but they don’t work cheap,” the store rep said.

    Marian Anderson in an undated photo

    Marian Anderson in an undated photo.

    Marian Anderson.

    There’s no indication of when this photo was taken and where the tall, poised and statuesque Marian Anderson was singing. This photo may be from the 1940s. A similar photo of her in a different dress but in the same room with a similar pose was done by Michael Ochs.



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