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Touched by a Tomato Can
Richard O'Brien
December 11, 2006
ROCKY STORIES: TALES OF LOVE, HOPE, AND HAPPINESS AT AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS STEPS by Michael Vitez; photographs by Tom Gralish Paul Dry Books, 129 pages, $22.95
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December 11, 2006

Touched By A Tomato Can

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ROCKY STORIES: TALES OF LOVE, HOPE, AND HAPPINESS AT AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS STEPS
by Michael Vitez; photographs by Tom Gralish
Paul Dry Books, 129 pages, $22.95

Rocky Balboa is the anti-- Gene Tunney: a clumsy, inarticulate, lead-with-your-face southpaw who waited years for his title shot and then lost. Yet the Italian Stallion has been embraced in a way the Fighting Marine never was. Admittedly Rocky is a fictional character, but from his first "Yo!" in 1976, through four increasingly cartoonish sequels (with a fifth due soon), Sylvester Stallone's lovable pug has inspired fans around the world.

The extent to which the Rocky myth--that of the perennial loser who proves he's "not just another bum from the neighborhood"--has resonated is documented in this winning book. Vitez, a Pulitzer Prize--winning writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Gralish, a photographer for the paper with his own Pulitzer, spent a year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art photographing and interviewing people who came there to run up its 72 steps, just as Stallone did in Rocky. Vitez and Gralish present the stories of 52 would-be Rockys--young, old, black, white, male, female, able-bodied and wheelchair-bound; from Britain, Japan, Italy, Bulgaria and across the U.S. The tone can be schmaltzy, yet each story is engaging.

As 22-year-old Michael A. (Moose) Glorioso Jr. put it after completing his run on a sunny day, "I see [Rocky] as one of the great American heroes.... He shows how, with hard work and dedication and a belief in one's self, you can achieve anything." To that, what can one say but "Yo!"

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