Shirts emblazoned with “Kenzo Pride” and “K&A,” local shorthand for the intersection of Kensington and Allegheny avenues, are on sale behind the bar.
A woman’s crying. It’s Heather Barton.
“Oh my God,” she says. “This is one of my friends’ sons! I haven’t seen him in 10 years!” Barton gestures at a sweet-faced boy with a neck tattoo who smiles sheepishly.
All over the bar, similar shrieks of recognition are followed by hugs and back-slapping.
Nearby, Ed C. Martin Sr., sporting a Jim Thome Phillies jersey, leans against the wall sipping a beer.
“Original Kenzo,” he says by way of introduction. “Hope & Allegheny.”
Martin says he sees a difference in the community since the Strangler.
“We’re watching out for each other more,” says Martin. With a 19-year-old female relative struggling with drugs out on the Avenue while the Strangler was on the loose, the threat was personal.
“She could have been next,” he says. “She’s in rehab now.”
Martin gestures at a poster on the wall with R.I.P. messages scribbled in marker around a picture of Billy McCue. “We’re actually watching out for each other right here,” he says. A few weeks ago, McCue was killed by a hit-and-run while out celebrating his 28th birthday. He was the son of original Kenzos, who friends say are both deceased. Proceeds from the door and T-shirt sales are going to surviving family.
“That’s my best friend’s son,” Martin says, nodding. “We always took care of our own.”
Pulling together is both about pride and practicality: Residents who can’t or otherwise didn’t take part in the exodus feel left on their own to survive in the new Kensington.
“People in this neighborhood, if they’re not exploitable, they’re expendable,” says Cheri Honkala, the party’s most famous attendee. Honkala is a longtime Philly activist whose current run for the Sheriff’s Office is never mentioned without the accompanying facts that she has been arrested somewhere between 80 and 200 times and is the mother of Mark Webber, a Hollywood director and actor.
“We realize that city services don’t include us, have never included us,” says Honkala, sipping a Heineken Light.
While she’s talking, a guy yells good- naturedly at a group of giggling girls, “If you only got one baby-daddy, you ain’t a Kenzo!”
The joke is typical of the night and of the Facebook group.
While the inside jokes play off the caricature of a Kenzo as a toothless drug addict, there’s a fine line: they’re understandably defensive about it to outsiders.
“Most of us Kenzos are sane and have teeth,” declares a woman who sidles up next to Antipuna at the bar. To that, Richie promptly flicks a bridge out of his mouth, wiggles his tongue through the gap and gives the thumbs up.
“He made the Facebook group right?” the woman asks. “I’m up all night because of this sonofabitch! I’m K.P.A.! Kensington Pride Addicted!”
Now everyone starts talking about the Facebook group, how much fun it is to remember the old days.