The Story of Supermodel Gia Marie Carangi

Episode 82 – Originally Published August 2019 with special guest co-host Margo D., cohost of the Book vs. Movie podcast, Dorking Out and What a Creep podcasts

Content warning: this episode includes discussions about addiction, assault, and death. Listener discretion is advised.

Her faced graced the cover of vogue and cosmopolitan dozens of times.  She represented brands like Dior, Versace, Armani and Yves Saint Laurent.  She was photographed by some of the world’s greatest photographers including Francesco Scavullo and Richard Avedon.  She popularized the concept of a single name long before Madonna.  And she grew up in the great northeast – that’s northeast Philadelphia.

Gia Marie Carangi moved to New York City in 1978 when she was barely 18 years old to pursue a career in modeling.  She’d been signed by the one of the biggest agencies in New York, Wilhelmina Models, Inc.   There was very little runway leading to success for Gia.  She landed and was almost instantly a superstar.  Within just three years her career was on the decline because of her struggle with drug addiction.  By 1983 she moved back to Philly permanently, hoping to overcome addiction and find a new path in life.  Sadly, Gia passed away in 1986 from AIDS related complications.  She was 26 years old. 

This is the story of Gia Carangi, a woman whom many call America’s first supermodel.  There are other women who believe they hold that claim to fame,  but when you realize how quickly Gia rose to the level of the most desired model in the world, it’s hard to attach that phrase to anyone else. 

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Gia, HBO Docudrama, released January 31, 1998, directed by Michael Christofer, written by Michael Christofer and Jay McInerney
  • Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia, written by former Philadelphia Magazine editor Stephen Fried, 1993
  • Philadelphia Inquirer Archives
  • Philadelphia Daily Local
  • Elle Magazine, April 2013 interview with Stephen Fried
  • V Magazine, October 2014 interview with Sandy Linter
  • 20/20 January 6, 1983
  • Sandy Linter and Harry King, 2012 interview 

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show. 

The Luzerne County “Kids for Cash” Scandal: Part 2

Episode 81 – Originally Released July 2019

Content warning: this episode includes discussions about emotional and physical abuse of children, unlawful incarceration, and death because of suicide. Listener discretion is advised.

NOTE: If you have not yet listened to part 1, pause this episode and listen to part 1 first.

Judge Mark Ciavarella sent thousands of children from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to juvenile detention centers for infractions that in many cases might have landed them in after school detention. But even the school districts preferred his heavy handed “zero tolerance” policies about juvenile crime. Instead of calling someone’s parents, schools often called the police, and contributed to the funnel that kept the state’s juvenile detention centers full, especially two centers: PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.

Over a period of years in the early to mid 2000s, judge Mark Ciavarella, and president judge Michael Conahan, accepted over $2.6 million in “finder’s fees” from the developers of two private detention centers. While they claimed this wasn’t a bribe, they entered into a placement agreement with these facilities, one that cost the state millions more and cost many children in Wilkes Barre, PA, their futures.

In 2009 Ciavarella and Conahan, along with others whom we’ll discuss in this episode, were charged with racketeering and conspiracy. They had a plea agreement in place which would have landed them in jail for about 7 years, but Ciavarella refused to accept the idea he took money to detain kids. And that refusal cost both him and Mike Conahan their plea deal.

In this episode we’ll talk about the indictments and trials, Ciavarella’s attempt earlier this year to garner a new trial, and you’ll hear more about children who were deeply affected by placement in juvenile detention at the hands of judge Mark Ciavarella.

Research sources for this episode include: 

  • Kids for Cash. 2012, by William Ecenbarger; available on Amazon in hardback, paperback or Kindle
  • Kids for Cash documentary, 2014, by Robert May; available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, rated PG-13
  • The Wilkes Barre Times Leader: 1994 – 2019
  • The Wilkes Barre Citizen’s Voice; 1994 – 2019
  • The Scranton Times Tribune; 1994 – 2019
  • The New York Times; 2009 – 2019
  • CNN Online; 2009 – 2019
  • The Associated Press; 2009 – 2019
  • Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Center
  • The Juvenile Law Center
  • The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania
  • Democracy Now Online News Program
  • United States Census Bureau, City Data.com
  • PA State Juvenile Judge’s Bench Book
  • PA Courts.us – Juvenile Court Procedures

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show. 

The Luzerne County “Kids for Cash” Scandal: Part 1

Episode 80 – Originally Released July 2019

Content warning: this episode includes discussions about emotional and physical abuse of children, unlawful incarceration, and death because of suicide. Listener discretion is advised.

In January 1996, attorney Mark Ciavarella was appointed a Luzerne County judge in Wilkes Barre, PA.  Less than a year later he was made a juvenile judge, a position which according to the Pennsylvania State Juvenile Judge’s Bench Book gave him responsibility for presiding over juvenile cases and overseeing the entire juvenile delinquency program and operations in Luzerne County.  

In 1999 the Juvenile Justice Center of Philadelphia was contacted by the parent of a child in Wilkes Barre whom was sent to a juvenile detention center by Judge Ciavarella without legal representation.  The justice center escalated to the state supreme court and Ciavarella told the state he’d made a mistake, one he’d never make again.

It wasn’t a mistake, it was the M. O. of Ciavarella’s courtroom where between late 1996 and 2008 thousands of kid were sent to juvenile detention centers at a rate twice as high as any other county in Pennsylvania, and usually without legal counsel.   In part one of this two part episode we’ll take about Mark Ciavarella, the children of Wilkes Barre who entered courtroom, only to be ushered out within minutes wearing handcuffs and shackles.  Ciavarella didn’t do this alone – he had help in the form of a fellow judge, a local developer and a wealthy financier who paid Mark Ciavarella kickbacks to keep the bunks full at private juvenile detention facilities.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Kids for Cash. 2012, by William Ecenbarger; available on Amazon in hardback, paperback or Kindle
  • Kids for Cash documentary, 2014, by Robert May; available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, rated PG-13
  • The Wilkes Barre Times Leader: 1994 – 2019
  • The Wilkes Barre Citizen’s Voice; 1994 – 2019
  • The Scranton Times Tribune; 1994 – 2019
  • The New York Times; 2009 – 2019
  • CNN Online; 2009 – 2019
  • The Associated Press; 2009 – 2019
  • Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Center
  • The Juvenile Law Center
  • The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania
  • Democracy Now Online News Program
  • United States Census Bureau, City Data.com
  • PA State Juvenile Judge’s Bench Book
  • PA Courts.us – Juvenile Court Procedures

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show. 

PRIDE in the City of Brotherly Love

Episode 79 – Originally Released June 2019

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, the city of Philadelphia celebrated pride month with our annual Pride Parade and Festival hosted by Philly Pride Presents. If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen some of the photos of that amazing event. This annual celebration takes considerable effort on the part of so many people in the city, the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.

The theme of this year’s parade was Stonewall 50, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riot in New York in 1969 which was the start lasting changes in the rights of LGBTQ+ persons in America. Years before Stonewall, men and women in Philadelphia held peaceful protests at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell as reminders of the rights not afforded to gay and lesbian Americans.

This is the story of Philadelphia pride, from the Annual Reminder Days to this year’s incredible pride parade. We’ll talk about the history of the fight for gay rights in Philadelphia and a horrible crime in 2014 which served as the catalyst for changes in Philadelphia’s hate crime laws. Join me on this journey through time as we celebrate pride in the city of brotherly love.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Philadelphia Inquirer Archives and Daily News Archives
  • Philadelphia Gay News
  • LGBT50.org
  • WHYY and PBS
  • The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
  • The City of Philadelphia: phila.gov
  • Philly Pride Presents
  • CBS 3 and NBC 10
  • Philadelphia Magazine

NOTE: The statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, which stood outside a city municipal building, was removed, and placed in storage in July 2020.

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show. 

Cliveden: Germantown Haunted History Part 2

Episode 78 – Originally Released May 2019

The Germantown section of Philadelphia is filled with historic homes, many dating back to the 1700s, and the homestead of one is even older.  If you wander a little further along Germantown Avenue, past Grumblethorpe, you’ll come to rather imposing Georgian home called Cliveden Mansion, built by Pennsylvania Chief Justice Benjamin Chew in the 1760s. Chew and his descendants lived at Cliveden for over 200 years.

Like Grumblethorpe, Cliveden was occupied by the British during the battle of Germantown. Colonel Thomas Musgrave and his tropps used Cliveden as a stronghold. Marksmen from the  40th regiment stood post at second floor windows like snipers, shooting from above.  Washington’s army was told to “reduce” Cliveden – as in reduce it to rubble but neither cannon shots nor fire could bring down the house. 

Cliveden Mansion has a long history in Philadelphia, predating the Revolutionary War, and it’s history is filled with ghost stories. In part 2 of the Ghosts of Germantown you’ll hear the history and hauntings from Cliveden, as well as a few other haunted locations including West Allen’s Lane and Loudoun Mansion.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Cliveden of the National Trust
  • Johnsonhouse.org
  • The Ancient and Modern Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill by S. F. Hotchkin (1889; available online via the Hathi Trust)
  • Philadelphia Inquirer and Inquirer Archives
  • Philly.com
  • USHistory.org
  • VisitPhilly.com
  • Hidden City Philadelphia

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and history I discuss in the show.

Grumblethorpe: Germantown Haunted History Part 1

Episode 77 – Originally Released May 2019

Germantown is a section of Philadelphia bordering the northwest suburbs of the city. Within Germantown is tiny little area called Wister.  That’s a name you’ll hear quite a bit as we spend our time together today because of a very famous old house along Germantown Avenue, built by German immigrant John Wister in 1744.

This 275-year-old home has ties to the revolutionary war, science and horticulture.  It’s much more than a house with a funny name; it was occupied by British Brigadier General James Agnew during the Battle of Germantown in 1777.  It’s also the house where he died, leaving blood stains on the parlor floor which are still visible today and the cause of legends about the ghost of General Agnew haunting Grumblethorpe mansion.

This is part one of the Ghosts of Germantown: John Wister’s Big House, or Grumblethorpe, a 275 year old piece of Philadelphia history filled with ghost stories!

Research sources for this episode include:

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I share on the show.

The Story of Eddie Polec

Episode 76 – Originally Released April 2019

Content warning: This episode contains adult subject matter including the brutal beating and subsequent death of a child. Listener discretion is advised.

On Friday night, November 11, 1994, 16 year old Eddie Polec and his younger brother Billy planned on spending a typical evening with their friends in the Fox Chase neighborhood in Philadelphia; hanging out at a local park, hopping between the nearby McDonald’s and Pizza hut, and getting home in time for their 11:30 curfew.

Eddie never made it home that night.  Earlier that month a young woman from the nearby community of Abington, Pennsylvania, had a run in with a few Fox Chase teens, and what began as a soda tossed into her car somehow grew into a horrible rumor she’d been assaulted. At least two dozen teenagers from Abington drove into Fox Chase on November 11 seeking revenge for an event that never happened.  By the end of the night, Eddie Polec paid for their misplaced vengeance with his life.

This is the story of Eddie’s life and his death, it’s the story of his remarkable family, his parents John and Kathy, his siblings, the strength and grace they demonstrated in the face of the most horrific tragedy anyone could experience.  It’s the story of John Polec’s fight against the city of Philadelphia to fix what at the time was an ineffective 911 system that failed his son, the eventual changes implemented by the city that benefit Philadelphia residents even to this day.

Research sources for this episode include:

Preservation at Pennhurst – Interview with Pennhurst Operations Manager: Part 3

Episode 75 – Originally Released April 2019

On April 13, 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Pennhurst State School and Hospital to interview the Operations Manager, Jim.

Jim and I walked the grounds for a time before sitting down to record together. During our tour Jim shared his thoughts with me about Pennhurst’s history, details about a few of the buildings we passed and his thoughts about the treatment of persons with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities throughout our country’s history.

As you’ll hear in this episode, there is much more happening at Pennhurst than the annual Halloween attraction, Pennhurst Asylum. I appreciated the opportunity to sit down with Jim and learn about what he and the team at Pennhurst do to preserve the campus and promote education. Please join me in welcoming Jim to TwistedPhilly.

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show. 

Paranormal Stories from Pennhurst State School and Hospital: Part 2

Episode 74 – Originally Released March 2019

In Part 2 of our series about Pennhurst State School and Hospital I’m joined by Jerry and Tracy Paulley, hosts of the Hillbilly Horror Stories podcast, to discuss paranormal activity at Pennhurst. Jerry and Tracy listen as I share tales of paranormal investigations at Pennhurst, my visit to Pennhurst in August 2018 and their perspectives on paranormal activity here and at other locations.

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show. 

“The Shame of Pennsylvania” – Pennhurst State School and Hospital: Part 1

Episode 73 – Originally Released March 2019

Content warning: This episode contains adult subject matter including discussions about physical and intellectual disabilities, patient abuse, and eugenics.  Listener discretion is advised.

Pennhurst State School and Hospital was once called the Shame of Pennsylvania.  It sat only about 25 miles outside of Philadelphia, yet it may have been a world away considering how few people knew about the decline of the institution, and how that decline impacted the residents. 

In 1903, the state of Pennsylvania approved the creation of the “Eastern State Institution for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic.”  Eventually this facility became known as Pennhurst State School and Hospital, a 1400-acre state owned, and state supported institution committed to the “care, treatment, education and vocational training” of children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Soon after opening in 1908, Pennhurst was plagued by overcrowding that continued throughout the facility’s 80-year operation.  The campus was self-sustaining, with independent power grids, a fully functioning farm, everything anyone could want except proper care and support for it’s residents which at one point reached over 3500.  

In 1968, NBC 10 reporter Bill Baldini released a five-part series about the conditions at Pennhurst State School and Hospital which forced the public to acknowledge the horrific conditions in which the residents lived; overcrowding was the least of their misery.  Restraints, unnecessary sedatives, physical and emotional abuse were commonplace at Pennhurst.

This is part one of a three-part series about Pennhurst State School and Hospital. In this episode we’ll explore Pennhurst’s history, it’s 80-year operation, the children who lived there, why it finally closed down in 1987, and it’s legacy since then.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Archives
  • Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance
  • 1968 NBC 10 Series “Suffer the Little Children” by Bill Baldini
  • Pennhurst the Shame of Pennsylvania
  • Images of America: Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • NPR.org
  • Disability Justice.org – Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • law.justia.com – Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • The ARC.org
  • SpArc Philadelphia sparcphilly.org

TwistedPhilly is researched, hosted, and produced by me, Deana Marie, and available biweekly wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow me on Tiktok and Instagram at twistedphilly to see many of the locations and histories I discuss in the show.