Culture Following Francis

Pope Francis forever grins over Philly’s ‘Gayborhood’

A mural includes Pope Francis among other famous "Franks" at Dirty Frank's bar in Philadelphia. Religion News Service photo by Audrey Rose McManus
A mural of Pope Francis among other famous "Franks" at Dirty Frank's bar in Philadelphia. Religion News Service photo by Audrey Rose McManus

A mural includes Pope Francis among other famous “Franks” at Dirty Frank’s bar in Philadelphia. Religion News Service photo by Audrey Rose McManus

PHILADELPHIA (RNS) There are a lot of famous Franks painted on the outside of Dirty Frank’s, a neighborhood bar and local landmark here.

And though Pope Francis left the city Sunday (Sept. 27), he will long grin over “the Gayborhood” — as Dirty Frank’s vicinity is sometimes called — in a mural alongside Frank Sinatra, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Frankenstein.

The mural became part of the city’s lively public art scene in 2001 when it was first painted by local artist David McShane. McShane added the pope to the mural just a few weeks before the pontiff’s arrival. (“Frank” is a common nickname for Americans named “Francis.”)

“I think there’s a humor involved in putting him on a place called Dirty Frank’s,” McShane said recently. He feels comfortable putting the pope alongside Frank Zappa and Aretha Franklin (who sang “Amazing Grace” for Francis during his Festival of Families event). And he doesn’t think it will be seen as disrespectful.

“Some people thought maybe adding the pope is sacrilegious,” McShane said. “It didn’t seem to me to be sacrilegious.”

Dirty Frank’s, which claims to date back to the Prohibition era, is hard to find save for the gray, blue and white mural. The bar has no sign bearing its name, so the mural acts as a clue.

“We’re on the Mural Arts tour,” bar owner Jodi Sweitzer told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June. “In good weather there are always groups of tourists outside.”

Dirty Frank's bar at 347 S. 13th Street in Philademphia displays nothing indicating its name other than a mural of many famous men named "Frank." The majority of the mural was painted in 2001, with Pope Francis added this year. Religion News Service photo by Rose McManus

Dirty Frank’s bar, at 347 S. 13th Street in Philadelphia, displays nothing indicating its name other than a mural of many famous men named “Frank.” Most of the mural was painted in 2001, with Pope Francis added this year. Religion News Service photo by Audrey Rose McManus


READ: Pope Francis and the double-edged sword of religious tradition


Pope Francis left another work of art behind. During the Festival of Families, which Francis addressed on Saturday, the pope signed a mural commemorating his visit. With a black marker, the 78-year-old Argentine priest signed his papal name — “Francis” — across a mural honoring the World Meeting of Families, which preceded the festival, with images of children, parents, some doves and a smiling image of himself.

McShane said the addition of the pope to Dirty Frank’s wall is appropriate in light of the pontiff’s past.

“It would fit because the pope himself used to be a bouncer,” Sweitzer said. Indeed, Francis previously worked as a doorman at a Buenos Aires nightclub.

McShane added Francis by taping a black-and-white photo of the pontiff just to the left of where he worked. Nearby, another Frank — famous only locally — looks on from the wall. That is Frank Sherlock, a Dirty Frank’s bouncer for many years. Sherlock and Pope Francis are the only new additions to the mural since 2001.

And to set the record straight, Dirty Frank’s wanted to add the pope to the mural last fall — before his trip to Philadelphia was announced. Weather and other circumstances delayed that plan.

Now, McShane said, “He’s just one more iconic figure in a quirky mural downtown.”

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

YS/AMB END MCMANUS

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