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The Day We Ran The Rocky Steps

A selfie beneath the statue of Rocky, at the bottom of the Art Museum steps in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Paying Homage To Philadelphia’s Favourite Son | Darrin Henry

How many people back in the 70s and 80s tried drinking raw eggs after watching Sylvester Stallone do it in the movie, Rocky? Ughh, that was disgusting!

The first Rocky film (1976) has just finished showing on MNet’s Action channel on TV. I was meant to be checking which football game was on, but lingered a bit for nostalgia’s sake and ended up sucked into the time machine, captivated to the end.

Filling In The Gaps

What an absolute masterpiece of cultural cinema. Even in this age of CGI and big budget effects, Rocky still retains that raw, realistic quality that’s stood the test of time. As young boys my brother and I just celebrated the fight sequences, what else was it but a boxing film, right? But all these years later, older and wiser (allegedly), today for the first time I realise just how brilliant a film it was; the boxing was just a tiny part tacked on at the end and, ironically now seems like the least persuasive aspect of the story.

A major tourist attraction, the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Growing up I didn’t go on Rocky’s friend, Paulie – I couldn’t see past his slobby, grumpy character back then.  Nor did I appreciate the tender love story between Sylvester Stallone’s character and the painfully shy Adrian, played by Talia Shire. “We’re filling gaps,” was how Rocky described their relationship, two social outcasts finding solace in each other’s company. Now it all makes sense. There were so many life lessons woven into an amazing script.

I guess knowing how the Rocky franchise grew since and the real life journey of the actors makes today’s viewing so poignant, as were the historic visuals – the edgy, dirty streets, the fashion, the attitudes, the cars and technology. Everyone my age watching today will feel it.

But my movie memories took on new significance after a visit to the city of Philadelphia where the film is set. It wasn’t that long ago, the summer of 2015, Sharon and I were coming to the end of a US road trip and managed to squeeze a day visit to Philly.

Run like nobody’s watching! Completing my 72 step ascent, running up the Rocky steps (Art Museum steps) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

At the top of the Art Museum steps, Philadelphia – this is where the Rocky statue once stood and where Sylvester Stallone made history in 1976.

At the tourist information centre we both smiled at the horror on the young officer’s face when, after pointing out the city’s best attractions on a visitor map for us, we asked where can we find the Rocky steps! His rolled-eyes response that Philadelphia was more than the setting for an old boxing film was very politely framed, but you know, one benefit of age is an absence of embarrassment about admitting what you really want. And we wanted to see the Rocky steps!

The walk from city centre to the Art Museum building was long. We were always underestimating the actual distances on street maps. The Rocky statue that was once placed at the top of the Art Museum steps had since been moved to the bottom and to the side, almost hidden under the trees. The historic purists we were told felt the statue should not occupy such prominence as it detracted from the building’s purpose.

We queued to take selfies standing at the Rocky statue. I loved that everyone there seemed chuffed to be paying homage to this fictional movie hero. We obviously all grew up on the legend of Rocky Balboa and having just watched the movie again for the first time in maybe 10 – 15 years, I realise what an important waypoint it was for all of us taking pictures that day in Philadelphia.

The female Rocky! Sharon completing her charge up the 72 Rocky steps of the Art Museum in Philadelphia.

Of course, we then just had to run up the 72 steps and strike the victory pose at the top. A set of inlaid footprints where the statue originally stood marks the spot. We were not alone in making the run! People from all over the world – or perhaps the different accents were actually from inside America – united by a shared history of a tingle we all felt, long, long ago, gleefully jogging in the footsteps of Philadelphia’s favourite son. Corny, yes, but how could we not! The theme tune was playing in my head. What a moment.

The Philadelphia Art Museum – all day it seems there are people at various stages of running up the ‘Rocky steps.’

The Philadelphia Art Museum – this is the beautiful building you will find at the top of the climb, however, it seems the steps themselves get far more attention that this lovely architecture.

Just like Stallone! Victory pose at the top of the Art Museum steps, the city of Philadelphia seen behind me. You can see another tourist posing for the camera behind me as well.

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