A Smyrna boy makes it in Nashville. Plus, singing the praises of Wilmington, a local filmmaker’s call to “Alms,” a UD prof befriends Bart Simpson and more.


Despite his success in Nashville, Chuck Wicks
still considers Delaware his home.

Photograph by Kristin Barlowe


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Native Chuck Wicks left the family spud farm. Now he’s finding fame in country music.

Chuck Wicks’ life has been a whirlwind since summer. His first album is due for release next month, when he also goes on tour with country superstar Brad Paisley.

Wicks, who grew up on a potato farm in Smyrna, moved to Nashville five years ago to pursue a career in country music.

The move paid off when he inked a recording deal with RCA. His debut single, “Stealing Cinderella,” which he co-wrote with two others, began to make a big splash on country radio last fall. called the song, about a young man asking his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage, “one of the sweetest, most thoughtful ballads to hit country radio this year.”

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Wicks came up with the idea after visiting the home of his girlfriend’s parents and seeing photographs of her as a child riding her first bike, running through a sprinkler and dancing with her father. Wicks’ girlfriend once held a job at Disney World portraying Cinderella, thus the title.

“We got a great start with that song, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Wicks says.

Wicks has also been busy playing himself on the Fox reality show “Nashville” and doing a cross-country radio tour for “Cinderella.” He made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in September and returned for a televised appearance in October.

His cousins, aunts and uncles here in the First State are proud of him, even if his newfound fame has changed their lives, too.

“I used to go around Smyrna and people would know me as the superintendent of the local school district,” says Chuck’s aunt, Debbie Wicks. “Now there are pre-teen girls to gals my age asking if Chuck is my nephew.”

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Chuck’s parents, John and Debbie, sold the family farm and moved to Florida almost a decade ago, when Chuck was in college. Though they’re ecstatic over their son’s success, they admit that he wasn’t much of a crooner as a young spud.

“He did regular singing around the house, with the radio and in the shower,” says mom, “but it was annoying. We were like, ‘Would you shut up, please, Chuck?’”

Wicks laughs and says, “She probably didn’t tell you that when she sings in the shower, all the glass starts shattering.”

Touché, Chuck.

Actually, it’s Wicks’ father who claims to have passed along the singing gene.

“Dad tells me I got my talent from him,” says Wicks, “because he sang in the choir one year.”

—Drew Ostroski


Ben LeRoy, a Wilmington native and lead singer of
The Snap, speaks highly of the city in his new song.
Photograph by Greg Sachs

The Music of the City
Will Wilmington and its most passionate song-writing advocate ever get heard?

Anyone who remembers the band The Snap may be thrilled to learn that lead singer Ben LeRoy has recorded a new tune, “New Wilmington, City Alive!”

There’s one glitch: No one knows when anyone will hear it.

“City Alive,” composed by LeRoy and Jim Miller, was meant to complement the city’s new image campaign, “Wilmington, in the Middle of it All.” The song played when the city rolled out the campaign at the Delaware History Museum in September.

“It embodies what’s going on in the city of Wilmington right now, today,” says LeRoy. “If the vibe is happening and people see it and feel it, but they don’t know how to wrap their thoughts around it, I’m hoping that this song makes them say, ‘Oh yeah, man. We feel it.”

LeRoy is a lifelong resident of Wilmington and a passionate advocate for its revitalization. He began his music career in a battle of the bands in 1980, then played nearly every Delaware establishment—from the old Barn Door to the Hotel du Pont—with The Snap for 25 years. The Snap played the last gig at the Stone Balloon last December.

But wait—LeRoy and The Snap have come back, this time as an acoustic outfit. They’ll play at the new Three Seventeen Irish Pub in Wilmington on December 14.

Does the “City Alive!” story have a coda? It depends.

John Rago, the city’s communications director, says the tune might be played on the city’s new website, and on City Radio 1640 AM this month. Longtime Snap supporter WSTW 93.7 may be the first FM station to play “City Alive!”

“The song is a well-produced and earnest song that’s just begging to accompany any video tribute to our town,” says WSTW music director Mike Rossi.

Listen for it on the “Hometown Heroes” program. —Maria Hess


A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock ’n’ Roll
When WDSD and WRDX suddenly swapped spots on the dial, they startled a whole lot of listeners.

Instead of being nudged out of sleeplessness by Faith Hill or George Strait at 7:30 a.m. on August 30, FM radio listeners with their alarm clocks set to 92.9 WDSD were jolted awake by—gasp—rock music.

Similarly, those used to the high-octane awakenings of 94.7 WRDX may have hit the snooze button when the softer strains of Alison Krauss failed to rouse them.

Once awake, though, both the loyal country listeners of WDSD and the rockers of WRDX may have felt that it was, indeed, the day the music died. For at that moment, without warning, ownership of the two stations flipped towers and began broadcasting at the other’s former frequency.


“Based on overwhelming listener requests, we are thrilled to bring WDSD back to 94.7 FM,” crowed Paige Lamers, vice president at the time. “The popularity of country music in our region is overwhelming, and we feel moving WDSD back to its heritage dial position made sense.” It also helps, given the popularity of country music, that it is plucked and twanged from a station that has 50,000 watts of broadcast muscle instead of the 1,700 that lowers the volume at WRDX. Both stations are owned by media mega-giant Clear Channel Communications.

According to Lamers, advertisers “have fully embraced” the swap. “We feel the decision meets the interests of our listeners, and is a sound business decision, based on our desire to grow our market. You can’t just stand still in this business.”

Or go without turning that dial every once in a while. —Reid Champagne


Christopher Malinowski’s film, shot in and around
Delaware, was featured last month at the Rehoboth
Independent Film Festival.

Surreal Cinema
Chris Malinowski takes it to the edge in “Alms, You Say.”

If it’s true that the joy is in the journey, then Christopher Malinowski is a happy man. He realized a dream by writing, directing and acting in the 33-minute film “Alms, You Say.”

“The fact that it got made and that I get to watch it [starring] people that I love in this kind of obscure storyline is really all I need,” says the Wilmington native, 38.

The film, featured at the Rehoboth Independent Film Festival in November, is about a teenage vagabond in a seaside town who, Malinowski says, “sends a whiff of totemic remembrance or symbolic remembrance to three people who have lost someone.”

In other words, it’s artsy.

With some severance pay from a vetoed job at Wachovia Bank and help from friends and family, Malinowski, a guitar teacher who has a bachelor’s degree in cinema from Ithaca College, put together funds for a camera package, 16mm film and incidentals, then went to work. Bill Ackerman, who plays guitar with Malinowski in the band The Collingwood, served as producer.

Friends and family starred in “Alms.” The vagabond is played by Malinowski’s nephew, Dustin Manucci. The film allowed Malinowski to reconnect with Robert Stuart, a filmmaker he knew in Ithaca. Stuart plays “ocean father,” a sprite-like character who appears in a loincloth.

If that doesn’t pique your interest, how about this: There is nudity. The cast had to be comfortable with Malinowski’s vision, which is why he was excited that Los Angeles actress Joyanna Crouse, no stranger to artistic cinema, agreed to participate.

You might recognize the scenery, which includes the Landenberg property where Malinowski rents a 1920s carriage house, the development Sherwood Park II, Townsend, Old New Castle and Cape Henlopen State Park.

Malinowski will shop the film with three feature-length scripts he’s written. Though still surrealistic, the three scripts are more narrative—and therefore palatable to a general audience—than “‘Alms.”

Whether the movie sells or not, he’s satisfied. “I’m not making anything for an audience,” Malinowski says. “I just want to see it badly.” —Pam George



John “Iggy” Taylor may not have been
an Idol threat, but his song was scooped
up by a record label from Oakland.
Photograph by Christian Kaye

Of Head Bangers and Hamburgers
A Hockessin Burger King worker lands his song on an “American Idol” CD.

Last spring, about 38 million people tuned in to the season finale of “American Idol,” the cultural juggernaut featuring an acerbic British guy yelling at a bunch of semi-talented young singers.

Meanwhile, a Burger King manager from Hockessin named Iggy was just hoping for a shot.

John “Iggy” Taylor, a local rocker who’s shuffled around in a band called Too Little Time, entered a song he wrote into American Idol’s first songwriting contest. The winning singer would belt out the winning song during the finale.

Taylor and his twangy tune, “My Turn This Time,” didn’t make the cut. But his song didn’t go unnoticed. Oakland record label Melodies That Matter plucked the song from the “Idol” dis pile and included it in a compilation CD, “Hits They Missed! —Songs Not Fit for an Idol (Or So They Say).”

“The song is about dealing with every day,” Taylor says. “You get up and hear about people being better than you, being prettier than you. I just wanted to say, if it’s up to me, it’s up to me.”

Taylor, 54, is an unapologetic headbanger, but hoped his saccharine country tune would appeal to a wider audience. Now it can.

Jordin Sparks must feel totally embarrassed for having missed out. —Matt Amis


To Heck with Humbug
Here’s the simple message of “A Christmas Carol”: Life is short. Don’t blow it. Several Delaware theaters will present productions of the Dickens classic this month. What message do the creators get from the show? Forthwith:

“It’s never too late to change the path we may have started out on. Today is the day to look to, and there is opportunity for growth, change and redemption for all of us.” —Leslie Reidel, actor, First State Children’s Theater Company, performing December 17 at Delaware Theatre Company

“The concept of generosity is universal. The darkness of winter and the solitude of the cold weather make the effort to reach out to other human beings all the more rewarding”—Ken Skrzesz, director, Clear Space Productions, performing December 6-14 at the Schwartz Center for the Arts

“No matter what you’ve done against your fellow man, there’s always forgiveness if you’re sincere.” —Curt Wollan, producer, Troupe America, performing December 2 at The Grand Opera House —Maria Hess



On “South Park,” “The Simpsons”
and the Sanctity of Human Life

A UD prof says there’s much to be learned from animated comedy. So as we eagerly await the release of a certain DVD…

What’s all that laughter coming out of that metaphysics class at the University of Delaware? It’s just philosophy professor Richard Hanley contemplating the verities of Comedy Central’s hit animated series “South Park.”

Hanley specializes in metaphysics and applied ethics. He has written extensively about philosophy and pop culture, beginning with “Is Data Human: The Metaphysics of Star Trek.” But he sees animated TV programs such as “South Park” and “The Simpsons” as better suited than shows with live characters for raising and resolving difficult issues.

“It’s been said that ‘The Simpsons’ characters are more realistic than the Huxtables of the old ‘Cosby Show,’” says Hanley, “and I believe that.”

Hanley tips his hat to “South Park” for delving more deeply into ethical issues and metaphysics. “As good and funny as the recent ‘Simpsons’ movie is,” Hanley says, “the plot did not probe the issue of environmental pollution as completely or as deeply as the ethical issues of euthanasia and politics explored in the ‘South Park’ episode ‘Best Friends Forever.’”

In that episode, Kenny’s being kept alive artificially (shades of Terry Schiavo) had already become a spectacle on national television when a missing page of Kenny’s will, discovered late, states he does not wish to become a spectacle on national television.

As Hanley writes in his book “South Park and Philosophy,” “We in America like to kid ourselves that human life is sacrosanct, but our behavior says otherwise.” —Reid Champagne


When it came to choosing his film’s subject,
Anthony Spadaccini was no choirboy.

All in His Head
A tale of murder fools its audience, launching its maker into filmdom.

This time next year, auteur Anthony Spadaccini could be sipping Scotch with Steven Spielberg.

Spadaccini’s “Head Case” premiered at the Newark Film Festival to rave reviews in September, turning the 25-year-old director, writer, producer, director of photography and editor into a local celeb.

“Head Case” is expected to haunt the horror circuits for some time, and it’s a serious contender for the Sundance Film Festival.

The pseudo-documentary tells the story of fictional Wayne and Andrea Montgomery of Delaware, church-going serial killers who get their kicks videotaping their murders, then watching the footage.

The story looked so real, half the audience was “totally creeped out.”

Spadaccini knew his market. “The horror community has become very disillusioned with the horror that’s out now, so I decided to take terror and horror and put it in a new environment.”

Spadaccini, a self-described “gentle soul,” had to “reach into some pretty dark places” to conjure up the goriest situations.

Shot in Claymont, “Head Case” cost $5,000. The non-union cast made small stipends, but neither Spadaccini nor his executive producer and roommate, Benjamin Ablao Jr., took a cut.

“It’s a disturbing film,” Spadaccini says, “but it’s not a snuff film. The murderers aren’t martyrs. Some people even suggest I market it as a dark comedy.”

That may be a stretch.

“In the end, people don’t see horror films because they advocate murder,” he says. “They want to be entertained.” —Maria Hess



Match Made in Heaven
How does a church cohabitate peacefully with the dancers next door? By loving their neighbors, of course.

One door leads to debauchery, the other to salvation.

The Book of Revelations never mentions Dover specifically, but it’s hard not to gawk at the glaringly obvious moral paradox in our state capital. On your left is a church. On your right is a strip club. Choose wisely.

In His Presence ministry is a perfectly normal, 50-member Protestant church near Dover Air Force Base. It does outreach in troubled neighborhoods. It donates food and clothes to the less fortunate.

About 100 feet south is the Ice Lounge, a gentleman’s club.


Still, senior pastor Mike Williams is happy with the location of his budding church. “Christ said missionaries aren’t called to the healthy,” he says, “but to those who are sick.”

He’s encountered plenty of Ice Lounge patrons. After witnessing a few immaculate gyrations, the gentlemen sometimes wobble toward Williams and the church. You can’t beat that kind of foot traffic, Williams says.

“There are all kinds of spiritual needs,” he says. “And we feel like we’ve gained their respect.”

As for the Ice Lounge, the Dover hot spot (formerly a bar called Froggy’s) is home to drinking, live entertainment and bikini lunches every weekday. Some curious customers get down with the Holy Spirit after imbibing other spirits.

“We have been blessed with that,” Williams says. “Sometimes they are inebriated, but the people sense something, so they come in and we have a prayer with them. We are called upon in times of light and darkness. And we feel we are in the right position to impact on people’s lives. We are thrilled to be there.”

Whichever door you choose, don’t wear sneakers or work boots. They’re not allowed in either place. —Matt Amis


Larry DiSabatino wants you to have a place
at the beach. But you’ll need to share.

Henry the Eighth
Think you can’t afford your very own beach house? Thanks to fractional ownership, become king of one—or at least half of a quarter of one.

Dream of owning a beach house but don’t have the financial freedom? Thanks to Larry DiSabatino’s Coastal Resort Homes, owning a beach house is within grasp.

Well, one-eighth of a grasp. Coastal Resort is all about fractional ownership: a deeded transaction that gives the buyer one-eighth of a resort home. Eight owners share the costs equally—one-eighth of the price, taxes and time.

Word: This is not a time share. “Time-share does not involve a deed to the property,” DiSabatino says. “For these transactions, you can get insurance or financing. You can will your share to your kids. You can sell it later on. It’s a real real estate transaction.”

Two five-bedroom homes on St. Lawrence Street in Rehoboth Beach and eight nearby townhouses are available for fractional ownership. A share of one house runs $325,000. A chunk of a townhouse is $90,000. With so many folks priced out of beach property, fractional ownership is the fastest growing segment of the resort market, DiSabatino says.

Prospective owners needn’t track down seven buddies to go in with. Coastal Resort Homes does it for you. The company also oversees maintenance of the properties, including housekeeping, security, landscaping, painting and repairs. Professional decorators furnish each home to match the locale and architecture. It’s like a prepaid hotel vacation. Times six.

And divided by eight. —Matt Amis


This colorized postcard shows the original
Sugar Bowl in the early 20th century.

The Fall and Rise of Sugar Bowl
A famous Brandywine Park rockpile gets a rehab.

A cousin of Wilmington’s famed Rockford Tower may soon rise from ruin.

The Friends of Wilmington Parks is raising $500,000 to build a replica of a pavilion in Brandywine Park. The domed observatory served as a popular gathering place during the early 20th century.

Little is known about the Sugar Bowl—so named because of its rounded roof—including why it was demolished more than 50 years ago, says Don Homsey, a local architect and a member of the Friends’ Sugar Bowl committee.

“It was designed by the same architect as the Rockford Tower,” Wilmington engineer Theodore Leisen, Homsey says. “Originally it was an observatory perched on a rock above the Brandywine.”

The original concrete foundation still stands along North Park Drive, northwest of the Washington Street Bridge. The classical revival style Sugar Bowl, completed in 1902, served as an entrance to the Brandywine Zoo. Historians believe that a hurricane in 1954 toppled trees onto the dome. The structure was demolished soon after.

Fiberglass-reinforced concrete will be used to build the replica’s 10 columns, its rail and cornice. The dome will be built from 22 triangular panels of fiberglass-reinforced resin. The project also requires repairing nearby granite walls and making a few modern adaptations, such as a metal safety fence inside the rail and a handicapped-accessible ramp.

The project began in 1999, when Charles Salkin, director of the Delaware Division of State Parks, found an old photograph of the Sugar Bowl. He showed it to Homsey, with whom he co-founded Preservation Delaware. The Friends kicked off their campaign last April. Local planners, engineers and architects have donated their services to get the project running.

The Friends envision the public using the new pavilion and its surrounding green for concerts, weddings, educational programs and other community functions.

“If it’s done right, it will last for many generations,” Homsey says.

For more information or to make a donation, visit


—Drew Ostroski

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