Jim Lardani’s experience meeting Gritty was much like the rest of ours: terrifying horror that quickly morphed into a protective adoration and the desire to punch anyone who dared malign the orange swamp creature. Except that Lardani, who operates Lorraine Bar in Francisville, took his love a bit further. He got a Gritty tattoo.
At first, “I was disgusted,” he told Billy Penn. “I was like, what the hell is this? Why did you do this? Why is this a thing?
“It was like an hour after that I fell in love with him. I realized he’s Kensington as hell. Like, I’ve seen this guy at the Wawa on Columbus Boulevard.”
When the idea to get the high visibility monster permanently inked popped into his head, Lardani had no question who to call: Steve Fawley from Havertown Electric Tattoo, a fellow diehard Flyers fan and talented artist. As the pair made their plans, Lardani got a text: his brother Chris had been separately scheming to do the same thing.
“My brother and I had a race to see who could do it first,” Lardani said, with a winner’s chuckle. “His appointment isn’t until next week.”
The Lardani family grew up hockey fans, “like all white boys from Northeast Philly.” Season tickets meant a childhood spent sitting up in the old Spectrum and throwing popcorn at the people down below. The brothers are still big into the Flyers.
“They don’t have many losing seasons,” said Lardani, now 44. “Philly fans in general are short-sighted. You lose one game, they’re ready to jump off a bridge.”
That spirit, of course, is embodied in Gritty. The new mascot, which was only introduced last Monday (if you can believe it) as a gesture toward kids (if you can believe it), is “perfect” for its time, Lardani said, pointing to the Muppet-gone-wrong’s balancing act between fame and infamy.
“Fifty percent love him, 50 percent hate him — and that’s where we’re at, in this city and this country,” Lardani said.
It took about an hour and a half to get the tattoo done once he arrived in Havertown around 12:30 on Friday, Lardani said. The two friends looked through photos on the internet and chose “the one that looked most psychotic… We went with the psycho, stare-into-your-soul face.”
Lardani didn’t reveal the cost, but did note that “if you want a decent tattoo, you’re gonna pay.” He already has around 20 or 30 other tattoos on his body, he said. His decorating habit extends to his bar at 15th and Brown, which had a stark, blank facade when he and Chris invested in it three years ago, but is now covered in murals by local artists, he said.
On Lardani’s calf, above Gritty’s tangerine Medusa locks, are the words, “Chaos reigns.”
The reference is from a 2009 Lars Von Trier film called Antichrist starring Willem Dafoe, in which the character stumbles into the woods upon a fox disemboweling itself. The fox stops, looks up, and in slow motion says the line: Chaaoooossss Reiiiiiiggnnnnss.
Lardani loves the surrealism of it. “It’s everything about what Philly is,” he said. “I walk around the neighborhood with the garbage and the drugs and man I love this city so much.”
He wasn’t entirely surprised by the media attention the tattoo has gotten, given Gritty’s explosive entree into the world (Fallon on day four is an impressive feat). But Lardani didn’t expect the tattoo would land him an interview with NHL.com, or a mention on all the local TV stations.
“I’ve got people calling me an idiot, people calling me a Jesus,” Lardani said. “The NHL and nerd culture, that’s my bar — that’s basically who I am.”