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Cara Schneider Bongiorno hosts public (free) and group history pop ups at known and unknown historic sites throughout the year. Learn about them — including when the next one will be — here.


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Roger & Me

How someone who hung a Tommy poster in her teenage bedroom came to give The Who’s legendary frontman a tour of the Ben Franklin Parkway

Roger & Me

How someone who hung a Tommy poster in her teenage bedroom came to give The Who’s legendary frontman a tour of the Ben Franklin Parkway

The text read, “If I wanted to take a certain rock star to historic Philly sites what’s the best way to do it?”

Since the text came from my friend Howard Jaffe, I knew the certain rock star was Roger Daltrey.

Although I’d been hosting history pop ups around town the past few years, I gave a milquetoast answer about not being certified as a tour guide and offering a few suggestions … not because I wasn’t floored at the prospect of meeting Roger Daltrey, but because I didn’t want to screw it up. And I didn’t quite understand the immediacy.

This wasn’t a theoretical question.

Roger Daltrey — lead singer of The Who, the man whose voice seared “Love, Reign o’er Me” into my teenage head — was in his hotel room in Philadelphia right now, contemplating a history tour.

Howard and I had a few back-and-forths. We weren’t sure when or where this would happen, or if it would happen at all. (Rock stars do have things to do when they’re in town for a concert, after all!)

Ticket to a September, 25, 1982 The Who show at the old JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.

A few hours later, Howard called to say they were already out on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway walking, and I should meet them somewhere near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Calm as I had been all morning, I suddenly got the jitters. I rifled through papers to find a map I wanted to show. I scrambled looking for my sunglasses; found them, misplaced them again and borrowed my husband’s instead.

With the nerves out of my system, I was ready to go tell Roger Daltrey about Philadelphia.

Who am I?

The backstory: I rode the bus to Cheltenham High School with Howard Jaffe in the early 1980s. I was class of ’85, he was ’84. Howard credits me with introducing him to The Who. (I credit my brother with introducing me. But it took.) The Who became my “thing” at an age when kids needed “a thing.”

Howard became a Who fan. A mega fan. Then he did something that separated him from the rest. He gave the band something important to them, by bringing Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend’s Teenage Cancer Trust charity to the U.S., as Teen Cancer America. Through hard work on this project, Howard developed a friendship with Roger.

Which brings us to the afternoon of Friday, June 7.

(Not to be outdone, that same week, Mick Jagger would be spotted walking around Fairmount Park.)

I met up with Howard, Roger, and Roger’s personal assistant, Doug next to the Washington statue across the street from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Roger gave me a nice hello and a handshake.

We stood there silently for a moment then I did exactly what I promised myself I would not do until the end, if at all.

I showed him a photograph of my teenage bedroom, with a giant Who poster and a headshot of him, as Tommy, that I had just grabbed out of my photo album. He looked at the picture and handed it back. No big deal.

The writer’s childhood bedroom in Elkins Park, PA, with her The Who posters.

Howard brought up the concert at JFK Stadium in 1982, which both he and I had gone to.

“100,000 people there,” said Roger.

“You remember that?” I asked, surprised.

“I was there!”

I loved that answer. He’s probably played thousands of concerts all over the world and yet he remembers a detail from this one, 40-plus years ago in Philadelphia. He hasn’t let it all fade into a “I’m-a-rock-star-and-you-don’t-matter” blur.

The view

I pointed out the Rocky statue as we crossed the street towards the museum. He and Doug both nodded slightly in recognition, but clearly didn’t need to see more, so we went straight up the steps. They looked at that famous Philly view down the parkway, very blasé, so we kept walking.

“Trust me,” I said, leading them along the side of the museum and seemingly to a parking lot.

I took them to Mercury Pavilion, the gazebo overlooking the Fairmount Water Works and Schuylkill River. This view surprised the two Brits, Roger and Doug. Now was the right moment to give a quick introduction to Philadelphia. I talked about the city’s origins (on the ancestral homeland of the Lenni Lenape) and showed a few images.

Hearing about Quakers, Roger mentioned that he lives in a Quaker house from the early 1600s.

He asked a question or two and even made a few wise cracks — most of which I missed because of his accent or his use of very-British euphemisms!

Getting hungry, he was going to walk over to Whole Foods to pick up some lunch. But a crew member got it instead, so the four of us began the walk back to the hotel. Howard offered to get an Uber, but Roger declined, choosing to walk.

From left: Howard Jaffe, Roger Daltrey and Cara Schneider Bongiorno.

At this point, I realized what Roger Daltrey really wanted was just to get out and see the city. Didn’t need the whole rig-a-maroo, but he wanted to get a sense of the place.

We walked the mile back down the Ben Franklin Parkway two-by-two for a while: Howard and Doug, and Roger & Me!

We talked about a smattering of different things. Cities he likes. Architecture. Current events. Of music, he said he still loves performing, but the travel is unbearable.

Overall, he came off as very aware, informed, unsentimental and down-to-earth.

He got a big laugh when I imitated my father singing “Squeeze Box,” which he did after I left my The Who By Numbers cassette tape in my dad’s Sony Walkman.

At the hotel, I got another handshake and the thrill of having spent time with someone I had idolized for years.

A mensch on the stage

I didn’t go to the concert, which was three nights later at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside. But I read Howard’s Facebook account of it, and of the four days he spent with Roger in Philadelphia.

Remember, Howard Jaffe was just a fan, a lawyer with no background in medicine, no relationships in the field, and no special access to The Who. But he chose to “pay it forward” and worked for years to help grow Roger’s charity, Teen Cancer America to more than 60 locations around the U.S.

And so, Howard’s Facebook post about the concert ends with:

At the end of the night he (Roger) thanked me (Howard) from the stage as he was introducing the last song of the night, “Without Your Love.” He knew this was my wedding song. I have no words.

On the way out of the Keswick he made sure I was given his iconic taped up microphone as a thank you.

With this generous shout out to Howard, Roger Daltrey gave me one more gift. This larger-than-life presence who rocked me as a kid, showed himself to be a gracious adult.

Daltrey’s a man aware of his surroundings, using his powers for good, and thoughtful enough to give an incredible gesture from the stage to someone who truly deserved it.

A legend indeed.

Cara Schneider Bongiorno represented the city to travel media for more than 20 years at VISIT PHILADELPHIA® and now shares her love of the region through Philly History Pop Ups. While her presentations are usually at a single location, she also loves walking people through the city.



Cara Schneider Bongiorno and Roger Daltrey.

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