Philadelphia Is Just Trying to Cope With the Loss of Bendall

Ben Simmons and Kendall Jenner during a November Sixers game.
Photo: Mitchell Leff (Getty)

A confession: A very long time ago, I went on Fox News.

It was December 2007. I was a Philadelphia blogger. There was massive local news anchor drama. One anchor actually illegally accessed his co-anchor’s email. That co-anchor was later arrested for allegedly assaulting a New York City police officer (charges were dropped). I was blogging for a Philadelphia alt-weekly. Fox News wanted me on for a segment about it. I don’t remember why I said yes. I usually say no!

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During the phone interview, I made a joke I’ve repeated many times since then: “Here in Philadelphia we don’t have, like, real celebrities. So our TV news anchors are sort of our biggest stars.” It aired on TV.

A Fox News anchor challenged my assertion. “There are celebrities in Philly. You’ve got the Eagles. You’ve got the Philly baseball team.” First off, saying there are celebrities in Philly and not being able to name any is not helping your case. Second off, what the hell does the Philadelphia baseball team have to be called for you to remember it? It’s literally Phillies.

I think it’s safe to say my joke was also the truth. Philadelphia is the best goddamn city on the planet. But we don’t really have any celebrities. You might run into Charles Barkley at the City Ave. Target. Sometimes I see David Morse in Center City. Is that it? The best known person from our city is a fictional character, Rocky Balboa. The Pro-Choice Ice Guy—sorry, Rita’s, this is canon now—is like the 10th most famous resident of Philadelphia.

For the last few months, though, the city had a legitimate celebrity couple. Sixers guard Ben Simmons had been dating Kendall Jenner. I say had because, as teased in my last update, Simmons and Jenner have broken up.

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As Maria Sherman wrote here last week, People first reported the news with a source from someone in Kendall’s camp. “They’re on a break,” the source told the magazine. “The relationship ran its course. She’s spending time with her friends and back to being in fun mode.”

Going to a Robert Morris-Drexel basketball game and vacuum cleaner shopping in Cherry Hill wasn’t “fun mode” enough for Kendall? Geez. I’m glad my relationship was able to survive the Monmouth-Penn game my fiancée and I attended last year.

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The Sixers season is over, on an absurd buzzer-beater, and now Bendall is over too. This is a drag. When the Sixers advance deep into the playoffs, the city goes wild over them. And when there’s a celebrity in town, the city goes wild too.

I remember the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a guide for Ben Affleck when he was in town filming (ugh) Jersey Girl, then the next day he was on the front page when he responded to the guide written specifically for him. OMG! When then-Daily News gossip columnist Molly Eichel confirmed the news of Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj—our last big celebrity couple—Minaj tweeted about it. The tweet was on the front page of the newspaper the next day.

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Look, the Inquirer just ran a guide-to-Philadelphia again today for Jason Segel. He’s been in town prepping for a TV series filming here this summer. Anyway, if he has any sense he’ll go to Oscar’s Tavern. (See? Even I can’t resist.)

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Still not convinced? Perhaps this will help: In 2003, when Chingy gave a free concert at the old Gallery mall in Philadelphia, they had to close the mall. “They were taking their clothes off,” a mall employee told the Inquirer. “They mobbed him like he was Michael Jackson.” People chanted “We want Chingy” and “Hell no, we won’t go.” For Chingy.

I figured some investigation was in order. How is the city dealing with the loss of Bendall?

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“I rarely miss being a Philadelphia gossip columnist, but man did I miss it during the Bendall run,” says Eichel, now the arts and lifestyle editor at the Inquirer. “This was an actual celeb couple who spent most of their time in the city being epically and deliberately lame, which made it even better because no one wanted to watch Kendall Jenner half-heartedly go clubbing. We wanted to watch her buy a vacuum cleaner at the mall while wearing athleisure, the official uniform of Philadelphia.”

The brief Bendall burst was a boon to Philadelphia’s gentleman paparazzo, HughE Dillon, but also provided some issues. As he told me previously, it was hard to track down Bendall while he was also shooting every fancy society ball around Christmastime. But the real threat was dealing with the kinds of superfans that Philadelphia celebrities like Kensington Trash Fire Elmo or The Woman Who Wore A Revealing Dress To The 2013 Hair O’ The Dog Party just don’t have.

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“The superfans were intense, on both sides,” Dillon says. “Fans would send me long—and I mean long—texts on why he shouldn’t be with her, as they feared the Kardashian curse where the men lose their super athletic ability. Her fans were happy she was so happy, but they were nervous he would break her heart. They were getting bored of her ‘she’s just like us lifestyle’ of eating at chain restaurants, shopping, or strolling Christmas Village. They wanted her to live up to her superstar model glamorous life.”

He also said many fans sent him obviously-fake news tips about the couple, generally negative things about one side or the other cheating. One guy sent a long email about Ben’s alleged infidelities. “If I were to believe any of the fans he’s dating about six different girls right now,” he says.

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Dillon, incidentally, isn’t convinced Bendall is really done for good. He thinks they’re just on a break so Simmons can work on his jump shot and Jenner can have some fun over the summer. For one, they’re still following each other on social media—and, per superfans, he says he’s learned Simmons usually unfollows his exes right away, while Jenner waits two months. You see? We’re still keeping hope.

“You don’t go from buying pots and pans, shopping for vacuums, getting a pet snake, and wearing ‘Ben’s Jersey’ at a game to breaking up that quickly,” he says. “Hopefully they re-connect in the off season.”

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Bendall may be gone, but we’re holding out hope the couple will get back together. Please keep Philadelphia in your hearts during this trying time.

Dan McQuade was Jezebel’s Bendall correspondent, based in Philadelphia.

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