Monday, April 07, 2008

Blog Release: IntoPittsburgh Diaspora Gathering

From Carl Kurlander:

Jodi S. Klebick, 412-622-1325,

“Wine Country” to Become “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”

Pittsburghers from West Coast “Neighborhoods” Invited to Reunite in Sonoma

Pittsburgh, PA – April 6, 2008– Pittsburghers from West Coast “Neighborhoods” and neighbors everywhere are being invited to reunite in Sonoma, California to mark the premiere of the locally produced documentary film, “My Tale of Two Cities” at the Sonoma Valley Film Festival on April 11 and 12, 2008 at 3 p.m. at the House of Docs. Steeltown Entertainment Project, in cooperation with 1905 Productions and Pittsburgh 250, is encouraging current and former Pittsburghers, and anyone who feels a part of “The Neighborhood” to join them for a special reunion in the sunny state of California to celebrate Pittsburgh and all things wonderful from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“My Tale of Two Cities” is “the ultimate comeback story of Pittsburgh,” a once great industrial giant that built America with its steel, cured polio, and invented everything from aluminum to the Big Mac, but which now, like a lot of American cities, that is being challenged to reinvent itself for a new age. It also tells the often funny, sometimes moving story of "St. Elmo’s Fire" screenwriter Carl Kurlander, who came home only to find both himself and his beloved hometown in mid-life crisis. (See for clips and details.) The film is making its debut at the Sonoma Valley Film Festival (April 10-13, 2008), which will also feature a tribute to Pittsburgh native, actor and director Michael Keaton who got his start as a Flying Zucchini Brother on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

About the Party.

Anyone who has ever watched the yellow terrible towels fly at Steelers games is familiar with the “Steeler Nation”—which is made up not only of Pittsburgh’s loyal fan, but its large expatriate population, many of whom left home with the decline of the steel industry. With Pittsburgh celebrating its 250th anniversary, and the theme of the film as “It’s Never Too Late to Come Back,” organizers decided the event was a good opportunity to host a Pittsburgh Reunion Party—outside of Pittsburgh—as the town as anyone who has . Therefore, immediately after the 3:00 PM festival screening of “My Tale of Two Cities” on Friday, April 11th, anyone with Pittsburgh roots or who just feels a part of “The Neighborhood” is encouraged to attend a casual gathering of Pittsburghers at Steiner’s Tavern on Sonoma Plaza (RSVP recommended) from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The reunion party will be importing and featuring a variety of Pittsburgh “delicacies” for the homesick and nostalgic, including Iron City Beer, Islay’s Chipped Ham, Jenny Lee Bakery rolls, Heinz condiments, Betsy Ann Chocolates, gourmet popcorn from Popcorn-N-That, and of course, Pittsburgh memorabilia including Terrible Towels.

About the Film

In this election year when many are talking about how America will reinvent itself for a new age, My Tale of Two Cities, a small, but heartfelt documentary about a once great industrial city trying to reinvent itself may strike a chord with many in this country. The film, is talking about Pittsburgh, which everyone knows was once the home of the Steel industry, but may not realize was also the home of the real life “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” On his program, Fred Rogers would often be visited by his mailman Mr. McFeely (David Newell) who would bring him short films of things that were made in the neighborhood. But many of those things are no longer made here and this film asks the question: “What can we as a country make now?”

The film also tells the often funny, and sometimes moving story of St. Elmo’s Fire screenwriter Carl Kurlander, who left Hollywood and moved back to his hometown to teach at the University of Pittsburgh and thought that he and his wife had found the perfect place to raise their daughter. But soon after appearing on “Oprah” to discuss his surprising move, Carl discovered that Pittsburgh, which was one of the richest cities in the world when it was the “Silicon Valley of the Industrial Revolution” a hundred years ago, was now on the verge of bankruptcy. In attempt to help his hometown, Carl does perhaps what Mister Rogers would have done, and goes and asks his neighbors whether the place that historian David McCullough cites as having invented everything from Heinz ketchup to the first movie theater, can once again come back and become “the city of Champions?”

In a tone reminiscent of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, Kurlander’s friends and neighbors seem to be both helping him and giving him grief at the same time. When Carl tells comedian Louie Anderson he is making a “Mister Rogers & Me” as opposed to a “Roger & Me”, Louie looks straight at the camera and busts his friend: “how long have you been %&$&* waiting to use that line?!” Having grown up a “klutz” in a sports town, Kurlander visits his old gym teacher who is still making fun of him for not being able to catch a football, but then is surprising honest about Pittsburgh’s fear of change and desire to hold on to its once glorious past. Kurlander questions whether his hometown is too obsessed with the Steelers winning for their own good, but is refuted by Steeler legend Franco Harris and his son Dok who articulately remind Carl that it will not be casting blame, but everyone pulling together, that will save their city.

“Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in real life is filled with remarkable neighbors from former Treasury Secretary Paul O’ Neill who has breakfast with Carl at the diner he ate at each morning at 5:30 when he was the CEO of Alcoa; to MacArthur Genius Bill Strickland who has transformed the lives of inner city residents in his own neighborhood with the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Arts Center (which has been replicated in San Francisco in the form of BAYCAT); and Teresa Heinz Kerry who goes cheese shopping with Carl in a very funny scene where she orders more cheese than he bargained for, but then ends up talking to him about what well may be the heart of this movie—the need for Pittsburgh—and America—to start dreaming again. Kurlander even visits a nun, Sister Linda Yankoski, and asks her if Pittsburgh needs saving—to which she replies, if people are still holding on to the idea that the steel mills will come back, then maybe it does need “salvation” which she defines as having the faith to let go of the past and take a risk on the future.

The film is surprisingly uplifting as it manages to document moments of Pittsburgh’s rebirth such as Google opening a Pittsburgh office, the dedication of the Dr. Thomas Starzl Biomedical Tower, and Dok winning an “entrepreneur of the year award” in a national competition. It is Franco who echoes the plea of the movie, imploring for the camera: “Talent, come on back to Pittsburgh.” The film ends with a remarkably joyfully celebration of hope as Pittsburghers from Times Square to Beverly Hills, sing Mr. Rogers’ theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” which could well be the theme song for this city. As Kurlander and his wife and daughter join hundreds of their neighbors singing this down at The Point, it becomes apparent, that dream of Pittsburgh’s come back as a city is still alive.
About Steeltown Entertainment Project: The mission of the Steeltown Entertainment Project ("Steeltown") is to nurture promising talent and to incubate meaningful and commercially viable entertainment projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania by connecting former Pittsburghers who are working in the entertainment industry with the region's human, cultural, educational and economic resources. Steeltown is a registered Pennsylvania 501c3 nonprofit organization. For more information: 412-622-1325 or


Steeltown Entertainment Project, in cooperation with 1905 Productions Pittsburgh 250 invite you to come to the sunny state of CALIFORNIA to celebrate Pittsburgh and all things wonderful from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!”


FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2008
(Second screening, Saturday April 12, 2008)


Sonoma Valley Film Festival
House of Docs
589 First Street West
Sonoma, CA 95476


Steiner’s Tavern
465 1st Street West (On the Sonoma Plaza)
Sonoma, CA 95476-6600
Cait Murray, 412-622-1325,


We have a limited number of reserved $10 screening tickets which are available out on a “first come, first served” basis to the Friday, April 11, 2008, 3:00 PM screening of “My Tale of Two Cities.” A second screening will also be held on Saturday, April 12, 2008, at 3:00 PM. Contact: Cait Murray at 412-622-1325 or email Note: Individual movie tickets are also available on a “first come, first served” basis on site at the box office door.


For information on passes to the 2008 Sonoma Valley Film Festival, which includes a tribute to Pittsburgh’s own Michael Keaton, please go to

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