by Mark Segal
(The following column was written by Philadelphia Gay News editor and founder Mark Segal. It is reprinted here with permission. Jeff Guaracino, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, passed away from cancer on December 28, 2021. He was 48.)
It’s Monday as I write this, and tonight The Philadelphia 76ers are honoring Philadelphia Gay News during their annual Pride Night. Thank you to the 76ers; we are truly honored. This should be a great night for us here at PGN, but on a personal note, I feel nothing. Let me explain.
Last week, my good friend, friend to PGN, and passionate Philadelphian Jeff Guaracino passed away.
Jeff was my mentee and friend from the age of 20 when he worked for Joanne Calabria at KYW-TV. She called me one day and asked me to meet with this talented guy who was pretending to have a girlfriend. Those of you who knew Jeff are now laughing, since after that meeting, Jeff soon burst out of that closet and embraced our community. He also was an incredibly talented man, who I immediately knew would go the distance.
If you’d ask Jeff what was the best advice I ever gave him, he’d tell you “never leave the Philadelphia region.” And it’s true. I didn’t want any other area to have his talents.
Can I name just a few of his accomplishments? When the U.S. Parks Service couldn’t keep the Liberty Bell open to the public, Jeff found a way to do it. When the William Way Community LGBT Community Center was on the brink, he joined its board of directors. Along with Dan Anders and I, he helped produce the Welcome America Elton John Concert. When LGBTQ travel was laughed at, he did the research and literally wrote the book that now has the world recognizing a billion-dollar business. And it was Jeff who saw that Philadelphia had to be prepared to reopen after COVID, and it had to celebrate its multicultural population and find ways to give them hope. And the list could go on and on.
Back to tonight at the Sixers. While I’ll have many other people to share the night with, what Jeff added to all his projects was fun. If he knew of this he’d say, “Let’s make it FABULOUS.”
Jeff, you were FABULOUS!