By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Joe Conklin carries a ubiquitous quality. If you’ve been around the banquet circuit or award dinner season long enough in the Philadelphia area, you’re bound to have run into the shaved head comedian and impressionist extraordinaire.
The urge to do his own banquet has gnawed at him for years. So when 94 WIP morning show partner Al Morganti broached the idea of a celebrity sports roast, Conklin jumped at the thought.
That they would ensnare a divisive Philly sports figure like Terrell Owens as the first “roastee” promises to make the inaugural Philly Sports Roast on Feb. 20 at the Crystal Tea Room a must-see event. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Mary Kate’s Legacy Foundation (www.marykateslegacy.com) and All Hands Working (www.allhandsworking.org), which supports firefighters in reducing deaths and injuries in the line of duty.
The idea began to take shape around Christmas. Conklin and Morganti’s initial target was former Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb. But when McNabb found out what the affair was going to be about, he backed out faster than he was running from Michael Strahan.
But McNabb will be there—as a cardboard cutout.
“We thought we had McNabb, but then he cancelled when he got wind Bernard Hopkins might be coming, and we went to TO and started brainstorming,” Conklin said. “TO jumped at the idea. He’s still such a huge name and he’s still a fan favorite. He really is a lightning rod. Once we got him in, we started promoting it.”
Conklin, and his myriad voices, will emcee the event along with Morganti, Julie Dorenbos and Susie Celek. Other featured guests include Ike Reese, Jon Runyan, Rob Ellis, Hollis Thomas, John Clark, Jon Dorenbos, Big Daddy Graham and Rhea Hughes.
Does Owens know what he’s getting into?
“I honestly have no idea [what to expect],” Owens told Angelo Cataldi in a very reflective interview Tuesday morning on 94 WIP. “You know what, I have thick skin. I am subject to a lot of criticism. I am subject to what I put myself into. And again, like I said, I’ve never been obviously the subject of a roast. I’ve kind of watched what roasts are all about, and again for me, it’s just like my career. You have to take the good with the bad. I feel like I’ve grown to a point where I can look back and laugh at myself now.”
But Owens, after all these years, and a lot of venom spewed by TO and at him, still holds a place in his heart for Eagles’ fans. He spoke to Cataldi about winning a Super Bowl for the Eagles, and though he and the Eagles parted under ugly conditions, Owens may be more embraced than McNabb, considered by many the greatest quarterback in franchise history.
“I have so much respect and so much love for Philly that it goes unnoticed,” Owens said. “I think a lot of fans don’t know that, and the fans that are listening to me now, like dude, I love you guys so much. Again, that was really why I came there is to help get to the Super Bowl. People now ask me, ‘What is the best team or best time that I had during my football career?’ And I tell them, it was the time, it was the short time, but it was my time in Philly.”
Now TO gets to be verbally skewered live by the best in the city—Conklin and his merry band.
Tickets start at $100 and include a top-shelf four-hour open bar that begins at 6 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, and a gourmet buffet. Tickets can be purchased at this location.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.