Albert Lee, aka Mr. Philadelphia, really geeks out about our City of Brotherly Love. The guy even has the LOVE statue tattooed on his arm. And as the Community and Content Manager at the Independence Visitor Center, he’s able to share his love for the city with people from all over the world.
Philly born and raised, Lee knows his city better than anyone, and he’s one of the friendliest people around. Reach out to him at the Visitor Center (or tweet at him) and he’ll be able to recommend the restaurant or date idea or family fun activity most perfectly suited for you.
Just don’t let him catch you wearing an ‘I love NY’ t-shirt.
Since your co-worker at the Visitor Center named you ‘Mr. Philadelphia’, has the title has pretty much stuck. If you had to choose a different name, what would it be?
This guy Brennen Lucas – he used to work at Uwishunu – in a post one time he called me a “Philly Evangelist.” That would be my title. I wouldn’t even call myself Mr. Philly. I mean, it’s humbling. But I’d rather be called a Philly evangelist. Because that’s what I am – it’s what I do, I preach to the world about Philly.
What’s your proudest moment?
I’ve had two proudest moments in my career. [First], one day, it was a Saturday morning. Pouring rain. This woman comes up, and she’s waiting in line to talk to me. She comes up to me and she says, “Excuse me. I don’t know if you remember me, but over a year ago, I came in here with my girlfriend. And we were looking for gay friendly places to live. And we weren’t thinking of Philadelphia, but you made it a point to say, ‘You should move to Philadelphia.’ Well we decided to move here, we live in Queens Village, and we couldn’t possibly think of moving out.” So I got them to move here!
And the second thing was, Make a Wish Philadelphia called us saying, what’s something fun to do for a 10-year-old? It turns out there was this young man from Memphis, Tennessee, and his wish was to come to Philadelphia. First, I was like, “What?” Who wants to come to Philadelphia? Turns out his neighbor used to live in Philly. So I took it upon myself to do this whole big tour for him, and I showed the family around. And the mother says to me, “We weren’t doing too well as a family before this trip. But, I’ve got to tell you, you helped save our family.” So, I’m touched.
I take great pride in my job.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Marketing Philadelphia. It’s both difficult and rewarding. To do my job, I have to be really gung-ho. But it is not easy all the time. Shoddy things that we do as a city make it difficult for me. I mean, it’s a part of life in any city. But it weighs personally on me.
And I take it more personally, because I’m from here, you know?
What’s the geekiest thing about you?
I have an extensive action figure collection. I really like comic books.
But what defines me as a geek? I geek out about Philadelphia for a living! You give me 2 seconds, and I’m telling you the whole history of Philadelphia.
What’s your favorite spot in Philadelphia?
My favorite spot in all of Philadelphia is the Market East Station, at the Gallery. When I was growing up, we had hot, hot summers. You know, we didn’t have a lot of money. So, we didn’t always turn on the air-conditioner. Instead, my grandparents would take us to the Gallery at Market East Station. And we’d just sir there, read comic books, and just kind of chill out until the end of the day when my mom came home, and then we’d all cook and eat as a family.
Well, before the end of the day, pretty often, my grandma would either treat us to popcorn at a newsstand (which they just closed a year ago and reopened under new ownership) or, she would take me to McDonalds and we’d buy strawberry sundaes. And that to me is my favorite part of all of Philly.
My grandparents, who are unfortunately gone, they took care of us – me and my brother, while my mom had to work. And I’m really touched by that. In Chinese culture, family is everything.
What’s next for Mr. Philadelphia?
Besides my mom telling me I should get married and have kids? I don’t know when that’s going to happen – I need to get dates, first!
But – I’d like to work for the city. The way tourism works in Philly, we’re not a city office. I want to work for the city, being this man about town. And I know that sounds kind of conceptual. But, I want to go to people’s events all over the city, and be like, “I’m here to represent the city
. We want you to know that we’re here, and we’re proud to celebrate it.” My job now is to celebrate all the things we are about – but I want to let the residents know that.