In 1976, more than 40 years ago, the movie Rocky premiered -- written by its starring actor Sylvester Stallone. The movie is about an unknown out of shape boxer from Philadelphia who transforms himself from being unfocused and unfit to being hopeful and empowered. The movie takes place in Philadelphia with its most triumphant scene filmed on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Rocky at the top, arms proudly raised in celebration of his journey and accomplishment. And ever since, the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have never been seen or experienced the same. The now iconic steps are a tourist attraction for Philadelphians and for people from around the world who recreate Rocky's celebratory run.
This amazing decades-long phenomenon has been documented in Rocky Stories – a book that detailed one year in the life of "the Rocky Steps." In 2004, from New Year's Day to New Year's Eve, Philadelphia author Michael Vitez and Philadelphia photographer Tom Gralish met at the steps to "capture this joy, explain it, celebrate it with stories and pictures, and share it." Vitez wrote that what they discovered was even better than expected. He described their working process to "position themselves as best they could—the closer we got the more intimate and better the photograph. We'd watch and listen and take photos as they ran, and only when they were finished celebrating, when their mission was accomplished, would I approach them and introduce myself." Vitez said that most were eager to be part of the book and some would have talked for hours about their personal stories and why they ran up the steps.
Joshua Appleby from Texas said that he remembered the movie and how much he was motivated watching Rocky run up the steps – "Each step Rocky took was like another step toward success." Vitez wrote, "people are drawn to these steps to run them as Rocky did…The story of Rocky inspired them, stirred them, and they felt they had to come here, like the movie hero, and share this literal and cinematic high."
If you haven't run the steps yet, go run. Create your own Rocky story.
For more information about the book Rocky Stories or to purchase it, visit pauldrybooks.com.