- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

PHILADELPHIA The city's Bohemian South Street seems an unlikely destination for the GOP faithful, who began arriving in a steady stream yesterday for the 2000 Republican National Convention.
The neighborhood "where hippies meet," according to a 1963 song by the Orlons, is home to tarot readers, body piercers, tattoo artists and other grunge scenesters who prowl the narrow streets with a certain left-of-the-mainstream insouciance. Look a little deeper, however, past the purple hair, platforms and jackboots and find that this is, perhaps, a book best left unjudged by its cover and an untapped market for GOP recruiters looking to muster prospective voters from the ranks of generations X and Y.
The case is made inside Zipperhead, a veritable punk-rock heaven where a new straitjacket can be had for a mere $116 and bondage pants cost $69. There, owners Rob Windfelder and his wife, Stefanie, both Philadelphia natives, explain why they won't be voting for Vice President Al Gore come November.
"I'm voting Republican this time," asserts Mr. Windfelder, an affable, reed-thin 37-year-old whose all-black apparel is accessorized by his jet-black spiked hair.
Maybe he does lead a band called "Live Not on Evil," and yes, he does sell silver-spiked dog collars the kind worn by people, not by dogs. But his rock 'n' roll lifestyle does not preclude his serious interest in politics.
While he is a member of the Reform Party, he likes what he is seeing from Republicans. His wife, who smiles easily, her long, black hair streaked silver-white a la Morticia Adams and pulled back to expose at least 16 silver earrings, has less than kind words for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, even though she admits she is less politically astute than her husband.
"I definitely won't vote Democrat because of Al Gore's record of not having a soul," she says matter-of-factly, standing behind a glass showcase filled with 20-cent spikes and an array of Gothic makeup.
"I can't stand Al Gore," she adds, unlikely words coming from someone who seems the perfect target for the liberal Rock the Vote movement. "I just don't like looking at his face. It's so non-trustworthy."
The punk-rock couple's views stand in contrast to what might be expected from the hip crowd that permeates this area of Philadelphia, where customers stood 30 deep at Jim's Steaks on Wednesday, waiting patiently for a cheesesteak sandwich lunch.
Bohemian South Street, home to the city's 6th Police District, features an independent record store on nearly every block, Irish bars, ethnic restaurants and a bevy of offbeat stores. The neighborhood has been around since the early 1600s, when it was settled by the Swedes.
Today, it is an off-the-beaten-path pleasure for antiquers and curiosity seekers, who this week could take home a full suit of knight's armor for $200 and a cigar-store Indian for $350.
Like other businesses around the city, some South Street merchants said they were bracing for the influx of Republican visitors.
At Hats in the Belfry, clerk Dave Vine, 19, sold several Mad Hatter-style, red-white-and-blue toppers to the staff of a nearby restaurant, who will wear the patriotic apparel during the convention. One such style featuring an elephant already has sold out, he said, but those bearing donkeys were still in stock.
At the Rock and Roll boutique, where replica masks of professional wrestlers are hot sellers, a T-shirt with attitude is already popular with visitors.
"Don't be a [donkey's backside]. Vote Republican," it reads.
Meanwhile, a poll released earlier this week by Northwestern University brought welcome news to GOP devotees. The telephone survey of 1,008 persons ages 18 to 24 found that a majority identified themselves as conservative in their choice of a political party, presidential candidate and views on several issues.
Forty-four percent of the respondents said they planned to vote for Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the presidential election, while 32 percent said they supported Mr. Gore. Forty-one percent said they felt some attachment to the Republican Party while 28 percent favored Democrats.
Two-thirds of the young adults surveyed support a federal law requiring parental notification for girls younger than 18 seeking abortions. Thirty percent said they would use the U.S. budget surplus to pay off the national debt, the survey found.

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