Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps / 100 Color Photographs by Tom Gralish / Foreword by Sylvester Stallone / 129-page paperback / 11" x 8.5" / ISBN 978-1-58988-029-0 / Publication Date: November 2006
Pulitzer Prize-winners Michael Vitez and Tom Gralish spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories of "Rocky runners," who come from all over the world to run up America's most famous steps—just as Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky. People make the pilgrimage to mark a new beginning, to seek inspiration, to celebrate an accomplishment, to find the perfect backdrop for romance, or simply because they love the movie. As one runner says, "It gives you the feeling that anything is possible."
In his introduction, Michael Vitez writes: "The movie premiered in 1976, thirty years ago, yet they still come—a high-school track team from Belfast, three busloads of professional wrestling fans from Australia, a college rower from Maine, a librarian and her fiancé from Lake Tahoe, a race car driver (he ran the steps for good luck)…The story of Rocky inspired them, stirred them."
The book includes interviews with Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen, composer Bill Conti, and cameraman Garrett Brown.
Check out Rocky Stories on NPR's Morning Edition and listen to Steve Inskeep's feature.
View NPR's slideshow of images from the book.
"The extent to which the Rocky myth has resonated is documented in this winning book…each story is engaging." — Sports Illustrated.
Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called Rocky Stories a "knockout," "The result is a delight, a thrill, a gas: a kind of art experiment completed by ordinary people."
"The Rocky Steps have become a special place for tourists and Philadelphians alike. Virtually everyone who lives here or comes here wants to say that they ran up the Rocky Steps and saw the incredible view down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway." —Governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania
"In our increasingly homogenous world of strip malls and chain restaurants, there are still a few authentic and unscripted experiences left. One of them takes place every day on the towering steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where strangers flock from across town and across the globe. Two extraordinarily talented journalists, Michael Vitez and Tom Gralish, have captured this uniquely American phenomenon with whimsy, poignancy, and utter charm. Rocky Stories will steal your heart and restore your faith in the power of shared human experience." —John Grogan, author of Marley & Me
"Rocky Stories captures the sprawling complexity of life. It's a delight." —Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and Guests of the Ayatollah
"Combine Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tom Gralish, let them loose on one of the great architectural icons of the modern world and what do you get? A book that is an absolute joy and an absolute blast and quintessentially American in its hopes and dreams and sweetness." —Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City
"I ran the steps holding the hopes and dreams of the entire nation in my right hand. With each stride I heard my name, and with each breath felt pride. When I finally lit the cauldron with the flame from the Olympic torch, I knew I had arrived. Michael Vitez and Tom Gralish have brought to life the many amazing and beautiful personal stories from Philadelphia's art museum steps. The Rocky Steps finally have a voice." —Dawn Staley, Olympic gold-medalist and Temple University women's basketball coach (on carrying the Olympic torch up the Rocky Steps)
"You can't borrow Superman's cape. You can't use the Jedi laser sword. But the steps are there. The steps are accessible. And standing up there, you kind of have a piece of the Rocky pie." —From the foreword by Sylvester Stallone
Michael Vitez has been a staff writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer since 1985. For his series on end-of-life issues, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism.
Tom Gralish has been at the Philadelphia Inquirer since 1983, working as both an editor and photographer. For his photo essay on the homeless, he won both the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.