A Strasburg man re-creating Sylvester Stallone’s famous “Rocky” run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Saturday was encouraged by a surprise cheerleader: Stallone himself.
Pete Rowe had taken two college friends from California, Jacob Kerstan and Andrew Wright, to see some of Philadelphia’s famous locations.
After the obligatory stops to places such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and sampling those famous Philly cheesesteaks, Rowe took them to see the famous “Rocky” steps.
“We decided to race up them,” the 22-year-old Rowe said.
As they reached the top, winded but happy, and high-fived each other, Rowe says a voice called, “You guys got up here pretty fast. You’re making me look bad.”
The encouragement came from none other than “Rocky Balboa.”
“It was so unbelievable,” Rowe said Wednesday. “It was one of those experiences where you just feel it’s not real. It can’t be happening.”
Rowe, a 2011 Lampeter-Strasburg graduate, had graduated in December from Azusa Pacific University in California. He majored in international business although, he said, he is still “on the hunt for a job.”
His friends, both from the Sacramento area, are still juniors. They had come east for a visit with Rowe. Both loved the visit to the City of Brotherly Love, but got far more than they bargained for.
“Bumping into him was the icing on the cake,” Rowe said. “It made for a great day trip to Philly. My friends were pretty ecstatic.”
A wire story about their encounter made it back to the West Coast before Rowe’s two friends did, making them instant celebrities with their friends and families back home.
The friends were so elated at meeting Stallone that they nearly let him get away without a souvenir “selfie” photo, taken with Rowe’s camera.
Stallone, who Rowe said was with an unidentified woman at the time, was preparing to leave as a crowd began to gather.
Quickly, Rowe asked Stallone to pose with them for a photo. As he posed with the trio, his fist cocked as if to deliver a hard left jab, Stallone joked, “We’re tough guys.”
According to an Associated Press story about the meeting, Stallone was in Philadelphia to film the seventh movie in the Rocky saga.
In the film, entitled “Creed,” Stallone, now 68, portrays an aging Rocky who becomes the trainer to Mickey, the grandson of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s rival in the original movie and his friend in all of the sequels.
The AP story said Stallone remains amazed that, almost 40 years after “Rocky,” the steps continue to attract attention. Fans travel from across the country, and even from overseas, to re-enact his run.
The steps themselves have appeared in every Rocky film, including the newest one.
Stallone, who first ran the steps in 1976 for the hit film “Rocky,” is a regular visitor the site. He makes no big deal of his visits, his publicist told the AP, preferring instead to surprise fans.
Rowe, who as a middle school student worked as a paper boy for LNP, agreed that he and his friends were certainly surprised.
“It was an amazing, crazy coincidence,” he said.