Family Portrait: Evan Sorg

Evan Sorg is a soft-spoken guy with a quiet chuckle, but don’t let his shy demeanor fool you.

He’s a tough guy with a soft exterior, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, he’s got your back if there’s trouble. As a weekend bartender at Uncles, he has vaulted, superhero-fashion, over the bar to make sure things were under control when a patron has had a little too much to drink. Fortunately, his easy manner and quiet authority usually stops things before they have a chance to start. More often, Sorg just serves up his signature drink, a watermelon Jolly Rancher shot, to the folks gathered at his bar.

PGN: What kind of name is Sorg? ES: It’s German. I have no idea what it means.

PGN: I hear you’re a Jersey guy. ES: Yes, I’m from a small town in central Jersey called Holmdel, near the shore area. I moved to Philly in 2001 to go to Temple.

PGN: What did you study? ES: I went to school to study criminal justice, but I left for a few years. I went back and I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree this semester. I just found out last Thursday that I got accepted into the Ph.D. program so I’m really excited about that.

PGN: Do you have a favorite criminal-justice TV show? ES: [Laughs.] I like “Law and Order: SVU.”

PGN: Do you have to go out and observe criminal cases? ES: Well, I was a New York City cop for three years, so I had first-hand experience already.

PGN: How did you end up doing that? ES: I started Temple in 2001 and I’d put in an application at the academy. They called me and I had to decide if I wanted to finish school or take the job. So in 2004, I became a police officer. I enjoyed it, but the pay sucked and I was living in New York, which was ridiculously expensive. That’s when I decided to move back and go back to school.

PGN: Were you out on the force? ES: Yes, I was a member of the Gay Officers Action League.

PGN: Are you from a police family? ES: No, my father worked on Wall Street for many years and my mother was a stay-at-home mom until they separated and then she worked for a company doing accounting. I have an older brother who is in the military, Marine Corps, and two younger sisters.

PGN: What was life like in Holmdel? ES: It was great, I enjoyed school a lot. I played football, I wrestled and had a lot of great friends. I came out when I was 16 and never had a problem with anyone. My parents and my siblings were really accepting. It was a good time.

PGN: What position did you play on the football team? ES: I was the center.

PGN: And no one gave you a hard time about having the quarterback’s hands between your legs? ES: No. The quarterback was a friend and really cool about it. We joked about it occasionally, but more in wrestling where you’re really put in intimate positions! But it was good-natured joking — it was never a problem.

PGN: What do you think it was about you that made people so comfortable? ES: I don’t know. I guess I’ve always been very laidback. I try to be a nice guy. When I came out, my friends were just like, “Hey, it’s Evan, what are you going to do?” It wasn’t a big deal to me, so it wasn’t to them.

PGN: Do you remember the first time you knew you were gay? ES: There was a kid in school who I totally had a crush on. He wasn’t gay and nothing ever happened, but I knew then that I liked boys.

PGN: Any early signs that you were gay? ES: Not really. I was always into sports. In fact, because I didn’t fit the stereotype, my parents had no clue what I was going to say when I came out to them. I sat them down and they thought that I was about to tell them that I’d gotten someone pregnant. My poor family, they had no idea!

PGN: First kiss? ES: My first “kiss” kiss was a girl who lived down the street from me. My first kiss with a boy was with her brother!

PGN: Were you a good big brother? ES: I think I was. My sister Lisa was in high school with me, so I always kept an eye out for her. Made sure no one messed with her. We’re all very close.

PGN: So from a protective big brother you became a cop. What was the hardest thing about becoming an officer? ES: I’d been training for it, so I was ready for the physical aspect of the academy training; the other aspects were not so much hard, but annoying. Six months of standing in formation, six months of getting yelled at daily, six months of repetition. It gets tedious and frustrating; you just want to get out there.

PGN: What was your first day like? ES: My first day was exciting. I was on a foot post in Staten Island with another rookie. We were just walking around and the sergeant came around and “scratched our books,” which just meant that he signed off our books saying that he checked in on us. He drove away and, shortly after, we heard him say over the radio that he had a car stopped. A car stop is pretty routine, but all of a sudden we heard him shouting on the radio that the guy had a bunch of drugs and was running from the scene. The other rookie and I started running but we totally lost the guy. They called in canine units and everything looking for him and then finally called off the search. We were walking back to the police car and we heard shuffling sounds down an alley we were passing. We shined our flashlights and there was the guy crouching down. We were like, “Oh man, now what do we do?” We went in and got him and it was awesome. I’ll never forget that adrenaline rush when I shined my flashlight down and saw his face. It was not the kind of thing I expected on my first day. It was pretty cool, though, and I was hooked.

PGN: A memorable moment on the force? ES: I was on a foot patrol by myself. It was about midnight and there was no one around. I was getting bored and was just listening to the radio and clocking time when I saw a guy walk out of a convenience store. I saw three youths come out of the store and catch up to him. At first I thought they were joking around, and then one of the kids pushed the guy down and started beating on him. I realized that they were robbing him so I ran across the street and they started running. I tackled one of the kids and he accidentally fell forward into the other kid, who went down too. Thankfully they stayed on the ground. There happened to be an off-duty officer in the store and he heard the commotion and went after the third kid. I’d radioed in that I was in a pursuit and every unit around responded. When a cop needs help, everyone shows up. But the time they got there, I had all three cuffed and ready to go. They’d had guns on them too. It was just luck that the one kid had knocked the other over when I tackled him and that another cop was there to get the third, but to the guys it looked like I was a superhero standing there with the three culprits ready for transport.

PGN: What was your mother’s reaction when you said you were going to be a cop? ES: Well, I’d wanted to be a police officer since I was a kid. There’s a picture on the refrigerator of me when I was about 5 standing next to a police car and another picture of me with a little policeman’s play outfit on. I think it was something she was expecting but not exactly happy about.

PGN: Did you ever have any inappropriate proposals? ES: No, but I did have two women whom I’d arrested try to get out of it by telling me how cute I was. They seemed nice but obviously I wasn’t interested and let it go at that. A few weeks later they filed a complaint with the Citizens’ Review Board that I’d touched them inappropriately. My sergeant got the call from his boss and he just started laughing and said, “Are you talking about Sorg? This must be a joke ’cause Sorg is not into women. I can assure you they’re making it up.”

PGN: There’s one benefit to being out on the job! So how did you end up at Uncles? ES: When I came to school in 2001, I needed to get a job. I went to bartending school during Christmas break and dropped off résumés at all the local bars. Uncles called me two hours later and asked me to come in. And the rest is history.

PGN: What’s the best thing about working here? ES: There are certain customers that you bond with and get to be friends with. I go to school Monday through Friday, so it’s nice to be at work and get to socialize with people. This pretty much is my social life.

PGN: Have you used your police training here? ES: There was a guy in here pick-pocketing people one day and I hopped over the bar and went after him. I have to break up fights from time to time.

PGN: And you met your boyfriend here too? ES: Yes, it was two days before I left for New York to join the police academy. I was off work and he walked past me on his way to the bathroom. I remarked that he was cute and when he came back by, my friend who was sitting with me stopped him and told him I wanted to buy him a shot. I was mortified, but he said yes. We talked for a bit and, before he left, he invited me to go over to The Bike Stop with him and his friends. I went over and had a beer with him and we just hit it off. We’ve been together over four years.

PGN: Is he a sports guy too? ES: No, no, he’s not into sports at all. I spent a lot of time around the ocean growing up and I love fishing. It’s the one sporty thing he does with me and he’s really gotten into it. It’s our thing now during the summer. Technically fishing is a sport, isn’t it? PGN: Any other hobbies? ES: I love to ski. Unfortunately I broke my ankle, so I didn’t get to ski this winter.

PGN: Slope accident? ES: No! We were driving here in Philly and a car ran the intersection and plowed into us. It wasn’t a major accident but enough to break my ankle when our car hit the curb.

PGN: Did you have a romantic Valentine’s Day? ES: I used to send flowers to his workplace every year but now he works from home, so it’s not quite the same. He travels a lot, so romantic for us was just having dinner at home together. We both like to cook, so we had a nice steak dinner with champagne and oysters on the half shell. It was nice.

PGN: What traits have you inherited from your parents? ES: I got my mother’s nose. It’s the family nose on her side, very Italian. My father is very shy and I definitely inherited that from him. It’s kind of weird that I chose bartending for a job. Sometimes people think I’m standoffish or something, but I’m actually just really bashful. So if you talk to me and you think I’m being mean to you, I’m not.

PGN: People mistake me for … ES: People say I look like Robert De Niro, but I don’t know.

PGN: A real-life hero? ES: I really have a lot of respect for the police officers in Philadelphia and I feel for them each time another one gets killed. They’re losing so many — it’s a mess.

PGN: Did you have any rituals or superstitions to keep you from harm? ES: My mother gave me a St. Michael medallion. He’s supposed to be the patron saint of police officers. I wore it when I was on the force but I took it off after I left. I was raised Roman Catholic, but I’m not an overly religious person.

PGN: Did you have to deal with the “blue wall” of silence? ES: I have to say, I never once witnessed any corruption or bad behavior. I think that there’s a public perception of cops as borderline criminals, but all of the people who I worked with were good people out there for the right reasons. There are bad apples — I had a run-in with one before I got a badge — but 99 percent of the guys are good guys. And we are under such strict regulations with so many people watching that it’s hard to screw up.

PGN: Let’s change direction. What’s something that made you laugh until you hurt? ES: My brother, who is straight and in the Marine Corps, called to tell me he’d been out at a club with his buddies. He was in South Carolina and met this girl, who he was dancing with all night. He later found out that she wasn’t technically a girl. He called me freaking out and he was like, “Oh my God, am I gay?” I was on the floor laughing. I reassured him that it didn’t mean he was gay.

PGN: Any pets? ES: I have a cat named Priscilla. Priscilla, Queen of South Philly.

PGN: Brush with fame? ES: I got to escort Bill Clinton across the street. He said, “Thank you, Officer Sorch,” which was nice of him even though he got my name wrong. He’s a great guy.

PGN: A smell that makes you stop and reflect? ES: [Laughs.] I want to say my mother’s pot of sauce. The smell of the meatballs and tomato sauce reminds me of being a kid, but someone else just said that recently in your column! So instead I’ll say Uncles. The place has an unmistakable smell to it. I don’t know what it is, but when I was visiting from New York and I’d walk in here, the smell always made me feel at home.

PGN: Favorite Halloween costume? ES: They had a tradition of dressing in drag on Halloween at Uncles. The first year, I said, “No way. I’m not putting on a dress!” But as soon as they put the wig on me, my first reaction was, “I need a bag to go with this, oh and some shoes … ” I was hooked. I was a Hooter’s girl. I’m not into drag, but it was hysterical.

PGN: Did you discover a feminine side? ES: [Laughs.] I discovered I liked having boobs! I kept touching and playing with them.

PGN: Did you call your brother and say, “Does this mean I’m straight?”

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