By Michael Klein | Philadelphia Inquirer | February 12, 2006

Sylvester Stallone has been here reprising his role as Rocky in the movie Rocky Balboa.

And so, it turns out, are Rocky’s pet turtles, Cuff and Link – and they are the same turtles featured in the first Rocky, shot here 30 years ago.

Cuff and Link are alive and well and living in Kensington, and they’re still in showbiz. (They have the hard shell for it.)

A Rocky Balboa rep told me recently that the turtles used in this sixth Rocky movie were making their screen debut. But Joseph Marks and John “Red” Stuart, reading that claim in last Sunday’s column, called to set the story straight, and the Rocky rep now acknowledges bad intel. Marks owned J&M Tropical Fish, the store that doubled as the pet shop where Adrian (Talia Shire) worked in the early Rockys. Stuart, Marks’ nephew and a sideshow performer, lives in the now-closed store and cares for the turtles.

Marks has a signed note from Rocky Balboa’s set decorator, Robert Greenfield, identifying the female red-eared sliders as the originals and affirming that Marks lent them for Rocky Balboa. While the twins did their close-ups on a set at Rocky’s “house” on Emerald Street, Stuart entertained Stallone by swallowing a sword.

Marks says Cuff and Link were dropped off at J&M after the first Rocky wrapped in December 1975. The shop didn’t sell turtles at the time, but production workers wanted the girls – then about 5 years old – to have a good home.

They got one. They frolic in an aquarium decorated with a few rocks. Stuart feeds them dry Meow Mix and talks to them. Not sure whether he reads them Variety.

Over the 30 years, each has grown to the size of a small dinner plate – more than 8 inches from tip to tip. Cuff’s tail has a chunk taken out of it and Link’s shell is yellower. Stuart says they can live 80 years or more. (Visions of Rocky 20!)

Marks, who closed J&M last year and now works at the GNC at 1711 Chestnut St., says he saw Stallone in the fall when the movie’s star/director/writer was location-scouting near the fish store, in a hardscrabble area under the El. “I thought to myself, ‘Should I go over and say hello?’ I tapped him on the sleeve and asked if he remembered me. He said he did. I told him I had to close the store because of economics.”

Marks mentioned that the turtles were still around, and “two weeks later, I got a call,” he says.

In other Rocky Balboa news, Stallone did the “Rocky steps” scene at the Art Museum yesterday. That’s the final scene before Stallone flies out.