Volume 44 Number 51

Appetite: Forks up for two big events


10/3 CUESA 8th Annual Sunday Supper Fundraiser — CUESA (The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), which runs the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, is throwing its 8th Annual Sunday Supper on October 3. It’s a CUESA fundraiser, whole animal feast, chef gala and drink event all rolled into one. Not to mention a night where local farmers and purveyors mingle to enjoy a meal made from local ingredients and sustainably raised meats.

The chef lineup is pretty killer: there’s Chris Cosentino of Incanto, Craig Stoll of Delfina, Annie Somerville of Greens, Thomas McNaughton of Flour+Water, Mourad Lahlou of Aziza, and so on. Over 60 chefs represent with tableside carvings at each communal table, offering a range of meats from steer to lamb. It’s sure to be one raucous feast.
For those who can’t swing the $200 whole-package night, there’s the $75 reception, which will still fund CUESA’s worthy endeavors in local sustainable food education. The reception includes over 30 different hors d’oeuvres and five artisan cocktails made with local spirits, like the great Charbay and St. George Sprits. There’s also regional wines like Benziger and Hahn. In other words, a little something for everyone.
10/3, 5:30pm reception ($75), 7pm dinner ($200, includes reception)
One Ferry Building
Get a load of the chef line-up and buy tickets here: cuesasundaysupper.eventbrite.com

9/25 PRIMAL NAPA – “Celebrating Fire Cooking, Meat and the Art of Butchering” — Yes, butchery is an art and PRIMAL Napa throws its second annual shindig to highlight and celebrate that art. Many of the country’s best butchers and chefs will be butchering and grilling using hardwood fire cooking methods, local foods from responsible farms, and whole animal utilization. Held at Chase Cellars, wines and spirits will flow among breakdown demos of every kind of animal from lamb to cow. Locals like Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats and Peter McNee from Poggio will be there, but so will the likes of Joshua Applestone from Fleisher’s in New York, John Sundstrom from Seattle’s Lark, and Dave Varley from Bourbon Steak DC (he was 2010’s Grand Cochon winner).
Some of your ticket costs benefit the City of Napa Fire Explorers program, while Friday night there’s a special Chef & Butcher Dinner at Farmstead, one of my favorite restaurant additions to Napa County this year. There’s only a handful of seats at $150 each so hurry and reserve by emailing brady@tastenetwork.org.

It’s all-you-can-eat (and drink) and it all sounds mouth-watering, though if it were me, I’d make a run straight for Magnolia‘s Beer & Sausage Bar. They’ll be featuring a special Magnolia Meaty Brew beer and The Alembic‘s Daniel Hyatt is mixing spirits. Don’t forget all afternoon wine tastings (everything from CADE Winery to Rubicon Estate), and the Bacon Hall of Fame (2-5pm) featuring killer hams like Tennessee’s Benton’s and local Hobb’s Applewood Smoked.

9/25, 2-7pm
$75 (VIP – $125)
Chase Cellars’ Hayne Vineyard, 2252 Sulphur Springs Avenue, St. Helena

–Subscribe to Virgina’s twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot: www.theperfectspotsf.com

Hot sluts!



SEX ISSUE Forget those uptight pricks: sluts are awesome. There’s no shame in harboring a voracious appetite for sexiness in all its myriad expressions. Combined with a well-developed ethical stance and safe practices, it’s one of the joys of being human. In honor of the enormous, charitable Folsom Street leather and fetish fair (Sun/26, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., donations requested. www.folsomstreetfair.org), we wanted to honor some of our favorite local sluts with the pervy attention they want and deserve. 



You’ve always wanted to watch your neighbors bang, right? Well moan enthusiastically in honor of the Good Vibrations Indie Erotic Film Festival, which every year puts the call out for the cream of the amateur blue filmmaker crop, then assembles the spunkiest for your viewing pleasure at the Castro Theatre. You too can be in the audience, which will ooh and aah its approval to choose the sexiest, steamiest home-screw, the lucky winner receiving a $1,500 money shot. So how does SF get it on? This year’s 12 finalists include preggo smut (Jeannie Roshar’s “Bun in the Oven”), good old-fashioned wordplay like Benjamin Williams’ “The Filth Element,” and sci-fi sexin’ (“Orgasm Raygun” by Martin Gooch). The fest precedes a range of specialty nights around town coordinated by Good Vibes, including Lebso Retro: A Dyke Porn Retrospective (Wed/22 at the Women’s Building). It’s gonna be a hot ticket, so grab a seat, relax your rear, and revel in the sight of sexy San Francisco.

Thurs/23 pre party: 7 p.m., $10; screening: 8 p.m., $10. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF. (415) 621-6120, www.gv-ixff.org



“I’m so honored to be named Sluttiest Queen,” inimitable alternative drag goddess Suppositori Spelling tells us. “It’s nice to see that my work hasn’t gone unnoticed. I have so many performances that require nudity that when I drop my skirt lately it’s often met with a wave of yawns from my audience. I think they’re more shocked by the presence of panties nowadays.” (Her audience, found at her raucous weekly drag show Cocktailgate — Sundays, 9 p.m., $5. Truck, 1900 Folsom St., SF. www.trucksf.com — sheds a few panties themselves when she’s on stage.) “I could tell you stories so dirty hot that this paper would burn like a Koran in Florida” she continues, “but I’m so shy and reserved. I will say this, though: as far as the queer sex scene in San Francisco goes, we seem to be in the flush of a renaissance. I keep stumbling upon things that even make me blush — like the gentleman who preferred a visible handjob on public transportation during rush hour as foreplay. But I encourage whatever floats your boat or creams your Twinkie. I just want to clarify, however, that “ouch” is not a safe word!”

Suppositori emcees the Seventh Street stage at Folsom Street Fair from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., followed by a special performance at 2:30 p.m., and then a “hanky code” themed Cocktailgate at its regular time.



Dan and JD, a.k.a. Two Knotty Boys, are no strangers to the twists and loops of BDSM performance. Native San Franciscans both, they not only create mesmerizing stage shows in which they bind nubile flesh to their will, but also produce end results so visionary that you’d be excused for leaving off the “fetish” and dubbing it merely “fashion.” A ever-so-tightly cinched halter top of gleaming white cord, a barely there cobweb bikini that requires an expert hand to remove, overlays of skirts and dresses that hobble the wearer seductively and at the same time, show off the contours of the female body. It’s neat, it’s adjustable, it’s sexily professional work. It’s easy to see why the duo has filmed more than 100 video tutorials and taught countless workshops in the Bay and beyond for their eager fans: the Boys have tied up hundreds of women but, unlike some humiliation artists, they have never tied down their subjects’ beauty and comfort.




Was it written on the rock hard abs of some San Franciscan sex god that all coital gatherings in this city have to be stark and stoic? Thankfully, the colorful gang over at Kinky Salon never got that memo. Creators Polly and Scott have created a swinger’s playland party in the pink and purple rooms of Mission Control whose focus is flair: playful costume themes have focused on everything from kitty cats (the upcoming Pussyfest) to undersea adventure and fairy tale characters. You’ve never lived, it would seem, until your Snow White costume has been peeled off on the couch in the Harem Room by Tinkerbell and Captain Hook. More recently, the team has created a new magazine to celebrate the vast array of sexualities that their partygoers lay claim to: San Fran Sexy. The rag includes erotic history lessons from sexologist Dr. Carol Queen, memoir pieces from Bawdy Storytelling’s Dixie De La Tour, photos from recent Kinky Salon soirees, and news of sensual events to come.




“If the Meat Sluts were a Pink Lady, we’d be Rizzo! We ain’t no prudes like Sandy!” says BB Rumproast of rockin’ band the Meat Sluts (www.myspace.com/themeatsluts). In a world of vegan dogs, her XXX-chromosomed trash rock-punk explosion is an all-beef foot long. The four women are cookin’ on stage — literally. In addition to the occasional back up steak dancing alongside their guitar licks and growls, the Meat Sluts have shared space at shows with a live hot dog-maker and a meat grinder flinging sausage and baloney onto hungry fans. It’s messy, carnivorous fun — the perfect expression of the group’s embrace of hedonistic appetite that could care less about what’s considered “ladylike” at the table of the musical establishment. “We are loose and crazy and not ashamed of it! We love man meat! We love weenies! Beef baloney, Slim Jims, T-bones, bring it ON!” says Rumproast. To quote the Sluts’ rager rally cry “Johnny Con Carne,” that’s what we call makin’ bacon.

The Meat Sluts play Dodgyfest 3, Oct 2, 7 p.m., $10. Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. www.theeparkside.com



Fleur De Lis SF has a bone to pick with the way hot and horny females are portrayed. “Women are just as sexual as men and they should own it,” the blogger tells us. Need proof? Check out the blog she started this summer — just make sure your hands are free and you’ve got a little privacy while you do so. Her posts are missives from a professional woman’s enthusiastic exploration of sensual subcultures in “one of the sexiest cities in the world.” Though her identity is clad in secrecy, Fleur De Lis SF’s escapades with Craig’s List Casual Encounters, BDSM clubs, and randy run-ins at the grocery store will leave you slicker than a Slip ‘N Slide in 90 percent humidity. Erotic inspiration notwithstanding, what we love about this new It slut is her candor and assertiveness. “Mainly, I want to educate people to embrace sex and sexuality,” she says. “I want people to accept who they are, and who are we are sexually is a huge part of who we are as people.”




For the past few years, hunky leatherman cruisers have been blessed with the return of a SoMa bar crawl, which, while hardly rivaling the infamous Miracle Mile of the 1970s and ’80s, at least offers hide-lusting bar-hoppers an array of options. Truck, Hole in the Wall, Powerhouse, the Eagle, Lone Star — all make for a daisy chain of fellow cock-seekers. But the piece de resistance is surely Chaps II, which gives itself wholly over to man-action bliss. The original Chaps, owned by Chuck Slaton and Ron Morrison, was notorious for its Crisco-minded shenanigans, and Chaps II, opened in 2008 by David Morgan, continues the proudly perverse tradition, with parties devoted to rope play, piss play, fisting, and sports gear aficionados, as well as regular nights simply dedicated to the Holy Grail of slutty manhood: cheap ass. (For those unfamiliar — cheap ass tastes like chicken parmesan.) Kudos to you, Chaps II, for keeping the BDSM spirit alive — and serving a healthy round of Jäger shots to boot.

1225 Folsom, SF. (415) 255-2427, www.chapsbarsanfrancisco.com



Drilldo, Intruder MK II, the Satisfyher, Scorpion, the Little Guy, Annihilator, the Octapussy — these are some of the friendly, dripping sex robots you’ll meet at FuckingMachines.com, part of the Kink.com kingdom. The machines put a bevy of heaving beauties through the motions with their dildo-studded fingers and pulsating hacksaw thrusts. Designed by lucky site users, who submit their moving-parts fantasies, and the fiendishly clever sex-elves at the Fucking Machines workshop (with many of the machines fabricated on site at Kink’s HQ in the Mission Armory), these fascinating thingamabobs range from devilishly dirty to actually kind of cute. There’s even one modeled on Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, albeit renamed Fuckzilla and outfitted with a huge silicone phallus. The whole shebang is overseen by the enthusiastic Tomcat, who drives the point home that, yes, a chainsaw outfitted with 20 fake tongues “challenges the whole idea that women need someone to buy them dinner to get pleasure.” Fucking machines themselves have been around since the 1960s, he notes, “but when we started in 2001, we wanted to capitalize on the tech wave, while approaching the machine construction like sculpture.” Good thing the Fucking Machine bubble didn’t burst.



Burlesque heroine Baroness Eva Von Slüt knows what she’s got, and she’s happy to show it to you. The inked, buxom platinum blonde dove into burlesque in 2002, but she’s never been afraid of flaunting her dangerous curves onstage. “Whatever the thing is that women have that they hate their bodies, I just don’t have it. I don’t compare myself to other people because I know I look good.” Von Slüt produces her own burlesque shows, plays party-jumping jams with partner DJ Mod Days, and heads up the vocals for no less than two sexy bands — Thee Merry Widows, an all-girl psychobilly explosion of fishnets, red lipstick, and leather dresses, at whose shows Von Slüt will bust out in pasties and sequined panties, and the White Barons, a stripped down, hard-edged punk outfit in which Von Slüt lets her rebel growl loose. So what gets this freight train whistling? Purrs the lady, “Self-confidence and kindness. Also, I am a bit of a cougar, so gentlemen 10 years younger. I’m not opposed to men my age or older, but gosh they’re just so sweet when they’re young!”

Catch Von Slüt’s DJ session on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Butter, 354 11th St., SF. www.myspace.com/missevavonslut



There are a lot of gay musclemen at the Folsom Street Fair, and there are a lot of steamy, shirtless gay man-parties surrounding the event (causing quite a few Monday morning tragedies). But what about everyone else? “I was talking to my friends at Kink,” says Folsom organizer Demetri Moshoyannis, “and they said that once the fair ended, all the leathermen had a place to go, but everyone at the Kink booth just had to go home. So this year we teamed up with them to change that.” The result? A glorious-sounding omnisexual dance party called Deviants that’s open to everyone. The acknowledgment that gay muscle men aren’t the only ones who can get down and dirty into the wee hours is refreshing. But so is the musical lineup — the Juan Maclean, Zach Moore from Space Cowboys, Australia’s Stereogamous — which offers something beyond the carnival circuit-music at many of the other parties. Musclemen are welcome, too, of course, as long as they’re willing to shake their chains on the dance floor.

Sun/26, 6 p.m.–2 a.m., $30 advance. 525 Harrison, SF. www.folsomstreetfair.org/deviants



It’s not too many harems that offer you 40 different ways to satisfy your cravings. But hot, lip-smacking loving can be yours — in three different locations or for delivery, no less! — whenever that urge to do something naughty hits, whether you like it on your lunch hour or for a post-bar dirty stopover. Oh, Pizza Orgasmica, you sure do know what gets us going. The local chain has umpteen big, salacious pies with nookie-themed names for your perusing. And although the Ménage à Trois, with it’s cuddle puddle of five salty cheeses, will leave you panting, and the Latin Lover’s barbeque sauce, chicken, zucchini, onions, and cilantro make for a meaty, spicy affair, the sluttiest pie award has got to go to the Farmer’s Daughter. She looks like a demure little milkmaid (after all, you can find her on the vegetarian menu) — but once her drizzles of creamy bianca cheese hit your tongue, and her fresh corn and broccoli fill your mouth … it’s a tumble in the hay you won’t soon forget. Old MacDonald would be scandalized.

Various locations, www.pizzaorgasmica.com



When it comes gender-bending sexual escapades, we landlubbing bipeds tend to give short shrift to our finned, feathered, and multi-legged Earthmates. That’s why we’re giving a hearty bottoms up to the California Academy of Science’s Amphiprion ocellaris. The showy orange and white striped fish, whose common name is clownfish, is best known as the aquatic brat in Finding Nemo. But we don’t care about Nemo’s celebrity — or his billions. We salute him for his ability to shift from male to female when needed, giving her access to the entire spectrum of fishy sexuality. One of the planet’s rare sequential hermaphrodites, all clownfish are born male (protandrous hermaphrodites) but become female when the female in a breeding pair dies. You may never look at a clownfish the same way again — and you should certainly go and look at them at the Cal Academy aquarium (www.calacademy.org), where the San Franciscan clownfish ride tiny fixies, design websites, and sip Blue Bottle. Kidding! But maybe we should rethink always calling them “Nemo.” How about Nema for a change? Or Nemo-ma. Or, oh goddess of LGBT fish love, Nemaphrodite.



It’s lunchtime Friday and you need a juicy thigh in your mouth: Gold Club is there. And no, we’re not talking about the lovely ladies popping, dropping, and locking it all over the SoMa strip club’s pleasure poles. Carnal urges take on new meaning when it comes to the joint’s $5 all you can eat Friday buffet, an omnivorous affair stuffed with roast beef, lasagna, fresh veggies, hummus, brownies, and their signature breasts (or as one Yelper so memorably dubbed them, “fried chicken tit-tays!”) The spread attracts a diverse crowd of office workers and lap-dance connoisseurs of all genders, endowed with an appetite for crispy skin and jiggling glutei maximi alike. So pair your plate with a $4 happy hour cocktail — available until 7 p.m. — and don’t forget to share your savings with the working women up front.

Gold Club’s all you can eat buffet Fridays 11 a.m.– 2 p.m., $5. 650 Howard, SF. (415) 536-0300, www.goldclubsf.com

Slutty profiles written by Marke B., Caitlin Donohue, Johnny Ray Huston, and Diane Sussman.

Winner takes it all


DOCUMENTARY Before American Idol and all subsequent parasitical imitators, there was nothing on American TV quite like the annual Eurovision Song Contest. In fact, there still isn’t — that event’s multinational scope and emphasis on original (or at least regional) material is eons from AI‘s hits regurgitated by wailing wannabes.

Originating in 1956, the climactic broadcast is hosted each year by a different city. It’s been a wellspring of MOR trash, serving a mainstream demographic similar to yet distinct from U.S. tastes, less susceptible to pop vs. rock snobbism. Its most celebrated success story ABBA was the quintessential ESC group — glam, groomed, Top 40, and camera-ready — whose winning 1974 “Waterloo” launched their career as the Me Decade’s most vanilla disco-pop enterprise. Celine Dion also won, 14 years later. Let us forget that.

Other artists have been less stressfully forgotten — indeed, few Eurovision winners or competitors graduate to significant careers. Eurovision has increasingly been criticized as representing overly generic, visually showy musical acts. TV ratings have slumped. Yet in developing and/or post-glasnost countries, it remains a major cultural event.

Thus 2003’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest founding naturally hooked a wide audience still susceptible to the crack-like combo of kiddie cuteness and vaguely nationalized Vegas showmanship.

Brit Jamie J. Johnson’s doc Sounds Like Teen Spirit: A Popumentary arrives here as the opening feature in the San Francisco Film Society’s inaugural International Children’s Film Festival. A treasure trove of both snarkalicious garishness and sympathetic characters worth rooting for, it is an all-ages-access joy.

Johnson focuses on a few diverse aspirants in the 2007 competition, all age 10 to 15. They include tiny Tom Jones-in-training Cyprian Yiorgos Ioannides and Georgian belter Marina Baltadzi, whose advance toward the top (among more than 14,000 initial entrants) becomes a source of national pride. In this context, Belgian quartet Trust seem incongruous for being an actual band who play instruments, write their own songs, and require no dance or costume input. Most competing acts recall the Brady Bunch and 1984’s Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo — musically, choreographically, Spandex-sartorially — albeit with touristy “ethnic” twists.

Refreshingly, no kids here seem pushed forward by Lindsay Lohan-esque stage mamas or papas — their ambition is very much their own. No doubt most will cringe in later years at the pubescent portrait Spirit paints. But this good-humored documentary loves its subjects, and so will you.


Sept. 24–26, $8–$20

Embarcadero Center Cinema

One Embarcadero Center,

Promenade Level, SF

(925) 866-9559


“Red” bayou


STAGE The young woman has something wrong with her; a chorus of women tell us so. They’re neighbors in the same particular, yet nebulous, time/place: a housing project in a nameless small town in the Louisiana bayou, some time in the “distant present.” As if floating on water, the young woman, an African American teen named Oya (Lakisha May), lies prone on a dais at the center of an otherwise bare stage as they speak of her. Her name, like those of all the characters in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water, evokes African folklore, but there is something of the classical Greek tragedy about all this too, something of Lorca, and more. This is meta-theatrical terrain as hybrid and multifarious as the culture of the bayou itself.

As we circle back to the beginning of her story, Oya seems destined for great things. She’s an exceptional runner, a natural in fact, and it brings her great joy as well as the offer of a scholarship to the state school. But she defers the offer to be with her ailing single mother (Nicol Foster) and soon finds herself not moving at all.

Oya’s hopes shift to love. But the great love of her young life, a lothario named Shango (an excellent Isaiah Johnson), soon joins the military, leaving Oya to the care of a fallback sweetheart, the big, gentle, stuttering Ogun Size (Ryan Vincent Anderson). She continues stagnating, restless, unhappy, spending all her time on the porch of her house. It seems a baby might save Oya, but she appears incapable of becoming pregnant. Her desperation grows, since her womb and her world will not. Left with no room to breathe, no air, no forward motion, Oya’s fate is all but sealed.

It would be something for any new play by a playwright under 30 to live up to the hype that greeted McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water, which opened last week at Marin Theatre Company. Fortunately for playwright and audience alike, MTC delivers a solid production, attractively staged by its own producing director, Ryan Rilette (whose relationship with the playwright goes back to a production at Rilette’s former stomping grounds, New Orleans’ Southern Rep), and featuring some fine performances by a strong, engaging ensemble. But if the Bay Area premiere of this first work in McCraney’s much touted trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays — all being staged over the coming weeks in an unprecedented coproduction by MTC, the Magic, and ACT — well serves the real talents exhibited by the acclaimed newcomer, the play itself still falls short of its ambitious scope.

Rilette’s impressive cast and fluid staging take the poetry and humor in McCraney’s words and run with it. The playwright has his characters voice their own and others’ stage directions — calling knowing attention to the artifice of theatrical storytelling as well as the narrations we make of our own lives — and the actors handle this aspect with aplomb, deftly shifting from bland utterance to in-character performance of the emotion or action described. There’s much well-throated song and some affecting sensuality here too. But the theatrical style only partly makes up for some thinness in plot and character. Oya’s is a humble story, at one level, and the strength of the play comes in recognizing her as worthy of our attention. At the same time, the playwright’s urge to cast her along a trajectory of classical-tragic proportions ends up feeling overblown instead of quietly poignant.

Bay Area audiences have the opportunity to see The Brother/Sister Plays trilogy over the coming weeks, which is no small thing, marking an unprecedented collaboration between three major companies. The Magic Theatre opens The Brothers Size this week (Size having first brought attention to McCraney when it was produced by New York City’s Public Theater in 2006) and American Conservatory Theater will follow in October with the Bay Area premiere of Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet. Qualifications aside, this is an unusual and enticing project all around. 


Through Oct. 10, $32–$-53

Marin Theatre Company

397 Miller, Mill Valley

(415) 388-5208


Horns of plenty



MUSIC Shaun O’Dell is best known for his visual art work — work that has earned him a Goldie from the Guardian, a SECA Award from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and more recently the Tournesol Award at Headlands Center for the Arts. Less known is O’Dell’s work in music, likely because over the years the artist has distanced himself from the scene, its attendant clash of egos, and the oft-inevitable creative tussles. “I’d been in bands before,” he says by phone. “That’s part of the reason I went into visual art. I didn’t want to collaborate with people anymore — it just got weird and stressful.”

So when old friend and Thee Oh Sees leader John Dwyer — for whom O’Dell played sax on an early Coachwhips recording — asked the painter to try his hand at his latest project with Randy Lee Sutherland (Vholtz, Murder Murder) a couple years ago, O’Dell obviously wasn’t planning on major sand scuffles or gladiatorial touring.

The three started playing together, and lo, “it worked.” Meaning, the trio might play a little before a performance and then bring it all together live, while improvising. “It wasn’t rehearsed music — it was more build-up-a-language music,” as O’Dell puts it. “The energy was really about the live thing, but there was a lot of energy between the three of us whenever we played. It was good that way — no hassles.”

“We played shows a lot of times with noise bands, and we weren’t trying to make noise — we weren’t trying to make chaos. We were basically searching through the chaos to find these common places for us to make harmonic things happen or melodic things happen or rhythmic things coalesce,” O’Dell recollects. “I think the music was interesting to me because both those guys were committed to communicating but not afraid to explore and have the music fall apart at times, and I think on the record you can hear that.”

You can hear that sense of play, exploration, and driving pulse on Sword and Sandals’ studio debut, Good & Plenty (Empty Cellar). O’Dell and Sutherland, both on alto sax, weave in and out of each other’s lines, calling like exotic birds, while Dwyer picks up such unexpected instruments as the flute on the untitled second track. Dwyer and Sutherland took turns on drums, O’Dell played tenor and Sutherland bass clarinet, and all three played keyboards, with Dwyer, and on one track, Anthony Petrovic of Ezee Tiger, interjecting with electronics and a ramshackle Moog at engineer Lars Savage’s Mission District studio.

Tracked live during one all-day Ben Hur of a session, sans overdubs, Good & Plenty‘s improvisations pull at the ear insistently, with one foot lodged in the warehouses of SF’s post-punk/-hardcore experimental music scene and another in the wild, woolly outback of improv. “All three of us have played music enough to commit to playing off the top of our heads and listening enough to make something work,” observes O’Dell. “I think that’s what made it different.”

It’s all different now: after two years with Sword and Sandals, two 2007 live CD-Rs, and a track on a Zum TwoThousandTapes compilation earlier this year, O’Dell has left the band. Instead O’Dell and Sutherland are carrying on as a duo dubbed WR/DS, playing the S&S release-show-of-sorts at Viracocha and O’Dell’s book release party at Park Life Gallery. O’Dell hopes to incorporate a string section at Park Life, wryly describing WR/DS repetitive, sometimes-Terry-Reilly-inspired experiments as “art gallery music. It means we like to do it in spaces that make acoustic music sound good. It’s kind of a joke — but kind of not a joke.”

Not that Sword and Sandals wasn’t touched or touched by the art realm as well. “For me, it became a good outlet for trusting in the unknown, as far as it was related to my art practice,” explains O’Dell. “I was overdoing it for years and years, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m interested in the places I don’t know about so much.

“It’s a different thing playing music,” he continues, “but your brain is doing the same thing — just letting go and not judging yourself and playing and not judging other people you’re playing with and finding space to make music.”


With Up Died Sound, Pillars and Tongues, and Joseph Childress

Wed/22, 8 p.m., call for price


998 Valencia, SF

(415) 374-7048


Also Sept. 30, 6–8 p.m., free

Park Life Gallery

220 Clement, SF

(415) 386-7275


After dubstep



MUSIC Dom Maker and Kai Campos met a few years ago at university in South London, where they bonded over the emerging wobble of what would become the biggest underground music of the decade: dubstep. Campos introduced Maker to some tracks he was producing on his computer, and in a year’s time they both started making music together. These were the early years, before the duo became Mount Kimbie and would advance dubstep beyond its typically rigid hopscotch game between ferocious bass and synth rattle. Mount Kimbie got down on simple software, played around with some loops, sang a bit, and ventured out of their bedrooms to suck the life of countryside and alleyway sounds into hungry recording devices.

“I started using the computer because it was the only way I could record my music on my own,” Maker tells me during an e-mail correspondence. “I tried numerous times to start a band, but nothing came about. I thought I would try it myself, and I was surprised that some of the material came out sounding so electronic.”

That desire for a band’s musicality transferred over to Mount Kimbie’s unique approach to make songs that reside on the fence — surely now a sad, rotting wooden fence — separating dance hits and pastoral folk. The duo passed a demo of original beats around and caught the attention of Paul Rose, a.k.a. Scuba, head of the independent British label Hotflush Recordings, who signed them even though they don’t produce the sort of face-melting dubstep that incites one-hand-in-the-air frenzies. You can absorb Maker and Campos’ sounds while swinging in a deserted beachside playground. I’d say that it’s music for trains and spaceships, grottos or mountaintops. But hey, that’s just me.

Last year Mount Kimbie dropped the EPs Maybes and Sketch on Glass, both on Hotflush, two stunning odysseys into the future of digital sound. Maker’ and Campos’ efforts have culminated with this summer’s excellent full-length debut, Crooks and Lovers (also on Hotflush), an electronic soundscape prone to the sort of expansive emotional wandering that you typically hear only in dusty blues records.

“As we have progressed as Mount Kimbie, both of us have become more interested in looking at [different] ways of recording and creating sound than just through the use of software synths,” Maker says. “The album is very sample-based, along with a lot of our own field recordings and recorded guitar and vocals.” This amalgamation of live and digital sound taps into electricity of a listener’s nerve endings. Finally, some of the nebulous forms of technological feeling whirling with me — cultivated by years of video game playing and Internet surfing and everyday 21st century living — are affirmed, even vindicated. I’m one step closer to naming them.

There’s something urgent about Crooks and Lovers: It navigates a nebulous emotional tension so present in this age as we use gadgetry to bridge our loneliness and exuberance. “Tunnelvision” opens the record with a foreboding ambient noise. As if to spirit us away to the other side of that warp hole, the humming bass empties into a floral guitar riff marked by layers of scrambled vocals and softly burping electronics.

“[“Tunnelvison” is] made up almost entirely of material that we field recorded in a wind tunnel in the small village that I live in by the sea in Brighton,” Maker says. “It is interesting to work with sounds that have more feeling of place.” This sort of topography of emotion carries over throughout Crooks and Lovers. In “Before I Move Off,” a collage of bleeping keys washes over heavy percussion and a dreamy string melody. The songs continually build in a repetitive momentum toward release. Tension expands, contracts, and lets go, rotating in a feverish order.

Some songs linger within introspection. Round synthesized cords and off-kilter drum patterns enclose “Ruby” and “Carbonated” into an abyss that feels more like a great open sky than a frighteningly deep hole in Guatemalan soil. These cuts are matched by outward expressions of joy: “Mayor,” maybe the only banger on the record, lets the sub-bass erupt in helicopter jolts of energy over whirling keys that burst in gasps of smoke. But dubstep’s integral wobble is toned down here, a softer and less obnoxious gyration of energy that fits into the song’s methodical momentum. And always the fissured vocal cuts emerge from the shadows, coded and manipulated and barely recognizable, but striking — a reflection of our own inchoate inner gurgles of sound-patterns unable to organize themselves into the right words or shapes to let us express what we feel.

None of Mount Kimbie’s singles on Crooks and Lovers stand out with the same level of warmth and power as say “William” or “Serged” on their previous EPs. But the record is cohesive, meant to rise and fall in a full listening experience. It’s the sort of record that connects with common personal experiences, and then stretches them outward. After listening to it a few times — and it is a record that has immense replay value — I understand a bit more where Mount Kimbie is coming from and how they fit into today’s electronic music landscape.

If Burial is the fettered graveyard of the dubstep alter-verse, then Mount Kimbie is the haunted hillside where spectral ghosts, fleshed robots, and strange wisps of ephemeral life make their retreat during an indigo dusk that could just as easily be dawn. There’s something utterly enchanting there. Field recordings of everyday noise and mechanical grind weave slinky shapes around digital drum patterns that limp and leap and do windmills around sampled chirps and spherical bleeps. It’s a soundtrack for dissolution: the rigid lines between human and computer, sentience and thingness, city and nature, all melt away into the gushing blood that pumps through the sewer arteries beneath Mount Kimbie.

If my rampant speculations offend, then let me add that the loose framework of their resonant topography is very open to interpretation. “Mount Kimbie is a fictional creation that is just made up from two different names, both are part of the track name of a song by another band,” says Maker and Campos. “It is quite nice to be under a name that has no meaning and suggests nothing. We are not fans of being blatant with meanings.” And so the sun sets over the old town of dubstep. What’s next?


With Dntel, Asura, Mary Ann Hobbes and DJG

Sat/25, 9 p.m., $10

Mount Kimbie with Dntel, Asura, Mary Ann Hobbes, and DJG

Public Works

161 Erie, SF

(415) 932-0955


King of the beach



MUSIC That old saw about how the Velvet Underground’s first record may not have sold well but everyone who heard it went on to form their own band could also be said of Austrian composer/producer Christian Fennesz’s 2001 release Endless Summer (Mego).

Although I can’t speak to Endless Summer‘s sales numbers — surely the deluxe reissue treatment it received in 2007 must have helped it reach new ears — the influence of its honeyed guitar strums submerged in swells of digital glitch and distortion is clearly discernible in many contemporary MP3 blog favorites, from the laptop shoegaze of M83, to the muscular, ambient miasmas of Oneohtrix Point Never (who Fennesz recently remixed on the superb “Returnal” 7″ with Antony Haggerty), and even to the nostalgia-coddled, analog warmth of any number of “glo-fi” artists. And while indie’s seemingly endless succession of poppier “beach” bands may have only recently declared endless summers of their own, Fennesz had already been at the waterfront long before, summoning the ghosts of the Sandals and bending their essence into something strange and new without losing it entirely.

Of course, extolling the virtues and influence of a “classic” can inadvertently pigeonhole its creator. In the near decade since Endless Summer came out, many others have made bedfellows of their computers and guitars or slurred melody six ways through an effects chain, but few have consistently done so with as fine an ear for composition and as much conceptual care as Fennesz. Lest we forget, the man is a working musician, and his subsequent output — two solo albums for Touch, Venice (2004) and Black Sea (2008), as well as a slew of collaborative releases, remixes, 7-inch singles, and compilation cameos — has been as steady as it has been frequently stellar, often venturing further away from Endless Summer‘s sun-dappled shallows and into darker waters.

Take the recent live document Knoxville (Thrill Jockey), an improvised set recorded in early 2009 with experimental guitarist David Daniell and Necks’ drummer Tony Buck, which is perhaps as good a preview as any for Fennesz’s upcoming rare headlining set at the Swedish American Hall. Although billed as a trio, Daniell and Buck seem to take a backseat to Fennesz’s guitar and electronics, subtly augmenting his digitally processed guitar scrapes and chord fragments until everyone’s contributions become layered into a thickly textured undertow of noise. Like the best of Fennesz’s music, there is a strongly romantic kernel in Knoxville‘s walls of sound, an emotional tether that tightens as Buck’s rolls and scrapes, Daniell’s feedback, and Fennesz’s signal processing become more densely crosshatched. Simply put, it’s exhilarating. Much like a stolen kiss at sunset or catching your first wave.


With Odd Nosdam

Tues/28, 8 p.m., $20

Swedish American Hall

2170 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016


Franco’s reign


FILM Contrary to popular belief, James Franco is not always high; he is just very, very tired. When the near-ubiquitous actor-writer-director-visual artist-scholar-astronaut-Japanese body pillow enthusiast — who recently came out to the Advocate (as straight) — was in town for the Howl premiere at the Castro Theatre last June, he looked suitably exhausted and bedraggled — in an impish, adorable way, mind you.

Franco, who also recently (and somewhat inexplicably) admitted to compulsively masturbating four to five times a day, suffered from perpetual bouts of yawn-talking during his interview with the Guardian. He was a half-hour late due to a professed need for some “alone time.” Draw your own conclusions.

Taking on the outsized persona of poet-provocateur Allen Ginsberg in Howl is yet another item to tick off on his list of improbable accomplishments, which range from studying for simultaneous graduate degrees to starring on the venerable daytime soap opera General Hospital (as the mysterious, um, “Franco”) in between movie gigs and solo art shows.

And an accomplishment it most definitely is. It’s almost inconceivable that the same actor who initially gained acclaim for his uncanny portrayal of James Dean could also perfect the role of another great midcentury icon, the formidable bear-guru of all things counterculture, less than a decade later.

“I guess I thought if I ever played one of the Beats, it would never be Allen Ginsberg,” he admits, a fact that ironically drew him to the role. “It was actually more attractive to play Ginsberg rather than Neal Cassady or Jack Kerouac, who were closer to a James Dean type.” Fortunately for the slight, almost delicate Franco, this wasn’t the Ginsberg that most of us have come to know. “It’s Ginsberg to an age right before he became heavier and bearded and bald, the recognizable Ginsberg,” he explains.

Franco’s passion for the Beats goes back to his rebellious teen years, when he and his friends took regular trips from his Palo Alto home to City Lights bookstore in North Beach. “Everybody loved Kerouac, Burroughs’ Junky, or whatever. But Ginsberg — he was in touch with all the movements that came after the Beat movement, so he always stayed current. Now Ginsberg is probably my favorite.” Surprisingly, a major source of Franco’s inspiration for the role was his older brother, Tom, a sculptor who is “very into meditation.”

Besides an affinity for the darkly offbeat, the late Ginsberg and his onscreen doppelganger might have something else in common: a dangerous flirtation with overexposure. So far, at least, it hasn’t hurt Franco, who still allows himself plenty of me-time to reflect on a brilliant, if overextended, career in his own (very personal) way.

HOWL opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.

O victory forget your underwear




Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: The true “howl” in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s breezy bio-pic Howl is that of the ghost of Beat poet and queer countercultural icon Allen Ginsberg, patting his Buddha belly in the clouds and roaring at his good fortune to be portrayed by James Franco. Eat Pray Love‘s Elizabeth Gilbert may have scored the chick lit holy grail with Julia Roberts, but on the gay-o-meter, being reincarnated in the delectable body of Franco is pretty much to die for.

And Franco’s performance is a wonder, necessarily conveying all the maddening and inspiring elements of the young poet’s personality through subtle facial expressions, eye twinkles, and head cocks. I say necessarily because another thing Franco nails is Ginsberg’s pancake-flat vocal inflection. (Even at 31, Ginsberg came off like a nursing home resident grumbling over mushy latkes.)

There is the evangelical poeticizing and genius marketing. There is the awkward peacocking and needy perviness. And then there is Howl itself. I guess calling this a biopic is misleading. The movie is an amalgamation of styles — imagined interview, courtroom drama, historical flashback, animated fancy — that zeroes in on one particular slice of Ginsberg’s (and the nation’s) development: the celebrated 1957 obscenity trial over Howl the poem that seared Ginsberg, the Beats, and midcentury San Francisco into mainstream consciousness.

Focusing on that trial — City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and bookstore employee Shigeyoshi Murao were busted when Murao sold a copy of the poem to undercover cops — is an excellent strategy, and not just because, historical spoiler alert, Howl‘s victory provides a snappy climax. It also gives the filmmakers a chance to open a window on a particularly tumultuous time.

You get a little Mad Men-type excitement in the spot-on retro set designs and courtroom scenes, which rub old-school 1950s mores against the nascent cultural revolution. (Jon Hamm, Mad Men protagonist, plays the dashing defense lawyer.) You get some freshly presented Beat hagiography, with scenes of strapping young literary princes shaking off their fancy college pedigrees in New York and going, yes, on the road. Jack Kerouac, Neil Cassady, Peter Orlovsky … Beat fetishists will be readjusting their berets with glee.

Unfortunately, you also get long stretches of animated interpretations of the Howl text that seem incongruously imported from the neon-noir ’90s. Which in fact they were — illustrator Eric Drooker collaborated with Ginsberg for 1996’s Illuminated Poems, and he’s the animation designer here. The swirling ayurvedic tornadoes and cosmically copulating bodies, coupled with overly literal imagery (i.e. African American saxophonist during the “Negro streets at dawn” passage) took me back to a lot of bad French Canadian animation festivals.

Mostly though, you get the young Ginsberg. He didn’t attend the obscenity trial, and Howl’s framing device is an imagined interview in his fantastically shabby chic North Beach apartment during the legal proceedings. With Epstein and Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk) directing, Gus Van Sant (Milk) executive producing, and Franco fresh from Milk himself, the set-up is pretty obvious. Another queer saint is being cinematically canonized. (Ginsberg, of course, was far from Milk on the political scale — his version of gay lib focused on the spiritual journey, not the systematic legal integration. Maybe Howl is meant to be the yang to Milk‘s yin.)

The idea of portraying an openly gay man in the 1950s is juicy — but Howl skews toward sexual yuks, like Neil Cassady’s girlfriend walking in on Ginsberg about to blow him. In this often rushed-feeling film, Ginsberg is allowed only a splash of existential longing before finding some fulfillment with his lifelong companion Orlovsky. But is that really fair, or even brave? After Milk, wouldn’t it be more courageous for this distinguished team to take on a lesbian activist? A transgender groundbreaker? A queer of color? Or even, gasp, the opportunistic, overexposed, NAMBLA-defending, hustler-gorging, radiantly nudist old man that Ginsberg became?

HOWL opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.

Dreams untrue



FILM Alternatively hailed as a sensitive cine-poet and derided as a brazenly ethnocentric pseudo-anthropologist cloaking shoddy fieldwork with mystification, Robert Gardner remains a controversial figure — when he is remembered at all. With a younger generation of filmmakers (Lisandro Alonso, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Ben Russell, Claire Denis) rewiring the tropes of sensory ethnography to their own ends, the troubling beauty of Gardner’s work seems freshly relevant if no less problematic. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opens this Pandora’s box the right way, with restored 35mm prints of three of Gardner’s best known works.

I first encountered Gardner’s work in the classroom, where it made an appealing target for students eager to sniff out colonialist discourses in documentary form. The argument against a film like Dead Birds (1964) is well rehearsed: Gardner depicts the Nuer people as a primitive culture untouched by history or politics; masks the participatory aspects of ethnographic filmmaking; allows himself a ranging voice-over while leaving all Nuer speech untranslated; and contrives two protagonists to act as convenient ciphers for Hollywood narrative conventions of simultaneity and suspense. Then there is the Harvard credit. Gardner led the university’s Film Study Center for 40 years, and the films say so: “Produced for the Film Study Center, Harvard University.” The charges of cultural paternalism come easily enough.

Even taking the charitable view that Gardner acted more on allegorical ambition than innate arrogance, he clearly avails himself of the least reputable power base of anthropology — I speak about them; they do not speak back to me. Moreover, he does so with a formal insouciance that would drive most anthropologists nuts. What burned me about the line taken on Gardner in my seminar was that it came of watching his films on projected VHS, a degraded medium that implicitly treats films as content rather than experience. And indeed, it’s on the level of content that Gardner’s failings are most manifest. But seen in 35mm, when the filmmaker’s attention to sensory detail (sound, color, texture) and psycho-kinetic cutting might at the very least provoke unexpected feelings, the argument against loses some of its inevitability.

The second film of the Yerba Buena program, Rivers of Sand (1974), is even thornier than Dead Birds. Whereas in the earlier work, Gardner considers the universal impulse to draw battle lines in the Nuer’s ritual warfare, here he lets the Hamar of Ethiopia stand for the common issue of sexism. Throughout the film, a Hamar woman tells the camera about the abusive treatment of women in her culture (“He’s beating you even when he’s not”). Alas, any dialogic potential of this thread is diluted by her being the only speaker and, more important, there being no context for her testimony. At the aural level, however, the film’s dense, impressionistic catalog of sounds makes for distinctly lyrical, at times surreal viewing. In certain passages, like when an afternoon downpour sends a sudden river across the hard land, it seems we’ve left empirical reality behind altogether.

Arresting fragments like these point the way to Forest of Bliss (1986), Gardner’s feature-length contemplation (sans voice-over) of life rhythms and funeral rites on the Ganges. The India quest is an orientalist standby, of course, and brings into focus the counterculture strain that’s always run through Gardner’s work (remember, Timothy Leary was a Harvard man too). But while the fluid camerawork may be touristic, it’s also more modest than in his previous work. More often than not we’re following a single person’s movements: at home, through the streets, to the river, relying more on intimacy than intimation. The striking glimpses of the sacred in view of the profane suggest a solitary traveler rather than a scientific observer. It is one thing to caution against ascribing knowledge to this passing view and quite another to claim it does not have any foothold in the imagination; the first is common sense, the second wishful thinking.


Sept. 23–30, $6–$-8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787


Lick it up


Pump your guns and meet me at the ice cream truck — I need help carrying all the sugar cones we’ll need for the sticky-sweet mess this week’s becoming. Folsom Street Fair parties, a great new club opening, some Detroit takeover … forget the vanilla and go directly to Rocky Road, sprinkles.



With ALF as mascot and gonzo indie-electro party boy DJ Richie Panic titillating a bucketload of omnisexual hipsters, this weekly gig isn’t some rote sausage fest. You’ll still make out, though. Hard.

Weds/22, 9 p.m., free. Beauty Bar, 2299 Mission, SF. www.thebeautybar.com/sf



Voracious crate-digger Chris Orr revs up a fashionable queer crowd with cleverly timeless tunes that sound one day ahead of our electro-fied now. Juanita More! and Joshua J. host, Isaac takes wild photos in the back.

Weds/22, 9 p.m., $5. Q Bar, 456 Castro, SF. www.juanitamore.com



Seminal second-wave Detroit techno wiz still plays the mad scientist in the back of your mind, only now he’s on a more orchestral, organic-sounding trip.

Thu/23, 9:30 p.m., $15. Vessel, 85 Campton Pl., SF. www.vesselsf.com



After eight years of grinding ears, the city’s great industrial and EBM club, Meat, hits the lockers. DJs Devon, Netik, Rich, and Ritter Gluck plus a huge Gallery of Dark Art will make it a bloody bang.

Thu/23, 9:30 p.m.–late, $5. DNA Lounge, 375 11th Street, SF. www.meatsf.com



Bears! Bears! Bears! Floss your teeth with man-fur at this huge shindig, which packs ’em in for progressive-pop dancing and tummy-rubs. With Aussie DJs Kam Shafaati and Mikey B., plus Philly’s Tony Ruiz.

Fri/24, 9 p.m., $10. Cat Club, 1190 Folsom, SF. www.bearracuda.com



Detroit producer and rapper is properly garnering raves for his Dilla-tastic beats and sensitive style — new joint “Album of the Year” rides the current bliss-rap vogue with aplomb.

Fri/24, 10 p.m., $15. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com



L.A. producer hyperwarps past the future bass trend with his inimitable mind-bending DJ sets, melting everything from Portishead to Alice Coltrane into a cosmic brew. With Caspa.

Fri/24, 9 p.m., $22.50. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com



From his infamous Brooklyn “Aerosol Burns” club to the launch of his fantastic Italians Do it Better Label, the underground disco and Italo house revivalist is still on a roll.

Fri/24, 10 p.m.–4 a.m., $10. SOM, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com



The hands-down best vocal house producer of the past decade brings his signature sound and tattooed good looks to Temple

Fri/24, 10 p.m., $20. Temple, 540 Howard, SF. www.templesf.com



OK, freaking out about this — new club and art gallery Public Works, brought to us by several local party Illuminati, opens with a blast. DJs Jenö, Pee Play, Vin Sol, Slayers Club, HOTTUB, and many more.

Fri/24, 10 p.m.–3 a.m., $5. 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com



Some Thing, the wildly creative Friday weekly alternadrag fiesta (with great guest DJs) leathers it up for Folsom. Lovely L.A. nutcase Phyllis Navidad, Glamamore, Monistat, and more perform, Juanita More! DJs.

Fri/24, 10 p.m.–4 a.m., $7. The Stud, 399 Ninth St., SF. www.studsf.com



1970s disco royalty plays his first SF set in 23 years at fantastically downtown-feeling monthly GO BANG! party, which brings together all walks of dance. With Steve Fabus, Tres Lingerie, Sergio, and more.

Sat/25, 9 p.m., $5. Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com



Circus-themed, slightly non-mainstream queer whoop-whoop-de-doo takes from you your sobriety, gives to you hard-driving DJs HIFI Sean, Paul V, Josh Peace, Haute Toddy, and Prince O. Bears — just for starters.

Sat/25, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $10. Club 8, 1151 Folsom, SF. www.joshuajpresents.com



Even more sexy bears! Yay! But also some muscular indie dance enthusiasts, bopping around at this regular blast with DJs Bob Mould and Richard Morel.

Sat/25, 10 p.m., $15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com



Future dub meets UK Funky — from Detroit? It works. Wild Oats label head brings his dreamy, twilight-infused compositions to the dance floor at the ever-steaming Icee Hot party.

Sat/25, 10 p.m., $5. 222 Hyde, SF. www.222hyde.com



Highly acclaimed — and rightly so — ethereal dub duo from Brighton, U.K., beam down with incredibly fine and future-eared Mary Anne Hobbs, DNTEL, and more.

Sat/25, 10 p.m.–3 a.m., $10. 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com



Hot Folsom dyke action at the fab Lex, with rockin’ DJs Rapid Fire and Jenna Riot, hostess Oxana Olsen, and a uniform, leather, and fetish dress contest. Oh, and tons of mind-bogglingly sexy women.

Sat/25, 9 p.m., free. Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., SF. www.lexingtonclub.com



Woot, this is gonna be the goods — homofuturists of Honey Soundsystem team up with London’s amazing Horse Meat Disco and top local talent like C.L.A.W.S., Dabecy, and Nikola Baytala for a post-Folsom throwdown.

Sun/26, 6 p.m.–3 a.m., $5 before 10 p.m., $7 after. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com



SoMa’s Holy Cow bar just got a fab steampunky makeover, and this is a perfect chance to check it out. Wear pink to get in free all day. With DJs from Pink Mammoth and many other Burner camps.

Sun/26, noon–midnight, $5 (free before 3 p.m.). Holy Cow, 1536 Folsom, SF. www.theholycow.com



Dance your way into issues — classic Sunset DJs get you moving, while the League of Pissed Off Voters gets you set for the upcoming election. (Don’t forget to register to vote!)

Sun/27, 1 p.m.-7:30 p.m., free. Civic Center Plaza, SF. www.pacificsound.net

The District 8 dilemma



Gabriel Haaland, a longtime queer labor activist, was talking to a friend from District 8 the other day, chatting about the race for a supervisor to fill the shoes of Harvey Milk, Harry Britt, Mark Leno, and Bevan Dufty. “She told me that she didn’t know who to vote for,” Haaland said, “because she didn’t know who the progressive was in the race.”

For supporters of Rafael Mandelman, that’s a serious challenge. “The polls are very consistent,” Haaland said. “Most of the voters in D-8 would prefer a progressive over a moderate, and when they know who the progressive is, they support that candidate.”

But oddly enough, although District 8 — the Castro, Noe Valley, and parts of the Mission — is one of the most politically active parts of the city, where voter turnout is consistently high, the supervisorial race is getting only limited media attention. The neighborhood and queer papers are doing a good job of covering the race, but for the rest of the media, it’s as if nothing’s happening. And that’s left voters confused about what ought to be a very clear choice.

The San Francisco Chronicle featured the District 6 race on the front page Sept. 19, with a long story about how demographic changes in the South of Market area would affect the successor to Sup. Chris Daly. District 10, with the mad political scrum of 22 candidates, no clear front runner and endorsements all over the map, has received considerable media attention.

Yet D–8 — which offers by far the most striking distinctions between candidates and the sharpest divisions over issues — has been flying under the radar.

Three major candidates are in the race, two gay men and a lesbian. All of them, for what it’s worth, are lawyers. Rafael Mandelman, who works for a firm that advises cities and counties, has the support of the vast majority of progressive leaders and organizations. Rebecca Prozan, a deputy district attorney, and Scott Wiener, a deputy city attorney, are very much on the moderate-centrist (some would say, by San Francisco standards, conservative) side of the political spectrum.

“As Barbara Boxer has said in her ads, the choice is clear,” Aaron Peskin, chair of the local Democratic Party and a Mandelman backer, told us. “Not to exaggerate, but this is like Boxer v. Carly Fiornia, and Rafael is our Boxer.”

Yet by almost all accounts, Wiener is ahead in the race.



The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has been roughly divided in the past decade between the progressive camp and moderate camp. And while those labels are hard to define (the Chronicle won’t even use the term “progressive,” preferring “ultraliberal”), most observers have a basic grip on the differences.

The moderates, who tend to support Mayor Gavin Newsom, are social liberals but fiscal conservatives. They talk about the city surviving budget red ink without major tax increases. They talk about controlling government spending and increasing public safety. The progressives generally see local government as underfunded after four years of brutal cuts and support the idea of raising new revenue to fill the gap. They support tenants over landlords, seek stronger protections for affordable housing, support Sanctuary City, and oppose sit-lie.

Certainly with Wiener and Mandelman, it’s abundantly clear where the candidates fall. The two agree on some things (they both oppose Prop. B, the pension-reform measure that would reduce health care payments for the children of city employees) and they both support nightlife. But overall, they take very different political stands.

Wiener told us, for example, that the city’s structural budget problems won’t be solved without cuts. “We’re not going to able to tax our way out of this,” he said in an endorsement interview. “We have to lower our expectations for government.”

Other than Muni, public safety, and core public health services, cuts “will have to be across the board,” he said. “What are the things we really can’t do without?”

Wiener supports the sit-lie proposal, saying that he doesn’t think the local police have the tools they need to get poorly behaving people off the streets. He doesn’t support Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s measure mandating foot patrols because, he told us, he doesn’t think the supervisors should micromanage the Police Department.

Sup. Bevan Dufty, who currently holds the D–8 seat, has voted with the progressives occasionally — but almost never on tenant issues. And Wiener, who has the support of the rabidly anti-tenant Small Property Owners of San Francisco, is likely to follow that approach. Although he told us he supports rent control (which just about everyone in local politics agrees on at this point), he’s not a fan of additional protections against evictions and condo conversions. “I’m not prepared to go beyond what we have now” on eviction protections, he said. He supported Newsom’s plan to allow people to buy their way out of the waiting list and lottery for condo conversions.

And when it comes to public power, he’s to the right of the incumbent: Dufty has said repeatedly that he supports the city taking over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s infrastructure and putting the city in control of a full-scale public power system. Wiener says he supports community choice aggregation (CCA), but not full-scale public power.

Mandelman is a big supporter of local government and says, without hesitation, that the city needs more revenue. “The public sector is dramatically underfunded,” he told us in a recent interview. “There’s great wealth in the city and it needs to be tapped to preserve public services.” Mandelman said he’s not “tax happy,” but told us that the structure of how the city raises revenue is a mess. He supports a top-to-bottom review of the city’s revenue base with the goal of making taxation more progressive — and bringing in enough money to fund crucial services.

Mandelman is a foe of sit-lie, which he sees as punitive and ineffective. He opposes gang injunctions and supports Sanctuary City. And he’s a strong advocate for tenants, supporting stronger eviction protections and limits on condo conversions that take away affordable rental stock.

“You have to look at the candidates and ask what their priorities are,” he said. “Are the displacement of long-time residents critically important or something that’s not on the top of the list? Do you believe we need to rebuild the safety net? Or is queer politics all about property values?”

Prozan told us that she’s the one who can “bring the two sides together” and said that, like Dufty, she is “right up the middle.” She supports the hotel tax and the vehicle license fee and opposes sit-lie, but also thinks gang injunctions are a useful tool for law enforcement. She doesn’t see any reason to split appointments between the mayor and the supervisors for the board that oversees Muni or the Redevelopment Agency. She doesn’t think the city can or should do anything more about the conversion of rental property to tenancies in common, but supports the idea of taking over foreclosed properties to create housing for teachers, cops, and firefighters. So it’s safe to say the Prozan would probably be similar to the incumbent — with the progressives on a few things, against them on others.



Wiener and Mandelman agree on two basic points: there are stark differences between the candidates — and the city’s major media outlets aren’t paying enough attention. That’s probably because the relatively tame politics doesn’t compare to the sort of wild excitement you see in Districts 6 and 10.

“There’s less chaos than some of the other districts,” Wiener said. “The three major candidates are all hard-working, respected people who have all lived in the district a while.”

He also agreed that he and Mandelman have “very different visions” for the district and the city, and that there are sharp contrasts and divisions between the two candidates.

Prozan also argued that the political differences on issues aren’t going to be the only — or even the deciding — factor for many voters. “I think they’re looking for who’s got the courage and independence to do what’s right,” she told us.

But Mandelman told us there’s a crucial story here that needs to be told: “It’s a definitional fight about what the queer community is about in 2010. As goes D–8, so goes San Francisco.”




DINE Step into Papito, a new cantina that opened this summer on Potrero Hill, and you probably won’t notice many signs of a French connection. The paint scheme, of lime and rust shades, is cantina-ish. The plate of frosted, backlit glass that divides the tiny dining room from the entrance to the rest room, isn’t — but it’s more urban-rich than French. The menu is immaculately, if grandly, Mexican. What we are left with, then, is the bar, of lusciously burnished wood topped with a plateau of copper — rather bistro-like, I thought, though a zinc top would be more authentic.

The French angle is relevant because Papito is the sibling of nearby Chez Papa and Chez Maman, along with, until a recent change of hands, Pizza Nostra (which began life as Couleur Café) in the nearby flatlands. The impresario-in-chief of these concerns is Jocelyn Bulow, who put himself on the map in 1996 with the wonderful Plouf, a French-style seafood house, and has since made himself a force to be reckoned with on Potrero Hill and in the gallery district. Notable at the moment about the Bulow career arc is its curve away from the French kitchen, toward Italy (not that great a reach) and now toward Mexico, a somewhat bolder maneuver.

Papito wasn’t completely unforeshadowed. Some of its roots are traceable to Couleur Café, which served a duck confit quesadilla that recurs here in more convincingly New World guise, with the former’s Gruyère and caramelized onions subbed out in favor of habanero peppers, mint, cilantro, house-made pickles, chilpotle, and tamarind sauce. The other quesadillas (all $10) are equally impressive — and Mexican, not French or quasi-French — including an edition with homemade chorizo (I looked in vain for any leakage of that telltale bright orange grease, like Halloween face paint), potatoes, jack cheese, salsa verde, and pico de gallo. This is a serious, heavyweight, mealworthy quesadilla, not a finger snack for the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon.

Pico de gallo is possibly my least favorite of the Mexican condiments, since it so easily can be too oniony. But Papito gives the old warhorse new life by making it with pineapple instead of tomato and serving it with a pair of tacos ($8) filled with slow-cooked Berkshire pork carnitas and guajillo-tomatillo salsa roja and piped with plenty of crema.

The menu features a sizable range of shareable plates, including a lovely salad ($8) of heirloom tomatoes and nopal cactus, dusted with cotija cheese and swabbed with a sauce the menu card calls “cilantro pistou” (but seemed more like an avocado purée to us). Also of note was the variety of tomato shapes, sizes, and colors: orange, green, red, yellow, pear, cherry, large round. One feels slightly let down when “heirloom” — the word promises so much — tomatoes turn out to be just red, no matter how juicy they are.

Frijoles negros ($4) were underwhelming, despite the bolstering presence of chives, queso fresco, crème fraîche, and matchstick tortilla chips over the top. Fortunately, we had a trio of salsas (mango, tomatillo, and chilpotle) at hand to enliven things. Papito, incidentally, does not serve shovelsful of complimentary chips, and, much as I love chips and salsa, I think this is a good thing. It helps you retain an edge of hunger until the real food starts arriving. But it does mean the trifecta of salsas are orphans.

If the black beans were a kind of lull or pause, then the grilled cobs of white corn ($5 for two) were a revelation. The cobs were showered with grated cotija cheese and presented with lime quarters and chili salt, each potent but slightly superfluous, since grilled corn seldom needs much help and the cheese provided most of that here. A nice touch: the metal handle, cool and solid, protruding from each cob. These handles made the corn much easier and less messy to eat.

For dessert you can have flan or, also in the Mexican vein, churros ($5), about the size of baby zucchini and stacked in a rough square, like a drafty log cabin. You dip them in a thin chocolate sauce. But the most surprising possibility is a chocolate mousse ($5) with a core of raspberry coulis made slightly molten by pasilla pepper — New World ingredients, Old World style, subtly transcendent result.


Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun. brunch 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m., dinner to 10 p.m.

317 Connecticut, SF

(15) 695-0147


Beer and wine


Somewhat noisy

Wheelchair accessible


Fresh “Horses”



DANCE Some choreographers pack enough material into an hour of dance to leave you more satisfied than those who take twice as long and say less. Such was the case with “18 Virgo Horses” (Sept. 16-18), a double-bill by Dana Lawton and Jia Wu, who earn their rent money teaching at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. The old saying that inspiration wedded to craft makes for good art came to mind as I watched Lawton and Wu’s four pieces at CounterPULSE last week. The evening made me glad that the dance season has started again.

In her new solo Del Mar, Lawton opened the program with a tribute to 1950s-style Hollywood bathing beauties and cowboy singers. Toy horses encircled a round swimming pool in which Lawton, encased in a demure Esther Williams swim suit and aqua cap, paddled, floated, and dreamed as she listened and responded to lyrics about an old house and a boy and his horse. So simple, so evocative, so delicious.

Horsethief Lake is a state park in South Dakota. I am not sure if and how Lawton’s eponymous piece for a quartet (Michael Armstrong, Jerry Lin, Jill Randall, and Chantal Sampogna) related to that piece of geography. The work explored memory, less as never-never land than as something grounded in muscles, to be passed from one body to another. Over the course of its three sections, Horsethief ultimately lost some focus and began to needlessly meander. But it demonstrated how, in skilled hands, simple gestures — wafting arms, and grabbing at one’s chest — can undergo eloquent mutations. The piece also introduced Lin, who is potentially a spectacular dancer, if he doesn’t allow himself to descend into mannerism.

Continuity is not what choreographer Jia Wu seems after, at least not within anything resembling linear logic. Yet the five sections of Between You and Me II, a highly imagistic quintet (Jackie Angelo, Lin, Marissa Pfaff, Vera Schwegler, and Hailey Yaffee), rubbed against each other to arrive at a jumbled but real coherence. The piece’s attempts at absurdity, however, did not completely convince.

Going from Ukrainian folk music to Satie and Portuguese fado, Between started out looking like mourning ritual. The dancers were clad in black from head to toe, but as their outstretched arms and formal pacing disintegrated into spastic shakes and hops, tragedy was turned inside out. In other sections, the doll-like dancers wore tutus that were color-coordinated with balloons, while Lin streaked in as an impostor. They looked like cartoon figures. The audience loved the humor; I thought some it sophomoric.

The evening closed with Lawton’s other premiere, Inside. Though it took on one of dance’s oldest clichés — the travails of one-to-one relationships — her take on it was fresh and rich and rang true. It opened with Armstrong and Jennifer Smith in what might have been a wedding dance. As they performed in silence, their bodies seemed to melt into one. Then wave after wave of rejection and reconciliation enmeshed the couple in an ongoing turbulence. Anything — a touch, a glance, an imitative gesture — could provoke an explosion from one or the other, yet this stormy affair was also mitigated by moments of tenderness and calm. As Michelle Beauchesne on cello and Sean McCue on guitar provided sensitive musical commentary, the piece presented one surprise after another — you never knew who was going to do what to whom.

alt.sex.column: Think Mulder


Dear Andrea:

My girlfriend and I have been talking about fisting (vaginal). She wants to do it to me. I’m interested, I guess, but it seems kind of impossible. Is it really going to fit? Is there anything I can do that will help? Is it going to hurt?



Dear Un-

I think I promised readers a “stuff up your butt” column this week, to make up for all the medical columns. Yours will have to do.

Now. Fisting (vaginal) is indeed possible — even fairly easy — for many-to-most vaginas to achieve. But as a beginner, it may help you to channel a bit of Fox Mulder: you have to want to believe. One way to coax such belief along is to see the thing with your own eyes, and I would suggest that you have another vagina and at least four hands at your immediate disposal, but I’m going to assume that if your girlfriend wanted to offer hers up for the greater good, she would already have done so.

How about a little educational porn? Or you may want to drop by your local girl-friendly sex-stuff purveyor, make some popcorn, and call your girlfriend in for movie night. As my mother might say, although not about this, “It couldn’t hurt.”

Which brings us to our next question: will it hurt? Maybe. I mean, it shouldn’t oughtta hurt in an “ow take it out OMG that hurts never do it again” sort of way. If it does, you (collectively) are doing it wrong. But there is a good chance of your encountering, at least in passing, a sensation intense enough to be described as pain. If you don’t like it, don’t do it again.

Here’s the scene: après a bunch of satisfying, preferably sloppy sex, you have had a couple orgasms but are open to the idea of more. You’re much lubed up (I really like silicone for this) and there is plenty more on hand. You relax and lean back against some pillows. She hunkers down there by your knees and slowly, carefully, commences intromission, but from then, you’re moving yourself onto her at least as much as she’s trying to get into you. Stop when you need to, or just to feel what you’re feeling. There’s no point in doing this just to do it, you know?

Put the girly-porn back on and watch carefully. See the way the top is rotating a bit at the wrist? That little twist is what’s going to let her slip in there past the knuckles, under your pubic bone. You’re going to have to do some work then, too, and if it’s going to hurt it’s going to hurt RIGHT THEN. Pause for lube, final push, and she’s in past the hard part and on to the fun, finding a rhythm and a pressure that’s good for you.

Honestly, you’re just going to have to take it from here. It may take time, and you may not even like it. But to even get there at all, remember, think of Mulder (even if Scully is normally more your type): I WANT TO BELIEVE.



Got a question? Email Andrea at andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com

Let them eat mayhem



CULTURE/LIT “I work in advertising,” says Shannon O’Malley. “I just want to make people read my evil shit.” The evil shit O’Malley refers to isn’t a sales jingle, but recipes for apocalyptic cakes. Want to know how to make an Agent Orange Carrot Cake? Rachael Ray, Paula Dean, and even Sandra Lee probably can’t help, but O’Malley has just the right ingredients to tantalize your “cyst-ridden pus hole.” A collaboration with photographer Keith Wilson, her colorful picture book Apocalypse Cakes: Recipes From the End will be published by Running Press in the spring of 2011 — for now, you can feast on some appetizers from the tome (and order recipe cards) on her website. I recently met with O’Malley to discuss the sweet and the deadly. We were at a cafe, but neither of us ate dessert.

SFBG I guess I look at apocalyptic cakes from an arty angle, and also from a nihilistic one.

Shannon O’Malley Yeah! Fatalist gluttons! [Laughs]

SFBG I like the juxtaposition of something tasty and sweet with something harsh and disastrous.

SO Me too.

SFBG How did the first cake come about?

SO Not from any preoccupation on my behalf. I’m not a good cook, I don’t bake cakes. It happened because in December of 2008, it was my partner’s birthday. She’s obsessed with the apocalypse and actually wrote her undergraduate thesis on zombies. She got me into reading J.G. Ballard.

When you’re with someone who talks about something a lot, it sort of seeps into your brain. Her birthday came around, and I didn’t want to buy her something, I wanted to make something for her. Around the same time, she was obsessing about cake, so that whenever anything went wrong, she’d say, “I want cake.”

The whole week before her birthday I thought I’d make her a cake cookbook — a zine of fucked up cakes. But I thought that was sort of vanilla, excuse the pun. The night before, I started to really ask myself what she liked, and I thought of the apocalypse. Cake and the apocalypse — it made perfect sense. I stayed up all night on the computer making this eight-page color zine called Apocalypse Cakes. I started thinking about the plagues, and just took this shitty JPG I found on the Internet of red velvet cake, and called it Raining Blood Red Velvet Cake.

I did all the writing and Photoshopping and layout. I started at 11 p.m. and basically stayed up all night because I loved it so much.

At the time I was living in Austin, and I went to Kinko’s before I had to go to my ad agency job. I bound it and made a couple copies. That night I gave it to her for birthday. Then I started showing the zine to my friends and being like, “Look what I made — isn’t this funny? Aren’t I fucking funny?” That’s when I decided it should be a book.

SFBG Is that when you began your blog?

SO Yes. At first I thought it would only be text. But then I got with my friend Keith Wilson, who is a filmmaker here in town, and he said, “No, you need pictures.”

He and I got together, and our first two cakes were the Raining Blood Red Velvet Cake and the Branch Davidian Texas Pecan Pie. We made them at my house. We set the Branch Davidian Texas Pecan Pie on fire in the yard in front of my house. He styled it. He’s super meticulous and way more object- and space-oriented than I am, and he has a great eye for macabre details.

SFBG How did your Photoshop project compare to images that were set designed?

SO It totally changed things. Keith adds something that on my own would give me trouble. I don’t want to go through the trouble to make things just-so, but he totally gets into that. His mom was a caterer, and that helped him with his food assembly skills.

SFBG Do you often have the name of the cake first and go from there?

SO It started with me having all these different names and themes. Some of the early ones included the Sodom and Gomorrah Fruit Cake — traditional apocalyptic myths from the Bible. But then I started to branch out and Keith and I would talk. He’d say, “A lot of people think that immigrants coming to the United States is apocalyptic — why don’t we do an immigration cake?” So I came up with Immigration Mayhem Mexican Chocolate Cake. We started riffing off of each other and decided the recipe should be in Spanish, so honkies can’t read it.

Now, either of us can have the original idea. I name them and do the write-ups and pay for the production, and on Saturdays, he comes over with his camera and we art direct the set together. He snaps the photos, and then I retouch them. We’ve done that for eight or nine months.

SFBG Do current events have a larger presence within the project than they did initially?

SO Definitely. Now it has become more overtly political. The Immigration Mayhem Mexican Chocolate Cake looks at certain people’s fears of their world crumbling. In addition to a cake with a swarm of locusts, we also have President Palin Half-Baked Alaska. Some of them come from our political perspective, and some of them are just stupid and gross and fun. Like Whore of Babylon Fruit Tart. Science fiction is also inspiring. We have a meteorite cake, and one about insurgent robots.

SFBG What does your girlfriend think of the project now? Does she give feedback?

SO She loves it. She’s been integral to it. When it was just a blog, a local art show had a call for entries and I thought, “Man, I wish I could enter a blog in the art show.” I thought that maybe I could have a computer at the gallery so people could browse the blog. She collects vintage cookbooks and has all this retro cooking imagery, and she said, “Why don’t you make old-timey recipe cards?” I don’t know if you’ve seen this one: Jonestown Kool-Aid Cake.

Once I got started working with the cakes, friends would come up to me and say things like, “What about Jonestown?” An old roommate suggested that cake. You know one day they’re going to build condos where the compound was in Guyana.

At a certain point I realized that every region has its apocalypse. The Seismic Haitian Mud Cake — that isn’t the end of the world, but it’s their fucking end of the world.

SFBG Do you find the format of a recipe lends itself to your sarcasm and sensibility?

SO The template has helped me. I know how long each write-up will be and that I have to make a recipe. But I’m apart from the text — when you make something that resonates with people, it sort of becomes its own thing. People get excited about it, so it’s gotta be made.

SFBG What are some of your favorite cakes?

SO I really like the China World Domination Red Bean Cake. It was conceptual, it was easy to make — I bought the cakes at a Chinese grocery store — and it makes fun of people who are xenophobic.

SFBG Since you began working on this, has the apocalyptic materialized for you more often?

SO I’ve always been into the archetype of the murderous housewife — situations that seem so perfectly dainty and wonderful, but have something dark behind them.

SFBG Like John Waters’ Serial Mom.

SO Exactly. I was just thinking of Kathleen Turner, and how John Waters’ movies are about seeing how shitty the strait-laced people are from the perspective of the people of the underworld. I like the dichotomy of, “You think it’s nice, don’t you? Well, it’s not.”

When I was writing a lot of this, I was working at an ad agency, and I was constantly bombarded with product names and messages about why products are awesome. There are write-ups where I talk of specific company names. One cake that we did for the book is all about the ubiquity of antidepressants and other blockbuster pharmaceuticals like Lipitor. It’s called Big Pharma Nut Cake.

People talk and write to me about the apocalypse more. Someone will say, “Hey, I found this article about the Super Hadron Collider and black holes.” But do I see the apocalyptic in the everyday? Not really.

In writing this book, I had to learn about the ten plagues of Egypt. The apocalypse hasn’t come to me — I had to go to it. *


Lembi’s legacy



Two of the most outrageous and intransigent political narratives in progressive San Francisco converge at the Hotel Frank near Union Square.

The first involves the relatively new namesake of a boutique hotel formerly known as the Maxwell Hotel San Francisco, Frank Lembi, the nonagenarian who was once one of the city’s largest and most notorious landlords, running CitiApartments, Skyline Realty, Lembi Group, and other related corporations with his recently deceased son, Walter, and others.

Since the Guardian first reported on allegations of illegal and unethical tactics intended to force protected renters from their homes in an award-winning three-part series (“The Scumlords,” March 2006), Lembi’s empire was sued by the City Attorney’s Office and its former tenants (“SF vs. Frank Lembi,” 10/6/09), followed by a financial crash that involved banks foreclosing on dozens of the group’s properties (“Triumph of tenacity,” 6/1/10).

That downfall has now dovetailed into a second prominent San Francisco story: the ongoing contractual impasse and labor unrest between the city’s corporate-owned hotels and workers represented by Unite-Here Local 2, whose list of boycotted local hotels grew to 10 with the addition of the Hotel Frank earlier this month.

After the Hotel Frank and Hotel Metropolis were foreclosed on by Wells Fargo Bank earlier this year, longtime union workers at the two hotels say their rights have been violated, their benefits slashed, and their workloads increased unilaterally by the bank’s management company, Provenance Hotels, whose representatives refused to comment for this story.

“These are troubling signs of the kind of relations they want to have with Local 2,” Anand Singh, a lead organizer with the union, told the Guardian.

Together, the stories that converge at the Hotel Frank are about the plight of renters and workers in San Francisco, and whether they can maintain their economic standing against attacks from powerful corporate interests.

Corporations run by members of the Lembi family once controlled more apartments in San Francisco than any other landlord, growing rapidly in the 1990s and early 2000s using highly leveraged real estate purchases and renting units under CitiApartments and other names.

Tenants in rent-controlled apartments are protected under various San Francisco laws, but as the Guardian has reported and the city’s ongoing lawsuit against the Lembi empire alleges, the group’s business model was based on trying to force, intimidate, and cajole tenants into vacating those units in order to increase rents. Those complaints were also the subject of well-attended City Hall hearings in 2006 and a campaign called CitiStop organized by the San Francisco Tenants Union.

A separate class action lawsuit by former Lembi tenants brought by the San Francisco law firm Seegar Salvas LLP in 2009 alleges that the Lembi corporations also routinely refused to return the security deposits of former tenants. Both lawsuits are ongoing, with plaintiffs’ attorneys noting that the courts have fined the Lembi corporations for not cooperating with the discovery process.

Yet while the name Frank Lembi had been tarnished in progressive political circles, it was until only recently celebrated in the business press and by downtown organizations such as the San Francisco Apartment Association, which lauded Lembi as a tough-minded visionary. And it was a name that Frank Lembi’s daughter sought to memorialize in 2007 when the company she ran, Personality Hotels, added the York and Maxwell hotels to its string of four boutique hotels near Union Square.

Yvonne Lembi-Detert changed the name of the Maxwell to the Frank Hotel and rechristened the York as Hotel Vertigo after the Alfred Hitchcock movie set in San Francisco. Those familiar with the deal say she paid top dollar for the hotels — $35 million for the Maxwell, which had sold a few years earlier for $18 million. She then borrowed another $10 million to renovate the hotel she had renamed for her father, putting up the Hotel Metropolis in the Tenderloin as collateral.

“This was a vanity project, nothing more and nothing less, Yvonne’s legacy to father Frank,” one worker at the hotels told the Guardian.

Officials at Personality said Lembi-Detert was on vacation and unavailable for comment, but Director of Operations David Chin told us, “The purchase price was what the market bore at the time” and that the renovations were prudent. “The factor that drove the hotel to foreclosure was really the economy.”

Although the loans for the hotels came from a Japanese-based corporation called Nomura, they were packaged along with other troubled loans into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) — those toxic financial instruments that played such a key role in the crash of the banking system in 2008 — eventually coming to be controlled by Well Fargo.

As the Hotel Frank was put through extensive and expensive renovations that were never completed, the economy turned sour and the Lembis fell far behind in their loan payments. Wells Fargo finally took ownership of both the Frank and the Metropolis in May, contracting the management out to Provenance, which moved quickly to try to turn the financially troubled hotels around.

Workers at the two hotels, most of whom had been there for decades, say the new management team took an aggressive posture from day one, announcing increased workloads, longer work days, suspended vacation pay, and new medical plans with steeply higher costs to workers.

But they arrived in a town with a hotel union energized by clashes with management at hotels all over the city, so the workers at the hotels resisted the changes and their Local 2 colleagues have rallied to their defense. When thousands of workers and their progressive supporters marched through the streets of San Francisco to the Grand Hyatt in July, they stopped at the Hotel Frank along the way and unfurled a banner that read “Frank and Metropolis Hotel Workers United to Fight Provenance and Wells Fargo.” And on Sept. 8, both hotels were added to Local 2’s boycott list.

Singh said Provenance is unfairly trying to hold workers at the hotel responsible for the bad financial decisions that the Lembis made, and he called on Wells Fargo to absorb those financial losses without having its agents attack the union.

“It was not based on anything the workers have done,” Singh said of the financial situation at the hotels. “This huge bank is asking the workers to bear the brunt of this financial strategy even after being bailed out by taxpayers.”

Carne, carnival



CHEAP EATS I fell in with some bad people. One was a clown. You don’t expect to even like clowns, let alone fall in with them, but this one was brilliant, in a Charlie Chaplinish way. Or early Woody Allen, meaning: all you have to do is look at him and you pee your pants.

And that’s when he’s out of character. In character, on stage, forget it! You’re going down. This actually funny clown works with a couple of other actually funny clowns, one of whom I talked to for a long time about food because she lives — like me — in San Francisco.

We were sitting around a campfire in front of the stage, after the show. Behind us, a lot of musicians were playing a lot of songs, but not me. I didn’t feel like jamming. I felt like making new friends. Fun, fucked up, and circus-y friends.

They call it a chautauqua, but in addition to the music, storytelling, and political humor, there were these clowns, a contortionist, a slack-rope walker, and a one-ball contact juggler — which, if you’ve never seen contact juggling, you should probably go see you some.

It’s beautiful.

My own role among this talented riff-raff was very, very background. I played bass in a three-piece band for a 25-minute micromusical about sea monkeys. Still, everyone hugged me backstage, or at least patted me on the back, and admired my hot water bottle.

The third night was more than sold out. More than a couple hundred people huddled together in the west-county, wine-country redwoods, oohing and ahhing and laughing our asses off, and afterward the resident pyro lit another careful bonfire. The musicians and nonmusicians among us jammed. I stayed until at least 1 a.m., talking mostly to the girlfriend of one of the sea monkeys. Or I guess technically she was the tank aerator. I hadn’t actually had the pleasure of seeing much of the play from the orchestra pit. Which wasn’t a pit so much as a platform or tree house.

Meat, was what me and the tank aerator’s girlfriend talked about. Her girlfriend, the tank aerator, was a vegan. A lot of the people were vegetarians. The two meals a day they made us in the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center kitchen were always delicious, but in a meatless, meatfree, where’s-the-meat kind of way. So we missed it, me and the tank aerator’s girlfriend, and we discussed this missing, our preference for meat over dessert in general, and where one might could find bacon cheeseburgers, for example, at 1 a.m., in Occidental.

"Rohnert Park," she said. She was thinking of an In-N-Out Burger, but that was 30 minutes away.

Which is, admittedly, closer than Brazil.

My own personal new favorite restaurant is in El Cerrito. Has anyone ever been to Rafael’s Shutter Café? You have to go way up San Pablo, past the Hotsy Totsy, past Albany Bowl, and then, I don’t know: keep going. It’s on your right.

They have live jazz on weekends, but when I was there, on something like a Wednesday, there was opera playing on the stereo. Which went perfectly with my sausage omelet, potatoes, toast, coffee, coffee, and more coffee.

I was sitting at the counter, waiting for the traffic outside to die down so I could cross the Richmond Bridge and go up and fall in with bad people, such as clowns and meat-eating girlfriends of tank aerators.

After I drank too much coffee there was nothing left to do but chat up the guy who runs the joint. "Where do you put your musicians?" I asked him.

He said I reminded him of his sister-in-law. He said, "Are you French or Spanish?"

"Italian," I said.

He said he was married to a French woman.

"Me, I’m waiting," I said. His phone rang. I said: "Traffic."


Mon.–Thu. 9 a.m.–4 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

10064 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito

(510) 525-4227


Beer and wine

Prop. B is bad medicine


OPINION Proposition B on the November ballot would eviscerate health care for tens of thousands of public workers and their families. It would double the cost of children’s health care for more than 30,000 public employees including teachers, nurses, firefighters, custodians, and gardeners — regardless of their ability to pay.

But you wouldn’t know this is actually what Prop. B does because the recent focus has been on the measure’s "reforms" to employee retirement. You wouldn’t know this has anything to do with children’s health care — because proponents don’t want you to know the true costs of Prop. B.

What are those true costs?

A single mother will be forced to pay up to $5,600 per year for her child’s health care — in addition to the $8,154 she already pays.

A custodian making only $40,000 per year would have to pay the same hike in health insurance premiums as the city’s top brass, who could be making three times as much.

Talk about unintended consequences.

That’s not reform, and it’s not fair. The workers being blamed are the same city employees who this year voluntarily agreed to $250 million in wage concessions. These are the same workers who have willingly taken pay cuts totaling $750 million the last decade.

Proponents have framed Prop. B as an answer to the city’s pension and retirement costs, but in reality, this measure is about health care. San Francisco’s Office of the Controller’s impartial analysis of Prop. B concludes that 70 percent of the savings from the measure would come from dramatically increasing the cost of dependent health care for working families.

A deep recession spurred by costly wars and reckless behavior on Wall Street has had devastating effects on our city and nation. Prop. B punishes city workers for this economic collapse by radically increasing the cost of their health care.

San Francisco has led the nation in providing universal access to health care. As author and founder of our HealthySF program, I encourage you to resist the attempt reverse progress on health care. Vote no on B.

Assembly Member Tom Ammiano represents the 13th District.

Editor’s Notes



On Sept. 16, supporters of Proposition B, the pension reform measure that would also reduce health care benefits for the children of city workers, held a fundraiser at Le Méridien Hotel — which is one of the hotels on the union boycott list. That was a bad idea, and it put Public Defender Jeff Adachi, the sponsor of Prop. B, in a difficult bind. His proposition, his fundraiser — and he had to cross a picket line to get in the door. So did former mayor Willie Brown, who was one of the fundraiser’s feature guests.

Labor people were furious about the two Democrats crossing the line. Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson told Guardian City Editor Steven T. Jones that the move was "outrageous." At the very least, it’s highly unusual in this labor town.

And I thought of something else unusual: Brown, who among other things is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, was helping host a political fundraiser. That’s interesting because just a few weeks earlier, the conservative San Francisco Coalition for Responsible Growth invited the Chron’s C.W. Nevius to speak at a fundraising event — and when the SF Appeal reported on it, Chron management told Nevius that wasn’t allowed.

What’s the difference? One columnist can do fundraisers and one can’t? When I asked Chron Editor Ward Bushee, he referred me to a Matier and Ross column, which included a quote on the matter from Managing Editor Steve Proctor:

"When we gave him a column, we never had any illusion he would cease to be involved in politics. I think the readers of the Chronicle understand that."
So it’s one standard for Willie, another for everyone else. Just like old times.

PG&E’s secret pipeline map




It’s been nearly two weeks since the pipeline in San Bruno exploded and killed four people, injuring many more and destroying 37 homes. And it’s left a lot of people in San Francisco wondering: could it happen here?

Of course it could. PG&E has more than 200 miles of major gas pipelines under the city streets that are scheduled to be replaced — and that means they’re reaching the end of their useful life. Just like the pipe that blew up in San Bruno.

Are any running under your home or business? PG&E isn’t going to tell you.

That’s bad. “The public has a right to this information,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera told us. And Sup. Ross Mirkarimi has introduced a resolution calling on PG&E to make the locations of its pipelines, electric lines, and other potentially parts of the company’s infrastructure public.

But here’s what worse: even the city’s public safety departments — the ones that would have to respond to a catastrophic event involving a gas main break — don’t know where those lines are.

“I’m still looking for that map myself,” said Lt. Mindy Talmadge, a spokesperson for the Fire Department.

The city’s Public Utilities Commission, which, among other things, digs its own trenches to install and repair water pipes, doesn’t have the PG&E map. Neither does the the California PUC, which regulates PG&E.

It might also make sense for the City Planning Department to have the map; after all, zoning an area for the future development of dense housing that sits on top of an explosive gas main might be an issue. “People need to start holding PG&E accountable,” Planning Commission member Christina Olague told us. “Why shouldn’t PG&E release [the map] given the recent tragedy?”

PG&E insists that the exact location of the gas mains should remain secret because someone might want to use the information for a terrorist attack. But if the San Francisco Fire Department and Department of Emergency Services can’t get the map of the pipelines, something is very wrong. Even Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who has been allied with PG&E against public power issues, agreed that “the public safety agencies should certainly have that information.”

The Mirkarimi resolution urges PG&E “to cooperate with the city’s request for infrastructure information.” Mayor Gavin Newsom has already appointed the fire chief and city administrator to conduct a utility infrastructure safety review that would evaluate the location, age, and maintenance history of every pipeline underneath city streets.

Not every state allows utilities to keep this information secret. In both Washington and Texas, maps of underground pipelines are easily accessible, said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Bellingham, Washington-based nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust. Texas even has an online system, he said.

But in California, PG&E keeps even essential safety agencies in the dark. If a fire came near where a PG&E pipeline was buried — or if an earthquake fractured some of the lines and gas started to leak — Talmadge said the San Francisco Fire Department wouldn’t be able to do anything about the explosive gas except call PG&E. Only the private utility can shut off the gas, which is under high pressure in the main lines.

“We radio to our dispatch center and request PG&E to respond … They would contact PG&E and have them respond,” she explained.

The department doesn’t prepare specifically for that sort of event. “We do not have a specific gas leak training … it would be more of a hazardous material training,” Talmadge said.

The remarkable thing is that much of the data the city doesn’t have — and PG&E won’t give up — can be pulled together from publicly accessible data. The major news media, particularly The Bay Citizen, have been pursuing the story and have run pieces of the map. Several newspapers and websites have published rough maps outlining where the major underground pipes are.

But as far as we know, nobody’s done a full-scale look at what the existing public records show.

Using information that the U.S. Department of Transportation has put on the Web, we’ve managed to put together a pretty good approximation of the secret map PG&E doesn’t want you to see.

We took a map from the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and layered it over a map of San Francisco. The maps of the southeast part of the city are more accurate; the information on gas mains going through the north and west side of town are sketchier. But the lines appear to run parallel to major streets, and we’ve put together a guide that at the very least can tell you if there’s a potentially explosive gas line in your neighborhood — and maybe even under your street.

Obviously, every house or business that has natural gas service — and that’s most of San Francisco — is hooked up to a gas pipe, and those feeder pipes run under almost every street. But the gas in those lines is under much lower pressure than the gas in the 30-inch main lines shown on this map, where pressure can reach 200 pounds per square inch. It was a main pipe that blew up under San Bruno.

It’s not surprising that the southeast — traditionally the dumping ground for dangerous and toxic materials — would have the most gas mains, and the most running through residential areas. One line, for example, snakes up Ray Street and jogs over to Delta Street on the edge of McLaren Park and near a playground. It continues under Hamilton and Felton streets, under the Highway 280 and onto Thornton Street before heading into the more industrial areas near Evans Avenue.

Another main line goes under the south side of Bernal Heights, running below Banks Street, around the park, then down Alabama Street to Precita Street, where it connects with 25th Street. That line then heads to Potrero Hill, where it follows Rhode Island Street to 20th Street.

Research assistance by Nichole Dial.


Subpoena PG&E’s maps


EDITORIAL If you’re worried about the safety of the natural gas mains running below San Francisco — and you should be — you might take a look at a city on the Peninsula, one about 22 miles south of the site of the gas explosion in San Bruno. Since 1927, the city of Palo Alto has been running its own gas and electric utility — and instead of worrying about pipelines blowing up, the city recently won an award for safety.

Palo Alto workers inspected every inch of every gas pipe in 2009, and the steel pipes are replaced every 37 years — well ahead of the rated lifetime of the material. Oh, and by the way: gas and electricity are way cheaper in Palo Alto.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the private utility that operates most of the pipelines underneath northern California, has a different approach. In the past, the company has been nailed for diverting ratepayer money from public safety and maintenance into executive salaries and profits. And the backlog of deferred pipeline maintenance (despite the fact that the company has been given rate hikes to pay for replacing old pipes) suggests that the pattern may be continuing.

That’s yet another in the long line of reasons why San Francisco needs to replace the incompetent, bloated private company with a public utility system.

It’s also the reason the city needs to be moving on every front to find out exactly where all of PG&E’s hazardous infrastructure is.

PG&E, as we report in this issue, doesn’t want anyone to know where the dangerous, aging gas mains run. Even the San Francisco Fire Department doesn’t have the map. So if a fire breaks out a few feet away from a gas line that could explode at any minute, the first responders have no way to know. That’s just crazy.

We’ve managed to piece together, from existing public records, a pretty good approximation of the secret PG&E map (see page 12), and it shows that some of the gas mains run right below densely populated urban neighborhoods. The company acknowledges that more than 200 miles of pipes in the city are due for replacement — but won’t release the maintenance schedule or any information about when the various pipes are in line for upgrades.

That’s an issue of basic public safety — and city officials shouldn’t tolerate it for another moment.

PG&E says it’s concerned about threats to the pipelines — but the real threat is to the public. If the residents of San Bruno who had been smelling gas — and San Bruno police and firefighters — knew that there was a 50-year-old pipeline carrying gas at 200 pounds per square inch underneath the residential area, they might have ordered an evacuation. That would have saved lives.

The California Public Utilities Commission can probably order PG&E to release its maps of all of its gas mains in the state, but the CPUC has never been terrribly good at regulating the utility and can’t be counted on here. So the San Francisco mayor, Board of Supervisors, and city attorney need to act.

The board should, of course, pass Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s resolution calling on PG&E to cooperate with city officials on timely disclosure of the information. But the supervisors should be prepared to go further. They have the legal right to issue subpoenas, and if PG&E doesn’t at least give the relevant maps to the Fire Department, the board should demand that PG&E’s chief executive, Peter Darbee, show up at a public hearing and produce it. City Attorney Dennis Herrera also has the power, under limited circumstances, to issue subpoenas — and this certainly seems to qualify.

Meanwhile, the board should begin to hold hearings on the larger issue — could San Francisco run its own electric utility and a natural gas system too? Or should we just trust our safety to a company that can’t seem to find a gas leak that blew up an entire neighborhood?