Volume 45 Number 36

Not the face!



SUPER EGO Henny, I don’t even know where to start. I leave the country for a lousy two months and I come back to this? No more Eagle Tavern to blow my mind on Thursday nights and blow my other parts on Sunday afternoon? No more Ti Couz for a hot bowl of pear cider when it’s pissing down rain? Straight people from Richmond puking all over the Castro on the regular? (Actually not too sad about this. I love my Richmond girls — and their unattended purses and boyfriends.)

Perhaps worst of all — um, Kreayshawn? Wow. At least we’re balancing out that catastrophe with a healthy, sleazy obsession with the Weeknd.

OK, I’m gonna move it all along, not dig my claws into bygones. I just flew in and my arms are too short to box with blah. It’s actually great to be back in blackout among my SF dance floor family. So let’s toast the future by getting toasted, because there’s a Jeroboam-load of parties sparkling in the fridge. Hiya!



“Carnal chronicler” Dixe De Tour’s over-the-top scandalous, sexy Bawdy Storytelling reading series is so successful it just expanded to Los Angeles. But home is where its, er, heart remains as Oakland’s infamous Ouchy the Clown joins a bevy of ear-burners for a no-holes-barred night of free speech.

Wed/8, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. storytime, $10. Blue Macaw, 2565 Mission, SF. www.bawdystorytelling.com



Beloved DJ and promoter Kim Kong of Non-Fat and Bitches with Stitches was just diagnosed with lymphoma, and the SF scene is stepping up to lend support at this bonkers fundraiser. The Housepitality, dirtybird, and Non-fat crews are bringing heavy hitters Mr. C and Claude VonStroke to the decks — you throw on your favorite wig and dance around.

Wed/8, 8 p.m., donation requested. Icon, 1192 Folsom, SF. www.wigoutwednesday.com



You mean our seminal electro banger glamourpuss joint is already six years old? That’s almost the age most of the kids who went there were during its insane early Rickshaw Stop days, what? Blow Up power couple Ava Berlin and Jeffrey Paradise join the Tenderlions, Nisus, Trevor Simpson, Holy Mountain, and more for the hands-up blur.

Fri/10, 10 p.m., $16 under 21, $12.50 over. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.blowupsf.com



The godfather of Moombahton — pitching Dutch house down to its deliciously tropical (and far less annoying/wannabe gangsta) roots — hits the raucous Lights Down Low party, not previously known for its reggaeton or Netherlandish leanings. But dude, when it gets darker anything goes. U.K. funky beatsplitter Canblaster and IHEARTCOMIX’s Franki Chan open up, local locos Deevice, Sleazemore, and Eli Glad preside.

Fri/10, 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m., $10. SOM, 2925 16th St., SF. www.lightsdownlow.net



Monthly party Evolve has grabbed the crown for deep yet spirit-raising soulful house in the Bay. (Was there ever any doubt Oakland would reign supreme?) And while the emphasis is on the “sacred element of music,” DJs David Harness and Soul Luciani don’t stint on the more earthly pleasures of a friendly, packed dance floor.

Fri/10, 9 p.m., $10. Era Art Bar, 19 Grand, Oakl. www.oaklandera.com



Sophisticated nu-disco and deeper house funkiness from this Brooklynite, who has garnered a star-studded following by unashamedly embracing the lo-fi analog techniques of yore. (No fear of the wah-wah here!) He’ll be at the monthly No Way Back party with DJs Conor and Navid.

Fri/10, 9:30 p.m., $5–$7. 222 Hyde, SF. www.222hyde.com



One of the funkiest parties in the city — a real topper combining secret sampled classics with up-to-the minute edits into a heady yet hip-swinging brew — hits the triple. Guest star: live beatboxer, producer, and instrumentalist James “Ayro” Ellison of Ubiquity Records, with residents Tom Thump, Damon Bell, and Centipede.

Fri/10, 10 p.m., $5. Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. www.makeoutroom.com



The totally not ironic, awesomely gnarly, giddily drag-ridden tribute to 1990s boy bands, ’80s Spandex pop, and ’70s unicorns on roller skates (bonus Bieber nods!) is folding up its Sunglass Hut and moving on with its life. Hostess Oxana Olsen serves up Glamour Shots and Hot Topics for the final installment.

Sat/11, 10 p.m., $7. UndergroundSF, 424 Haight, SF.



Those wacky Tormenta Tropical kids are at it again, expanding the signature electro-cumbia sound of their monthly gig with some warped global bass action. This Fade to Mind showcase flies in the L.A. label’s biggest draws: rave ‘n’ b king Kingdom, bouncy duo Nguzunguzu, and kooky pixellator Total Freedom.

Sat/11, 10 p.m., $10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com



It doesn’t exactly feel like summer as I write this — most likely because one of the Bay’s most adored free summer-launching events hasn’t occurred yet, right? The Sunset crew is once again taking over Treasure Island for a daytime dance and chill extravaganza, featuring a live set by the actually legendary house and jungle pioneer A Guy Called Gerald of “Voodoo Ray” and “Black Secret Technology” fame. DJs Solar, Galen, J-Bird, and (yay!) Primo Preems support.

Sun/12, noon–8:30 p.m., free. Treasure Island. www.pacificsound.net 2


Sing out, sister



BAR CRAWLER Until last week, I’d never set foot in a karaoke lounge. It wasn’t exactly on purpose; it was just something — like using dryer sheets and eating those little lathed carrots prepackaged with swimming pools of ranch dressing — that never occurred to me.

This is not a story where, by the end, I uncover a newfound talent and become an instant rock star. Turns out, karaoke is hard — and commands a hardcore following of seriously legit singers. But after one whirlwind karaoke tour of the city, I found that it can be tons of fun for the rest of us too.



A friend enlisted for guidance and moral support assured me the first stop on our Friday night list would be mellow. So mellow, in fact, that when we entered from the still-light evening, about six people were watching a surprisingly spot-on rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miz. Next, a potbellied beer-in-hander stepped up for some Led Zeppelin. The patrons were singles and couples, none of the giggly groups of girls I expected. The lights, however, were just what I expected: over-the-top and outdated all at once. The tables were sticky and the drinks were predictably terrible (but cheap). The overall experience seemed like a cozily trashy movie-scene karaoke pastiche.

1150 California, SF. (415) 775-0442. www.encorekaraokesf.com


(Click here for larger Google map.)


Though this be-spangled Mid-Market spot reprised Encore’s small, watery drinks, there was nothing cozy about it. The Mint is on the tip of everyone’s karaoke tongue, so it was packed almost beyond maneuverability with fratty types and hipsters galore, who were too busy huddling in little beanie-topped clusters to pay attention to the stage: no fun for veteran singers of big booming anthems, but potentially good for first-timers.

I hadn’t yet worked up the courage to sing, but my friend joked that if nothing else, I could do “Bicycle Built for Two.” Well, no shit: 40,000 songs to pick from, and someone with mismatched thigh-highs and a fuzzy panda hat beat me to it. Galvanized, I submitted a slip for “American Pie,” which I figured might arouse the passion — or, at least, compassion — of even the most blasé in attendance. When I wasn’t called in 30 minutes, I took it as a signal to duck out with my dignity intact.

1942 Market, SF. (415) 626-4726. www.themint.net



Next, we headed to Japantown for a more authentic experience. Festa fit that bill, according to our one companion with bona fide Tokyo chops. It’s a surprise to walk into Festa — with its twinkling LED stars, cityscape wall motif, and lustrous dark décor — from the deserted second floor of Japantown’s mall-like Japan Center. With five bartenders for an intimate 30 seats, Festa definitely has an upscale vibe. Most of the women wore heels and cocktail dresses, and the cocktails were likewise elevated, both in price and quality. It took a Bellini, lychee martini, and sake-tini to precondition my vocal chords.

The song list was extensive but lacked my planned-on Don McLean classic — which seemed out-of-place anyway amid such a demure crowd. Billy Joel’s “Entertainer” popped into my head because it’s light and mercifully fast. With hardly a wait, I was twanging, left leg trembling, a good half-octave below where my voice stops sounding like a woman’s and starts sounding like the Marlboro Man’s. I got a rush of mercy applause and swept my friends out the door.

1825A Post, SF. (415) 567-5866. www.festalounge.com


500 CLUB

More than a week passed, and I was ready to go it alone. For a low-key bar with a neighborhood vibe, 500 Club is perfect. Karaoke Sundays start when the afternoon light is still streaming through large windows and a Tecate on the crowded benches feels just right. Audience participation — including some friendly heckling — is big here, and the singers heckle right back. Be warned: the front row, which is nearly every seat in the joint, is something akin to Sea World’s splash zone. You may be personally serenaded, implored to sing backup, or even humped a bit — all in good fun.

500 Guerrero, SF. (415) 861-2500. www.500clubsf.com



Pandora begs a reference to the overstuffed box, and it’s appropriate: this bar has it all — in a good way. Bins brim with cymbals, tambourines, silly hats, and other props. Candy Land and Jenga top a stack of board games. Flat-screen TVs flash the night’s basketball scores. A disco ball sprinkles light over sleek silver couches, low coffee tables, and a posh lit-up bar.

Make a splash



BAR CRAWLER Overrun with partiers from the burbs on weekends, North Beach remains far more than its hordes of visitors would suggest. Italian history, comforting foods, historical churches, and Beat mystique keep tourists roaming the streets. But savvy locals know North Beach’s under-the-radar gems. In some ways, it’s our most European neighborhood, where you’re most likely to find elderly Continental gentlemen gesticulating over coffee and cigarettes at sidewalk tables outside Cafe Greco or Caffe Trieste. Beneath the tourist trappings and meat markets, beats a vibrant and cultured heart.

This is equally true of its nightlife. Look beyond seedy strip joints and bars packed with suburbanites to find a long list of spots rich with history and colorful characters. If you haven’t hung out in NB in awhile, it’s time to fall in love with this late-night neighborhood’s impressive diversity again via a nice north-to-south bar crawl.



There’s no cooler live music venue in San Francisco than Bimbo’s. A Rat Pack-style supperclub where Rita Hayworth danced as a chorus girl in the early 1930s and gin was served in coffee cups, the spacious club is rife with character. Wood-paneled walls, red curtains, and stools create a space Dean Martin’s Matt Helm character would have felt at home in. Start your night with a show of acts as divergent as Flaming Lips and Adele.

1025 Columbus, (415) 474-0365, www.bimbos365club.com



Divey and lived-in, Tony Nik’s still shines under its original neon sign. A Prohibition-era bar opened in 1933 by namesake Tony Nicco, it’s a funky, worn respite from the bustle of North Beach. It’s like stepping back in time … with rock ‘n’ roll attitude. It’s just the place to pop in for conversation and a stiff martini.

1534 Stockton, (415) 693-0990, www.tonyniks.com



This underrated beer haven keeps a rotating selection of craft beers from around the world on tap. Victoriana wallpaper melds with a mellow vibe, offering a welcome respite from weekend craziness. Sip an Allagash Witbier in the upstairs alcove with wild game sausages while a DJ plays classic soul records that won’t drown you out.

1402 Grant, (415) 963-1713

(Click here for larger Google map.)


It’s time for more music at one of the country’s oldest bars. The Saloon hit the Barbary Coast in 1861 as Wagner’s Beer Hall. Beat-up and worn down (in look and regulars), this bar feels like New Orleans, where music sings out into the night from seasoned musicians who play as hard as they live. Offering live music seven nights and three afternoons a week, the Saloon’s key focus is blues, although rock ‘n’ roll and soul influences abound. Dancing erupts in tight confines — like one ongoing party where music legends relive glory days.

1232 Grant, (415) 989-7666



No North Beach night would be complete without killer cocktails, and they don’t get better than at 15 Romolo. A turn-of-the-century bar vibe is balanced by killer jukebox. Karaoke Gong Show nights are legendary and, although frequently packed, it’s often a place to get an artisanal drink in a relaxed setting. Spawning some of our city’s best bartenders, the talent behind the bar remains impressive. You’ll be hard-pressed not to count their inventive (yet far from fussy) creations among the best in the city.

15 Romolo Place, (415) 398-1359, www.15romolo.com



It’s a grungy sort of tiki vibe at Bamboo Hut. Live surfer bands, kitschy tiki paraphernalia, and tropical drinks (warning: this ain’t no Smuggler’s Cove) make it a fun, distinctive stop on your crawl for a fruity island escape. And, yes, there are volcano bowls.

479 Broadway, (415) 989-8555, www.maximumproductions.com



If you must do a club, this newest North Beach addition is unlike the rest. With decidedly Hollywood flair, mirrors and artwork of models draped in pearls (alas, no Marilyn) line brick walls over leather and velvet couches in this unexpected den of hip classiness.

473 Broadway, (415) 772-9002, www.monroesf.com



Journeying south down Columbus Avenue, you’ll hit a few of the city’s great classics. Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe is the dive to trump all dives. Singing around the piano with a Guinness or a shot of whiskey is a favorite pastime, as is soaking in the glowing, musty atmosphere and listening to stories from crusty locals your mother would be nervous around. A maritime SF mainstay since 1968, Specs is more than a bar, it’s an institution.

12 William Saroyan Place, (415) 421-4112



In the realm of classic bars, Tosca stands alone. Surviving Prohibition with “house cappuccinos” (hot chocolate with brandy), still its No. 1 seller, Tosca has been a North Beach hotspot for decades, its famed back room a haven for rock and movie stars alike. With a lovingly faded yet romantic interior, red booths and chairs hark back to its early days. The famed jukebox spins out a line of tunes crucial to Italians, from legendary opera singer Enrico Caruso to Dino and Frank.

242 Columbus, (415) 986-9651, toscacafesf.com



Vesuvio is not so much about drink. Libations are an afterthought in a legendary 1950s space like no other. This is the kind of bar where intellectual discussion and reading books are the norm, where inspiration seeps out of the walls. Eclectic, hodgepodge decor is quirky and artsy, just like the clientele. The spirit of the Beat poets who frequented its corners lives on … with beer.

255 Columbus, (415) 362-3370, www.vesuvio.com



End your long night with a mellow, classy stop recalling Barbary Coast days. Comstock Saloon captures that spirit in a restored turn-of-the-century space replete with antique mahogany bar, Victorian furniture, 1916 rotating ceiling fans, and wood-burning stove. Cocktails are impeccable, classic and expertly-made … and top-notch jazz musicians play from the upstairs balcony.

155 Columbus, (415) 617-0071, www.comstocksaloon.com

Alameda all at once



BAR CRAWLER Rumored to have given birth to the snow cone, the Popsicle, and the Kewpie doll back in its amusement park days, Alameda still gives off a summery island vibe. (With Playland at the Beach, Oakland’s Idora Park, and Alameda’s Neptune Beach, the primary mode of transportation in the Bay used to be a Big Dipper. Picture rush hour.) The golden sun, rad flea market, and laid-back neighborhoods — well, the place screams “stay a while.” So you may as well get drunk. FYI, the flatlands crawl works best on a bike, but if you soldier up and walk it, you don’t risk getting tipsy and bloody — to each her own. (Caitlin Donohue)



No, you’re not driving out there. Hop the ferry, ’cause guess what? It’s the first stop on the crawl. Take advantage of the bracing winds to order a beer, or better yet, a bay-ready cocktail. Affable bartenders will recommend a bloody or one of the Campari concoctions that sometimes make the specials board. Take your sweet-ass time and ascend to the top deck with your glass — you have 30 to 45 minutes to kill coming from San Francisco. Once you disembark, you’ll be flush with the possibility of a new island lifestyle. Steady on captain, much boozing lies ahead.

Departs from SF Ferry Building, Pier 41, and Jack London Square. www.eastbayferry.com



Surprise! Not only is Alameda a great bar town, it’s also home to a burgeoning alcohol-making district. The island’s northwestern blocks — once the Naval Air Station and still fetchingly speckled at the edges with behemoth military boats — went through an era of tumbleweed rule but are now being reinvigorated by pioneer businesses that enjoy the commercial, wide-open spaces that only airplane hangers can provide. St. George Spirits moved here in 2004 and now produces pleasant, not-too-cloying Hangar One-flavored vodkas (mandarin blossom and chipotle versions are amazing), absinthe, superlative Firelit coffee liqueur, and more. Check out the $15 tasting menu in the jovial tasting room and toast to Alameda with every tiny, long-stemmed glass the good saint presents you with.

2601 Monarch, Alameda. (510) 769-1601, www.stgeorgespirits.com

(Click here for larger Google map.)


Don’t worry if your St. George tasting ended with a disorienting absinthe-root beer closer — you don’t have far to bike to the next stop on the crawl. A few hangars over, step into the sleek tasting room of Rock Wall Wines, where you can order flights of swishes from Rock Wall’s father-daughter team plus nine other small wineries that share production space next door in the massive urban vintner hangar-hangout. Feel good about supporting the little guys along with another chance to sample an array of finely-crafted local booze.

2301 Monarch, Suite No. 300, Alameda. (510) 522-5700, www.rockwallwineco.com



So you’re a few drinks deep — time to check out the actual Alameda haunts. Bar! Well, a gym bar. Once you arrive at the Bladium (you’ll pedal past an impressive lineup of battleships on the way), smile sousedly at the front desk of the Bladium athletic center and weave your way through in-line hockey and indoor lacrosse arenas to the comfortable second-floor sports bar, where you can knock a pint back and take in some of the heated amateur action going on among the athletic types below. Don’t let all the secondhand endorphins make you feel lazy — the kind of drinking you’re doing takes endurance.

800 West Tower, Building 40, Alameda. (510) 814-4999, www.bladium.com



Enough crawling with the generalists — let’s get dark ‘n’ sugary the way only a quality tiki bar can encourage. Find the flavor at the low-lit Forbidden Island, where there will be a luau in progress, if you play your cards right, and sufficient vats of rum and juice even if you didn’t schedule your crawl around roast pig. Hoist a Neptune’s Garden (it’s blue and has fruit garnishes!) to discovering more about the Forbidden Island’s watering holes and continue on your way.

1304 Lincoln, Alameda. (510) 749-0332, www.forbiddenislandalameda.com



See how we planned this out? We started with sober sea legs on the ferry, pinky-up tastings while you can still bullshit about noses and mouthfeels, then the limber tiki limbo — enter now the dives. Lost Weekend is a good one, and it’s smack in the center of Alameda’s fun downtown, which is worth a saunter about if you’re feeling a little shaky after Forbidden Island. Otherwise, belly up the bar, gaze at the TVs and myriad ephemera on the walls from hazy sports meccas — Philly? Texas? — and discover that here in the Island City, the jock and black-clad hipster crowds can oftentimes merge into one.

2320 Santa Clara, Alameda. (510) 523-4700, www.lostweekendlounge.com



Turn the corner onto Park Street and you, my friend, have come to the end of your bar crawl — lucky for SF residents, it’s on familiar turf. The Lucky 13’s East Bay branch is just as good a rockabilly dive into a heavy, microbrew-tinged blackout as its Castro counterpart. Same wooden tables to back-slap and talk trash over without blazing TVs to distract your train of thought, same walled patio for fresh air and lighting of the cancer stick (yeah, alright, you’re wasted). Two big points for the Alameda Lucky: you can bring in take-out stromboli and french fries from Scolari’s next door — and the Fruitvale BART Station is only a happy downhill ride away when you’re ready for the mainland. Lean your bike against the wall and find a comfy seat for yourself, brave crawler — you’ve earned it.

1301 Park, Alameda. (510) 523-2118, www.lucky13alameda.com 

Tipping point



On June 14, members of the Board of Supervisors will vote to appoint a new member of the Police Commission — in the wake of a messy string of alleged police misconduct scandals that, progressives argue, underscore why having strong civilian oversight is critical to ensuring a transparent, accountable police department the public can trust.

The appointment comes less than two months after San Francisco native Greg Suhr was sworn in as chief in the wake of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to appoint former Chief George Gascón as the next district attorney — a move that has served to muddy the D.A. Office’s efforts to investigate the alleged police misconduct.

Further complicating the board’s choice is the heated battle that erupted over the appointment, led in part by members of two Democratic clubs that represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club has officially endorsed Julius Turman, a gay attorney and community activist who was a former assistant U.S. attorney and the first African American president of the Alice club. Turman currently works for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he represents companies in actions for wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and unfair competition. He is also state Sen. Mark Leno’s (D-SF) proxy to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and serves on the Human Rights Commission.

On the other side, members of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the voice of the city’s queer left, are supporting David Waggoner, an attorney and community activist who is a former Milk Club president. Waggoner has worked on police use-of-force policy and as a pro bono attorney for the National Lawyers Guild at the Oakland Citizen’s Police Review Board, and been a passionate advocate for the LGBT community, immigrants’ rights, people with disabilities, and the homeless.

The other two applicants for the post are Vanessa Jackson, a staffer at a women’s shelter with experience in counseling ex-offenders; and Phillip Hogan, a former police officer who serves on the board of the Nob Hill Association and has been trying to get on a commission for years.

Although both Jackson and Hogan have diverse experience with law enforcement — Jackson as an African American woman who claims the police have “no respect for people of color” and Hogan as a former police officer of Lebanese-Irish descent who manages real estate — neither has the support of the LGBT community. The position occupied by Deputy District Attorney James Hammer for the last two years, and Human Rights Commission director Theresa Sparks occupied before that, is widely considered to be an LGBT seat.



So now the fight is about whether Turman or Waggoner would be the strongest reformer.

In a recent open letter, former Board Presidents Harry Britt, Aaron Peskin. and Matt Gonzalez expressed support for Waggoner. “While most hardworking police officers perform their jobs admirably, insufficient oversight and poor management systems have led to significant problems,” their letter stated. “Despite these widely reported problems, the Police Commission has failed to adequately address these issues. San Francisco needs real reform, not more of the same. We believe David Waggoner will be that voice at this critical time.”

At the June 2 Rules Committee hearing, Waggoner proposed taking away master keys to single-resident occupancy (SRO) hotels from the police. “Significant abuse of that resulted in seriously tarnishing the department,” he said.

Turman made an equally impassioned — if less stridently reformist-sounding — speech. “Why would we allow an officer to enter a home, regardless of the master key rule, which I’m not a fan of?” Turman asked. He also said Tasers are dangerous weapons with unintended consequences. “I fear communities of color will suffer more from Taser use.”

Waggoner’s supporters noted that their candidate has more than 15 years of police accountability experience. Turman’s supporters vouched for his integrity, maturity, ability to build consensus, and “belief in strategically serving his community.”

In the end, Sups. Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell voted for Turman, while Rules Committee Chair Sup. Jane Kim voted for Waggoner.

That means Turman’s name has been forwarded to the full board with a recommendation. But because the Rules Committee interviewed all the candidates, the board can still appoint any of them.

At the Rules Committee, Sup. Scott Wiener voiced support for Turman. And Board President David Chiu recently told the Guardian that he has known Turman for years, has worked with him professionally, and will vote for him. “I found him to be fair, thoughtful, and compassionate,” Chiu said, noting that he believes the role of the commission is “to provide oversight and set policy.”

Sup. David Campos, one of the solid progressive votes on the board and a longtime Milk Club member, believes Waggoner would make an excellent commissioner but is a friend of Turman, and believes he’ll be a strong voice for reform. “Sean [Elsbernd] and Mark [Farrell] could be in for a big surprise if Julius gets appointed,” Campos mused shortly after Elsbernd and Farrell voted for Turman.

Campos recalled how he and Turman started working at the same firm years ago. “So I got to know him well,” he said, adding he is “like a family member.

“By virtue of his involvement with Alice, some folks think Julius will be a certain way,” Campos added. “But I believe he’ll take a progressive point of view on the issues. He has both the knowledge and the experience with the police, he understand the important role that police oversight and the Police Commission play in making the SFPD accountable.”

Kim told us that she primarily voted for Waggoner because she knows him the best, and not out of concern that Turman wouldn’t do a good job. “I’m more familiar with David and that’s what tipped the scale,” Kim said. “It’s great to have two strong LGBT attorneys who have a clear understanding of public safety issues, the law, and are advocates for the community.”

But Debra Walker, who ran against Kim last November, steadfastly supports Waggoner. “Julius has been active in the Alice B. Toklas club for a while, he’s a prosecutor, while David is more of a citizen’s defense attorney,” she said.

Turman continues to be dogged by reports of domestic violence, thanks to a lawsuit that Turman’s former domestic partner Philip Horne filed in March 2006 alleging that Turman came into his house when he was sleeping on New Year’s Day 2006 and tried to strangle him.

Horne claimed he “was terrified that the lack of air supply would cause him to pass out and potentially die at the hands of such a jealous and unmerciful former lover.” He alleged he was able to calm Turman down only to see him get enraged again and punch Horne in the face seven to 10 times. When Horne decided he needed to go to the emergency room, the complaint states, Turman grabbed his phone and keys saying, “If you leave, you’ll never see the cats (alive) again,” and “I will report you to the state bar.”

Horne claimed he ran outside screaming for help and that when SFPD arrived, they arrested Turman for domestic violence and called an ambulance for Horne.

Turman responded in July 2006 to what he described as Horne’s “unverified complaint,” arguing he acted in “self-defense” and that the conduct Horne complained of “constituted mutual combat.” He added that “damages, if any, suffered by Horne were caused in whole or in part by entities or persons other than Turman.”

In the end, no criminal charges were ever filed against Turman and the case was settled out of court. Turman now says “I’ve done nothing wrong and these allegations are false.”

Campos warns people not to jump to conclusions. “We need to remember that there is a presumption of innocence,” Campos said. “Yes, there was a court case, but there was never a conviction. Yes, there was a settlement, but people do that for a lot of reasons.”

Turman told the Rules Committee that the incident was from “an extremely difficult time that is now being used against me as a political sideshow.”

Meanwhile, Campos notes that without a reform-minded mayor, there will be only so much any board-appointed police commissioners can do. “What we really need to implement police reform is a mayor who is willing to do that,” he said. “Otherwise it’s going to be very difficult because the mayor still gets to appoint four commissioners and mayor still gets to control who is in charge of the police department.”



Civil liberties advocates praised as a “first step in the right direction” Suhr’s May 18 decision to issue an order clarifying that SFPD officers assigned to the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce should adhere to SFPD policies and procedures set by the Police Commission, not FBI guidelines.

But in the coming months, the commission will have to decide whether to push a Portland-style resolution around SFPD involvement with the FBI. The commission also will be dealing with fallout from the other scandals, including the crime lab, the use of force against mentally ill suspects, and videos that allegedly show police conducting warrantless search and seizure raids in single residential occupancy hotels.

These scandals have progressives arguing that it’s critical that the board’s three seats on the commission are occupied by applicants with proven track records of reform.

Waggoner notes that in 2003, voters approved Prop. H., which changed the composition of the commission from five to seven members. Four are appointed by the mayor; three by the board.

Last year, he said, the commission made significant progress in the right direction when it adopted new rules after the Jan. 2 shooting of a man in a wheelchair in SoMa. “That was not the first time an unarmed person with a disability was killed,” he said. “After Prop. H and a crisis, the commission finally took steps. It remains to be seen if Chief Suhr will implement that.”

Waggonner said the current arrangement “creates tension between people who are more willing to defer to the chief on policy issues and being in an advisory capacity, as opposed to people who want to be in the forefront of setting policy.”

That tension played out when Commissioners James Hammer, Angela Chan, and Petra DeJesus tried to find consensus on the Taser controversy last year. “Overall they worked well together. But there’s been no progress yet on Tasers,” he said, noting that the commission eventually decided on a pilot project.

Waggoner said he would be in favor of the commission having a more active role and exerting its authority under the city charter to set policy, but in collaboration with the chief.

The Police Commission’s May 18 joint hearing with the Human Rights Commission about FBI spying concerns was a symbol of the broader issue at the Police Commission. The majority of the commission didn’t see any major problems — but the progressives were highly critical. “Is the commission there to set policy and take leadership, or is it there in an advisory capacity?” Waggoner asked.

With Hammer’s departure, Chan and DeJesus, both board-appointed women of color, are the most progressive members of the commission. Chan hopes Hammer’s replacement believes in strong civilian oversight. “We should never be a rubber stamp for the police department,” he said. “We need to take community concerns very seriously. When the police department is doing great things, we should support them — but if we see something wrong, we should not be afraid to speak out.”

Turman told the Guardian that “being the voice for reform and advising are not mutually exclusive roles — and an effective police commissioner needs to be both.

“I would advocate for series of meetings with representatives from the Arab community, the SFPD, and the FBI to increase communication and understanding of each side’s perspective on exactly what we need to implement in San Francisco,” Turman said.

Asked more about Tasers, Turman said that “one of the things I would be interested in pursuing is a recognition by some that female officers are less likely to incapacitate during an arrest, which could lead to learning for the larger police force.”

But does this means Turman will turn out to be a swing vote for Tasers? Only time — and the board’s June 14 vote — will tell.

Lee should veto Parkmerced


EDITORIAL Mayor Ed Lee got his start as a lawyer working on tenant issues. He understands the city’s rent laws and the shortage of affordable housing. He also knows — or ought to know — that when the city’s tenant groups are unanimously opposed to a project, elected officials who care about tenant rights should pay attention.

The Parkmerced project will be a clear test: Does he follow his activist roots, stick with the people he started with and show his independence — or side with the big out-of-town developer and allow the project to move forward?

The supervisors approved the project by the narrowest of margins, 6-5. All of the progressives voted to reject the development agreement and rezoning — and for good reason. The deal would lead to the demolition of 1,500 units of rent-controlled housing. And while the developer says it will abide by the rent laws for the newly built replacement units, that’s a shaky legal guarantee. The larger point, tenant advocates say, is that demolishing existing affordable housing is always a bad idea.

In the end, 1,500 people will have to leave the homes they’ve lived in for years — in some cases, many years. They will be offered replacement units in a high-rise — very different from the garden apartments (with, yes, gardens) that they’ve occupied. And if the developer decides that there’s more money to be made by jacking up the rents on those units, it’s a safe bet that an army of lawyers will arrive attempting to undermine the questionable guarantees now in the deal.

There’s also the problem of transportation and traffic. The project will include a new parking space for every new unit, meaning 6,000 new cars in an area already overwhelmingly congested. Since the vast majority of the units will be market-rate (the developer will provide 15 percent affordable units, under city law, which means 85 will be sold or rented to rich people) the development will transform what is now still something of a working-class neighborhood into another enclave for the wealthy.

When we talked to Mayor Lee, he was noncommittal on the deal. At the same time, he noted that the garden apartments are old and will have to be replaced at some point. We don’t dispute that there are ways to add more density at Parkmerced. But wholesale demolition of affordable housing isn’t the answer.

This deal is bad for tenants and bad for the city. Mayor Lee ought to recognize that then tenant groups opposing this have analyzed it carefully and come to an entirely reasonable conclusion.

Sup. David Chiu, the swing vote in favor of the project, did serious damage to his reputation as a progressive and lost thousands of tenant votes by siding with the developer. Lee, who insists he isn’t running in November, ought to demonstrate that he hasn’t forgotten his roots, that he listens to activists, and doesn’t simply go along with poorly conceived development projects. He should veto the development agreement and zoning changes and send this thing back to the drawing board.

Behind the all-smiles budget



When Mayor Ed Lee released his 2011-12 budget proposal June 1, all was sweetness and light at City Hall.

The mayor delivered the document in person, to the supervisors, in the board chambers. Sup. Carmen Chu, chair of the Budget Committee, was standing to the mayor’s right. Board President David Chiu was to his left. There was none of the imperious attitude we’d come to expect in the Gavin Newsom era — and little of the typical hostility from the board.

As Sup. David Campos, who was elected in November 2008, remarked afterward: “It’s the first time since I’ve been elected that the mayor has taken the time to come to chambers. It’s reflective of how this has been a lot more of an inclusionary process.”

Lee went even further. “This is a pretty happy time,” he said. “There are no layoffs, and instead of closing libraries we’ll be opening them.” That earned him an ovation from assembled city leaders, including mayoral candidates City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting along with District Attorney George Gascón. “I think this budget represents a lot of hope.”

It’s true that this year’s cuts won’t be as bad as the cuts over the past five years. It’s also true that the pain is spread a bit more — the police and fire departments, which Newsom, always the ambitious politician, wouldn’t touch, are taking their share of cuts.

But before everybody stands up and holds hands and sings “Kumbaya,” there’s some important perspective that’s missing here.

Over the past half-decade, San Francisco has cut roughly $1 billion out of General Fund spending. The Department of Public Health has eliminated three- quarters of the acute mental health beds. Six homeless resource centers have closed. The waiting list for a homeless family seeking shelter is between six and nine months. Muni service has been reduced and fares have been raised. Recreation centers have been closed. Library hours have been reduced.

In other words, services for the poor and middle class have been slashed below acceptable levels, year after year — and Mayor Lee’s budget doesn’t even begin to restore any of those cuts.

“We’re not ready yet to restore old cuts,” Lee told the Guardian in a June 2 interview. “It was enough for us to accomplish a pretty steady course and keep as much. Particularly with the critical nonprofits that provide services to seniors and youth and homeless shelters, we kept them as close as we could to what last year’s funding was.”

But the current level of funding is woefully inadequate. As Debbi Lerman, administrator of the Human Services Network, noted, the people who work in the nonprofits Lee was talking about haven’t had a pay raise in four years — even though the cost of living continues to rise. “Our costs have gone up with cost of inflation,” she noted.

She said the cuts over the past few years have deeply eroded services for children, homeless people, substance abuse programs, and others. “There have been significant cuts to every area of health and human services.”

And in a city with 14 billionaires and thousands more very wealthy people, Lee’s budget is distinctly lacking in significant new ways to find revenue.



Just about everyone agrees that the budget process this year has been far better than anything anyone experienced under Newsom. “He [Mayor Lee] listened to everybody,” Lerman said. “That doesn’t mean they fixed everything. Mayor Lee fixed as much as he could.”

At his press conference announcing the release of the budget, Lee thanked Police Chief Greg Suhr for having already made significant cuts through management restructuring and for considering an additional proposed cut of $20 million.

“We want to thank you for that great sacrifice,” Lee said, addressing Suhr, who sat in front row of public benches, dressed in uniform. Lee next acknowledged that adequate funding for social services also helps public safety. “Without those services, officers on the street would have a harder job,” he said.

Lee also praised the departments of Public Health and Human Services for helping to identify $39 million in federal dollars and $16 million in state dollars, to help keep services open and the city safer.

Lee noted that San Francisco no longer has a one-year budget process and has just released its first five-year financial plan as part of its decision to go in five-year planning cycles.

“To address this, I’ve asked for shared sacrifice, ” Lee continued, adding that he recently released his long-awaited pension reform charter amendment, emphasizing that it was built through a consensus and collaborative-based approach.

Lee also said he would consider asking voters to approve what he called “a recovery sales tax” in November if Gov. Jerry Brown is unable to extend the state’s sales tax. That would bring in $60 million — but it is only on the table as a way to backfill further state budget cuts.

Lee observed that San Francisco is growing, the economy is looking brighter, and unemployment is down from more than 10 percent last January to 8.5 percent today. He plugged the America’s Cup, the city’s local hire legislation, the Department of Public Works’ apprenticeship programs, and tourism, both in terms of earmarking funding in the budget for these programs and their potential to boost city revenues.

He said his budget proposed $308 million in infrastructure investments that include enhanced disability access, rebuilding jails, and energy efficiency, and is proposing a $248 million General Obligation bond for the November ballot to reduce the street repair backlog.

“We will get these streets repaired,” he promised.

“This submission of a budget is not an end at all, it’s the beginning of the process,” he continued, going on to recognize Chu for her work getting the process rolling and thanking Budget Analyst Harvey Rose in advance. “I do know his cooperation is critical.”

And he concluded by thanking each of the supervisors. “I will continue enjoying working with you — we need to keep the city family tight and together.”

The sentiment was welcomed by supervisors. “As he said, this is the beginning of the process, and it’s an important and symbolic step” Campos said. “The budget shows that a lot of good programs have been saved. But there is still work to do.

“There are still gaps in the safety network,” he added, singling out cuts to violence-prevention programs. “It’s my hope they will be restored.”



But even if the cuts for this year are restored, the city budget is nowhere near where it ought to be. “We still had to make cuts,” Lee acknowledged.

“We did consider very seriously a whole host of revenue ideas that we had,” he said. “They were not off the agenda at all.” At the same time, he noted that state law requires a two-thirds vote for new taxes (although that threshold drops to 50 percent in presidential election years). “We decided that it’s not that they were bad ideas, but that we wouldn’t be able to sell them at this time.”

Lee praised some of the revenue ideas that have been suggested in the past year, including the alcoholic beverage fee proposal by Sup. John Avalos, which Lee called “a pretty good idea.” He said that “a year or two from now” an additional sales tax and a parcel tax (for the police or for schools and open space) might be on the agenda.

The city now has a multiyear budget process and projections are supposed to go beyond a single year. But what’s missing — and what nobody is talking about — is a long-term plan to restore critical city services to a sustainable level. That means talking — now — about tax proposals for 2012 and beyond and including those revenue streams in long-term budget planning.

Because the city parks, the public health system, the libraries, the schools, affordable housing programs, and the social safety net are in terrible condition today, the result of year after year of all-cuts budgets. And while the supervisors and the mayor wrangle over the final details, and advocates try to win back a few dollars here and a few dollars there, it’s important to recognize that this budget does nothing to fix the damage.

“We’re about $10 million short of what we need right now to keep service providers at current levels,” noted Jennifer Freidenbach, who runs the Coalition on Homelessness. “But we also need to restore the health and human services system that was slaughtered under Gavin Newsom.”

Cold comfort



CHEAP EATS I write to you from Dot’s Diner in Jefferson Parish, La. Hedgehog is getting her knee looked at down the road, and I thought I would find me a place to sit that wasn’t the waiting room. Or a pool hall. Or bar. Or fast food joint or automotive shop. Or warehouse, thrift store, or — but only because it’s 9:30 a.m. and I ain’t the slightest bit hungry — a fried seafood shack or po-boy shop.

Jefferson’s got good eats in its own right. Crabby Jack’s is here, and at the French Canadian Quarter Festival this spring they fed me the best boudin I ever had, but at 9:30 a.m. the only way you can get a table, apparently, is if you’re an upside-down chair.

If it were 10 a.m. or even three hours later, I would have been in heaven. All’s I really required was a good strong cup a coffee and a seat, but this ain’t California or Seattle or even New Orleans. It’s the parish, as the locals call it, where you can’t exactly sit down without having a meal.

But how pretentious of them to refer to their parish as “the parish.” Don’t you think that’s pretty arrogant? Louisiana has a lot of parishes. They’re like counties everywhere else.

Whatever, I’m sure you’re more interested in what I’ve been eating San Franciscowise than Dot’s Diner’s biscuit with a fried egg on top, smothered in crawfish julie.

I will tell you: duck soup.

As always I have been on the prowl, trying to find the city’s best bowl of cold medicine and antidepressant.

It ain’t at Big Lantern here in the ‘hood, I can promise you that. Me and Hedgehog went there the last time we were in the city together, and I was fighting a cold. A fight, by the way, that I lost.

I’m human. I get sick. In fact, I get sick more than most people, being not only human but a hypochondriac. (Not that I’ve been diagnosed with hypochondria. I can just tell I have it.)

Anyway, I had wanted to show Hedgehog something special like Zuni, Delfina, or Slanted Door, but I felt too much like crap to eat anything but duck noodle soup, pea sprouts in garlic, and string beans with smoked pork.

There were dumplings, too. I forget what they were called on the dim sum menu. Some kind of “little buns,” I think. The ones that were soupy inside, they were great, but some weren’t so soupy. They had lost their juice. Not so great.

I can’t really complain about the duck soup because it wasn’t technically on the menu. Nor was it all that half bad. But the pea sprouts needed a lot of doctoring to taste like anything, and the beans with smoked pork were some of the worst things ever. About half of the beans were lifelessly old tough shriveled ones, overcooked. And the pork was like pork jerky. Very dry. Very tough. Which — granted — maybe that’s what smoked pork means in Chinese restaurants. I don’t often order it, and won’t often order it again, to be safe.

To their credit, the garlic pea sprouts and the beans and pork got better the next day for lunch, and better still the day after that, because I doctored and doctored them back to life.

The soup hit the spot, but as long as I’m healthy enough to get on BART and buses, I will be having my future duck soups in Chinatown, at Great Eastern Restaurant, thank you.

The legendary Jackson Street standby, it turns out, has a rich, flavorful dark broth with perfectly succulent roast duck and great homemade noodles. Or wontons. Or both. For $9, it’s the reigning duck noodle champion, in my book.

I would like to thank John’s Snack and Deli for being out of kimchi burritos again, or else I might never have found this out.

Oh, and Great Eastern also has crocodile soup and soft-shell turtle soup, by the way. In case you’re not sick when you go there. *

New favorite restaurant! *


Daily: 10 a.m.–1 a.m.

649 Jackson, SF

(415) 986-5603

Beer and wine


Stopping foreclosure secrecy


OPINION Thanks to a shadowy corporate mortgage recording system, millions of Californians have no idea who owns their home loans.

As we suffer through this recession triggered by reckless subprime lending and Wall Street speculation, our recovery is being held back in part because people are struggling with foreclosures and underwater home values — exacerbated by a lack of mortgage transparency.

The mess created by Wall Street is causing wrongful foreclosures and wreaking havoc. Real people — often lower-income families and communities of color — are enduring the devastation of foreclosure processes because of the excesses of bankers and investment firms.

In San Francisco, we’ve seen the highest number of foreclosures in the Ingleside-Excelsior, Bayview, Tenderloin, and Mission neighborhoods — many of the places where home values have fallen most. Whether or not you face foreclosure, we all pay for this crisis by losing vital tax revenue that could go to support our schools, protect our neighborhoods, or build our economy.

When Wall Street realized it could make billions by bundling mortgages and selling them to investors, banks and financial institutions needed a way around recording the ownership and assignment of home loans. What the banks and Wall Street came up with is a shadowy, industry-backed reporting system called MERS — mortgage electronic reporting system.

Simply stated, subprime and predatory lending allowed banks to create millions of questionable mortgages, Wall Street bundled these risky mortgages together to sell to investors, and MERS made it quicker and easier to conduct these risky transactions with impunity.

As San Francisco’s assessor-recorder and a financial advocate for low-income communities, we have seen harmful industry practices wreak havoc on families trying to stay in their homes — whether by use of MERS that clouds property titles, wrongful foreclosures, or denied loan modifications.

The state Legislature considered several good foreclosure bills this year. One proposal placed a $20,000 fee on financial institutions attempting a foreclosure. This would have discouraged foreclosure and helped defray costs to communities if the process went ahead.

State Sen. Mark Leno( D-SF) and Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) offered legislation stopping banks from proceeding with foreclosures when a homeowner is attempting to modify his or her mortgage.

Assessor-Recorder Ting is sponsoring a bill requiring that all mortgage assignments and transfers be recorded with counties, thus taking this process out of the murky MERS system.

Unfortunately, the banks and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists have been able to stymie these reforms.

We must continue to fight these wealthy, powerful lobbies so that the long road to recovery in our housing markets and communities can begin. We cannot let Sacramento forget it was financial institutions that fueled the housing bubble, crashed the stock market, and sent shockwaves throughout the economy with their reckless practices.

Few states have been ravaged by subprime lending and the meltdown of mortgage-backed securities the way California has, so we must continue reforming the practices of banks and Wall Street that have thrown our economy and communities into turmoil.

Phil Ting is San Francisco assessor-recorder. Kevin Stein works with the California Reinvestment Coalition.

Father’s day



FILM The central figures in Mike Mills’ Beginners — a grown son and his elderly, newly out father — share a relationship rarely featured on screen. But however unique the story seems, it’s based on real events in the writer-director’s life.

“I thought my dad coming out was the most awesome thing that ever happened in my life,” Mills (2005’s Thumbsucker) reflects. “What happened between us after he came out — it was the biggest story I had to tell. I like it when filmmakers make really personal stories.”

Even though Beginners is based on his life, Mills made sure the film would have a broader appeal. When he appealed to Ewan McGregor — eventually cast as Oliver, the son — Mills stressed the importance of expanding on the personal.

“The first thing I said to Ewan when I wrote a letter, I was like, ‘This has to be more than personal. It has to reach out to people. You can’t feel like you have to mimic or anything like that.'<0x2009>”

For McGregor, the truth behind the script was part of what attracted him to the project. Although he was committed to playing Oliver and not Mills himself, the actor also wanted to connect with the reality of the film.

“I thought it was a wonderful story,” McGregor says. “I wanted to know more and more about the real story. I think that’s always really important. That’s what makes you identify and commit to something wholeheartedly — believing in the story you’re telling.”

Veteran actor Christopher Plummer stars opposite McGregor as Hal, who comes out at 75 and proceeds to make the best of his twilight years. Again, Mills wanted the character of Hal to be distinct from his actual father, though he was charmed by the similarities between the two men.

“It was a real natural fit, I’ve got to say,” Mills admits. “Christopher got so many of the key points, like the humor.”

Indeed, all the actors — including costars Mélanie Laurent and Goran Visnjic — brought humor to their roles, helping Beginners achieve the bittersweet tone Mills intended. The film maintains a whimsical style, alternating between moments of joy and tragedy throughout. But on either end of the spectrum, it feels organic, something McGregor credits to the positive energy of the set.

“It was absolutely the best environment to create good acting, to create good work for us,” he notes. “It very much felt like we had this space — and the peace and quiet and the time — to live those scenes and to make them feel very, very real.”

Although McGregor says he doesn’t pick films based on their budgets, he does acknowledge the benefits of working on a smaller, independent movie.

“On a big film, there are maybe 500 people on the set — you don’t know who anyone is,” he explains. “All the direction is given through earpieces to everybody, and you can feel very lonely. But on a film like this, you’re just part of the process. It’s lovely, and it really feels wonderful.”

Mills is pleased with the finished product, which is one of the all-too-infrequent depictions of a happy older gay man. He believes that his father and the film-loving friends he met with weekly would have appreciated the portrayal. But he also notes the need for more.

“I’m very honored to get to treat a gay character in a movie hopefully with respect and curiosity,” Mills says. “The thing that would be more interesting would be a movie not just with an older gay man, but by an older gay man. We need more stories obviously through gay eyes, not just a straight guy telling a story about a gay guy.” *

BEGINNERS opens Fri/10 in San Francisco.


Ladies first



FILM The phenomenon of scene-stealing Japanese divas is all too familiar to this wannabe, having grown up in the clutches of unrepentantly demanding, real-life J-power matrons — the kind who will ply you with unsolicited advice, gifts, and edibles while smilingly applying the thumbscrews of sweet guile, pile-driving guilt, and sheer gambatte.

Where to begin when it comes to the overwhelming careers of the five femme forces of nature rhapsodized in “Japanese Divas” at the Pacific Film Archive? Inspired by, though not identical to, this spring’s series at the Film Forum in New York City, “Japanese Divas” flips the focus, with an elegantly loaded bow and a smile, away from the Toshiros, Chishus, and the other male stars of Japan’s cinematic classics and toward idealized Yasujiro Ozu beauty Setsuko Hara; the crossover face of midcentury Japanese film, Michiko Kyo; Kenji Mizoguchi favorite Kinuyo Tanaka; and Naruse muse Hideko Takamine. And though this incarnation of “Japanese Divas” can often seem like the Setsuko Hara show with its attention to Ozu’s works, other formidable females show themselves fully capable of grabbing viewers’ attention.

One compelling player is Tanaka, Mizoguchi’s once-go-to-gal for her open-faced humanity, unforgettable in the revered The Life of Oharu (1952) and the wrenching Sansho the Bailiff (1954) depicting noble women on their way down to the lower depths. At 24, but looking barely legal with her tremulous baby face and minuscule chin, Tanaka’s remarkable at the center of the 1933 Ozu silent Dragnet Girl as the titular shady lady straddling the straight world of good office wenches and fiery dance-hall molls.

In this slice of hard-boiled gangster tropes speckled with eloquent imagery, Tanaka’s fearsome, politically savvy Tokiko rules the school, be it boxing circles or the academy of 20th-century hard knocks, and plays all the angles. A prickly intelligence and overpowering will are clearly ping-ponging behind that dolly plate-face, as Tokiko fights for her heavily guylinered boy-toy Jyoji (Joji Oka) against challengers, both femme and fuzz, then undertakes the ultimate surrender. This dragnet girl is the whip-smart, indomitable harbinger of modern Japanese womanhood, come the hell of battle, the humility of occupation, and the struggles of survival while tugged by the tide of change.

In Mizoguchi’s biggest crowd-pleaser, and arguable masterpiece, 1953 ghost story Ugetsu, Tanaka crumbles, now the angelic, self-sacrificing wife and mother Miyagi, seemingly lacerated by stark branches in one of the filmmaker’s most strikingly composed images. The moment somehow foreshadows Tanaka’s professional break with Mizoguchi after he tried to stop Nikkatsu studio from hiring her as a director (her first film, Love Letter, was released the same year as Ugetsu).

Rivalry apparently knows few earthly bounds, and in Ugetsu, Tanaka found her worthy seductive, spectral counterpart in Machiko Kyo’s ethereal Lady Wakasa. Kyo — who stars in that other J-cinematic monument Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) as well as Kon Ichikawa’s now-tough-to-see Odd Obsession (1959) — strides a quivering line between untouchable delicacy and teasing desire, her half-moon eyes flaring through an immaculate alien-aristocratic visage. Kyo’s almost unrecognizable as ’60s-cute, jewel-polishing, distrusted wife-in-a-box in The Face of Another (1966), Hiroshi Teshigahara’s mad, mod, fantastic-looking postwar treatise on disfiguring trauma and Japan’s obsession with the mask and identity.

My current favorite diva of the bunch: the bravely smiling, long-suffering Hideko Takamine, epicenter of Mikio Naruse’s wonderful drama, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960). Also the star of Keisuke Kinoshita’s Technicolor Carmen Comes Home (1951) and his well-loved Twenty-Four Eyes (1954), Takamine’s put-upon, stubbornly independent hostess Mama is beautifully filled out with almost imperceptible shading — from the slightly arch, whiny tone she assumes when drunk and forced to consort with a heartless customer to the guarded polonaise of politeness she undergoes while sitting down with a rival hostess. Here, as Naruse matter-of-factly breaks down the economics of the biz, Takamine is less Douglas Sirk’s Jane Wyman than Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Hanna Schygulla, colored in less lurid hues: a post-World War II heartbreaker all too familiar with the disaster attendant with hitching one’s hopes and fortunes to men. 


June 17–Aug. 20, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, SF

(510) 642-5249



Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’



FILM There are “documentaries” that use staged or fictive elements to fib, and others toward some greater truth. Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte is of the second type. You might well question just how much of this “docu-essay” simply occurred on camera, or occurred when/how it did for the camera. But that really doesn’t matter, because the results have their own enigmatic, lyrical truth, one that might not have been arrived at by pure observation. In some ways, this is a better movie about life, existence, and the possibility of God than The Tree of Life. At the very least, it’s shorter.

It might help to know — though the film itself won’t tell you — that Frammartino drew inspiration from the purported theories of ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, and mystic Pythagoras. (Purported because his sect was highly secretive and no writings survive.) He believed in transmigration of the soul, a.k.a. metempsychosis — souls reincarnating from human to animal to various elements, endlessly replenishing nature.

Pythagoras and followers moved to a Greek-émigré outpost in the southern Italian region of Calabria to start their own religious community, one whose extreme exclusivity led to their persecution and demise — though the unquestionably brilliant leader’s ideas would live on not just in mathematics but as an influence on later quasi-religious “secret societies” like Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

There, now you have some CliffsNotes on a movie that itself chooses to wash over the viewer almost as neutrally as the stationary landscape studies of James Benning. Void of recorded music and nearly all speech (the few overheard bits go untranslated), Frammartino’s film — shot in and around the medieval Calabrian village of Serra San Bruno — is part neorealist nod and part metaphysical rapture. (No Harold Camping reference intended.) It is gorgeous, and occasionally goofy. Just like the deity one might pick to be Up There.

The narrative, so to speak, first focuses on a wizened goat herder (Giuseppe Fuda) who creakily drives his flock into the grazing hills. The world might be getting more crowded every minute, humanity overbearing on nature till hairy predators invade suburbs — but there are still some places people are mostly leaving. Metaphorical tumbleweeds might as well be tumbling through the streets of his depleted town. Coughing himself to sleep at night in his spare room — three chairs used as shelves, suggesting company he’ll never have — he’s an exemplar of a vanishing lifestyle, one seemingly little-changed since the town’s founding a millennium ago.

Indeed local human society appears less diverse, sturdy, and communicative than that of our protagonist’s goats, which fascinate. The young ones are cute as heck; the adults handsome and dignified. A kid whose birth we observe slides out of mom splay-legged, looking a bit like the “baby” in Eraserhead (1977), making a sound like a squeak toy — then later panicking at being left behind in a gully. Guarding the goat-pen, the herder’s dog freaks at a passing annual costumed parade of Passion Play reenactors. When the gate is broken, goats scatter surreally around town, including the quarters of their dying keeper. (This is where the “documentary” claim seems least probable, as the fabulous imagery can hardly have been an accident.)

Le Quattro Volte — the four times, meaning four soul migrations — goes on from there, transferring its focus from man to kid to a tree felled for another annual ritual. (Yes, that’s just three incarnations; Frammatino flummoxed me on the fourth.) It’s a frequently ravishing abstract, sonically as well as visually — collar-bells meld with church bells, and even the buzzing of flies seems part-of-the-natural-order beneficent.

Let’s face it: there has never been an unpretentious movie made by a filmmaker named Michelangelo. But this one merits that weight. It begins and ends with the area residents’ traditional creation of coal in a smoking pile of lumber that looks like a half-buried meteor. Point taken: in the end, we’re all compost recycled back to the air, earth, and sea. *

LE QUATTRO VOLTE opens Fri/10 in Bay Area theaters.

Truly, deeply, sweetly



LIGHTS OUT That randiest of Mission District corners, 17th and Capp streets, has long been a hotbed for DIY music, art, and the occasional can-blasting block party. Now San Francisco’s best-known indie video blogcast, Yours Truly (yourstru.ly) was taking it over. The Truly team — Caleb Moriarty, Nate Chan, Will Abramson, Babak Khoshnoud — recently invited me to a live shoot at a warehouse near the corner.

Lifelong music fans, the YT foursome creates intimate videos, following videographer Chan’s vision, of musicians performing songs in unusual spaces sliced with live interview material. Inspired by blogs like La Blogotheque and gorilla vs. bear, YT wanted to create a similar platform based in San Francisco. Besides local artists, YT films bands as they come through on tour; more recently, they’ve flown out to shoots, like one with Tame Impala in a Santa Cruz forest and one in Los Angeles, where they filmed Wavves.

“It’s very personal,” explains Chan about how they choose bands to film. “Only the four of us decide.” (Luckily, their sensibilities line up nicely with the great Indie Consensus: tUnE-YArDs, Little Dragon, Tyler, the Creator, Kurt Vile … ) Chan elaborates that they’re drawn to bands with strong pop sensibilities that perform well in a live setting. “The other challenge is finding the right space for it. We want the right mood.”

I can’t figure out which warehouse the shoot is taking place in because the correct door has lost its numbers, so I call Chan. I’m quickly escorted down into the basement of the Sub. I’ve been to shows here before, but those have always been on the second floor. Downstairs, there’s a wood-shop with off-white walls, piles of wood chippings, elaborate electric saws, a cabbie’s top-light on an electric organ advertising a strip joint, doors that lead nowhere, and a chorus of fellow onlookers.

Soon Claire Boucher, the force behind Montreal synth-pop project Grimes, and her crew arrive. Introductions all around, and then Boucher begins humming, unnecessarily apologizes, and goes into even more elaborate warm-up scales. Her look is striking — the limits of beauty are one of Grimes’ musical themes, and here they carry over. Boucher wears a plaid-collar dress-shirt under a taupe thrift-store sweater whose previous owner appears to be Santa, so she literally swims in it. It’s pocked with stickers, some sporting Lykke Li’s name, whom Grimes is touring with. (The band will be performing later that night at the Regency Ballroom.) Her bangs are bright blonde and the rest of her hair is dark black and pulled into a bun.

Within the wood-shop, Chan and Moriarty start rearranging Quikrete cement bags into tables, pile crates to make stools, and turn a red-painted door into a table-top that Boucher sets her keyboard on. Next, Chan unlocks a briefcase and pulls out his DSLR camera.

Boucher launches into a new song, still unnamed, that will be featured on Grimes’ next release. After the track, she waves her hands in circular motions above her head and declares she was nervous. Chan suggests they record “Vanessa,” Grimes’ hypnotizing track that has garnered her a large following. They do three takes of “Vanessa,” then Boucher announces to the rapt room that she’s more used to performing at dance parties. I think we were all simply too awe-struck to know how to react, but in response we burst into applause. (Clapping can be dancing.)

“It has to be really unobtrusive,” Moriarty says of making Yours Truly videos. “You’re trying to ask the artist how it feels and what they want to do over again. We’re trying to build the shoot around Claire but not trying to direct her.” Close-ups of fingers or lips, interview clips that capture an ephemeral moment or a bit of personality, and stripped-down versions of artists’ songs.

“It has to be very natural,” he adds. “I think people feel that when they watch the videos, they’re in the room.”

By letting the audience feel as close to the musician as I actually was during the shoot, the videos create an immediacy for fans. “Everything we create is purely passion-based,” Chan said. We love every band — and we want them to look good.”


Tour de tasting room



For establishing intimacy and focus, there’s nothing like sitting down to a meal and tasting with a vintner when you want to catch a glimpse of the vision and inspiration behind their wines. I recently had the chance to do just that with several local winemakers in Napa and Sonoma — and don’t worry, I took good notes.


Kapcsándy may not be the easiest name to pronounce, but take note if you love complex, balanced wines. Though there is a blessedly steady (if slow), trend toward lower alcohol, old world-style wines in the Wine Country lately, this Yountville vineyard — helmed by Lou Kapcsándy, his wife Roberta, and their son Louis Jr. — has been making these types of pours since 2000.

Lou, with winemaker Rob Lawson, lets Napa’s terroir fully express itself while staying close to old world principles — a philosophy that is apparent in his acclaimed State Lane Vineyard cabernet sauvignon. A Hungarian native, Lou’s roots manifest in his wines and his rustic tasting room centered around an 1800s wooden wine press from Hungary. I found the 2009 rosé (a cab-merlot blend with touch of petit verdot and cab franc) a unique beauty: more full and dense than many rosés yet managing to retain a crisp acidity. Roberta’s Reserve is a memorable wine, an homage to Pomerol and Bordeaux. The 2007 and 2008 are both understandably lauded vintages of Roberta’s, but I found the 2009, young as it is, to hold intriguing promise. It’s already drinking beautifully, with hints of cassis, blossoms, cherries, and earthy cocoa.

1001 State, Yountville. (707) 948-3100, www.kapcsandywines.com


The transformations at Raymond Vineyards have to be seen to be believed. Although it has been a historic St. Helena vineyard since 1970 known primarily for its cabernet, it’s not the vineyard’s rich heritage — or even its wines — that stand out most today: it’s the changes wrought to its grounds by Boisset Family Estates, a global company with Burgundy roots that now owns the vineyard.

Delightfully eccentric Jean-Charles Boisset is the spirit behind the new era at Raymond. “I love personally the word[s] sexy and voluptuous,” he tells me after we’ve descended into the Crystal Cellar (where cabernet tastings go for $25), a room that has been lined with steel to give the effect of being inside a wine vat. An explosion of Baccarat crystal shimmers off its walls, vats, and giant mirrors glinting around us. Encased vintage crystal decanters are inscribed with wine descriptors — in lipstick.

From the moment you glimpse the interactive art exhibits on the lawn, you know something unusual is afoot here. A “Theatre of Nature” self-guided tour of the grounds — which include a pool and midcentury house — is in the works, as is a fashion show on the Crystal Cellar’s catwalk.

We were the first to taste in the vineyard’s newly unveiled guest room (now available for group tastings and private parties). It housed gold and white leather couches covered in fur throws, a stuffed leopard standing guard in the corner, a dining table set with black and gold plates featuring each of the seven deadly sins (perhaps prophetically, I got “gluttony”). The pièce de résistance: a giant flat-screen rimmed in gold — of course! — playing Jackson 5 music videos.

I’ve never had another wine tasting experience like it. Boisset is currently working on a red room (in “all red — and velvet”) and releasing two bubblies, including a rosé, to taste there this summer.

All this flair naturally leaves one wondering: are the wines any good? In fact, the new French pours are far better than their predecessors, even if the new Raymond is about the one-of-a-kind tasting experience.

Boisset’s JCB wines do have their pleasures. They’re playful and more balanced than many Napa wines, the No. 81 Chardonnay and No. 7 pinot noir allowing for nice acidity. He and Raymond winemaker Stephanie Putnam teamed up to make the No. 1 cabernet, which reflects both Napa and French sensibilities.

Boisset clearly leads in innovation, and he has a passion to bring California wines to the world. The man’s on a mission to make wine hip, approachable, and, yes, sexy.

849 Zinfandel, St. Helena. (707) 963-3141, www.raymondvineyards.com


Richard Arrowood — a Sonoma winemaker for 45 years — and wife Alis are charmers. Over lunch at Wayfare Tavern, we spent hours talking and tasting wines from his young Glen Ellen boutique winery Amapola Creek.

This is Arrowood’s passion project. He produces wines typifying the robust grapes of the Mayacamas Mountains located near the town of Sonoma. After decades of creating wines for major players like Chateau St. Jean and his own Arrowood Winery, he’s having fun with small batches — his current operation produces a maximum of 3,000 cases annually.

Though lush, Arrowood’s 2008 zinfandel — and original 2005 zin — shows restraint, with enough tannins and acidity to keep it food-friendly (ideal paired with Wayfare’s medium-rare steak). The zin benefits from a rare asset: 115-year-old vines located in a tiny lot at neighboring Monte Rosso Vineyards. His 2007 syrah and cabernet sauvignon are bold and black, fruit-heavy yet balanced with tannins and delicate spice accents (the cab is CCOF certified organic). He’s also working on a grenache-syrah blend, so watch for more Amapola Creek wines on the way.

(707) 938-3783, www.amapolacreek.com 

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article was incorrectly edited to say Miller thought Raymond Vineyard’s current batch of wines were inferior to those produced when the vineyard was family-run; she actually thinks the reverse is true. The Guardian regrets the error, and promises to drink less wine while editing our contributing writers.

Return to Barbary Lane



THEATER The mainstream apotheosis of once-outré subculture is always a complex matter. Even the good-natured, good-time stories in Armistead Maupin’s original “Tales of the City” San Francisco Chronicle serial had a subversively political edge to them in 1976 (which made their publication in the paper beginning that year both remarkable and fraught with behind-the-scenes battles between writer and editorial). So it is a little weird, if also apt, to see a full-fledged musical adaptation of Maupin’s classic Tales of the City — the first and eponymous title in what became an eight-book series — getting its Broadway-bound debut at American Conservatory Theater.

Although inevitably speaking less to today’s San Francisco than to an idealized conception of a glorious recent past, this Tales is still recognizably homegrown (despite all the out-of-town talent), affirming, lightly risqué, and overall slickly accomplished. Minor weak points aside, there’s plenty of vitality throughout a generally shrewd production, whose creative team includes playwright Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and music group Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and John Garden (providing the eclectic music and occasionally awkward but mostly inspired lyrics for Whitty’s admirably clear, compact book).

The results are nostalgic but never blinkered. Even the shopworn feel of Haight Ashbury and disco kitsch proves less than annoying thanks to Maupin’s set of palpable and sympathetic characters (animated by a strong cast), his nicely entangling storyline, and the show’s engaging, even rousing period-savvy score. Whether it will play in Peoria — or New York City for that matter — who knows. But for the audience at last week’s opening in San Francisco, it solidly earned the love fest it probably would have gotten either way.

Cleveland-reared but Bay-curious Mary Ann Singleton (a formidable Betsy Wolfe) arrives in 1976 San Francisco, a city celebrating its own version of the “bi-sexi-centennial” year with a burgeoning alternative culture mixing remnants of Summer of Love hippiedom with mirror-ball dance floors and gay bathhouses. Fleeing her oppressive hometown and shedding gradually her straight-laced upbringing, Mary Ann makes her new home at 28 Barbary Lane, a Russian Hill apartment complex (a skyward Victorian framework flanked by great locks of greenery in Douglas W. Schmidt’s choice scenic design) overseen by the benignly extravagant matron and marijuana maven Anna Madrigal (played with serene assurance by Broadway’s golden-throated Judy Kaye). She soon joins the other tenants in a loose alternative “family” (with all attendant subplots) centered on the mysterious Anna, who we learn started out even more remotely from her present self than did Mary Ann.

The numerous other characters come equally well realized. As Mary Ann’s out gay neighbor Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, for instance, Wesley Taylor is as believably down-to-earth as he is charming (Michael’s loving coming-out letter to his Anita Bryant–loving parents is just one of the show’s dramatic highlights). Broadway veteran Richard Poe, meanwhile, delivers Edgar Halcyon — the stuffy businessman grasping for a last chance at life under Anna’s amorous tutelage — with commanding aplomb and a nicely understated vulnerability. Many other fine turns abound in the large cast, amid some fine musical numbers — although an otherwise effective power ballad from secret Anna daughter Mona (the excellent Mary Birdsong) is somewhat marred by the unintentionally comic title “Seeds and Stems.” And the final “No Apologies” number, while good, is stretched thin with the duty of wrapping up various subplots.

If nostalgia reigns here, the story till has real roots that make themselves gently felt throughout. In 1976, Maupin was a young transplant from North Carolina, via the Navy, and newly, enthusiastically out as a gay man and budding author. Capturing the gig with the Chronicle, he serialized what would become his first novel in a rush of five installments per week under the column title “Tales of the City.” He wrote close to the ground (and the Chronicle society desk), delivering what was at times almost as much reportage as fiction, peppering his hastily composed plotlines and characters with anecdotes from the city he was coming to know intimately. Of course, the ground he worked was then heaving in a cultural and political earthquake that set San Francisco ever further apart from the rest of the country. Tales of the City, in its various incarnations, is still a no-apologies love letter home. 


Through July 10

Check website for dates and times, $35–$98

American Conservatory Theater

405 Geary, SF

(415) 749-2228


A fountain of Penn


When Arthur Penn died at 88 last September, obituaries listing career highlights reinforced the notion that he was one of those directors — others include Mike Nichols and George Roy Hill — who were BFDs in the 1960s and ’70s yet rapidly faded from prominence thereafter. In Penn’s case the decline was especially steep, particularly given that during arguably the single most roiling period of change in mainstream American filmmaking, he was at the top of the heap in terms of prestige and thematic adventure.

Did he simply lose interest? Did some significant flops dishearten him? Whatever the cause, post-1976 his occasional films — he was never very prolific — became those of any competent journeyman whose projects seemingly picked him rather than vice versa. (Particularly dismaying was 1981 “turbulent ’60s” drama Four Friends, in which he reduced that era of his own greatest impact to stereotype-ridden soap opera.) After the respectable 1996 TV movie Inside, about apartheid, he never directed another feature.

The Pacific Film Archive’s June retrospective is titled “Arthur Penn: A Liberal Helping.” That moniker pays tribute to his lefty conscience, yet in another sense this assortment isn’t so liberal: there’s nothing here dating from after the 1976 Bicentennial Year, when both he made his last identifiably personal film and saw it widely trashed. (That would be The Missouri Breaks, a Jack Nicholson-Marlon Brando revisionist western that deserved better than it got but was doomed to ridicule by one of Brando’s deliberately bizarre later performances. Now, of course, that’s its major attraction.)

What we’ve got here is an extraordinary run: encompassing 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, one of those movies that changed the movies in general; 1969’s counterculture pulse-taking Alice’s Restaurant; Little Big Man, the big-noise historical black-comedy literary adaptation (along with Nichols’ Catch-22) of 1970; and 1962’s The Miracle Worker, a joltingly good translation of the play he directed on Broadway. Even his commercial failures were exceptionally interesting, from 1958 film debut The Left Handed Gun (Paul Newman as Gore Vidal’s neurotic Billy the Kid) to 1965’s Mickey One (a dazzling, pretentious expressionist nightmare with Warren Beatty at its bewildered center) and 1975’s Night Moves (private eye Gene Hackman wading into a morass of Florida Keys corruption).

But there was a blot even during those glory days. In the mid-1960s the country was in thrall to civil rights struggles, and them “Hollywood liberals” duly responded. Penn’s 1966 The Chase was arguably the worst, most artificial “prestige” effort to deal with the issue this side of Otto Preminger’s 1967 Hurry Sundown, which humiliated Jane Fonda even more. (It has a scene in which she tries to arouse probably-gay Southern tycoon husband Michael Caine by fellating his saxophone.)

Hopes were high for a while, though. Adapting The Chase, Horton Foote’s 1952 Broadway failure about an escaped con settling a score with a Texas sheriff was no less than literary lioness Lillian Hellman, penning her first (and as it turned out, last) screenplay since being blacklisted as an alleged commie threat.

Everybody was excited about their involvement in the prestigious project, packed as it was with high-profile talent on and off-screen. (Besides Brando’s sheriff, Robert Redford’s fugitive, and Fonda as his pining ex-wife, the cast included E.G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, Janice Rule, Miriam Hopkins, Robert Duvall, and James Fox.) Penn wanted to prove he could direct a large-scale commercial picture; Fonda to break away from sex-kitten roles; Redford to establish himself as a movie star; etc. All were thrilled about working with the exalted Brando, who badly needed a hit. He also strongly identified with the (initial) script’s potent commentary on civil rights struggles.

Like Foote before her, Hellman envisioned a taut, intimate drama about small-town tensions boiling over during one long night of drunkenness, bigotry, and violence. But this was, above all, a “Sam Spiegel Production.” And the notoriously egomaniacal, controlling, duplicitous producer (one colleague called him “a corkscrew … very effective … but twisted and bent”), hungry for more Oscar gold after a major roll encompassing The African Queen (1951), On the Waterfront (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), kept pressing her to make it “larger.” He eventually brought other writers in to further tart things up.

As detailed in James Robert Parish’s book Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops, the steadily cheapening rewrites continued daily even after shooting commenced. Morale sank, with Brando the most conspicuous malcontent. (One scene he remained enthused about was his sheriff being badly beaten by local bigots — onscreen it’s as if the sleepwalking actor suddenly wakes up for a couple vivid minutes.) Penn clashed with the old-school cinematographer he hadn’t chosen. Adding insult to injury, Spiegel managed to exclude the director from the editorial process, insisting that the film be cut in London or Los Angeles while fully aware that Penn was stuck in New York City on a Broadway assignment.

The result was crude, inauthentic (it was shot in SoCal), stagey-looking, with variably laughable Texas accents and barn-door-broad sexual innuendos. Aiming for importance in the worst way imaginable, it instead recalls the lurid finger-waggling Southsploitation of such later non-triumphs as Shanty Tramp (1967), The Klansman (1974), Scum of the Earth (1963), Mandingo (1975), and (more recently) Hounddog (2007), albeit on a more grandiose scale. Embarrassingly, this movie about Southern prejudice and injustice kept any people of color waaaay in the background: its lone “noble Negro” was played by Joel Fluellen, billed 21st.

Reviews were scathing (“witless and preposterous drivel,” “a phony, tasteless movie”) and the expensive project tanked commercially as well. It also turned Spiegel’s luck for keeps: all his subsequent films were ambitious disappointments. Penn recovered, and then some — next stop, Bonnie and Clyde — but one suspects that he (or Foote, or Hellman, or Brando) never quite got over being so callously undermined and pushed around. For the next decade, at least, he made sure he’d never be in that kind of compromised position again.


June 10–29, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249






DANCE In the sunlit studio at 499 Alabama St., Jessica Swanson affixed her blonde wig atop loose pin curls to rehearse a scene from Joe Goode’s new work, The Rambler, premiering at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Friday, June 10. She recited a line about how freedom skips a generation as Goode, clutching a cup of coffee, closed his eyes to listen. Then meticulously, word-by-word, he adjusted the script, recording each edit on his open laptop. The rigor continued to clarify every movement and tune for Swanson, who plays a character left behind by a certain rambler.

“We started very simply with the peripatetic impulse to roam in a general way, and then I became interested in what it means for the person who is attached,” Goode said. “The rambler is a romantic figure, particularly in American culture, the wanderer and seeker. So we’ve been asking questions on both ends — about being the rebel and being left.” In addition, his team explored the redemptive quality of moving forward, even without a clear direction, versus staying still. “Dancing is also that — not really about going anywhere, but about movement, feeling the body and its ability to be alive and move.”

Joining forces with Goode, puppeteer Basil Twist created a photographic lens with curtains that will serve as a moving frame to zoom in and scope out, following the action onstage. In the role of scenic designer, Twist provides possibilities for Goode to amplify certain aspects of the production with the aperture. In a rehearsal three weeks prior to the premiere, Swanson also manipulated a life-size puppet of Twist’s making, although its presence in The Rambler is still to be determined.

“We always have about 100 pieces of material and end up using about 20, and decisions really can’t happen until the end when we have all the variables,” Goode explained. Continuing to direct each detail, Goode demonstrated precise and dramatic gestures as Swanson translated the choreography for the puppet. She grasped the molded hand with her human one, skillfully performing for two characters simultaneously. Alongside the puppets, The Rambler also features an original score composed by Jesse Olsen Bay, lighting design by Jack Carpenter, and costumes by Wendy Sparks.

Goode constantly edits his work even after performances begin. “My pieces look very different three years after opening. For me, nothing is fixed,” he said. “I’m not interested in having masterworks that can be caught and frozen in the Louvre.”

The impulse to update and stay current permeates his attitude about legacy as well. “I feel at this point in my career, I want to codify that technique and find some ways to disseminate it. I’m not interested in having my works performed by people who didn’t originally make them, say 25 years from now. I’m more interested in passing along a technique of how to approach work, build it, and keep art-making an exciting pastime. Sharing that journey and discovery is a real service to provide to the world.”

His technique entails taking an idea’s temperature and acknowledging a personal perspective, then approaching the results like a collision, juxtaposing stories and ideas that don’t necessarily go together to render new possibilities.

Now in its 25th year, Joe Goode Performance Group enjoys its new Alabama Street home and dedicated facility. “One of the reasons for having my own space is that I feel in San Francisco we are a little bit bereft of international conversation about dance theater and interdisciplinary art-making. I really want to do a lot of exchange and present an opportunity for people to come, talk about, and show their work — particularly people from out of the country,” Goode said.

“I’d also like to present some kind of a platform series where more established artists can curate and mentor a younger artist and present them while trying to explain their work and why he or she is attracted to it,” he continued. “Again, it’s something you’ll see a lot in Europe — artists curating series — and I think it’s an important thing to do.”

Furthermore, Goode acknowledges the potential for installation work in the vast new space. With impossibly high ceilings, the building can be transformed to accommodate a variety of installations and sets, also of increasing interest to the choreographer: “The proscenium assumes that we’re the professional and you’re the person who gives us money. The separation of feeling and the distance takes away some of the volition of the viewer. When you think about installation work, you have to get involved. You have to make decisions and discover on your own — and then it’s much more personal.”

Mining human terrain to develop his work, Goode champions going deeply into tactile, embodied, and sensual moments. He considers the practice especially relevant in a society that tends toward thinking and technology. “I’m really beginning to understand after so many years my own values about making folk art and the simple connection of delving into material that people can understand,” he said. “I do want to start beating the drum very loudly for this kind of work — an alternative approach that really values the human experience, especially in our troubled times.”

For Goode, making art is a sort of survival technique for living in a world that’s dangerous, threatening, and bewildering. “Its a way of locating myself and understanding where I am in a given time — and hopefully providing others with a kind of perspective.”


Fri/10–Sat/11 and June 16–18, 8 p.m.;

Sun/12, 7 p.m., $19–$49

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Novellus Theater

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787



Don Pisto’s


DINE Not all restaurants have mantras, but Don Pisto’s must be “our kitchen is small.” It’s what we heard over and over from our server. Actually, we didn’t hear her; we just read her lips as best we could. When Don Pisto’s starts to fill up — and, being snug, it fills up quickly — it becomes as noisy a restaurant as I’ve been in. If you’ve ever stood near the end of a runway as a fully loaded 747 roared into the sky over your head, you’ll have some idea of the decibels, which reach such levels as to become a fourth dimension. I was deafened. Maybe that was a mercy.

Food chic has migrated outside, to trucks, in the past few years, so Don Pisto’s (which opened late in 2009) represents a countertrend of sorts. It’s a food truck, or at least the personality of a food truck, implanted into a handsome old building of exposed brick walls. From its trio of bordello-red lights along the sidewalk to its nicely burnished wooden tables and chairs and its youthful crowd, it’s about as visually appealing a place as could be. All it needs is a Mute button. (Food-truck chic, incidentally, strikes me as an odd development in the senescent years of petroleum, but it does suggest the profound American attachment between eating and motor vehicles. Fifty years ago, people were thrilled to drive to McDonald’s; now the restaurant drives to them.)

Considering the size of the kitchen, which is very much on display at the rear of the space and not at all big (especially considering that there is a semi-subterranean private dining room to go with the main one), the food is both electrifyingly good and reasonably priced. Part of the magic lies in menu brevity; on offer are about a half-dozen or so taco plates, a comparable number of house specialties, a smattering of seafood dishes, and a couple of sides. All of it fits on one side of a small card. (The other side holds the equally to-the-point drinks list: a few beers, a few wines, a margarita, a sangría made with açai berry juice.)

The kitchen’s marquee item is the hamburguesa ($9), and it’s possibly the most intense hamburger experience I’ve ever had. It’s not enhanced with cheese or swaddled within a fancy, heavily buttered bun. But the meat is “marinated” with bacon and onions, and bacon largely seems to mean pork fat, while marinated means permeated. The beefiness of the burger does survive the presence of these other formidable players, but they are mingled in a way that transforms them all. The result is something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s possible you could get a burger this intense from a street truck or cart, but it would be from one that was unusually conscientious and not in a hurry. If you were served this burger at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, you would probably think it was well worth the $30 they would probably charge you.

At least two other items on the menu rival the hamburguesa for memorable verve. One is the platter of mussels ($13) simmered in white wine then stuffed with crumblings of house-made chorizo. The sausage brought out the mussels’ meatiness, while the toast spears were useful in sopping up the broth, mostly white wine and cilantro enlivened by the tasty chorizo.

The other is the Mexican sashimi ($11), flaps of tombo tuna laid out in a chain on a long, narrow platter and scattered with rounds of serrano chile, red-onion slivers, minced scallion, and cilantro, and finished with lime juice and soy sauce. The only minus is that you don’t get any bread to mop up the sauce. (On the other hand, you do get endless baskets of tortilla chips, along with an addictive tomatillo salsa, but the chips are thick and more than usually useless for sopping.)

The tacos are sized the way tacos should be sized: they’re more than bites or nibbles, but they don’t become unwieldy behemoths that spill half their contents like wet paper sacks when you pick them up. Each plate holds two tortillas, made from proper masa (not wheat flour), about three inches in diameter, and laid flat. You get to fold them yourself. Of the available fillings, I would say the carnitas ($8) — with onions, cilantro, and arbol salsa — is exceptional, with ropes of juicy meat just slightly crisped at the edges. We were also offered an unlisted vegetarian option ($6) of rice, pinto beans, cheese, and a smear of guacamole. It was commendable, though as a partier it wasn’t quite up to the standard of the carnitas. But a little diffidence isn’t going to drag down a party like the one at Don Pisto’s.


Dinner: Tues.–Sun., 5:30 p.m.–12:30 a.m.

Brunch: Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

510 Union, SF

(415) 395-0939


Beer and wine


Deafeningly loud

Wheelchair accessible; bathrooms on lower level


Around the bay, around the world



DANCE “When one door closes, another opens” is the kind of cliché that drives you batty when you’ve been fired, or your lover has literally showed you the door. But once in a while even clichés prove their right to exist. Take the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, which last year faced homelessness when Caltrans requisitioned the Palace of Fine Arts’ parking lot for the duration of the Doyle Drive reconstruction. With poor access to MUNI and no parking lot, EDF had no choice but to start a frantic search for another venue. The crisis challenged them to rethink a format that has worked for them since 1989 — potentially very risky, because, to quote another cliché: “Don’t mess with success.”

With a need to move from one temporary shelter to another, EDF took the opportunity to reshape its offerings in a way that might yet prove beneficial to both audiences and performers.

For one group of dancers, however, this year’s EDF is a homecoming. For the first time in more than 200 years, dancers and musicians from the Rumsen Ohlone Tribe will perform on their own land. Decimated by disease and dispersed because of persecution and discrimination, most live in a diaspora in their own country. But they did not, as popular history and the federal government would have it, die out; the tribe is 2,000 members strong. Many, including tribal chief Tony Cerda have settled in the Pomona area. But their ancestors are buried below what is now Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

On Friday, June 3, in the presence of tribal dancers and musicians, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee presented Cerda with the EDF’s annual Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award. The homecoming festivities continue on June 18, when a half-dozen other California tribes join the Ohlones for an all-day “California Indian Big Time Gathering” at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Two other aspects of this year’s program deserve special attention. June 11 and 12, eight companies will perform at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley for the first time. For dancers used to showing their work in community halls, stepping onto a generous professional stage (and in front of a potential audience of 2,000) will be both a challenge and a delight. In January, EDF held its auditions at Zellerbach to an enthusiastic response from the primarily East Bay crowd. The word clearly had gotten out about how much fun these auditions are. In previous years at the Palace, the events regularly sold out.

The Zellerbach lineup aims to offer a similarly broad perspective of world dance. The eight companies will present taiko and Bharatanatyam contextualizing each other; African music and dance as practiced in Benin and Ghana; ancient belly dancing with a modern twist; and theatrically appropriate rituals from the Philippines and Bali. It also includes a barefoot version of flamenco, dances from a multicultural Veracruz, and, to top off the evening, a premiere for 100 celebrating Tahitian culture.

This year’s other innovation relates to performances June 19, 25, and 26 at YBCA’s Forum, where audience members will have the opportunity to enter the world of these dances. It makes sense. Culturally-rooted dance is integral to a community’s sense of well-being. It enhances milestones — courting, funerals, the changing of seasons, coming-of-age ceremonies, and thanksgiving practices.

These dances are not primarily meant to entertain — although of course they do — and many are participatory. When divorced from their contexts and put on a proscenium stage, something is inevitably lost. The Forum performances will restore some of the communal aspect of world dance. Each program offers a different quartet of companies that will perform a short piece, then invite the audience to join them in one aspect of their practice. You can choose among Balinese, Polish, square, Filipino, capoeira or African dance.

Or how about a piece of poppy seed cake served on a sword?


Through July 3, $18–$58

Various venues