Volume 45 Number 51

The Sex Issue 2011


Well howdy — it’s Folsom Street Fair time again, and that means our annual steamy, dreamy Sex Issue. Check out the contents before, and play wild!


The winner of our Bay Buns 2011 contest


The mastermind behind Kink.com’s “Wired Pussy” and “Public Disgrace” sites finds power in perversion


A peep at our fair city’s filthy-gorgeous history


A steamy tale of SF sex from Bawdy Storytelling


Our nightlife column rounds up some smokin’ hot parties for this weekend


Safeway’s decision to move condoms into locked cabinets worries public health advocates


Presenting the Hottest Ass in the Bay


Hundreds of you voted for almost two dozen Bay Buns 2011 contestants — but there could only be one fine-paired derriere that cracked the competition (and will strut away with a goodie basket from Good Vibrations).

Ladies, gentlemen, and others, a drumroll and cued up copy of “Baby Got Back” for … MIKAELA of the Excelsior. W00T! Thanks to all our wonderful contestants — and get that butt of yours ready for bay Buns 2012!




San Francisco Smut Map



SEX ISSUE 2011 In 1969, San Francisco became the first city in the country to permit the exhibition and sale of hardcore pornography. Although “permit” isn’t exactly right. The city’s vice squad (with the help of Supervisor Dianne Feinstein) fought it every step of the way. But by the time a rag-tag band of hippies with cameras began harnessing the Free Speech movement to challenge obscenity laws, San Francisco had already become, in the words of the New York Times, “a sort of Smut Capital of the United States.”

Earlier this year, director Ben Leon and I produced Smut Capital of America, a documentary short about San Francisco’s flesh-filled reign as the center of U.S. hardcore. (The skin flick industry didn’t move down to San Fernando Valley until the 1980s, when VHS took over and Los Angeles stopped arresting filmmakers.) The film industry itself may have been shaved and plucked, but San Francisco never lost its filthy patina, thank god.

Here are a few of the filthy great places, classic and new, that any self-respecting San Francisco pervert and/or fan might want to map.

1. The Condor Club

560 Broadway

The first topless dance took place in 1964 at the Condor when Carol Doda took to the stage in designer Rudi Gernreich’s revolutionary “monokini.” The bathing suit never really caught on, but topless dancing became an export that would become synonymous with San Francisco.

2. The Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre

895 O’Farrell

The good ol’ boys from Antioch made a fortune with movies like Behind the Green Door, but when obscenity busts began taking their toll, they moved to live shows. The place still give a great lap dance, but the days when you could eat a girl out for a dollar are long gone.

3. The Strand

1127 Market

I once heard it referred to as a stop on the underground gay railroad — and for good reason. While this theater showed big Hollywood movies and noir retrospectives, the balcony was the cruisiest, bleachiest-smelling place in town.

4. The Magazine

920 Larkin

This still-operational vintage magazine shop has never shied away from porn. And since few museums find it palatable to save smut, it’s a living archive of the sexual revolution, balls, and all.

5. The Screening Room

220 Jones

In 1970, the Screening Room became the first theater in America to show hardcore pornography, with a law-skirting documentary about the free-loving Danes called Pornography in Denmark. Director Alex deRenzy set off a cinematic revolution, and earned a profile in Time magazine. Perhaps fittingly, it’s now the Power Exchange sex club.

6. The Roxie and the New Follies

3117 16th Street and 2961 16th Street

Long before it was an indie movie rep house, the Roxie showed soft-and hardcore 16mm loops shot by the Mitchell Brothers, then just out of college. The New Follies, just down the street on then smut-filled 16th Street (it’s now the Victoria), pioneered bottomless dancing, and later, live sex shows.

7. The Sutter Theatre

369 Sutter

Arlene Elster and Lowell Pickett plotted the International Erotic Film Festival at their theater off Union Square in 1970, when the area was still known as the downtown Tenderloin. The films themselves screened at the prestigious Presidio Theater in the Marina with a red carpet covered by KPIX. Even smut-opponent Dianne Feinstin showed up to rant against the duo’s “very depraved wares.”

8. Le Salon

1118 Polk Street.

“There out to be a plaque on the building,” says Bay Area Reporter porn critic John Karr, who went to this bookstore to cruise and flip through dirty magazines. Store owner Roland Boudreaux eventually opened a non-smut operation next door with a connecting doorway so that customers could leave and enter without attracting stares from high-society queens.

9. The Lusty Lady

1033 Kearny

The original Lusty Lady showed 16mm films, but by the early ’80s this North Beach smut center had live dancers as well. In 1997, the dancers organized an Exotic Dancers Union to make it the first unionized sex club business in the United States. In 2003, they bought the business, making it a worker-owned cooperative.

10. The Gordon Getty Mansion

2050 Jackson

During the ’80s and ’90s, this Pacific Heights mansion was the home of smut merchant and Falcon Studios honcho Chuck Holmes, whose name now graces the LGBT community center on Market Street. In the afternoons, he shot gay porn in the basement. In the evenings, he hosted spectacular galas to raise money for visiting politicians.

11. The Armory

1800 Mission Street

Does anyone not realize that this former munitions warehouse now houses an arsenal of dildo-equipped robots and that the National Guard training hall is used to film “Wired Pussy” episodes? Thanks, Kink.com for making sure San Francisco is still known as the Smut Capital of America.

On Guard!





While supporters of the controversial Central Subway project — from Mayor Ed Lee and his allies in Chinatown to almost the entire Board of Supervisors — dismiss the growing chorus of critics as everything from ill-informed to racist, they refuse to address the biggest concerns about the project.

In a nutshell, the main concerns center on serious design flaws (such as the lack of direct connections to either Muni or BART), the city’s responsibility for any cost overruns on this complex $1.6 billion project, its estimated $15.2 million increase to Muni’s already strained annual operating budget (a figure used by the Federal Transportation Administration, well over the local estimate of $1.7 million), and the city’s unwillingness to implement its own plans for improving north-south transit service on congested Stockton Street rather than relying solely on such an expensive option for serving Chinatown that doesn’t start until 2019.

Judge Quentin Kopp, a longtime former legislator, called this summer’s grand jury report, “Central Subway: Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit,” the best he’s ever read and one that should be heeded. He recently wrote a letter to top state officials urging them to reconsider the $488 million in state funding pledged to the project. As we reported last week, mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera is also challenging a project that he supported before its most recent cost overruns and design changes.

But supporters of the project pushed back hard on Sept. 14, using taunts and emotional rhetoric that avoided addressing the core criticisms. “Beneath the unfounded criticism about costs is actually a disagreement over values. The grand jury report relied upon by critics makes a only brief and superficial criticism about costs,” Norman Fong and Mike Casey wrote in an op-ed in last week’s Guardian.

Actually, the 56-page grand jury report goes into great detail about why it believes cost overruns are likely, citing the myriad risks from tunneling and SFMTA’s administrative shortcomings and history of mismanagement, including on this project’s less-complicated first phase, the T-Third line, which was 22 percent over budget and a year and half late in completion. Even with the contingencies built into the Central Subway budget, the report notes that a similar overrun would increase the local share of this project from $124 million to more than $150 million.

Mayor Lee purportedly addressed criticism of the project during the Question Time session in the Sept. 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, prompted by a loaded question from Sup. Sean Elsbernd offering Lee the “opportunity to move beyond the clichés and one-liners of political campaigns.”

But Lee’s answer was classically political, touting the estimated 30,000 jobs it would create, praising those who have pushed this project since the 1980s, offering optimistic ridership estimates (that exceed current FTA figures by about 9,000 daily riders), and ignoring concerns about whether the city can cover the ever-increasing capital and operating costs.

“Now is the time to support the Central Subway,” Lee said, flashing his trademark mustachioed grin.

We called the normally responsive Elsbernd, who prides himself on his fiscal responsibility, twice, to ask about financial concerns surrounding the project and he didn’t call back. During their mayoral endorsement interviews with the Guardian last week, we also asked Sups. John Avalos and David Chiu to address how they think the city will be able to afford this project, and neither had good answers about the most substantive issues (listen for yourself to the audio recordings on our Politics blog).

Once Congress gives final approval to $966 million in federal funding for this project sometime in the next couple months, the city will be formally committed to the Central Subway and all its costs. It’s too bad that, even during election season, all its supporters have to offer to address valid concerns are “clichés and one-liners.”(Steven T. Jones)



Mayoral candidates faced tougher questions than usual at a Sept. 15 forum hosted by the Harvey Matthews Bayview Hunters Point Democratic Club. Whereas debates hosted in the Castro and Mission Bay, for instance, featured questions on how candidates planned to clean up city streets, what they thought about AT&T’s plan to place utility boxes on city sidewalks, or how they’d promote a more business-friendly environment, residents brought a thornier set of concerns to the Bayview Opera House.

One question pointed to an alarming statistic based on U.S. Census data and cited by racial justice advocates, showing that residents of the predominantly African American Bayview Hunters Point have a life expectancy that’s 14 years lower, on average, than that of residents of the more well-to-do Russian Hill.

Someone else asked about improving mental health services for lower-income community members struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). High unemployment figured in as a key concern. And one member of the audience wanted to know how candidates planned to “improve the behavior of the police,” alluding to the mid-July officer-involved shooting that left 19-year-old Seattle resident Kenneth Harding dead, triggering community outrage.

Mayor Ed Lee attended the beginning of the forum but left early to attend an anniversary celebration for the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation; other participants included Terry Joan Baum, Jeff Adachi, Bevan Dufty, Dennis Herrera, David Chiu, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Joanna Rees.

Answers to Bayview residents’ sweeping concerns varied, yet many acknowledged that the southeastern neighborhood had been neglected and ill-served by city government for years.

“There is no economic justice here in Bayview Hunters Point,” Adachi said. “There never has been. That’s the reality.” He pointed to his record in the Pubic Defender’s Office on aggressively targeting police misconduct, and played up his pension reform measure, Prop. D, as a vehicle for freeing up public resources for critical services.

Dufty, who has repeatedly challenged mayoral contenders to incorporate a “black agenda” into their platforms, spoke of his vision for a mayor’s office with greater African American representation, and emphasized his commitment to improving contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

Herrera, meanwhile, was singled out and asked to explain his support for gang injunctions, an issue that has drawn the ire of civil liberties groups. “I only support gang injunctions as a last resort,” he responded. “We shouldn’t have to use them. But … people should be able to walk around without being caught in a web of gang violence. I put additional restrictions on myself to go above and beyond what the law requires, to make sure that I am balancing safe streets with protecting civil liberties.”

Herrera asserted that gang violence had been reduced by 60 percent in areas where he’d imposed the controversial bans on contact between targeted individuals, and noted that the majority of those he’d sought injunctions against in Oakdale weren’t San Francisco residents.

Baum brought questions about a lack of services back to the overarching issue of the widening income and wealth gaps. “Right now, the money is being sucked upward as we speak,” she said. “We have to bring that money back down.”

She closed with her signature phrase: “Tax the rich. Duuuuh.” (Rebecca Bowe)



The selection of Ed Lee as interim (or not-so-interim) mayor of San Francisco was one of those moments that left just about everyone dazed — how did a guy who wasn’t even in town, who had shown no interest in the job, who had never held elective office, suddenly wind up in Room 200?

Well, former Sup. Bevan Dufty, who was going to nominate Sheriff Mike Hennessey and switched to providing the crucial sixth vote for Lee at the last minute, told us the story during his mayoral endorsement interview last week.

Remember: Lee, as recently as a few days earlier, had told people he didn’t want to be mayor. “An hour before the meeting, Gavin (Newsom) called Michela (Alioto-Pier) and me into his office and said Ed Lee had changed his mind,” Dufty told us. He walked out of the Mayor’s Office uncommitted, he said, and even Newsom wasn’t sure where Dufty would go.

After two rounds of voting, with Dufty abstaining, there were five votes for Lee. So Dufty asked for a recess and went back to talk to Newsom — where he was told that the mayor thought the reason the progressives were supporting Hennessey was that the sheriff had agreed to get rid of about 20 mayoral staffers — including Chief of Staff Steve Kawa, “who had engineered Ed Lee running.”

So Kawa, with Newsom’s help, preserved his job and power base. “It’s all turnabout,” Dufty said. “I figure Mike Hennessey’s had a couple of beers and a couple of good times thinking about my vote. But that’s politics.” (Tim Redmond)



Friends and supporters of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were kept in a state of agonizing suspense over whether the two men, both 29, would be released from the Iranian prison where they’ve been held for more than two years following an ill-fated hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.

On Sept. 13, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated publicly that Bauer and Fattal could be freed “in a couple of days.” The announcement brought hope for family and friends who, just weeks earlier, had absorbed the news that the men were sentenced to eight years in prison after an Iranian court found them guilty of committing espionage, a charge that the hikers, the United States government, religious leaders, and human rights advocates have characterized as completely baseless.

Reports followed that the Iranian judiciary would commute the hikers’ sentences and release them in exchange for bail payments totaling $1 million. But by Sept. 16, when supporters gathered in San Francisco in hopes that of an imminent announcement, they were instead greeted with new delays.

The constantly shifting accounts hinted at internal strife within the Iranian government, and contributed to the sense that Bauer and Fattal were trapped as pawns in a power struggle. By Sept. 19, their Iranian lawyer remained in limbo, awaiting the signature of a judge who was scheduled to return from vacation Sept. 20.

“Shane and Josh’s freedom means more to us than anything and it’s a huge relief to read that they are going to be released,” the hikers’ families said in a statement Sept. 13. “We’re grateful to everyone who has supported us and looking forward to our reunion with Shane and Josh. We hope to say more when they are finally back in our arms.” (Rebecca Bowe)

Hiding the condoms



“All Condoms primary location at Customer Service” reads a small sign surrounded by empty shelves that once held condoms, pregnancy tests, and other important sexual health products at the Safeway on Potrero Avenue.

Because of concerns about theft, the condoms now sit among the Nicorette and razors in a row of glass cases near Customer Service, amid the chaos of hurried shoppers headed to and fro. Although Safeway’s recent condom lock-up may have reduced theft, it has also reduced accessibility, and may have deterred customers from buying a product crucial for the prevention of pregnancy and STD’s.

The increased security measures are not contained to the Potrero store, or even San Francisco’s Safeways. “There are a number of products (Oil of Olay for example) that we’ve had to secure under lock and key because of theft,” Susan M. Houghton, Safeway’s Northern California spokesperson tells the Guardian. “It varies by store and city, but yes, condoms were recently added — due to theft.”

Houghton would not go into any further detail about when or why the condoms were locked, but the move has raised concerns by public health advocates.

“We fully understand the position that Safeway is in, but we really would advocate for people having pregnancy tests, condoms — anything that really helps people manage their lives better — to be much more accessible,” Adrienne Verrilli, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood in San Francisco tells the Guardian. “Accessibility is often key, especially for young people.”

Kyriell Noon, executive director of San Francisco’s STOP AIDS project, says he believes locked cases could deter people from buying condoms, “especially for young people who are shy or could be embarrassed about asking for help…Condoms should be as easy for people to access as any other item available for purchase on the market. When there are barriers between people and condoms, I think many people will shrug and give up. But if they’re easy to access there’s no excuse to not use them.”

STOP AIDS knows the importance of condoms in the prevention of HIV, and distributes free condoms to 90 locations throughout San Francisco.

Safeway representatives and staff members refused to say which Safeways have moved condoms behind glass, but a visit to four San Francisco Safeways found condoms locked in cases at each of them, some even locked behind the Customer Service counter.

At the Safeway at Church and Market streets, we found that there is often a line at Customer Service, which customers must now wait in to purchase condoms. The process of acquiring condoms requires requesting the case be unlocked, making a selection under the watchful eye of an employee, and having the employee remove it from the case and walk it back to Customer Service where it can be purchased. Ten minutes had passed before I was leaving with my $8.99 12-pack of Trojan ENZ.

This challenge could affect teenagers more than adults due to embarrassment, hassle, or the now public process of choosing and purchasing condoms at Safeway. “It puts young people in a very awkward situation,” says Leah LaCroix, president of the San Francisco Youth Commission. LaCroix says she does not believe condoms should be locked up, even if it means a company loses profits.

“I think public safety is more important than that,” she tells the Guardian. LaCroix and the rest of the Youth Commission are currently urging the San Francisco Unified School District, “to reevaluate and come up with a new curriculum for health education,” she said. “I’m sure safe sex will be a component of their new curriculum.”

A 2009 Center for Disease Control survey found that 43.5 percent of high school students did not use a condom during sex, and 85.6 percent did not use birth control pills the last time they had sex, making sex education and birth control availability increasingly vital.

“I’m not sure you can criticize Safeway for protecting their merchandise,” says Beth Brown, manager of San Francisco’s New Generation Health Center. “I think there’s a larger issue of a lack of resources and lack of resourcefulness.”

Brown says she believes the Department of Public Health is responsible for providing these resources. One resource that is available is a service called Family PACT, which provides reproductive health services to low-income residents.

“The state of California pays for young people who need confidential services…and you can get all the birth control you want,” she tells the Guardian. The New Generation Health Center enrolls teenagers and young adults in the service, and gives away free condoms to non-enrolled teenagers as well.

“The state of California is actually a very good place to be if you’re young and sexually active,” says Brown, “because they will pay for it.”

“What’s interesting about that,” Verrilli said of Safeway’s condom lockup, “is that it’s kind of going backwards to where we used to be as opposed to moving forward to where we are.”

Today, with condoms available to purchase for any age, public health clinics in most cities, and sexual education available on the Internet, making birth control readily and publicly accessible seems to be the next logical step. Besides preventing pregnancy, condoms are crucial in preventing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“I think we should all be in the practice of increasing access to condoms rather than decreasing it,” Noon said. “I don’t know that Safeway’s decision alone would make a huge contribution to the spread of HIV, but they could be setting a precedent that other stores that sell condoms might follow. If it were the case that Walgreen’s and Rite-aid, etcetera, also began to follow this practice, I think we would have a problem.”


A wide variety of unlocked condoms are sold at:

Planned Parenthood — 1650 Valencia St. off Mission

Price: 30 cents each, come individually and in strips of 8 or 10.

Plus: offers STD testing and other health services

Walgreens — 200 West Portal at 15th

Price: 12 count $14 and up

Walgreens — 3201 Divisadero at Lombard

Price: 12 count $8.99 and up

Plus: open 24 hours a day

Walgreens — 3400 Cesar Chavez at Mission

Price: 12 count $13.99 and up

Walgreens — 1496 Market at Van Ness

Price: 12 count $15.99 and up

CVS/Pharmacy — 731 Market at 3rd

Price: 12 count $12.99 and up

CVS/Pharmacy — 2025 Van Ness at Jackson

Price: 12 count $12.99 and up

Plus: open until midnight every day

Free condoms are available at:

New Generation Health Center — 625 Potrero at 18th

Plus: offers bags of 20 at a time

STOP AIDS — 2128 15th at Market

Plus: also distributes free condoms to restaurants and stores in the city including:

Marlena’s — 488 Hayes at Octavia

SOMA Health Center — 551 Minna at 6th

Crossroads — 1519 Haight at Ashbury

LBGT Center — 1800 Market at Octavia

Books Inc. — 2275 Market at Noe

(Oona Robertson)

Consequences of inaction



The San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, although it sounds bright and cheery, remains shrouded in a cloud of inaction. Meant to increase transparency in city government, it hasn’t emerged from the bureaucratic fog since its establishment in 1994. Cases wait years to be heard and even blatant violations go unpunished, due to infighting and power disputes between the commissions that are supposed to enforce government compliance.

The Sunshine Ordinance outlines citizen’s rights to request document and information. Citizens can take their complaints about request denials to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, an 11-member committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors to ensure government compliance. If the task force decides a violation has occurred the case is handed over to the Ethics Commission, a five-member appointed board that will supposedly enforce the rulings with fines or ordering documents to be made public.

George Wooding, reporter for the Westside Observer and president of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, is the complainant in one of the task force’s most recent cases. This spring Wooding requested emails from the Recreation and Park Department multiple times but was told the documents did not exist. What RPD didn’t know was that Wooding had the emails all along.

The task force unanimously found RPD guilty of withholding emails. This is the third major sunshine violation by RPD in three years. Even more surprising, not one RPD employee has been fined, suspended, or faced any kind of punishment or corrective action.

The episode is a case study in the total eclipse of sunshine enforcement in the city, and how one embattled department — the RPD, which has come under heavy scrutiny for efforts to monetize park resources (see “Parks Inc.”, July 12) — used that dysfunction to stifle dissent.



George Wooding v. RPD began when Wooding was asked to be a panelist at a Commonwealth Club event on May 11. The event, titled “Golden Gate Park Under Siege,” was to be a discussion about possible development projects in the park. Other panelists were representatives of environmental and anti-development groups who claimed they were not given time to voice their concerns in Board of Supervisors meetings, and wanted a forum to do so.

Wooding says that the Commonwealth Club was bombarded with phone calls and emails weeks before the discussion.

“They were saying our panel was one-sided, which is really unusual, and the Commonwealth Club told us they were getting a lot of heat for such a little panel discussion,” Wooding said. “It was not going to be a big deal, in all honesty.”

The emails that Wooding had and the department denied include correspondence from Sarah Ballard, RPD’s director of policy and public affairs, to Kerry Curtis, co-chair of the Commonwealth Club Environment & Natural Resources Forum, indicating she had phoned the club as well and asked that the discussion be canceled due to its “deeply biased panel that has no interest in discussing facts.”

There are also emails between Susan Hirsch, director of the City Fields Foundation, a private group that has been installing artificial turf in public parks, from her business email address to the panel moderator Jim Chappell’s private email, urging him to reconsider the event.

“You and I discussed this project years ago; the private sector is contributing far more than $20 million to provide safe, accessibly, and yes, environmentally sound fields for kids all across San Francisco to use. We have a unique private/public partnership with Rec and Park; it’s too bad the focus is on something negative, rather than the positive impact,” Hirsch wrote.

Mark Buell, president of the Recreation and Park Commission, also emailed Greg Dalton, Commonwealth Club’s COO, from his private email address: “I find the title inflammatory, the participants biased, and the fact that no one from the Rec and Park Department invited hard to understand. As president of the Commission I would like to urge the club to both alter the title of the event to ‘issues facing the park’ and have the club ask a representative of the department to be on the panel.”

Shortly thereafter, Buell was added to the panel and the event was renamed “Golden Gate Park Under Siege?”

Buell says the situation has been blown out of proportion. “I got on the panel because I’ve been active with the Commonwealth Club for years and all of a sudden I read a very slanted title about something tantamount to the ruination of Golden Gate Park, and a panel of people who are all critics,” Buell told us.

Wooding says the panel went smoothly, but he was unsettled by the last minute changes. He asked around for any information about what happened and got the emails through a knowledgeable source close to the RPD.

“[RPD] has pissed off a lot of people because they came in with a hammer when they didn’t need a sledge hammer. One of the people they pissed off was really upset and ended up giving me the correspondence,” Wooding told us.

As a journalist, Wooding said, “I was thinking, ‘this is a great story but wait, I can’t use any of this information,’ so I thought about how I could get the information legitimately?”

Wooding immediately emailed Olivia Gong, a RPD secretary, making clear that he was requesting the emails in accordance with the Sunshine Ordinance. Gong replied that the department did not have any documents matching the request.

“Imagine how amazed I was when they claimed they didn’t exist,” Wooding said.

After a second request turned up nothing, Wooding knew they were hiding the emails. He then asked Gong how she had determined the emails did not exist. Gong forwarded emails she had sent to department members who replied they did not have responsive documents.

Wooding then filed a complaint with the task force, which voted unanimously that RPD was in the wrong. Not only did it claim the emails did not exist, but when it became clear that they did, the department said that members deleted the emails because some were sent on private accounts and did not directly pertain to RPD affairs.

“I just delete everything,” Buell says. “It’s not that I did anything, it’s just that I didn’t know the rules that you’re supposed to keep everything.”

Task Force Chair Hope Johnson says she was shocked by this argument. The California Public Records Act, which is more lenient than the Sunshine Ordinance, clearly lists emails as a form of government document that must be handed over on request. The Sunshine Ordinance covers emails as well, and all officials who serve on city boards were required to undergo sunshine training last year, outlining what public documents are and noting that it’s illegal under state law to destroy them.

“Just switching over to another email address lends itself to the idea that this is something they knew was underhanded and would not be received positively by the public,” Johnson said.

She says this is becoming a problem throughout city government.

“There’s not a lot of specificity about keeping emails. They need a retention policy,” Johnson says. “Obviously I think that they prefer it to be as vague as possible.”



Although the task force found RDP in violation, punishment is up to the Ethics Commission, a separate entity at City Hall.

Enter bureaucratic gloom and doom.

Since 1993 the task force has given the Ethics Commission 19 sunshine violation cases. Only one has even been heard. The other 18 were dismissed or are still “pending investigation.” Government officials are therefore under no serious threat if they disobey the law.

Richard Knee, former chair of the task force, says there is obvious animosity between the task force and commission staff. Rather than enforcing punishment, the Ethic Commission staff claim that cases can be dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence, or require additional investigation, which stalls the process indefinitely.

“I don’t think there’s any confusion, I think it’s merely resistance,” Knee said. “We are not asking the Ethics Commission to re-adjudicate something we have already adjudicated. When we refer a matter to the Ethics Commission we are asking them to tack some kind of enforcement action on a violation we have already found exists.”

In the one case Ethics did hear, it turned the punishment decision over to the mayor as the “appointing officer,” who did nothing. It has, therefore, never enforced a penalty on any government official that the task force found guilty.

A report released in August by the Civil Grand Jury, entitled “San Francisco’s Ethics Commission: The Sleeping Watchdog,” criticizes the body’s record of inaction on both sunshine and campaign finance complaints.

“Because of the Ethics Commission’s lack of enforcement, no city employee has been disciplined for failing to adhere to the Sunshine Ordinance. The Commission has allowed some city officials to ignore the rulings of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force,” the report says.

Johnson says that since the report came out, her correspondence with the Ethics Commission has shifted slightly.

“They used to send us letters back saying they dismissed it, but recently we’ve sent over two cases and they agreed that there had been a violation,” Johnson said. “But they said they wouldn’t be able to do enforcements of any kind.”

She says that the Sunshine Ordinance won’t be taken seriously until the very people it is meant to monitor begin to enforce its stipulations.

“It’s difficult with the Ethics Commission because they keep all of their investigations secret,” Johnson says. “There is no external oversight, it is all the politicians, all of the people who appointed them, they are the only people who monitor what they’re doing.”

In response to the report, Johnson hopes the Ethics Commission will be urged to actually hear sunshine cases, and Wooding’s could be one of the first.

“The George Wooding case is a good example of how the Sunshine Ordinance can reveal oppression of a group of people who wanted to come together and have a constructive analysis,” Johnson said. “That should be something that’s allowed, and here’s the very entity that they want to have an analysis and discussion about shutting them down. And here are some documents that prove it.”

Wooding’s case will be heard once more by the task force on Sept. 27. It will almost certainly be sent to the Ethics Commission, but Wooding may be waiting awhile for any resolution.

“It’s probably going to take forever,” Wooding says. “Either I’ll just end up being another file in a cabinet somewhere, or this may even become an example, if it moves through, of how things should be done. There might be a lot more life in this than anyone ever imagined.”

Coyote moon


CHEAP EATS Ten minutes, she said. I promise you, the line does not take long. She was like a greeter, which seemed unusual for a grocery store, but I am willing to believe almost anything at this point.

It’s strange: to pride oneself on one’s gullibility. Nevertheless, I grabbed the bread that I wanted, and walked whistling with it to the back of the store, through the storage area past the back of the store, beyond the bathrooms, back outside into the loading zone on the opposite side of the building from the parking lot, through some bushes, under an overpass, entirely outside of the city and into the desert, where I took my spot at the end of the line and said to the person in front of me, “Hi.”

“Hi,” he said. It was a cold crisp night with stars and moons all over the place. And behind me the line kept getting longer, all the while time passing.

The line did not move at all. Apparently, people were buying houses and cars. They had to talk to their lawyers and spouses, and wait for bank loans to be approved. Inspections.

Before long I had finished all the bread and was standing in line with an empty paper bag. The city was nowhere in sight, not to mention the cashiers. Nor could I tell if the line of people who had lined up behind me stretched longer than the line still in front of me. I was, as usual, in the middle.

It’s my nature to use my time wisely, even when it’s only 10 minutes. (She’d promised.) I tried to talk to the man in line ahead of me. First I made eye contact, then I asked questions. I wanted to familiarize myself with concepts like escrow and closing, in case someone else in the line should prove worth flirting with.

Because you never know. Many of my girlfriends met their future husbands while waiting in lines. It’s true that for the most part their future husbands didn’t notice them; they just went about their business, as it is in man’s nature to do. But there are exceptions to every rule, I’m told, so who’s to say I wasn’t going to be one of them?

Instead of educating me, the man in front of me in line flirted with me. I never did learn about escrow; I learned about him. He was married but separated from his wife but still in love with her but she didn’t love him and was living with her tennis teacher.

“The man is a tennis teacher?” I said. I don’t know why I wanted to be perfectly clear about the person his wife was living with, and what he did for a living. In retrospect it seems far from the point.

Still, I said what I said and the man said, “Yes. Do you play?”

“No,” I said. This was a lie.

“Well,” he said, then, “what is your story?”

And just like that I had him where I wanted. A captive audience, middle of nowhere, on a night much like this, waiting, waiting, and already mystified by my mystique. Which is, I’m told, considerable.

“Once upon a time,” I said.

“Don’t give me that shit,” said my future husband.

“Once upon a time,” I said again, because that’s the kind of storyteller I am, and, as if on cue, the rest of the line of people dissolved into the night, and all around us coyotes yipped and yapped.

“The corn on the cob was not fresh. Or it was overcooked,” I said, poking our little campfire with a stick, and my guest nodded, understanding me perfectly. “The brisket and the ribs were just fine, but, you know, it’s nice to have barbecue across the street from where you drink.”

“Where?” he said.

“Anywhere. Your neighborhood dive,” I said. “El Rio, in my case. One meets the love of one’s life in such a place, and the love of my life,” I said, “is barbecue.”

“But the corn …”

“It had dimples in it, yes,” I said. “It stuck to your teeth. Like something you feed to animals.”

He shook his head, in the smoke, in the night. And I shook mine.

We were supposed to have been so much more.


Sun.-Thu.: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

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Beer & wine


From an epic, a classic



DANCE What makes watching the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Dido and Aeneas such a satisfying — and ultimately profound — experience? It’s really simple: give a story of love and war to a poet, who creates a rhythmically and imagistically suggestive libretto, which then gets into the hands of a genius composer, and finally ends up with Mark Morris, who just happens to be a great choreographer and company director. That’s it.

Morris created Dido in Brussels in 1989, where the Opera de la Monnaie had everything he needed: a budget for production, support for a large group of dancers, and the freedom do what he wanted. That experience decisively shaped the 33-year-old choreographer and put him on the world stage to which the controversy surrounding the premiere probably did its part.

By casting the Sorceress as Dido’s darker side — and having the characters interpreted by the same dancer — Morris injected an intriguing Freudian note, though it added little to the tragedy. However, it gave Morris, a superb dancer, the role of his life. He did the part until 2000. In his company’s performance at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall Sept. 16-18, he put his stamp on the production by conducting the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale (performing Henry Purcell’s 17th century score) in the pit. He did it well — not surprising, since he’s renowned for his musicality.

In this incarnation of Dido and Aeneas, Amber Star Merkens dances the double role convincingly, making it her own, though she doesn’t have Morris’ solid physique and bone-deep expressivity. You couldn’t help but see Morris in the jaunty lift of her chin and the way she placed her hands. As a Sorceress, throwing her arms up in mock desperation at the antics of her fellow witches, Merkens becomes every inch the aging Madam in a roadside whorehouse.

Opposite Merkens, Domingo Estrada Jr. gave Aeneas just a touch of vanity and self-involvement. He seemed very young.

But it’s not only the leads who need to switch emotional gears back and forth; the ensemble of courtiers, witches, and soldiers has to follow suit. Despite some initial hiccups, Morris’ dancers did themselves proud.

What continues to surprise in this remarkable work — certainly one of Morris’ finest, if not his greatest — is the economy of means with which he weaves this tale, drawn from Virgil’s Aeneid, of the outsized passion and grief of Dido, Queen of Carthage and Aeneas, Founder of Rome. The dancers wear black tops and skirts except for Aeneas, who is topless. Robert Bordo’s set consists of two benches and a washed-out curtain that looks like it might have belonged to a traveling theater group.

Though Morris’ vocabulary includes some of his more literal responses to the music that (as a more mature choreographer) he now pretty much foregoes, the depth of his imagination is breathtaking. He plants the legs even as the arms fly out as far as the body can reach. He draws on Martha Graham’s use of the ground, Irish folk dancing, and ballet’s toe work, and makes them his own. The dances, whether in strict unisons or opposing and interlocking patterns, are stenciled into space.

Most unusual is the way Morris infuses Dido with a sense of absence, of negation. We see the dancers in half-profile or with their backs to us. Even the witches cover their eyes. When Aeneas arrives, Dido turns away. In their love duet, he holds her hand, yet looks over his other outstretched hand across the ocean. It is as if the passion and pain were too much for us to witness.

Much like a Greek tragedy, Dido proclaims a sense of order and restraint that is disturbed but ultimately restored. But at what price. At the end of her lament — Purcell at his most lyrical — Dido, with her arms outstretched, lies on the bench that became her bier. Her retinue processes out two-by-two except for the Second Woman (Rita Donahue). She looks at Belinda (Maile Okamura), her lover and Dido’s faithful confidante. Then she turns and leaves. Alone. At that moment the heroic and the human became one.

The last supper


› paulr@sfbg.com

DINE “I’ve had a good run,” Harry Morant tells a young friend near the end of one of my favorite movies, Breaker Morant. Soon after, he is set before a military firing squad and shot dead. My own circumstances are, I hope, less dire — certainly they’re less cinematic — though I too have had a good run. But all journeys come to an end sooner or later, and so now does this one.

If you’ve read these columns through the years, then you’ve read quite a few columns, and you’ve counted quite a few years passing by. In a better world, you would get a rebate check for all your trouble. Reading is, if not trouble, at least effort; it is a form of work that requires exertion, and it also — unfortunately — reminds too many people of school, with syllabi, assigned texts, pop quizzes, and other such outrages. “Required reading” has always seemed to me to be one of life’s great oxymorons, along with “military intelligence.”

Nonetheless I have always posited the existence of readers, people who would take the time to sit down and concentrate for a few minutes on a piece about a restaurant in a free alt-weekly so that they might discern, and maybe even pleased by, the texture of the piece, the flavors of the language, the sense of a place conveyed, the images and jokes. And I have tried to write for those people, even if (to judge by the occasional appreciative notes I received) they seemed largely to be members of the UC Berkeley faculty.

Readers, as I imagined them, would take pleasure in what they had just read, and they would also have been expanded by it, however slightly. Their effort would have been repaid. As I writer, I have always tried to keep this transaction, the basic transaction of all literary life, in mind.

Never was I an awarder of stars, nor, as I understood things, a recommender. Those tasks fell to others, and in a city stuffed like a fat sausage with people keen to write about food and restaurants, leaving tasks for others struck me as an essential survival skill. The greater good is not served by everyone descending on the same place to write more or less the same thing, as quickly as possible. That is simply hype, and we are dying of hype. I meant to write about places others weren’t writing about. Sometimes I managed this and sometimes I didn’t, but the idea was always in my mind, and when I found myself in the midst of a 10-car pile-up anyway, as happened from time to time, I deducted five points from my account.

For me the model, or ideal, of this gig resembled a travelogue, a running account of places visited, impressions received and relayed. Of course journalism tilts strongly and inevitably to what is new. But I thought it was important to tack against those powerful winds when possible, to go occasionally to places that were not new or were even old, or to places that could be found on roads less travelled. I tried to keep the varieties of cuisines in mind, and of price points. You can spend tons of money and be disappointed, or spend very little and be elated — and it can also be exactly the other way around.

My basic philosophical orientation was that of a cook, setting forth to look for ideas and even a sort of instruction. I’ve been the cook of my little household for more than a quarter-century, and someone in that position naturally is going to be looking for ideas, twists and wrinkles that can politely, or at least discreetly, be taken home and used. Often, when looking at menus, I would find myself wondering: have I made that, or could I, should I try to? And when this or that dish reached the table, I would wonder how it compared to my own version.

One of the big issues with restaurant kitchens is that you never know for sure what they’re putting in your food, but a lot of butter is probably a safe bet. If you believe, as I do, that health is a personal responsibility and that the connection between diet and well-being is as basic as it gets, then there is no substitute for buying and cooking your own food rather than paying somebody else to do it. Restaurant meals should be treats, not staples.

Restaurants are about more than food, of course. They are social fora, gathering places full of talk and clothes and interior design; they are cultural statements, business endeavors, entertainment venues, and labors of love. They are, above all, sensual experiences — great outings for the senses — and describing sensual experience is one of the trickiest and most absorbing operations any writer will ever undertake. The difference between doing it well and doing it badly is often fine and very often involves the presence or absence of cliché. Rote expressions and tired imagery are lethal to sensual description — it seems particularly and bitterly ironic to find the freshness of food being written about in language as stale as month-old bread — and in my small way I have been a committed warrior against these toxins of banality. Down the weeks, months, and years, I have tried to summon language as lively, exact, and unexpected as I could think to make it, so that it might delight the reader and, not coincidentally, stick in the mind.

There is nothing more powerful in language than a phrase, sometimes a single word, that helps you see something you hadn’t seen before, or helps you see something you had seen before, even if it’s just a burrito, in a surprising new way. These glints of words kindle the imagination, and imagination, I would say, is basic to our prospects as a species. This is why good writing, whatever its subject, will always be not just important but central, even when, as now, its value is eclipsed by a rising culture of gadgets and gizmos, of YouTube clips played on smartphones. The heart of human intelligence, of human knowing, is and will remain language, and writing is language’s most potent distillate. What we feed our minds is as important as what we feed our bodies — or at least that is what I believe, since I am a writer and couldn’t possibly believe otherwise.

But enough! I must run.

Difficult loves



FILM The critic Quintín began his review of Mysteries of Lisbon in last winter’s Cinema Scope by noting that the film’s lavish production and strong reception marked a welcome turnaround for its director Raúl Ruiz, who in the years prior struggled with funding and illness. Though produced for Portuguese television, the film won awards and raves on the festival circuit. Suddenly, Ruiz seemed more assured his rightful status as a master. A year later Mysteries of Lisbon arrives for a rather miraculous theatrical run — but Ruiz is gone. He died in August 2011, having directed many more films than his 70 years.

Ruiz’s films have typically been the province of hardcore cinephiles, but this splendid epic holds wider appeal. It’s difficult to think of another movie that so satisfyingly captures the intricacies and volatilities of the 19th century novel — anyone enthralled by the teeming creations of Balzac and Dickens will find that Mysteries of Lisbon‘s four-and-a-half hours stream by. Ruiz was no stranger to the 19th century — his recent films included Klimt (2006) and the Proustian Time Regained (1999) — but the ornately plotted trio of novellas by Portuguese author Camilo Castelo Branco which supply these mysteries seem specially tailored to the director’s affinity for involved narrations.

The story sweeps across dozens of characters and several generations of doomed love, revenge plots, disguised identities, uncertain parentages, and religious vows. We even glimpse the Napoleonic Wars. It’s gripping stuff, in other words, and Ruiz meant it that way — the film refutes the idea that an analytical narration style upbraids narrative pleasure (a cornerstone of much structuralist film theory). One hesitates to launch into describing Mysteries of Lisbon‘s plot, not only because there’s such an awful lot of it, but also because it risks underselling the brilliant means by which information is divulged.

It begins with an adolescent searching out his origins. Pedro da Silva lives under the care of kindly and knowing Father Dinis. The boy becomes dimly aware of his mother, Angela de Lima, when he’s sick with fever (realized with a neat impressionistic distortion). In the film’s first flashback, to the near past, we learn of her cruel treatment at the hands of her husband, the Count of Santa Bárbara. She eventually flees to the church, whereupon her history of misfortune tumbles out in a deeper flashback narrated by Dinis: her passion for Pedro’s father and the iron disapproval of her father, the Marquis de Montezelos. After contracting the elder Pedro’s murder to his thug, Knife Eater, Marquis arranges for the man to snuff out his daughter’s bastard child at birth. A gypsy bargains for the baby’s life from Knife Eater, and that gypsy, we later learn, is one and the same as Father Dinis.

The priest’s shadowy transformations provide a recurring template for Mysteries of Lisbon, as does his eventual commitment to God. An intermission is shrewdly positioned so that the beginning of the second half begins with another origin story — Dinis’s own. The Samsaric wheel of lost love and filial abandonment turns again. A new set of characters emerge, including a mysterious capitalist posing as a Brazilian import who eventually marries the Count of Santa Barbara’s mistress, Eugénia, and takes a peculiar interest in Pedro’s well-being. His former lover, the bewitching Duchess of Cliton, lives for revenge and arouses the idealistic romance of Pedro, now a young man: it seems we’ve spun through the past long enough for him to age.

Delirious yet? That narrow introduction doesn’t begin to convey the vertiginous experience of Mysteries of Lisbon‘s discoveries and resonances. By moving steadily further from the young Pedro’s frame of reference, Ruiz suggests that every doomed love is its own even as they are invariably connected. The immersive nature of the flashbacks all but obliterates any semblance of Pedro’s narrative through line, and leaves us vulnerable to alluring déjà vu (key repetitions of specific objects, framings, and dialog within different spheres of the plot). If Ruiz is partly poking fun at literary convention by repeatedly framing eavesdroppers in the extreme foreground and backgrounds of the frame, for instance, he’s also giving us tangible figures of the thread that connects these disparate stories.

Ruiz’s narrations are commonly likened to labyrinths, but for Mysteries of Lisbon‘s vigorous expansion I reach for the cosmos: one luminous sphere rotates another which in turn rotates a larger system, the whole of it spreading outwards in all directions at once. There are many other ways one could model the narrative’s abundance — in interviews Ruiz cited the mathematical concept of overflow — but the point is not so many films inspire this kind of reflection. And if complexity is one measure of the film’s greatness, flexibility is surely another. Throughout, Ruiz demonstrates that a distant long take need not be emotionally remote; that a shot can reveal as it conceals; that dramatic irony can fluctuate, giving knowledge itself an almost textural quality.

In one of the few scenes set outside a gilded room or convent, the older Pedro searches out his mother’s grave. There he meets his grandfather, the formerly imposing Marquis, now a deluded blind beggar. It’s the umpteenth case of a character cropping up in a different mask, and this one seems the most obvious kind of poetic justice. As the Marquis exits, his beggar companion approaches Pedro. He redundantly recounts the Marquis’ fall, but then adds his own insight, that nobility’s great tragedies are simply the stuff of life for beggars. Ruiz remains light on his feet well past the four hour mark, always prepared with another shift in perspective. Mysteries of Lisbon is not the kind of masterpiece you expect of an old man, but then Ruiz clearly had little use for such a simplistic concept of time. 

MYSTERIES OF LISBON opens Sept. 30 in San Francisco.

Twee of life



FILM For a while there it looked like Gus Van Sant, one of the most interesting U.S. directorial sensibilities of the last quarter-century, was going to settle for cashing the checks that have lured many an “edgy” artist over to the dull dark side. His mainstreaming began with the mixed rewards of 1995’s To Die For, peaking commercially with 1997’s Good Will Hunting; Finding Forrester (2000) and Psycho (1998) weren’t justifiable choices on any terms.

But then with the quartet of Gerry (2002), Elephant (2003), Last Days (2005), and Paranoid Park (2007) he was back making films as small, idiosyncratic, personal, and (but for his name) less commercial than anything he’d done since 1986’s Mala Noche. You could call them brilliant, baffling, or boring, but they weren’t works of careerist complacency. Milk (2008) was something else, crafted to reach as many as possible politically. It was a very good rather than great movie, coaxing a warmth and ebullience previously unseen from Sean Penn.

After that streak, it’s no big deal that Restless isn’t very good, let alone great, or that it falls between personal and mainstream categorization — small enough to pass as the former, formulaic enough for the latter. What is notable, however, is that it’s bad in ways Van Sant hasn’t hazarded before, and which you might reasonably have thunk he never would. Yes, Psycho, and maybe 1993’s excessively dissed Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, is still worse. But Restless is pandering and insufferable: it’s got a case of the cutes so advanced the protagonists might as well be puppies and kittens.

Making use of a certified “eccentric” identifier that (if you swap in 12 step meetings, etc.) is already an overexposed narrative gimmick, Jason Lew’s script introduces pettable Enoch (Henry Hopper) as a teenage loner so affectedly angst-ridden his primary occupation is attending the funerals of complete strangers. At one such he meets the perky, equally quirky Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), who finds his surliness delightful and presses friendship upon him. It’s not going to be a major commitment, as she soon explains she’s in treatment for cancer with a very limited remaining lifespan.

Drawn by overlapping cute fixations on morbidity (both have dead parents as well), they are fast spending all their time together, to the somewhat ill explained annoyance of her older sister (Schuyler Fisk). (He’s living with an aunt played by Jane Adams, who gets so little to do here one suspects most of her part is on the cutting-room floor.)

They do moderately wacky things and share secrets, the latter including his conversations with imaginary friend Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), the ghost of a fictive downed World War II kamikaze pilot. (Adding to the Charlie St. Cloud like levels of twee, despite his made-up status wise Hiroshi sometimes knows things Enoch doesn’t yet, and eventually Annabel can see him, too.) Both have plenty of time on their hands because, well, she’s dying and he’s been expelled from school for reasons that naturally turn out to be rather noble.

All young lovers fancy themselves in their own special world beyond others’ full understanding. But Restless buys into that specialness with a vengeance. Its romanticism is that an arrested-adolescent type spanning the tuberculic etherealism of those wasting Victorian heroines Edward Gorey parodied, the girl-dying-from-too-much-spiritual-radiance Love Story (1970) formula, and the smiley face noncomformism of Harold and Maude (1971) and its ilk, wherein acting childish was a rebellious act of sticking it to the Man. In such narratives our protagonists almost never have jobs, likable relatives, or other real-world responsibilities, the better to act out fey fanasties together, then wallow in picturesque pathos alone. They’re their own Make a Wish Foundation, 24/7.

Puppies and kittens are cute, and getting suckered by this kind of enterprise is hardly the worst form of audience manipulation. But why is Van Sant playing enabler? One suspects there was something irresistible about first-time scenarist Jason Lew, just as there doubtless was to Matt ‘n’ Ben (Good Will Hunting) and to Milk‘s Dustin Lance Black.

But those choices were solid ones, at least. Always a fan of youth, the director is to be applauded for encouraging fledgling talent offscreen as well as on it. Still, occasional traces of his recognizable style hardly dilute the sugary sentimentality at the core of Restless, lend it actual gravitas or even the kind of fanciful mood that might excuse potential preciousness as fable. Twenty-two-but-passing-for-younger of the moment Wasikowska is fine, though she has been and will be better. Hopper, son of Dennis — how did such scrubbed, nonthreatening blond adorability arise from that gene pool? — is less evidently an actor in his first film than a prepube’s pinup successor to Justin and Zac. Not that he’s asked to act so much as pose fetchingly, of course. It may be Lew’s idea to make Annabel the “mature one,” but it feels very much Van Sant’s to let the camera fawn so devotedly over Enoch. 

RESTLESS opens Fri/16 in Bay Area theaters.

Heart it or hate it



MUSIC The term “emo” has become synonymous with whiny, tight-jeans-wearing 13-year-olds with asymmetrical haircuts. (Thanks, Hot Topic.) But stereotypical B.S. aside, in the beginning, emo — short for “emotional punk rock” — was a compelling music movement in the early 1990s and 2000s typified by melodic guitar, motley rhythms, and expressive, pour-your-heart-out lyrics.

“It went from being this really powerful, emotional movement into, like, the annoying little brother of music,” says Kristopher Hannum who co-runs Diary, an emo, screamo, and pop punk music night held every third Saturday of the month at Pop’s Bar. “But I feel like it’s slowly coming back in a good way — not in a Hot Topic-y, YouTube bands they call emo [way]. There are good things happening and they are slowly bubbling up to the surface, like [San Francisco’s] Clarissa Explains It All.” He adds, “It’s a band I point out to people that is kind of taking that [emo] scene and doing good things with it.”

But ever since the term was coined in the mid-80s Washington, D.C. hardcore punk scene, initially to describe bands such as Rites Of Spring, emo has been considered a four-letter word.

“I have never met a band in what I would consider the emo genre that ever copped to calling themselves ’emo.’ It’s weird. Fans throw that around really easily but you’ll never hear, for the most part, a band describe themselves as emo,” explains Leslie Simon, co-author of Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide To Emo Culture (Harpers, 2007) and former MTV.com editor.

Jim Adkins lead vocalist-guitarist of Jimmy Eat World, which is heralded as a seminal emo band, rejects the label. “I’m pretty much done trying to deflect or change that perception. I don’t really consider us to be [emo]. It’s a long conversation,” Adkins says, curtly. “For me, it’s just flattering that anyone pays attention to what we do. To explain what we do, [I say] guitar-based, melodic rock music.”

Adkins’ sentiment notwithstanding, Jimmy Eat World’s 1999 release Clarity (Capitol) is often lauded as one of the most significant emo albums of the late ’90s, heavily influencing the third wave of emo (2000 — present) which includes bands like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and All-American Rejects.

In 2001, as emo broke into mainstream media, Jimmy Eat World released its platinum-selling album, Bleed American (Dreamworks/Geffen). In its introductory title track, Adkins wails “I’m not alone ’cause the TV’s on, yeah / I’m not crazy because I take the right pills everyday” — perfectly encapsulating the angst and disillusionment of Gen Y’ers. With its empowering lyrics (“Just do your best / do everything you can /And don’t you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say”), the anthemic “The Middle,” another track off Bleed American, reached #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks, galvanizing wallflowers everywhere to stay true to themselves. With its impeccably relatable themes, it is no wonder why the album was the band’s biggest commercial success.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of its release, Jimmy Eat World will play Bleed American in its entirety at the Fillmore on Monday, Sept. 26 and Tuesday, Sept. 27.

“[Bleed American] is a special record for a lot of people. It’s just been kind of a fan request that we do it, so we’re doing it in areas where we’ve always had a good time playing,” Adkins explains.

Coincidentally, Saves The Day released its first studio album in four years, Daybreak, last week. And the once-disbanded-now-reunited Get Up Kids — also wildly popular in the early-2000s — released There Are Rules earlier this year, making a stop on its tour in San Francisco, playing a show with Dashboard Confessional, another iconic emoter, most famous for its single, “Screaming Infidelities.”

Heart it or hate it, in the past year second-wave emo bands seem to be making a comeback. So this begs the question: What is behind the resurgence of this style of music?

“Playing music is an awesome opportunity. Maybe all of these people that are coming back together kind of miss it. We were really lucky that we’ve been able to continually do it,” Adkins says. “The more interesting question is why did they stop?”

“I really like to think that it wasn’t about making money which, I’m sure, half of those bands are doing it just because there are ticket sales in it, you know?” Hannum says with a hint of disillusion in his voice. “[But] I like to think that they are in a position where they can still get back together and tour to give access to these kids that couldn’t access it back then.”

“It does come off sometimes like they’re doing it for the paycheck. But, at the end of the day, who cares?” Simon replies, laughing. “I still love hearing Chris Conley (of Saves The Day) sing “Firefly” and I get a kick out of watching the Get Up Kids play “Don’t Hate Me” because those were songs that meant something to me when I was younger. And I am 22 again. It is wonderful.” 



With Kinch

Mon/26 and Tues/27, 8 p.m., $35

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF


Because Princess says so



SEX ISSUE 2011 I saw Donna Dolore for the first time at a Hard French queer soul dance party at El Rio. I remember because she took my drink so authoritatively that I had no choice but to be okay with it. She sipped it, handed it back, and strode away. Can I get a thank you? Throughout the whole, sloppy afternoon, I noticed it was kind of her theme.

But no one seemed to care. Part of it was obvious: Dolore is a Sophia Loren with wider eyes, maybe a little taller, with the same generous tendencies towards sharing glimpses of the bust line. Only — I reflected, shortly before falling back into cheap-beer-and-go-go-dancer melee — that attitude. Who the hell is this woman?

Weeks later, I’m telling her the story in person in the cavernous break room at Kink.com’s headquarters in the San Francisco Armory (everything at the Armory is cavernous). It turns out that Dolore is in fact, a pretty big deal. Just ask her legions of heavy-breathing fans who know her as Princess Donna, the Kink.com director and star queer dominatrix.

“Oh my gosh, I did that?” At the office from where she plans shoots for the three Kink websites she heads, Dolore is a less formidable figure. She’s not wearing any makeup. Her black outfit makes her look like she’s about to take off for a light jog around the Mission.

But she might just be being coy. After all, I’d stalked her up good before our appointment and had come across this gem in a video interview she did a few years back: “I’m pretty true to form — Princess Donna acts a lot like I do.”

Dolore double majored at New York University, perfectly enough, in gender and sexuality studies and photography. She became a stripper while at school, and then on a tip from a coworker, got into professional BDSM shoots. Although she had been to some BDSM play parties, the work was the first time she’d ever been tied up.

“I was immediately into the challenge of being in a really stressful position — being flogged or caned, total sensory overload,” she remembers. “I would leave a shoot feeling really invigorated, a stronger person. It made me want to see what my body was capable of.”

Nowadays, Princess Donna sits — utterly sexily, usually in a short skirt and fuck-me heels — atop the Internet BDSM porn puppy pile.

At Kink she is the mind behind no less than three sites. For “Public Disgrace,” Dolore makes trips around the world to supervise the stripping-down, feeling-up, and penetration of beautiful women in town squares and busy bars. On “Wired Pussy,” she plays with electrical equipment, inducing screaming orgasms in her female partners.

In her latest endeavor, “Bound Gang Bang,” Dolore supervises teams of horny men and one or two women in fantasy-type shoots: high school nerds get their revenge on the bitchy mean girls, a prison warden drops her key and winds up giving head to inmates through a chain link fence. She has guest-starred in many of Kink’s different sites, usually as a top, sometimes as a bottom.

“I get stressed out because we have so much content to produce,” says Dolore, who works on one or two shoots a week. “But it’s a challenge that I enjoy.” One gets the sense that at Kink, Dolore has found a place that can nurture her talent for perversion.


Like most of Kink’s offerings, Dolore’s sites are unapologetically brutal. Women are dominated, wind up covered in ejaculate and with bound breasts that are agonizing to look at (well, at least for the BDSM newbie).

This is exactly the kind of stuff that sends shivers — the bad kind — up the spines of anti-porn feminists. But Dolore is a feminist too. As articulate as she is and as prominent she is and as wild as her porns are, she’s often called on to defend BDSM’s treatment and portrayal of women.

“I think the exact opposite of the people that think that BDSM would promote violence against women,” she says. That tired question — “is porn degrading to women?” — is something that Dolore finds degrading. Why, she asks, don’t the anti-porn musketeers ask the same of men in the industry?

“What is going on in our society that we continue to see sex as something that is put on women that they don’t desire? Why can’t we fathom it being a dream job for a woman?”

Kink is doing its part to raise awareness about the sexual pleasure that can be experienced by submissive actors. Before and after each shoot, the man or woman who you’ve watched screaming, a cattle prod or vibrator pressed against their genitals, is interviewed. That familiar dazed after-sex look is all over their faces, and their endorphin-heavy perk is really all you need to know what Dolore says is true: the models at Kink really, really love their job.

Delore contests the notion that only people who have been sexual abused take pleasure in pain, although she says you’ll find abuse victims in porn studios, just like any other workplace.

“Unfortunately, you could look to any profession and say a lot of them were abused as kids. You could look at secretaries and say that. Personally, I wasn’t sexually abused.” She smiles. “I’m just a natural pervert.”

Delore’s a regular on the queer party circuit — this week, you can catch her stealing drinks at Sunday’s “Deviants” Folsom Street Fair closing party. Her exuberance in exploring the outer realms of sexuality haven’t gone unnoticed in the San Francisco sex community. Kelly Lovemonster, editor of the queer quarterly sexuality zine [SSEX BBOX] is a close friend of Dolore, and calls her a “super heroine.”

“Even when she is portraying a submissive bottom, being cattle prodded, nipples clamped down and attached to electric cords, you can tell she is absolutely in control,” says Lovemonster. “She shows us that our dirtiest, scariest, and wildest sexual fantasies can come true through healthy communication and BDSM play. She rescues us all from a world where sexuality is suppressed and made shameful.”

This, according to Dolore, is a big part of why what Kink produces is important. The website puts BDSM urges out there, lets people that get turned on by being slapped across the face know that they’re not the only ones.

For the dis-empowered and isolated BDSM fan, that can be heady stuff. “You can explore your rape fantasy in a way that the woman is in control of what’s happening to their body — it’s a way to relive a situation where you had no control and relive it in a way in which you do have control,” says Dolore.

In a direct repudiation of the claims that abuse victims fall into BDSM for unsavory reasons. Dolore says she’s seen rough sex and power play rehabilitate partners whose sexuality seems terminally fucked. “I’m not a therapist but I feel like I am sometimes.”

But when I ask her if she considers herself an activist, she says no.

“When I think of the word activist, I think of people who are more outspoken than I am. I do my thing on my website, and people can come watch it if they want to.”

Which is not to say that the forward girl at Hard French doesn’t think she’s affecting change. Says the princess: “I’m just happy that I can help people be honest about what they want in bed.” 


Sun/25 4 p.m.-3 a.m., $20-30

Public Works

161 Erie, SF



A case for Avalos, Yee and Dufty


OPINION Like all of us, SEIU 1021 can take three dates to the prom when it comes to voting for mayor, but narrowing it down in a field of so many candidates was still challenging. After a month-long process, we arrived at a dual endorsement of Supervisor John Avalos and State Senator Leland Yee for first and second choice, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty for our third choice.

It’s a diverse slate, and the choices are representative of the constituencies, perspectives and priorities in our membership.

Yee’s record on labor issues in Sacramento has been impeccable, and he has long been a staunch supporter of our union, so endorsing him was a no-brainer. The Guardian asked me personally, as I am also a transgender activist, how I could support Leland after his vote against transgender health benefits. Frankly, I was disappointed in how my response was framed.

Leland approached transgender activists a number of years ago and apologized for his vote. Instead of denying or rationalizing like other politicians might do, he had the courage to come to a community meeting of transgender activists, stand in front of us, admit he was wrong, and apologize. For people to continue to attack an individual for having a true change of heart is very discouraging. We would never make any advancement of our rights if we continued to shun those who have come to understand and support the transgender fight for equality. In fact, Yee’s support was critical to the collective effort to save Lyon-Martin, a clinic that is a key service provider for trans folks, after it almost closed earlier this year.

That’s why so many in the transgender community now support Yee so strongly and why he has become an even closer, tested ally through this experience.

SEIU 1021 has always had a very close relationship with John Avalos. Avalos has been a steadfast supporter of crucial social and health- care services, and has been a leader in creating needed progressive revenue measures. But most importantly, John understands how essential jobs are for lifting people out of poverty and stimulating the local economy for everyone in San Francisco.

Last year, he introduced a Local Hire ordinance that is becoming a real jobs generator in our city and a national model. Like many of our members when they first started working for the city, workers hired under the Local Hire ordinance may for the first time have a living-wage job with benefits.

And while some in labor have been critical of this legislation — in fact, it cost him the endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council — that’s a short-sighted criticism.

As more people are employed in San Francisco with living wage jobs, they spend money in San Francisco, boosting tax revenues and in turn creating more jobs across the city. Moreover, this visionary legislation has other benefits — workers coming from low-income communities bring a new found pride in and community spirit to what could be otherwise economically depressed areas. That’s why SEIU 1021 supports Avalos, and why I am proud to endorse him as well.

Rounding out SEIU’s endorsements in this campaign is former Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Dufty has a history of supporting preserving city services. Some have argued that Dufty can’t handle downtown pressure, and yet, Dufty has consistently supported public power, took a stance against Sit-Lie despite intense pressure, and several years ago, at a critical juncture for Tom Ammiano’s signature health care legislation, Healthy San Francisco, he didn’t blink when we called on him to be our 8th vote. In fact, he committed to the bill, unequivocally, and called on other supervisors, like Fiona Ma, to say it was time. She immediately co-sponsored and eventually it was a unanimous 11-0 vote.

For labor and progressives, Ammiano’s Healthy San Francisco legislation was the single most important piece of legislation of the last decade. And while history has been rewritten, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom now takes credit for the legislation, then-Mayor Newsom did not come on board until after Dufty declared his support, and as the 8th supporter, created a veto-proof majority.

Each of these candidates have shown their capacity to grow and transform as leaders making them the best choices for progressive labor, and we believe for the San Francisco. Whatever you do, you have three votes, make them count. 

Gabriel Haaland is a transgender labor activist and the SEIU 1021 San Francisco political coordinator.


Editor’s notes



So the people who advise President Obama have finally figured out that he was on the road to becoming a one-term president — and the United States was on the road to ruin under President Perry. Whatever combination of self-preservation and fear was at work, it worked, at least for the moment.

Obama is now on record as refusing to accept any cuts in entitlements for poor people unless the rich people give a little, too. It’s a pretty good political statement — in every single major poll taken in the past year, an overwhelming majority of Americans agreed that higher taxes on the wealthy should be part of any deficit-reduction package. And it’s a no-brainer economic statement — the fundamental problem with the U.S. economy is a lack of consumer demand, which is tied directly to the fact that all of the wealth over the past 20 years has gone to the top and the middle class doesn’t have enough money to spend.

But what’s it’s really done is kicked the proverbial tax can — and thus, unfortunately, economic recovery — down the proverbial road another 13 months. Because the Republicans won’t accept higher taxes, and if Obama keeps his newfound spine, he won’t accept any cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and nobody is talking about cutting the military, so nothing is going to happen.

Instead, this is the launch of Campaign 2012. Obama’s got a tough sell — the number on issue for most voters is jobs, and while I personally believe that the first stimulus plan kept the recession from getting worse, that’s not enough. Things are supposed to get better, and when they don’t, the guy at the top gets the blame.

So Obama has a problem: It’s all his fault, but he can’t do anything about it, and that’s what the Republicans are counting on. His only choice is to come roaring out like Harry Truman, and blame the “do-nothing” Republican Congress for blocking economic growth (and, if he has any sense, will say that the GOP is holding a jobs program hostage to protect the interests of the millionaires), and the Democrats will try to use that message to take back the House — and if it works, we might just possibly get things back on track in 2013. If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a very ugly decade.

SF’s foreclosure crisis


EDITORIAL Here’s a great issue for the San Francisco mayor’s race: The big banks that the city uses to hold nearly half a billion in cash deposits are part of a group of financial institutions that are costing the taxpayers $115 million.

That’s the amount the city will wind up paying to cover the lost property taxes and other costs associated with home foreclosures, according to a new report. And the authors of the report, the Community Reinvestment Coalition and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, estimate that San Francisco homeowners are going to lose a total of $6.9 billion in value because of the foreclosure crisis.

Most of the discussion around foreclosures has focused on the national picture — but there’s plenty the city can do.

The numbers are alarming: 16,355 San Francisco homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, meaning they owe more than the house is currently worth. By 2012, the report estimates, 12,410 local homes will be in foreclosure.

That means 12,400 families facing displacement — which adds to the homeless crisis, puts more pressure on the rental housing market and most likely will force many people who work in the city to find housing a long commute away.

Foreclosures also drive down the value of neighboring property — which means the city collects less property tax. The cost of sending deputy sheriffs out to evict families, of patrolling and monitoring vacant houses, dealing with increased crime in the area — all of that adds up. According to the report, every foreclosure costs the city $19,229. Add up the loss of property taxes and the direct costs to taxpayers and the bill exceeds $115 million.

Two of the top four banks involved in foreclosures in California are Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Those just happen to be two of the three banks that have to contract to handle the city’s cash accounts — which contain $406 million, according to an Aug. 16, 2011 report by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose. So the city is giving its money to banks that are costing the city money.

The banks aren’t paupers, either — and have accepted huge amounts of federal tax money. B of A and Wells together received $270 billion in bailout money — and both are now making nice profits (enough that the CEO of Wells, John Stumpf, earned $17 million last year). They can afford to write down the underwater mortgages and arrange for foreclosure relief for people behind on the bills.

The report suggests that the banks be charged a fee — between $10,000 and $20,000 — for each foreclosure. That would offset the costs and provide a disincentive for throwing families out on the street. The candidates for mayor ought to be pushing that — but the city can do more.

The supervisors ought to call a hearing on the crisis and demand that the B of A and Wells executives come down and explain why they’re moving so slowly on write-downs and relief. And they should be told, in very clear terms, that the city will no longer put a penny of its money in banks that are damaging, instead of investing in, San Francisco.