So Fox-y

Pub date January 7, 2009
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER Wow, 80 years old and such a beauty: I took a peek at Oakland’s Fox Theatre — yes, a distant relation to San Francisco’s late, lamented Fox — before the holiday break and, whoa, wolf whistles. The friendly rival to the Paramount around the corner is definitely beginning to feel like her glam self once more, decked out in a fabulist fantasia of Indian-Moorish finery, and in December, positively glowing beneath the hands of the workers intent on restoring her to her rightful splendor — and upgrading her in key spots with new bathrooms, dressing rooms, balcony seats, and a new Meyer sound system.

The now-2,800-capacity live-music venue operated as a movie house from 1928 until it closed in 1965. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the Fox was purchased by the city of Oakland in 1996 — after undergoing the threat of being turned into a parking lot and the indignity of arson, water damage, and neglect — and is now under the aegis of developer Phil Tagami and Another Planet Entertainment, readying to reopen Feb. 5. Its first show is on Feb. 6 with Social Distortion.

According to Another Planet VP Allen Scott, "We have been working on this project for close to four years and there has been a lot of blood, sweat … and now cheers." The Fox will be APE’s flagship venue — showcasing everything from rock to soul to Latin.

Great expectations, yet from the mere look of it, the Fox’s prospects are as marvelous as its beauteous shell. It’s safe for me to say — after walking by the magnificently lit-up neon marquee, tiled towers, and faux-sikhara for years and wondering what was inside — the Fox will not disappoint anyone who wants an eyeful of glorious, orientalist movie-palace exotica. Two Hindu gods look down on shining new floors from the sides of the gold-hued stage, styled to resemble the temples of Palitana, below a highly ornate star-splashed ceiling. The mezzanine: a magic-carpet ride of tiled niches and stenciling patterned after Persian carpets. The venue itself will be topped by Oakland School of the Arts and be flanked by a restaurant and bar that will keep the corner lively when shows aren’t scheduled.

It’s a miraculous save — long coming — for Fox followers like Patricia Dedekian, founding board member of Friends of the Oakland Fox. "Every time I go in there now I start crying because it’s so exciting and emotional," Dedekian said. She hopes to raise money for an endowment for the Fox’s continued preservation and upkeep.

"I used to describe the Fox Oakland as the black hole that sits in center of Uptown," she continued. "It was clear this was a big project waiting to happen. Now I can believe it when I see it."

ZAP! After a horrible fall on Landers Street during a drunken stumble home on the rainy eve of Nov. 1, San Francisco underground artist S. Clay Wilson, 67, is drawing again, reports his partner Lorraine Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is still trying to track down the Good Samaritan — or guardian checkered demon — who found Wilson with a fracture and gash in his head lying between two parked cars, made the 911 call, and waited with the artist till the ambulance arrived — an act that saved the cartoonist from perishing from hypothermia. "He was like a block of ice," Chamberlain told me. "If he had been there a couple more hours they would never have been able to stabilize him." But right now she’s glad that after spending his first two weeks in a semi-coma with a bout of pneumonia, Wilson is attacking his colored pencils and vellum with gusto, making drawings that don’t quite resemble the super-maximalist, sensory-overload, iconoclastic pieces of Zap Comix, though Chamberlain added, "they’re quite good."

Word has it the cartoonist is cracking wise in his room at Davies Medical Center, though he still suffers from aphasia and impaired short-term memory. "He called me in the morning and said he was doing a drawing of hobbling zombies — he said it three times. He meant, rotting zombies," explained Chamberlain, an ex of Frank Zappa’s who coined his nickname, Lumpy Gravy. "He talks on and on about things that aren’t based in reality, and I realized he was doing a verbal drawing, just talking a drawing rather than doing it."

The Christmas artwork he gave her was "pretty hideous. A couple of ugly guys, one guy in a gray suit and a little guy standing there with a muffin tin of steaming piles of shit, and a big ugly guy with a shovel with holes in it and it says, ‘Merry Ex Mass.’"

Wilson is on Medicare, Chamberlain said, but needs continuing care. Thus checks are being sent to S. Clay Wilson, POB 14854, San Francisco, CA 94114, from all over the country — the Jan. 11 fundraiser comes courtesy of his friends in Brutal Sound Effects (a blues benefit happens Jan. 24 at Mojo Lounge, Fremont). Meanwhile Chamberlain can’t wait for Wilson to come home. "I miss him," she said. "He’s a pain in the ass, he’s hard to live with, but I got used to it!"

S. CLAY WILSON BENEFIT, with Anvil Encephalopathy, Liz Allbee/Agnes Szelag, Skullcaster, Loachfillet, Heartworm, Heule/Dryer, and others. Sun/11, 6 p.m., $7–$20 sliding scale. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.




Ex-!!! vocalist John Pugh pushes it further with Madeline Davy in their DFA project. With Landshark. Fri/9, 9:30 p.m., $10–$20. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF.


Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, Christian Martin, and Worthy get filthy at their first quarterly at the venue. Fri/9, 10 p.m., $10–$15. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF.