Leather

She’s a rebel

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kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Shop girls and Shop Assistants, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Mary Wells, "Da Doo Ron Ron" and Ronettes up-dos. All twirl, as if at a punk-rock sock-hop, around the rugged, vulnerable Vivian Girls. Girl-group songwriter Ellie Greenwich — tragically felled by a heart attack at 68 on Aug. 26 — might have scratched her head upon first hearing the Brooklyn trio’s new Everything Goes Wrong (In the Red), out just this week, but a few songs in, she would get it, fully.

Behind the buzzsaw guitars and lo-fi clatter lie those eternal heartaches, stress-outs, and boy (or girl) troubles that plague every girl, voiced in loose-knit choral togetherness in a way that the Crystals would recognize. The high-drama-mama beats of "Tension" — so reminiscent of "Be My Baby" — hammer the point home, while buttressed by a wall of distortion that Greenwich collaborator Phil Spector could claim as his own.

Onetime Spector client Joey Ramone would have also understood, though Vivian Girls are definitely fixed in a specific girly universe, one forged with the naïveté implied in the threesome’s Henry Darger-derived name as well as the band’s blunt force attack, fed by early punk’s reclaiming of pop. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the Darlings — fellow New Yorkers and kindred spirits in twee and garage rock — have a more purposeful grasp of the hook. But Vivian Girls are more infatuated with a purely impure coupling of classic ’60s-derived songcraft — a love that finds its name in "Can’t Get Over You" amid blatantly Shangri-Las-style ooh-oohs — and the one-two-three-four overdrive of American hardcore. Musically they’re trying on the Peter Pan-collar of the tender-hearted Tess on the sidelines of "He’s a Rebel" and the black leather of the reckless tough referred to in the song’s title.

Taking note of perverse souls who have tried on those retro costumes in the past, Vivian Girls use hardcore’s louder-faster-harder heritage as a way to blitzkrieg the ballroom and navigate the storms of girlhood. So the band’s "I Have No Fun" is both more wistful and brisker than the Stooges’ "No Fun." Of course, any combo that has the audacity to pick up where Carole King-and-Gerry Goffin-penned "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" left off has much to account for: no one will be pushing around these lasses, swathed in a protective, propulsive whirlwind of thrashed-at guitars and primal drums. And Vivian Girls never let up till the closing track, "Before I Start to Cry," when the tempo slows and the thunder clouds tumble into view. It’s crying time. *

VIVIAN GIRLS

With the Beets and Grass Widow

Wed/9, 7:30 p.m., $12–$14

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

rickshawstop.com

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FRIENDING THE LOVEMAKERS

Scott Blonde and Lisa Light of Oakland’s Lovemakers could give a fun, breezy university course in pop — or so I gathered hanging out with the friendly exes at Amoeba Music not long ago, on assignment for the late mag Venus. Michael Jackson had just passed, and the pair praised the Bad boy’s breed of pop — something the duo scrambled to bottle on its catchy new Let’s Be Friends. "There’s no guessing what it is and whether it works — that’s what I’m really striving for," Blonde says of Jackson’s chart-topping sound. "I think that’s the ultimate goal. I can dance to it and sing to it, and it’s stuck in my head. It’s hard to do, and there’s only a handful of bands that have done that." For the new album, which the Lovemakers decided to release themselves via Fontana distribution, Light explains, "We changed our attitude a lot, too. I feel like we always have to come back around and realized, Right. It’s about the music. It sounds stupid, but I think we really let go of the business side affecting us. It’s not that we’re not doing it — we’re still doing it all. But it doesn’t piss me off anymore: it’s just a process — it’s not personal anymore. Music is personal, and business isn’t."

With Jonas Reinhardt, Lisa Nola, and DJ Miles. Fri/11, 9 p.m., $15–<\d>$17. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

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SOULSAVERS

Mark Lanegan growls malevolently on the alternately lyrical and brooding Broken (V2). With Jonneine Zapata and Redghost. Wed/9, 8 p.m., $18. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

POWER TO THE PEACEFUL FESTIVAL

Michael Franti and Spearhead lay down the welcome mat for Sly and Robbie, an acoustic Alanis Morrissette, and Vieux Farka Toure, then take it indoors for a Saturday night afterparty at the Fillmore and some Sunday workshops. Sat/12, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., free. Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF. powertothepeaceful.org

NO BABIES

No breeding, just a Morlock-taking noise barrage when the East Bay four are in the nursery. With 2Up and Afternoon Brother. Tues/15, 9 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

Whip it good

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By Juliette Tang

Why is it that erotic pain sounds so much more attractive when described in a French accent? Ask Cleo Dubois, the francophonic Madame who runs The Academy of SM Arts, an informal school and sex education curriculum that offers adult workshops and seminars in the practice of BDSM. I attended a Flogging Salon at Femina Potens on Wednesday, taught by Ms.Dubois, Eve Minax, and Selena Raven, and left two hours later mildly deaf from the loud, rhythmic cacophony of leather-against-skin still echoing in my brain. It was worth it.

Rocket, the gracious volunteer who is associated with The Exiles (a local women-on-women BDSM society), was one of the stars of the night — stoically accepting a level of abuse from Cleo, Eve, and Selina that would have made most men cry. Watching Rocket being flogged, I felt the impulse to take one of Cleo’s beautiful floggers and whip my ex-boyfriend with it repeatedly. But, the fact Rocket was a consenting adult and obviously fine with the flogging took the fun out of my revenge fantasy. Also, in the “Flogging 101” handout that Mme Dubois distributed at the beginning of the class, the rules explicitly say, however, that flogging is “NEVER IN ANGER” (all caps) “or REVENGE!” And when a woman brandishing an enormous leather flogger talks, you listen.

Mme Dubois describes flogging as “an element of a fantasy… A flogging can be purely for sensations and accompanying tension release it brings. Or it can be a ritual of fire leading to catharsis.” As with most things, there is a correct way to flog (“spins, hit & drag, figure 8 and variations”) and an incorrect way to flog (anything else). During the Flogging Salon, I got a flogging lesson, a lesson on couples’ communication, an anatomy lesson (also hit the fleshy parts of the body, and never anywhere bony or jointed), and even learned a few tidbits about chakras and energy. I’m not going to give all the secrets away, so to learn more, check out the Academy of SM Arts, which hosts frequent workshops at The Citadel. The pictures, I believe, speak for themselves.

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When I left Femina Potens, the girls were still flogging away. You could hear the leather cracking away from the street outside, and a few curious pedestrians milling about Castro Street peered through the curtained windows confusedly. While I don’t particularly feel the urge to flog anyone (or be flogged), I can honestly say now that I’m not opposed to the idea. In their Salon, Cleo, Eve, and Selina helped demystify the process of erotic flogging, explaining that in this age of sexual relativity and multiplicity, flogging is just another option in the all-you-can-eat sexual buffet.

Fall fairs and festivals

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AUG 28-30

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival Golden Gate Park, SF; www.sfoutsidelands.com. 12-10pm, $89.50-$225.50. SF’s best alternative to That Thing in the Desert is back for its second year, with headliners Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Tenacious D playing for you and two thousand of your closest friends.

BAY AREA

Eat Real Festival Jack London Square, Oakl; eatrealfest.com. Fri, 4-9pm; Sat, 10am-9pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. Free. Buy from your favorite street food vendors, sample microbrews at the Beer Shed, or shop in the market for local produce at this sister event to La Cocina’s Street Food Festival.

AUG 29-SEPT 20

SF Shakespeare Festival Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, between Graham and Keyes; www.sfshakes.org. Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2:30pm, free. The genius of Shakespeare in SF’s most relaxed setting.

SEPT 1-30

Architecture and the City Times, locations, and prices vary. www.aiasf.org/archandcity. The American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter and the Center for Architecture + Design host the sixth annual fest, featuring home tours, films, exhibitions, dining by design, and more.


SEPT 5-6

BAY AREA

Millbrae Art and Wine Festival Broadway Avenue between Victoria and Meadow Glen, Millbrae; (650) 697-7324, www.antiquesbythebay.net. 10am-5pm, free. The Big Easy comes to Millbrae for this huge Labor Day weekend event.

SEPT 6

BAY AREA

Antiques and Collectibles Faire Alameda Point, Alameda; www.antiquesbythebay.net. 9am-3pm, $5. California’s biggest and best antiques and collectibles extravaganza is back with 800 outdoor booths, with something for everyone.

SEPT 9-20

Fringe Festival Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy; 931-1094, www.sffringe.org. Times and prices vary. An ever-changing collection of unusual and lively experimental theater pieces will be showcased over the course of 18 days.

SEPT 12-13

Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square; www.ghirardellisq.com. 1pm, free. Indulge in chocolate delicacies, sip wine, and enjoy chocolate-inspired family activities at this annual event benefiting Project Open Hand.

Power to the Peaceful Festival Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park; www.powertothepeaceful.org. 9am, prices vary. Michael Franti and Guerrilla Management present the 11th annual festival dedicated to music, arts, action, and yoga. With Alanis Morrisette, Sly & Robbie, a special after party at the Fillmore, and workshops all day Sunday.

BAY AREA

Mountain View Art and Wine Festival Castro Street between El Camino Real and Evelyn Ave, Mountain View; (650) 968-8378, www.miramarevents.com. 10am-6pm, free. More than 200,000 art lovers will gather for the 38th installment of one of America’s top art festivals, featuring crafts, live music, food, and drink.


SEPT 13

Brews on the Bay Jeremiah O’Brien at Pier 45; 929-8374. Times, locations, and prices vary. www.aiasf.org/archandcity. The American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter and the Center for Architecture + Design host the sixth annual fest, featuring home tours, films, exhibitions, dining by design, and more.


SEPT 17-21

BAY AREA

Symbiosis Gathering Camp Mather, Yosemite; www.symbiosisgathering.com. $180, includes camping. This synesthesia of art, music, transformational learning, and sustainable learning is quickly becoming one of NorCal’s favorite fall festivals. This year’s headliners include Les Claypool, Yard Dogs Road Show, Bassnectar, and the Glitch Mob.


SEPT 19-20

Autumn Moon Festival 667 Grant; 982-6306, www.moonfestival.org. 11am-6pm, free. Chinatown’s annual street fair features continuous Asian entertainment, lion dances, costumed artisans, cultural demonstrations, arts and crafts, and food vendors.


SEPT 27

Folsom Street Fair Folsom Street between Seventh and 12 St; www.folsomstreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. The world’s largest leather event covers 13 city blocks with entertainment, vendors, and plenty of spectacle.


OCT 2-5

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park; www.strictlybluegrass.com. Check website for times. Free. Natalie MacMaster, Emmylou Harris, Aimee Mann, Neko Case, and many more perform for free in Golden Gate Park.

OCT 3

LovEvolution Civic Center Plaza; www.sflovevolution.org. 12pm, free. The event formerly known as Love Parade may have a new name, but the music, color, and fun remains.

OCT 3-4

World Veg Festival San Francisco County Fair Bldg, Lincoln and Ninth Ave; 273-5481, www.sfvs.org/wvd. 10am-6pm, $6. The San Francisco Vegetarian Society and In Defense of Animals present the 10th annual award-winning festival featuring lectures, cooking demos, vegan merchandise, and entertainment.

OCT 4

Castro Street Fair Castro at Market; www.castrostreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. The festival founded by Harvey Milk returns with the theme "Come Get Hitched in the Center of the Gay Universe," in an effort to keep the embers burning in the fight for equal rights.

OCT 9-17

Litquake Locations vary; Times vary, most events free. To commemorate its 10-year anniversary, the storytelling festival kicks off with the "Black, White, and Read" ball and continues with nine days of lit-themed programming.

OCT 11

San Francisco Decompression Indiana Street; www.burningman.com. Break our your still-dusty Burning Man costumes and welcome hard-working BMORG staff back to "Real Life" with this BRC-themed street fair and festival.

OCT 15

West Fest Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park; www.2b1records.com. 9am-6pm, free. 2b1 Multimedia Inc., the Council of Light, and the original producer of Woodstock 1969 team up to celebrate Woodstock’s 40th anniversary with a free show featuring Country Joe, Denny Laine, Alameda All Stars, Michael McClure, and tons more.

OCT 16

WhiskyFest San Francisco Marriott, 55 Fourth St; 896-1600, www.maltadvocate.com. 6:30-9:30pm, $95. America’s largest whisky celebration returns to SF for the third year with more than 200 of the world’s rarest and most expensive whiskies.


OCT 17

Potrero Hill Festival Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 De Haro. 9am-5pm. This benefit for the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House features a jazz brunch catered by students of The California Culinary Academy and continues with a street fair along 20th Street between Missouri and Arkansas.


OCT 17-18

Treasure Island Music Festival Treasure Island; www.treasureislandfestival.com. Fri-Sat, 11am. $65-$249. The Bay Area’s answer to Coachella (minus the camping, heat, and Orange County douchebags) is back, this year featuring The Flaming Lips, The Decemberists, Yo La Tengo, The Streets, and about 100 other indie favorites and up-and-comers.

BAY AREA

Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival Main Street at Highways 1 and 92, Half Moon Bay. 9am-5pm, free. Jim Stevens and Friends will return to the world famous festival featuring music, crafts, parade, and children’s events.

OCT 23-24
Exotic Erotic Expo Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva; www.exoticeroticball.com. Fri, 2-10pm; Sat, 12-6pm; $20. Part Mardi Gras, part burlesque, and part rock concert, this two-day fest is a celebration of human sexuality and freedom of expression, with its crowning event the Exotic Erotic Ball on Saturday night.
NOV 2
Day of the Dead Starts at 24th and Bryant, ends at Garfield Park; www.dayofthedeadsf.org. 7pm, free. Celebrate this traditional Latin holiday – and SF institution — with a procession and Festival of Altars.
NOV 13-15
SF Green Festival San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St; www.greenfestivals.org Fri, 12-7pm; Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 11am-6pm. $15-$25. A joint project of Global Exchange and Green America, this three-day event features the best in green speakers and special events.
NOV 27-DEC 20
Great Dickens Christmas Fair Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva; www.dickensfair.com. Fri-Sun, 11am-7pm. Check website for ticket prices. Channel Charles Dickens’ Victorian London with this 90,000 square-foot theatrical extravaganza.

Pics: ‘The Art of Restraint’ at Femina Potens

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Text and photos by Ariel Soto

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A mix of rope, art, and champagne filled the tiny gallery at Femina Potens this weekend as part of an erotic bondage showcase called “The Art of Restraint.” Along the walls were provocative pieces by local artists and dotted amongst the guests were performers demonstrating different techniques in tying knots and self- suspension. But the most surprising element of the evening to me was the variety of voyeurs: there were the obviously well-experienced folks decked out in leather and fishnets, but then there was a sprinkling of suburban moms wearing three-quarter length khakis accompanied by their husbands. These spectators were also the ones wearing the “Do Not Photograph” stickers on their shirts, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one. Pretty kinky, right?

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Sale: Skingraft at Five & Diamond

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By Molly Freedenberg

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Long before “burner” and “circus” became official fashion sub-genres, the geniuses behind Skingraft were constructing leather into fairytale dresses and imaginative bags that would eventually define the burner bourgeoise aesthetic. Handmade, intricate, and of stellar quality, their clothing has always been gorgeous but just out-of-reach — both because the company’s centered in L.A. and because clothes that good cost a pretty penny to make, and therefore own.

But in recent years, Skingraft has turned some of its attention to more ready-to-wear, and easy-to-buy, options — starting with holsters made of leather and less expensive canvas, selling wares in local shops like Five and Diamond, peppering collections with simpler designs more appropriate for streetwear, and now, hosting a kickass sale.

Tonight, Five and Diamond hosts Skingraft’s designers and collaborators for a preview of the 2010 collection, discounts on the 2009 collection, and plenty of music, libations, and even fireworks. Considering the store’s opening culminated in an Extra Action Marching Band-led parade to the Elbo Room, it’s guaranteed this is an event not to miss – even if you don’t have the scrilla for an equestrian-inspired waistcoat.

Thurs, July 30
5-9pm, free
Five & Diamond
510 Valencia, SF
(415) 255-9747
www.fiveanddiamond.com
skingraftdesigns.com

The Newsom campaign’s in trouble

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By Tim Redmond

Lots of interesting opinions about what the loss of Eric Jaye means to the Newsom campaign. Paul Hogarth at Beyond Chron Thinks that Garry South, who is now in charge, could lead to Newsom’s downfall. Brian Leubitz at Calitics thinks that

Eric Jaye was an enormous asset to Newsom’s campaign. It is hard to see how a departure of somebody with that kind of relationship and with that kind of intricate knowledge of the candidate is good for the campaign.

And Jerry Roberts, who has been covering politics in this state even longer than I have, thinks this is exactly what the Newsom campaign needs:

The last political consultant to elect a Democrat governor of the state, the Duke of Darkness is a bare-knuckles, in-your-face, shoe-leather, hand-to-hand combat veteran who has two main tasks: 1) Get his candidate to raise a ship load of money and 2) Needle, badger and tweak primary rival Jerry Brown at every turn.

A few thoughts:

1. Everyone agrees that South is, in political terms, an asshole, someone who loves negative campaigning and sees the key to victory as raising tons of money and trashing your opponent. He has had both success (Gary Davis, at first) and failure (Gray Davis, later; Joe Lieberman, Steve Westly) with that approach.

But the thing to keep in mind is that, whatever you think of Newsom’s politics, this isn’t his style. Newsom’s not a brawler; he wouldn’t even show up at supervisors meetings to argue with Chris Daly. He’s much more of a stand-in-the-well-scripted-public-meeting-with-a-cordless-mike kinda guy. In fact, if this becomes a bloodbath, Newsom loses; he can’t take a punch. Real conflict makes his nervous. And I don’t think Jerry Brown will come out of the gate with a negative campaign, but if Newsom starts it, Brown will respond.

2. Newsom ought to be the clear front-runner in this race. It’s almost a textbook campaign — the new, fresh face, the young, tech-savvy charmer with the grand ideas against the been-there-done-that crabby old pol who has changed his political stripes so many times it’s hard to know what he actually believes in any more. That’s what Eric Jaye was trying to do. Sure, the fundraising was slow, and Jaye mistakenly thought that Newsom could pull an Obama (I’ve seen Barack Obama, and Mr. Mayor, you’re no Barack Obama). But if they could raise enough to be competitive, they had the right strategy.

3. It’s hard to win a Democratic primary without the progressives in California. And South has done everything possible in his career to anger and alienate progressives.

4. Eric Jaye is no fool — he had hitched his own star to Newsom long ago, was looking not just at Sacramento but beyond — and if he thought South’s approach was the correct one, that it would lead to victory, he wouldn’t have been so quick to bail.

I dunno — Jerry Brown ought to be terribly vulnerable at this point, but I think Newsom’s campaign is in trouble.

Best of the Bay 2009: Shopping

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>>CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS LIST ON ONE PAGE
>>BEST OF THE BAY HOME

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Shopping

BEST NEW NECESSITIES

Sure, you can buy anything you want on the Internet, but there’s still a certain charm in entering a store whose items have been carefully chosen to delight the eye in three dimensions. That’s the idea behind Perch, Zoel Fages’s homage to all things charming and cheeky, from gifts to home décor. Do you need a set of bird feet salt-and-pepper shakers? A rhinoceros-head shot glass? A ceramic skull-shaped candleholder that grows "hair" as the wax drips? Of course not. But do you want them? The minute you enter the sunny, sweet Glen Park shop, the obvious answer will be yes. And for those gifty items you do need — scented candles and soaps, letterpress greeting cards, handprinted wrapping paper — Perch is perfect too. We’d recommend you stop by just to window-shop, but who are we kidding? You can’t visit here without taking something home.

654 Chenery, SF. (415) 586-9000, www.perchsf.com

BEST PENNYSAVERS FOR EARTHSAVERS

How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? None: LED light bulbs last longer than environmentalists. If you think that joke’s funny — or at least get why it’s supposed to be — you might just be the target market for Green Zebra. Based on the idea that environmentally aware consumers like to save money as much as their Costco-loving neighbors, this book melds the concept of a coupon book with the creed of environmental responsibility. It’s a virtual directory of deals at local businesses trying to work outside the world of pesticidal veggies and gas-guzzling SUVs. Anne Vollen and Sheryl Cohen’s vision now comes in two volumes — one for San Francisco, and one for the Peninsula and Silicon Valley — featuring more than 275 exclusive offers from indie bookstores, art museums, coffee houses, organic restaurants, pet food stores, and just about anywhere else you probably already spend your money (and wouldn’t mind spending less).

(415) 346-2361, www.thegreenzebra.org

BEST ONE-STOP SHOP

So you need a salad spinner, some kitty litter, a birthday card for your sister, and a skein of yarn, but you don’t feel like going to four different stores to check everything off the list? Face it, you’re lazy. But, you’re also in luck. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Standard 5 and 10, a one-stop wonderland in Laurel Village that caters to just about every imaginable whim, need, and desire of serious shoppers and procrastinators alike. Don’t be fooled by the large red Ace sign on the storefront — this is not merely a hardware store (although it can fulfill your hardware needs, of course). It’s an everything store. Walking the aisles here is a journey through consumerism at its most diverse. Greeting cards and tabletop tchotchkes fade into rice cookers then shower curtains, iron-on patches, Webkinz, motor oil…. It’s a dizzying array of stuff you need and stuff you simply want.

3545 California, SF. (415) 751-5767, www.standard5n10.com

BEST PLACE TO SINK A BATTLESHIP

Maybe we don’t have flying cars yet, but with video chatting, iPhones, and automated vacuum cleaners, we’re pretty close to living in the imaginary future The Jetsons made magical. Is it any wonder that, while loving our new technologies (hello, Kindle), we’ve also developed a culturewide nostalgia for simpler times? A perfect example is the emergence of steampunk — perhaps familiar to the mainstream as jewelry made of watch parts and cars crafted to look like locomotives. There also seems to be a less expensive, less industrial trend for the pastimes of yore: Croquet. Talk radio. And board games. The last of which is the basis of Just Awesome, the Diamond Heights shop opened by Portland escapee Erik Macsh as a temple to old-fashioned charms. Here you can pick up a myriad of boxes full of dice, cards, and plastic pieces. Head home with Clue, one of the Monopoly iterations (was Chocolate-opoly really necessary?), or a new game that came out while you were distracted by Nintendo Wii. You can even open the box and try a round or two in the shop. How’s that for old-world service?

816 Diamond, SF. (415) 970-1484, www.justawesomegames.com

BEST BORROWED CLOTHES

The nice thing about having a sister, a roommate, or a tolerable neighbor who’s exactly your size is that there’s always someone else’s closet to raid when your own is looking dismal. But what to do when you live alone, your neighbor’s not answering your calls, and you desperately need an attention-getting outfit right now? Make a new best friend: Shaye McKenney of La Library. The friendly fashionista will let you borrow a pair of leather hot pants for a Beauty Bar boogie or a German knit couture gown for that gold-digging date to the opera, all for a small pay-by-the-day price. You can even bring your makeup and get ready for the evening in front of the antique mirrors in her socialist street shop. It’s all the fun of sharing, without having to lend out any of your stuff.

380 Guerrero, SF. (415) 558-9481, www.la-library.com

BEST ROCKSTAR STYLES

Need clothes a rockstar would wear but a starving musician can afford? Look no further than Shotwell, whose blend of designer duds and vintage finds are worthy of the limelight and (relatively) easy on your budget. Think jeans with pockets the size of guitar picks, sculptural black dresses, handpicked grandpa sweaters, and reconstructed ’80s rompers that can be paired with lizard skin belts or dollar sign boots, all for less than the cutting-edge designer labels would suggest they should cost. And it’s not just for the ladies. Michael and Holly Weaver stock their adorable boutique with clothing and accessories for all chromosomal combinations. The concept’s become such a success that Shotwell’s moving from its old locale to a bigger, better space. All we can say is, rock on.
320 Grant, SF. (415) 399-9898, www.shotwellsf.com

BEST LOOKIN’

The best stores are like mini-museums, displaying interesting wares in such a way that they’re almost as fun to peruse as they are to take home. Park Life takes this concept one step further by being a store (wares in the front are for sale) and a gallery (featuring a rotating selection of local contemporary artists’ work). No need to feel guilty for window-shopping: you’re simply checking out the Rubik’s Cube alarm clock, USB flash drive shaped like a fist, and set of "heroin" and "cocaine" salt-and-pepper shakers on your way to appreciating the paintings in the back, right? And if you happen to leave with an arty coffee-table book, an ironic silk-screen T-shirt, or a Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, that’s just a bonus.

220 Clement, SF. (415) 386-7275, www.parklifestore.com

BEST LITTLE COOKING STORE THAT COULD

In a world replete with crates, barrels, Williams, and Sonomas, it’s easy to forget there’s such a thing as an independent cooking store. But Cooks Boulevard is just that: an adorable, one-stop shop for reasonably priced cooking paraphernalia, from a pastry scale or Le Creuset to a candy mold or stash of wooden spoons. And if the shop doesn’t have what you need, the friendly staff will order it for you. In fact, this Noe Valley gem has everything the big stores have, including online ordering, nationwide shipping, and a well-kept blog of missives about the foodie universe. It even offers cooking classes, on-site knife sharpening, community events such as food drives and book clubs, and CSA boxes of local organic produce delivered to neighborhood clientele. With knowledgeable service and well-stocked shelves, the Boulevard makes it easy for home cooks and professional chefs to shop local.

1309 Castro, SF. (415) 647-2665, www.cooksboulevard.com

BEST BROOKLYN ALTERNATIVE

No sleep ’til Brooklyn? Fine. But no style ’til you reach the Big Apple? We just can’t give you license for that kind of ill, especially since the Brooklyn Circus came to town last July. With its East Coast–style awning, living room vibe, and indie hip-hop style, this boutique might just be the thing to keep those homesick for NYC from buying that JetBlue ticket for one … more … week. Want to save your cash just in case? You’re welcome to chill out on the leather sofas and listen to Mos Def mixtapes. At the store you can soak in the charm of the Fillmore’s colorful energy and history, while checking out the trends that blend Frank Sinatra and Kanye West almost seamlessly. Sure, you could visit the Chicago outpost before going to the original in the store’s namesake city, but why bother? Next year’s selection will include an expanded line of locally produced goodies — all available without having to brave a sweltering Big City summer.

1525 Fillmore, SF. (415) 359-1999, www.thebkcircus.com

BEST YEAR-ROUND HOLIDAY GIFT BASKET

I know. It’s July. The last thing you want to do is think about that stupid holiday shopping season that’ll dominate the entire universe in about three months. But the gift baskets at La Cocina are worth talking about year-round, not only because purchasing one supports a fantastic organization (dedicated to helping low-income entrepreneurs develop, grow, and establish their businesses) but because the delightful packages really are great gifts for any occasion. Whether it’s your boss’s birthday, your friend’s dinner party, or simply time to remind your grandmother in the nursing home that you’re thinking of her, these baskets full of San Francisco goodness are a thoughtful alternative to flower bouquets and fruit collections ordered through corporations. Orders might include dark chocolate-<\d>covered graham crackers from Kika’s Treats, spicy yucca sticks, toffee cookies from Sinful Sweets, roasted pumpkin seeds, or shortbread from Clairesquare, starting at $23. Everything will come with a handwritten note and a whole lot of love.

www.lacocinasf.org

BEST UNDERWATERSCAPING

Aqua Forest Aquarium has reinvented the concept of fish in a bowl. The only store in the nation dedicated to a style of decorating aquariums like natural environments, Aqua Forest boasts an amazing display of live aquatic landscapes that seem directly transplanted from more idyllic waters. With good prices, knowledgeable staff, a focus on freshwater life, and a unique selection of tropical fish, the shop is not only proof that aquarium stores need not be weird and dingy, but that your home fish tank can be a thriving ecosystem rather than a plastic environment with a bubbling castle (OK, a thriving ecosystem with a bubbling castle). Part pet store, part live art gallery, Aqua Forest is worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a sailfin leopard pleco.

1718 Fillmore, SF. (415) 929-8883, www.adana-usa.com

BEST FRIDGE FILLERS ON A BUDGET

Remember when we all joked that Whole Foods should be called Whole Paycheck? Little did we realize the joke would be on us when the only paper in our purses would be a Whole Pink Slip. In the new economy, some of us can’t afford the luxury of deciding between organic bananas or regular ones — we’re trying to figure out which flavor of ramen keeps us full the longest. Luckily, Duc Loi Supermarket opened in the Mission just in time. This neighborhood shop is big, bright, clean, well stocked, cheap, and diverse, with a focus on Asian and Latino foods. Here you can get your pork chops and pig snouts, salmon and daikon, tofu and tortilla chips — and still have bus fare for the ride home. In fact, young coconut milk is only 99 cents a can, a whole dollar less than at Whole Foods.

2200 Mission, SF. (415) 551-1772

BEST PLACE TO DISS THE TUBE

Some people go their entire lives buying replacement 20-packs of tube socks from Costco, socks whose suspicious blend of elastic, petroleum products, and God-knows-what signals to wearers and viewers alike: Warm, shwarm! Fit, shmit! Style, shmyle! Other people, even if they keep their socks encased in boots or shoes, want to know that their foot coverings are just one more indicator of their fashion — and common — sense. Those people go to Rabat in Noe Valley, where the sock racks look like a conjuring of the chorus of "Hair": "curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied; bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied." Furthermore, the socks are mostly made from recognizable materials like wool, cotton, or fleece. As for you sensible-shoe and wingtip types, not to worry. Rabat also stocks black and white anklets and nude-colored peds.

4001 24th St., SF (415) 282-7861. www.rabatshoes.com

BEST BOOKS FOR KIDS YOU DON’T KNOW

Don’t let the small storefront at Alexander Book Company deter you — this three-story, independent bookstore is packed with stuff that you won’t find at Wal-Mart or the book malls. We’re particularly impressed with the children’s collection — and with the friendly, knowledgeable staff. If you’re looking for a birthday present for your kid’s classmate, or one for an out-of-town niece or nephew — or you just generally want to know what 10-year-old boys who like science fiction are reading these days — ask for Bonnie. She’s the children’s books buyer, and not only does she have an uncanny knack for figuring out what makes an appropriate gift, chances are whatever the book is, she’s already read it.

50 Second St., SF. (415) 495-2992, www.alexanderbook.com

BEST PLACE TO SELL THE CLOTHES OFF YOUR BACK

If you think Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are the only places to trade your Diors for dollars, you’re missing out. Urbanity, Angela Cadogan’s North Berkeley boutique, is hands down the best place to consign in the Bay. The spot is classy but not uppity, your commission is 30 percent of what your item pulls in, and, best of all, you’d actually want to shop there. Cadogan has a careful eye for fashion, choosing pieces that deserve a spot in your closet for prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Want an even better deal on those Miu Miu pumps or that YSL dress? Return every 30 days, when items that haven’t sold yet are reduced by 40 percent. But good luck playing the waiting game against Urbanity’s savvy regulars — they’ve been eyeing those Pradas longer than you have.

1887 Solano, Berk. (510) 524-7467, www.shopurbanity.com

BEST TIME MACHINE

Ever wish you could be a character in a period piece, writing love letters on a typewriter to your distant paramour while perched upon a baroque upholstered chair? We can’t get you a role in a movie, but we can send you to the Perish Trust, where you’ll find everything you need to create a funky antique film set of your very own. Proprietor-curator team Rod Hipskind and Kelly Ishikawa have dedicated themselves to making their wares as fun to browse through as to buy, carefully selecting original artwork, vintage folding rulers, taxidermied fowl, out-of-print books, and myriad other antique odds-and-ends from across the nation. As if that weren’t enough, this Divisadero shop also carries Hooker’s Sweet Treats old world-<\d>style gourmet chocolate caramels — and that’s definitely something to write home about.

728 Divisadero, SF. www.theperishtrust.com

BEST MISSION MAKEOVER

If Hayes Valley’s indie-retailer RAG (Residents Apparel Gallery) bedded the Lower Haight’s design co-op Trunk, their love child might look (and act) a lot like Mission Statement. With a focus on local designers and a philosophy of getting artists involved with the store, the 18th Street shop has all the eclectic style of RAG and all the collaborative spirit of Trunk — all with a distinctly Mission District vibe. Much like its namesake neighborhood, this shop has a little of everything: mineral makeup, fedoras adorned with spray-painted designs, multiwrap dresses, graphic tees, and more. Between the wares of the eight designers who work and play at the co-op, you might find everything you need for a head-to-toe makeover — including accessorizing advice, custom designing, and tailoring by co-owner Estrella Tadeo. You may never need to leave the Valencia corridor again.

3458-A 18th St., SF. (415) 255-7457, www.missionstatementsf.com

BEST WALL OF BEER

Beer-shopping at Healthy Spirits might ruin you. Never again will you be able to stroll into a regular suds shop, eye the refrigerated walk-in, and feign glee: "Oh, wow, they have Wolaver’s and Fat Tire." The selection at Healthy Spirits makes the inventory at almost all other beer shops in San Francisco — nay, the fermented universe — look pedestrian. First-time customers sometimes experience sticker shock, but most quickly understand that while hops and yeast and grain are cheap, hops and yeast and grain and genius are not. Should you require assistance in navigating the intriguing and eclectic wall of beer, owner Rami Barqawi and his staff will guide you and your palate to the perfect brew. Once you’ve got the right tipple, you can choose from the standard corner-store sundries, including coffee, wine, ice cream, and snacks. Chief among them is the housemade hummus (strong on the lemon juice, just the way we like it). Being ruined never tasted so good.

2299 15th St., SF. (415) 255-0610, healthy-spirits.blogspot.com

BEST PLACE TO CHANNEL YOUR INNER BOB VILLA

When is a junkyard not just a junkyard? When you wander through its labyrinth of plywood, bicycle tires, and window panes only to stumble upon an intricately carved and perfectly preserved fireplace mantle which, according to a handwritten note taped to it, is "circa 1900." This is the kind of thing that happens at Building Resources, an open air, DIY-er’s dream on the outskirts of Dogpatch, which just happens to be the city’s only source for recycled building and landscape materials. Maybe you’ll come here looking for something simple: a light fixture, a doorknob, a few pieces of tile. You’ll find all that. You’ll also find things you never knew you coveted, like a beautiful (and dirt cheap) claw-foot bathtub that makes you long to redo your own bathroom, even though you don’t own tools and know nothing about plumbing. No worries. That’s what HGTV is for.

701 Amador, SF. (415) 285-7814, www.buildingresources.org

BEST WAY TO SHOP LOCAL

It’s impossible not to be impressed with the selection at Collage, the tiny jewel-box of a shop perched atop Potrero Hill. The home décor store and gallery specializes in typography and signage, refurbished clocks and cameras, clothing, unique furniture, and all kinds of objects reinvented and repurposed to fit in a hip, happy home. But what we like best is owner Delisa Sage’s commitment to supporting the local community and economy. Not only does she host workshops on the art of fine-art collage, she carries a gorgeous selection of jewelry made exclusively by local woman artists. Whether you’re looking for knit necklaces, Scrabble pieces, typewriter keys, or an antiqued kitchen island, you’ll find ’em here. And every dollar you spend supports San Francisco, going toward a sandwich at Hazel’s, or a cup of joe at Farley’s, or an artist’s SoMa warehouse rent. Maybe capitalism can work.

1345 18th St., SF. (415) 282-4401, www.collage-gallery.com

BEST BRAND-NEW VINTAGE STYLE

There’s something grandmothers seem to understand that the Forever 21, H&M, Gap generation (not to mention the hippies in between) often miss: the value of elegant, tailored, designer classics that last a lifetime. Plus, thanks to living through the Great Depression, they know a good bargain. Luckily, White Rose got grandma’s memo. This tiny, jam-packed West Portal shop is dedicated to classy, timeless, well-made style, from boiled wool-<\d>embroidered black coats to Dolce handbags. Though the shelves (stacked with sweaters) and racks (overhung with black pants) may resemble those in a consignment or thrift store, White Rose is stocked full of new fashions collected from international travels, catalog sales, or American fabricators. In fact, it’s all part of the plan of the owner — who is reputed to have been a fashion model in the ’50s — to bring elegant chemises, tailored blouses, and dresses for all sizes and ages to the masses. The real price? You must have the patience to sort through the remarkable inventory.

242 W. Portal, SF. (415) 681-5411

BEST BOUTIQUE FOR BUNHEADS

It seems you can get yoga pants or Lycra leotards just about anywhere these days (hello, American Apparel). But elastic waists and spaghetti straps alone do not make for good sportswear. SF Dancewear knows that having clothes and footwear designed specifically for your craft — whether ballroom dance, gymnastics, theater, contact improv, or one of the good old standards like tap, jazz, or ballet — makes all the difference. This is why they’ve been selling everything from Capezio tap shoes to performance bras since 1975. The shop is lovely. There are clear boxes of pointe shoes nestled together like clean, shiny baby pigs; glittering displays of ballroom dance pumps; racks of colorful tulle, ruched nylon, patterned Lycra; and a rope draped with the cutest, tiniest tutus you ever did see. The store is staffed by professional dancers who’re not only trained to find the perfect fit but have tested most products on a major stage. And though your salesclerk may dance with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet or have a regular gig at the S.F. Opera, they won’t scoff at middle-aged novice salsa dancers or plus-size burlesqueteers looking for fishnets and character shoes. Unlike the competitive world of dance studios, this retail shop is friendly and open to anyone who likes to move.

659 Mission, SF. (415) 882-7087; 5900 College, Oakl. (510) 655-3608,

www.sfdancewear.com

BEST GIFTS FOR YESTERYEAR’S KIDS

We weren’t sure it could get any better — or weirder — than Paxton Gate, that Mission District palace of science, nature, and dead things. But then the owner, whose first trade was landscape architecture, opened up Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids down the street, and lo and behold, ever more awesomeness was achieved. Keeping the original store’s naturalist vibe but leaving behind some of its adults-only potential creepiness, this shop focuses on educational toys, vintage games, art supplies, and an eclectic selection of books sure to delight the twisted child in all of us. From handblown marbles to wooden puzzles, agate keychains to stop-motion booklets, and Lucite insects to Charlie Chaplin paper doll kits, everything here seems to be made for shorties from another time — an arguably better one, when kids rooted around in the dirt and made up rules for imaginary games and didn’t wear G-string underwear.

766 Valencia, SF. (415) 252-9990, www.paxtongate.com

BEST DAILY TRUNK SHOW

San Francisco sure does love its trunk shows: all those funky people hawking their one-of-a-kind wares at one-of-a-kind prices. The only problem? Shows happen intermittently (though with increasing frequency in the pre-<\d>Burning Man frenzy). Lucky for us, Miranda Caroligne — the goddess who makes magic with fabric scraps and a surger — co-founded Trunk, an eclectic indie designer showcase with a permanent address. The Lower Haight shop not only features creative dresses, hoodies, jewelry, and menswear by a number of artists, but also functions as an official California Cooperative Corporation, managed and run by all its 23 members. That means when you purchase your Kayo Anime one-piece, Ghetto Goldilocks vest, or Lucid Dawn corset, you’re supporting an independent business and the independent local artists who call it home.

544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310, www.trunksf.com

BEST PLACE TO GET IRIE WITH YOUR OLLIE

Skate culture has come a long way since its early surfer punk days. Now what used to be its own subculture encompasses a whole spectrum of subs, including dreadheaded, jah-lovin’, reggae pumpin’ riders. And Culture Skate is just the store for those who lean more toward Bob Marley than Jello Biafra. The Rasta-colored Mission shop features bamboo skate boards, hemp clothing, glass pipes, a whole slew of products by companies such as Creation and Satori, and vinyl records spanning genres like ska, reggaeton, dub, and, of course, good old reggae. Stop by to catch a glimpse of local pros — such as Ron Allen, Matt Pailes, and Karl Watson. But don’t think you have to be a skater to shop here: plenty of people stop by simply for the environmentally-friendly duds made with irie style.

214 Valencia, SF. (415) 437-4758, www.cultureskate.com

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BEST OF THE BAY 2009:
>>BEST OF THE BAY HOME
>>READERS POLL WINNERS
>>EDITORS PICKS: CLASSICS
>>EDITORS PICKS: CITY LIVING
>>EDITORS PICKS: FOOD AND DRINK
>>EDITORS PICKS: ARTS AND NIGHTLIFE
>>EDITORS PICKS: SHOPPING
>>EDITORS PICKS: SEX AND ROMANCE
>>EDITORS PICKS: OUTDOORS AND SPORTS
>>LOCAL HEROES

Best of the Bay 2009: Classics

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Editors Picks: Classics

BEST LEFTOVER HEROES

Hey, are you gonna eat that? If the answer is "no," and you have a commercial kitchen of any kind, call Food Runners, the nonprofit associated with Tante Marie’s Cooking School and its matriarch at the helm, Mary Risley. The volunteer-powered organization picks up leftovers from caterers, delis, festival vendors, hotels, farmers markets, cafeterias, restaurants, and elsewhere, and delivers still-fresh edibles to about 300 soup kitchens and homeless shelters. For more than 30 years, everything from fresh and frozen foods such as produce, meat, and dairy, to uneaten boxed lunches and trays of salads and hot food, to pantry staples ordered overzealously and nearing expiration has been saved from the compost heap and delivered to those who could use a free meal or some gratis groceries. The result has yielded untold thousands of meals and a complete cycle that reduces food waste, feeds the hungry, and preserves resources all around.

(415) 929-1866, www.foodrunners.org

BEST DARKEST KISS

Remember those freaky goth kids your church leaders warned you against in high school? The ones who wore black lipstick, shaved off all their eyebrows, and worshipped Darkness? Well, they grew up, moved to San Francisco, and got really effin’ hot. If you don’t believe it, head to the comfortingly named Death Guild party at DNA Lounge. Every Monday night, San Francisco’s sexiest goths (and baby goths — this party is 18+) climb out of their coffins and don their snazziest black vinyl bondage pants for this beastly bacchanal, which has decorated our nightlife with leather corsets and studded belts since 1992. And even if you dress more like Humbert Humbert than Gothic Lolita, the Guild’s resident DJs will have you industrial-grinding to Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, Bauhaus, Throbbing Gristle, and Ministry. Death Guild’s Web site advises: "Bring a dead stiff squirrel and get in free." Free for you, maybe, but not for the squirrel.

Mondays, 9:30 p.m., $5. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409. www.deathguild.com

BEST BLACKBOARD THESPIANS

A completely adorable acting troupe made up of schoolteachers and schoolteacher look-alikes, the Children’s Theatre Association of San Francisco — a cooperative project of the Junior League of San Francisco, the San Francisco Board of Education, and the San Francisco Opera and Ballet companies — has been stomping the boards for 75 years. What the players may lack in Broadway-caliber showmanship, they widely make up for with enthusiasm, handcrafted costumes and sets, and heart. For decades, the troupe has entertained thousands of public school students during its seasonal run every January and February at the Florence Gould Theater in the Palace of Legion of Honor. This year’s production was a zany take on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which included a wisecracking mirror and rousing original songs. We applaud the CTASF’s bravery for taking on some of the toughest critics in the business — those who will squirm and squawk if the show can’t hold their eye.

www.ctasf.org

BEST AUTO REPAIR QUOTES

We’re not sure if you can get a lube job at Kahn and Keville Tire and Auto Service, located on the moderately sketchy corner of Turk and Larkin. And if you can, we can’t vouch for the overall quality, or relative price point of the procedure. But the main reason we can’t say is also why we love the place so much. Instead of sensibly using the giant Kahn and Keville marquee to advertise its sales and services, the 97-year-old business has been using it since 1959 to educate the community with an array of quotations culled from authors as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gore Vidal — plus occasional shout-outs to groups it admires, such as the Quakers during their peace vigils a block away. Originally collected by founder Hugh Keville, the quotes range in tone from the political to the inspirational and tongue-in-cheek, and the eye-catching marquee was once described by Herb Caen as the city’s "biggest fortune cookie."

500 Turk, SF. (415) 673-0200, www.kk1912.com

BEST EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE

The cozy Molinari Delicatessen in North Beach has been in business since 1896, just enough time to figure out that the secret to a really kick-ass sandwich is keeping it simple — but not too simple. The little piece of heaven known as the Molinari Special starts with tasty scraps, all the odds and ends of salamis, hams, and mortadella left over from the less adventurous sandwiches ordered by the customers who came before you. The cheese of your choice comes next, topped generously with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, roasted red peppers, and even pepperoncini, if you ask nicely. As for bread: we’re partial to Dutch crunch, but rosemary, soft white, and seeded rolls are available. Ecco panino: you get a sandwich approximately as big as a baby’s head — for only $6.25. It’s never quite the same item twice, but always sublime.

Molinari Delicatessan, 373 Columbus, SF. (415) 421-2337

BEST PASSED-ON JEANS

Most clothes turn to garbage over time — but there are a few notable exceptions, timeless garments that actually gain value after being used up, tossed aside, and then rediscovered. Leather jackets are like that, so are cowgirl dresses and butt rock T-shirts. But none of that stuff maintains its integrity, or becomes more appealing when salvaged, like a great pair of jeans. And there’s no place more in tune with this concept than the Bay Area. Why? Well, it’s easy to say that we lead the thrifting pack simply because denim apparel was born here, but the truth is that we wouldn’t be anywhere without Berkeley’s denim guru, Carla Bell, who’s been reselling Levi’s and other denim products for 30 years. What began as a side project in Bell’s garage has grown into a palace of fine thrifting: Slash Denim the first and last stop when it comes to pre-worn pants and other new and used articles of awesome.

2840 College, Berk. (510) 841-7803, www.slashdenim.com

BEST BALLER’S PARADISE

When you think about baseball and food, hot dogs inevitably come to mind, but that’s just because marketers have been pumping them at stadiums for decades. Real baseball fans can see through the bull. Sure, they might shove a wiener in their mouth every now and again out of respect for tradition. But when a true fan gets hungry, she or he wants real food, not mystery meat. Baseball-themed restaurant and bar Double Play — which sits across from the former site of Seals Stadium and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year — makes a point of thinking outside the bun. D.P.’s menu features everything from pancakes and burritos to seafood fettuccine and steak, with nary a dog in sight. Otherwise, the place is as hardcore balling as it gets. Ancient memorabilia decks the walls, television sets hang from the ceiling, and the backroom contains a huge mural depicting a Seals versus Oakland Oaks game — you can eat lunch on home plate.

2401 16th St., SF. (415) 621-9859

BEST TSUNAMI OF SWEETS

Most small businesses fail within the first year of operation, so you know if a spot’s been around a while it must be doing something right. For Schubert’s Bakery that something is cakes and they’ve been doing them for almost 100 years. To say they’re the best, then, is a bit of an understatement. When you purchase a cake from the sweet staff at Schubert’s, what you’re really getting is 98 years’ worth of cake-making wisdom brought to life with eggs, sugar, flour, and some good old S.F. magic. Schubert’s doesn’t stop with cakes — no way. There are cherry and apple tarts, pies, coffee cakes, Danish pastries, croissants, puff pastries, scones, muffins, and more. If it’s sinfully delicious, Schubert’s has your back. Just be careful not to peruse their menu in the aftermath of a breakup or following the loss of a job. Schubert’s may seem nice and sugary on the outside, but it gets a sick thrill out of sticking you where it hurts: your gut.

521 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1580, www.schuberts-bakery.com

BEST ARCHITECTURAL XANADU

If you compete in a category where you’re the only contestant, does it still matter if you win? In the case of the Xanadu Gallery building, yes, it does. The building that houses the gallery is Frank Lloyd Wright’s only work in San Francisco and provides a fascinating glimpse of him evolving into a legendary architect. The structure’s most prominent feature is the spiral ramp connecting its two floors, a surprisingly organic structure that reminds viewers of the cochlear rotunda of a seashell and presages Wright’s famous design for New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Visitors are delighted and surprised upon entering the Maiden Lane building, as a rather small and cramped walkway into the gallery expands into an airy, sun-filled dome: the effect is like walking out from a dark tunnel into a puff of light. The Xanadu Gallery itself features an extensive collection of international antiquities, which perfectly complements this ambitious yet classic gem.

140 Maiden Lane, SF. (415) 392-9999, www.xanadugallery.us

BEST FIRST CUP OF COFFEE

As the poor departed King of Pop would say, "Just beat it" — to ultimate Beat hangout Caffe Trieste in North beach, that is. And while Pepsi was the caffeinated beverage that set Michael Jackson aflame, we’re hot for Trieste’s lovingly created coffee drinks. Founded in 1956 by Giovanni "Papa Gianni" Giotta, who had recently moved here from Italy, Trieste was the first place in our then low-energy burg to offer espresso, fueling many a late night poetry session, snaps and bongos included. Still a favored haunt of artists and writers, Trieste — which claims to be the oldest coffeehouse in San Francisco — augments the strident personal dramas of its Beat ghosts with generous helpings of live opera, jazz, and Italian folk music. You may even catch a member of the lively Giotta family crooning at the mic, or pumping a flashy accordion as part of Trieste’s long-running Thursday night or Saturday afternoon concert series. Trieste just opened a satellite café in the mid-Market Street area, which could use a tasty artistic renaissance of its own.

601 Vallejo, SF. (415) 392-6739; 1667 Market, SF. (415) 551-1000, www.caffetrieste.com

BEST ON POINT EN POINTE

We’re fans of the entire range of incredible dance offerings in the Bay, from new and struggling companies to the older, more established ones (which are also perpetually struggling.) But we’ve got to give tutu thumbs up to the San Francisco Ballet for making it for 76 years and still inspiring the city to get up on its toes and applaud. Those who think the SF Ballet is hopelessly encrusted in fustiness have overlooked its contemporary choreography programs as well as its outreach to the young and queer via its Nite Out! events. For those who complain about the price of tickets, check out the ballet’s free performance at Stern Grove Aug. 16. This year the company brought down the house when it performed Balanchine’s "Jewels" (a repertory mainstay) in New York. We also have to give it up for one of the most important (yet taken for granted) element of the ballet’s productions: the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, which provides the entrancing accompaniment to the oldest ballet company in America.

www.sfballet.org

BEST INTENTIONAL MISNOMER

If the Spinsters of San Francisco have anything to say about it, spinsterhood isn’t the realm of old women who cultivate cat tribes and emit billows of dust when they sneeze. Instead it’s all about stylish young girls who throw sparkling galas, plan happy hours, organize potlucks, and do everything in their power to have a grand ol’ time in the name of charitable good. Founded alongside the Bachelors of San Francisco, the Spinsters first meeting was held in 1929. In the eight decades that followed, the Spinsters evolved into a philanthropic nonprofit that supports aid organizations and channels funds back to the community. Specifications for prospective spinsters are quite rigorous: applicants must be college-educated, unmarried, and somewhere in the prized age bracket of 21 to 35. At the end of the year, members decide by ballot vote to heap their wealth and plenty into the coffers of a single chosen charity. Past recipients include City of Dreams, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and the Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf.

www.sfspinsters.com

BEST GHOSTS IN THE WOODWORK

Situated on the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Scottish Rite Center boasts hand-carved ceilings, grand staircases, and opulent furnishings — hardly the typical ambiance of your average convention center. But if the ornate woodwork isn’t enough to distract you from whatever you came to the center to learn about, its history should: following San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, the East Bay saw a population explosion that quickly outgrew Oakland’s first Masonic temple and led to cornerstone laying ceremonies at this shoreline site in 1927. Today the center’s ballroom, catering facilities, and full-service kitchens — along with an upstairs main auditorium and one of the deepest stages in the East Bay — make it a favorite setting for weddings and seminars. It’s also the perfect place to wonder how many ghosts crawl out of the woodwork at night, and trace the carved wooden petals that decorate the hallways with the tip of a chilly finger.

1547 Lakeside Dr., Oakl. (510) 451-1903, www.scottish-rite.org

BEST GEM OF A FAMILY

For more than seven decades, the name Manis has meant that a jewel of a jewelry store was in the neighborhood. Lou Manis opened Manis Jewelers in l937 at l856 Mission St. Three months after the Kennedy assassination in l963, he moved the store to 258 West Portal Ave. Manis Jewelers is still at this location, still a classic family-owned store with an excellent line of watches and jewelry, and still offers expert watch and clock repair, custom design, and reliable service. Best of all, that service is always provided by a Manis. Lou, now 89, retired six years ago, but his son Steve operates the store and provides service so friendly that people drop by regularly just to chat. Steve’s daughter, Nicole, works in the store on Saturdays, changing batteries in watches and waiting on customers. She was preceded in the store by her two older sisters, Anna and Kathleen, and Steve’s niece and nephew.

258 West Portal Ave., SF. (415) 681-6434

BEST NEVER FORGET
Since 1984, the Holocaust Memorial at the Palace of the Legion of Honor has been a contemplative and sad reminder of one of the biggest genocides in human history. The grouping of sculptures — heart-wrenching painted bronze figures trapped and collapsed behind a barbed-wire fence — sits alongside one of the city’s most breathtaking views and greatest example of European-style architecture. Yet it has never, in our opinion, fully received its due as an important art piece and historical marker. The memorial was designed by George Segal, a highly decorated artist awarded numerous honorary degrees and a National Medal of Honor in 1999. Chances are that many Legion of Honor patrons — plus the myriad brides posed in front of the palace’s pillars for their photo shoot — overlook this stark homage to the six million people exterminated by the Nazis during World War II. But it’s always there as a reminder that as we look to the future, we must remember the past.
100 34th Ave., SF. www.famsf.org/legion

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BEST OF THE BAY 2009:
>>BEST OF THE BAY HOME
>>READERS POLL WINNERS
>>EDITORS PICKS: CLASSICS
>>EDITORS PICKS: CITY LIVING
>>EDITORS PICKS: FOOD AND DRINK
>>EDITORS PICKS: ARTS AND NIGHTLIFE
>>EDITORS PICKS: SHOPPING
>>EDITORS PICKS: SEX AND ROMANCE
>>EDITORS PICKS: OUTDOORS AND SPORTS
>>LOCAL HEROES

Behind the Mitchells’ door

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sarah@sfbg.com

When James Raphael Mitchell, 27, son of the late porn film director and strip club owner Jim Mitchell, was charged with murder, domestic violence, kidnapping, and child abduction and endangerment last week, my first reaction was to wonder if he suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder.

I had run into met James in October 2007, at which time he sported a military-style buzz cut and told me he was in the Marines. And now I was reading reports that he had shown up at the home of his one-time fiancée, Danielle Keller, 29, the mother of their one-year-old daughter, Samantha Rae, killed Keller with a metal baseball bat, and fled with Samantha. He then led police on a five-hour manhunt that ended in Citrus Heights.

I later encountered James at the O’Farrell Theater, the club his father Jim and uncle Artie opened 40 years ago. At the club, the brothers produced porn films, battled with former Mayor Dianne Feinstein’s vice squad, and entertained members of the city’s political elite before Jim shot Artie in 1991.

Jim’s attorneys described the killing as an "intervention gone awry," while Artie’s kids believed it was a wrongful death. In the end, Jim served less than three years of a six-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter at San Quentin. After his release, he continued his involvement with Cinema 7, the corporation the Mitchell brothers formed to oversee their porn empire, until he died of a heart attack in July 2007.

Shortly after Jim’s death, his eldest daughter, Meta, became the O’Farrell Theater’s general manager. In fall 2007, Christina Brigida, a childhood friend of Meta, contacted me to see if I’d be interested in "a column about the reality of what the sex industry is like for females (both strippers and non-strippers)" and "female managers in adult entertainment." She proposed that she and Meta write the article. "The notion that the O’Farrell Theater is run by old white men pimping out women for money with no regard as to their treatment and/or well-being is just flat out not true," Brigida wrote.

In her piece, Meta recalled: "Growing up in my family there was a distinct line between the boys and the girls. The boys got to go on special outings with my dad and uncle, while the girls were left at home. As I grew older, so did my resentment. I continued to hate being left out. I felt like it all had to do with my dad’s business. The boys could go inside, and I couldn’t. I grew to hate the theater for taking my dad away from me."

Meta went to school and got a job as a mortgage consultant in San Ramon until 2004, when she began to recognize the club "as something that had taken care of us through the years."

And that’s how I came to be drinking coffee one morning in the club’s upstairs room, talking to Meta, a petite woman with a black bob, brown eyes, knee-length leather boots, a tiny dog, and a massive lime-green handbag. It was then that I met her younger brother, James, who his friends call Rafe.

I was seated in front of a photo of Pope John Paul II greeting Fidel Castro in Cuba, and a painting called Night Manager. The conversation somehow turned to war, at which point Rafe turned and told me he was in the Marines.

Meta resumed our conversation, which included my asking about a class action suit the O’Farrell dancers had brought against the club and Meta’s talking about her innovations, which included theme nights and costumes. At that point, Rafe interrupted, observing that "guys get drunk and just want to have fun and don’t care about costumes."

Clearly there was tension between Meta and James. And clearly Meta wanted to control the content of any story about the club. Although she promised me an interview that Halloween and mentioned that she "might be in costume," I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear back.

When I read the news about James, I called former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who is representing James and is a long-time friend of the Mitchell family. Hallinan had just returned from Mitchell’s arraignment in Marin County, where he is being held without bail.

"James feels terrible about what happened," Hallinan said. When asked about the possibility of James having PTSD from his time in the Marines, Hallinan said, "I don’t know if he’s been overseas or not."

I then got a hold of a copy of the permanent restraining order Keller had secured on July 7, five days before she was killed. From it, I discovered that James had not been deployed overseas. In fact, according to the allegations in the court order, he had abused Keller for almost two years, beginning a month after the couple met — claiming the abuse was his way to avoid Iraq.

The court filing also revealed that James brought his gun everywhere and usually kept it in his jeans until his siblings, including Meta, filed their own five-year restraining order after he pulled it out during a family business meeting at the O’Farrell Theater in November 2007 and "waved it around in a threatening manner."

Keller’s statement also charged that James has mood swings, used cocaine, had a meth addiction, and was arrested for domestic violence in February 2008 when Keller was four months pregnant.

The couple’s penultimate fight took place March 4 when Keller told him she was going to live with her mom. After that incident, James was arrested for vioutf8g his probation, and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris recommended putting James behind bars for three months. But 11 days before Keller’s killing, Superior Court Judge Mary Morgan sentenced him to two days and stayed the sentence.

Warren Hinckle, a veteran Bay Area journalist and long-time Mitchell family friend, observes that people can’t imagine what it was like to have grown up in this "battle-prone family."

"Sure, I knew Rafe, and obviously something very bad and weird happened," Hinckle told the Guardian. "People forget that the Mitchells spent a lot of the money that they made on First Amendment battles, and that they were on mob territory."

Keller’s attorney, Charlotte Huggins, said she wants to make sure there’s money set aside for Samantha. But that may be tricky because James was living on trust fund money. Following a 2008 settlement of the dancers’ class action suit against Cinema 7 — in which the corporation agreed to pay $2 million in legal fees and $1.45 million toward the dancers’ claims — Cinema 7 president Jeffrey Armstrong claimed in court filings that the corporation "is not able to pay the entire amount up front."

Instead, Mitchell matriarch Georgia Mae and John P. Morgan, co-trustees of the Jim Mitchell 1990 Family Trust, which holds two-thirds of Cinema 7’s shares, pledged stock certificates as security interest.

Jim Mitchell’s four adult children receive $3,000 a month from the trust. They have the right to withdraw 50 percent when they turn 30, and the remainder when they turn 35.

Court files show that Meta, who turned 30 last year, along with Justin and Jennifer Mitchell, are trying to wrest control of the trust from their grandmother, Georgia Mae, 85. Instead, they would like to appoint their mother and Jim’s ex-wife Mary Jane Whitty-Grimm as the successor trustee. A hearing is set for September.

A stripper who used to dance at the O’Farrell Theater under the stage name Simone Corday wrote the book 9 1/2 Years Behind the Green Door (Mill City Press, Inc. 2007), in which she recalls Artie Mitchell as her lover. Corday told the Guardian that when the Mitchell brothers shared a house in Moraga, Artie worried about Jim’s child-rearing techniques.

In Corday’s book, Artie is quoted saying, "You know how Jim has Rafe dressed as Rambo so much? Now they’re calling Rafe ‘the enforcer.’ If any of the kids use a swear word — even mine when they’re over there — Rafe is supposed to attack!"

Corday said she was shocked by Keller’s killing. "It’s been disturbing. What with his name being the same as Jim’s, and both being held in the Marin County Jail. It’s eerie."

Hot sex events this week: July 15-21

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Compiled by Molly Freedenberg

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With the Partial Suspension class on Thursday and Marquis Ball on Saturday, this week’s going to be BDSM-alicious.

————-

>> Partial Suspension for Complete Sadists
Japanese rope bondage expert Mike West hosts this course featuring theories on challenging ties, installation of overhead points at home or on the go, testing a suspension ring, and the advantages of partial suspension. (Couples and singles welcome, but all must participate.)

Thurs/16, 7:30pm. $25-$30.
Stormy Leather
1158 Howard, SF.
(415) 626-1672
www.stormyleather.com”

———-

>> Chuluaqui Quodoushka
This shamanic approach to spiritual sexuality is a transformative series of shamanic teachings, guided exercises, and ceremnial experiences. For singles and couples.

Thurs/16-Sun/19. $695.
Passion Temple
Hayward
(510) 482-4239
email: planetarypriestess@att.net

Suspension for sadists and the Marquis Ball

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By Molly Freedenberg

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As we working stiffs watch more and more of our peers enjoying their government-funded, sun-filled “funemployment,” (ugh) it’s hard not to feel tied down by the weight of the work week. But remember: not all bondage is bad. Case in point: Mike West’s Partial Suspension for Complete Sadists and the Marquis Fetish Ball, both happening this week to remind us that being told what to do can be a treat. On Thursday, the Japanese rope bondage expert will host a course featuring theories on challenging ties, installation of overhead points at home or on the go, testing a suspension ring, and the advantages of partial suspension. (Couples and singles welcome, but all must participate.) Two days later, sex educator, author, and bondage model Midori will make an appearance at MarquisAmerica.com’s celebration of all things leather, latex, and laced-up. Still not convinced the leash that chains you to your job is sexy? Consider a career change and enter Marquis’ live model casting.

PARTIAL SUSPENSION FOR COMPLETE SADISTS Thurs/16, 7:30pm. $25–$30. Stormy Leather, 1158 Howard, SF. (415) 626-1672, www.stormyleather.com

MARQUIS FETISH BALL Sat/18, 9pm. $35–$65. Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF. www.marquisamerica.com

Partial Suspension for Complete Sadists and the Marquis Fetish Ball

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PREVIEW As we working stiffs watch more and more of our peers enjoying their government-funded, sun-filled funemployment, it’s hard not to feel tied down by the weight of the work week. But remember: not all bondage is bad. Case in point: Mike West’s Partial Suspension for Complete Sadists and the Marquis Fetish Ball, both happening this week to remind us that being told what to do can be a treat. On Thursday, the Japanese rope bondage expert will host a course featuring theories on challenging ties, installation of overhead points at home or on the go, testing a suspension ring, and the advantages of partial suspension. (Couples and singles welcome, but all must participate.) Two days later, sex educator, author, and bondage model Midori will make an appearance at MarquisAmerica.com’s celebration of all things leather, latex, and laced-up. Still not convinced the leash that chains you to your job is sexy? Consider a career change and enter Marquis’ live model casting.

PARTIAL SUSPENSION FOR COMPLETE SADISTS Thurs/16, 7:30pm. $25–$30. Stormy Leather, 1158 Howard, SF. (415) 626-1672, www.stormyleather.com

MARQUIS FETISH BALL Sat/18, 9pm. $35–$65. Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF. www.marquisamerica.com

SF’s sexy queer film festival explodes

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By Juliette Tang

Frameline, the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival kicks off tomorrow and a quick glance through the festival schedule reveals that we are in for some sexy little treats. I have not seen any of the films, so I can only conjecture at their artistic or cinematic value. I did, however, sit through the trailers, and after doing so, I now know which films offer sex scenes.


Trailer for And Then Came Lola.

And Then Came Lola is the gay, San Francisco version of Run Lola Run. Because of the allusion to its German predecessor, in And Then Came Lola, Lesbian Lola is by plot’s invisible hand, forced to run – rather than cab – all over San Francisco in order to save her relationship with a girl named Casey. The film is described as a “fun-filled lesbian rom-com of 2009 complete with SF inside jokes and sexy bedroom scenes”.


Still from Boy

Boy is a Filipino movie about a young, rich lad who pays a gogo dancer at a party to go home with him, upon which they fall in love (and will forever have a great story to regale polite company at dinner parties when asked how they met). In the blurb on Frameline’s Web site, Michael Fox ambitiously alliterates: “lengthy, lovely, languid love scene”.


Trailer for Lollipop Generation.

According to its description, The Lollipop Generation offers these things: a bathroom blowjob, masturbation scenes, hooking, punks making porn, and lollipop licking. Shot on Super 8 film, the images might be too grainy to see all the dirty stuff, but at least you know its there.


Still from Dirt and Desire

Dirt and Desire is a set of dirty short films starring “sexy, hot, and porn-arific queers of all genders”. If something is described as “porn-arific,” you can bet there will be sex involved. Featuring shorts with titles like The Leather Daddy and the Unicorn, Kat-I’s Sex Toy Stories, and Tour de Pants, Dirt and Desire offers a feast of naked people doing, you know, all sorts of things.


Trailer for Greek Pete.

Greek Pete is a sexually explicit documentary about a year in the life of Pete, a rent boy in London who jumped in the game because he wanted to make fast money, and hooking was, in his own words, “the quickest and bestway to make loads of publicity”. Well, at least we feel less bad, in that case, for not feeling sorry for him.


Still from Thundercrack

Thundercrack is an underground porno/horror flick from 1975 that maintains the healthy cult following automaticlaly entitled to any movie of that description. The film stars 4 men, 3 women, and a gorilla, and “will arouse, challenge and question you through every torrid moment of solo, gay, bisexual and straight couplings, voyeurism and more”. Though not scary for a horror film, the scarily bad dialogue is truly something to fear. But hey, at least Thundercrack is funny, and there’s lots of sex.


Still from Shank

Sensitive, secretly gay thugs at so hot. In Shank, a sensitive, secretly gay thug named Cal drops trou in a “a sweet patio seduction scene” with a guy named Oliver.


Trailer for Champion

Champion, a film by Pink & White Productions (famous for the series) is, like Million Dollar Baby, a sexy film about a boxing lesbian — except this one features, in addition to the fighting, some rough lesbian sex. Angelique Smith at Frameline describes in more detail: “sweet, sweet pain of scratching, hair pulling, bondage, slapping, anal, choking and biting, with some unexpected FTM action thrown in!”

That crazy feeling

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>johnny@sfbg.com

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Robert Frank, “San Francisco, 1956”

The world writes a story far beyond — or deeper and more twist-riddled than — any author’s imagination. How else to explain the fact that Robert Frank’s peerless photographic book The Americans turned 50 the same year that Barack H. Obama was elected president of the United States? Looking in — again, and again — at The Americans, thanks to a handsome new edition (Steidl, 180 pages, $39.95), or at "The Americans," thanks to a traveling exhibition connected to Frank’s landmark work, one finds a vision of this country that is anything but dated.

Jack Kerouac raved about the way Frank captured "that crazy feeling in America," and to be sure, even if his prosaic descriptions of Frank’s photos come off a bit redundant now, there’s still some insightful gold to be gleaned from his observation that Frank was always taking pictures of jukeboxes and coffins. There’s been no shortage of writing about The Americans since Kerouac’s at-times stifled response. Is there anything left to say about The Americans? If there’s anything left to say about America, the answer is yes.

There are infinite views. One is Frank’s very particular sense of place. For a San Franciscan, that means an untitled image of a couple on Alamo Square, perhaps the most iconic of at least three Bay Area pictures. Frank has cited this photo as his favorite in The Americans, because the facial expressions of the couple he’s caught unaware bring across loud and clear what an intrusive presence the photographer is by nature. But this shot also is a document of the Western Addition when it was a thriving African-American neighborhood. It’s existence confronts the face of San Francisco today.

In a Charleston, S.C., image from The Americans, a pampered, already entitled-looking snow white baby looks out from the cradling arms of a black maid whose face — seen in profile — is more fascinating and harder to read. The picture is a blunt image of race in the South, and of race in America on the eve of civil rights uprisings. It also raises an interesting side question: why did it take European exiles to photographically render that subject with candor? This keepsake of Charleston by the Swiss Frank is the black-and-white counterpart to the Technicolor ironies that German expatriate Douglas Sirk brought to the 1959 version of Imitation of Life. (Racism was flagrantly institutionalized during the making of The Americans, and Frank has long had an critical eye for U.S. institutions — a Frank film series at SFMOMA doesn’t just showcase the Beat work Pull My Daisy, it also includes Me and My Brother (1969) a look at this country’s concepts of mental illness that’s more personal than, and just as direct as, Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967).)

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Robert Frank, “US 90, En Route to Del Rio, Texas”

For any person who has lived with The Americans — spent time over the years looking through its pages, locking eyes on a particular picture and contemputf8g it — there’s a peculiar card-shuffle déjà vu-gone-slightly-askew-or-anew feeling to encountering the same photos in succession along the walls. This is the experience of looking at "Looking In: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans,’" the Frank exhibition currently on view at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Alongside rather than on top of one another, an alphabet of American hats point in different directions, each one reflecting a viewpoint. An array of flags mask people’s faces, or point sorrowfully toward the ground.

One facet or extension of "Looking At" explores Frank’s influences, and in turn, his influences on, American photography. To be sure, Diane Arbus’s trannies and butches and Lee Friedlander’s broadcast TVs owe a debt to Frank’s visions of censored-or-taken-for-granted everyday 20th century life. The through line from the Depression-era photography of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to Frank’s look at a family crammed into a car in Butte, Mont., is obvious. Absent, though, are some definite predecessors and peers. Weegee’s hard-boiled naked city is nowhere to be seen — except in Frank (and frank) images such as one of people in Miami Beach. William Klein’s pictorial rephrasing of urban adspeak is absent save for a look at a department store in Nebraska, an arrow on the wall of a building in Los Angeles, or a newsstand in New York City or a sidewalk in New Orleans.

With one photo in The Americans, Robert Frank maDE gas pumps look like a series of tombstones, all gathered by a sign that declares SAVE. There are legions of artists today making images less contemporary or relevant. Take a look at The Americans, and you’ll find cowboys, starlets, funeral parties, boys in arcades, queens on stoops, leather rebels, bored or contemplative waitresses, street preachers, a parade of pedestrians, wheelers and dealers — and workers. Take another look at The Americans today, 50-plus years after it made its first impression, and you’ll probably find yourself.


LOOKING IN: ROBERT FRANK’S "THE AMERICANS"

Through Aug. 23, free–$15

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St, SF

(415) 357-4000

www.sfmoma.org

ROBERT FRANK RETROSPECTIVE

Through June 27

Phyllis Wattis Theater

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000

www.sfmoma.org

Appetite: Beer-battered rings, French on the fly, and a chef bacchanal

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Every week, Virginia Miller of personalized itinerary service and monthly food, drink, and travel newsletter, www.theperfectspotsf.com, shares foodie news, events, and deals. View the last installment here.

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Oh yes, there shall be chef: SF Chef. Food. Wine. period.

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EVENTS

August 6-9: SF Chefs.Food.Wine (calling food, wine and spirits lovers)
Start saving pennies, mark your calendar and buy your tickets now for an unparalleled event coming up in August I’m quite excited about, the first of its kind in our fair city. SF Chefs.Food.Wine is going to be a Pebble Beach/Aspen Food and Wine Classic- reminiscent event but right in an urban city center at a fraction of the price (though you’ll still shell out $150 for a one-day pass). Union Square will be turned into a sea of tents housing not only Bay Area food, wine, beer, and spirits vendors offering day-long tastings (beer garden, cocktail samplings, wine tasting, food), but each day offers over 20 sessions/panels/classes appealing to food, wine and spirits cognoscenti and uninitiated appreciators alike.

An example of just a few sessions over three days:
FOOD – "Haute vs. Bistro" cooking demo from Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys) and Roland Passot (La Folie); "Heirloom Tomatoes" with Gary Danko and Joanne Weir; interviews with cooking luminaries and authors like Martin Yan, Joyce Goldstein, Georgeanne Brennan; a cooking competition between Jamie Lauren (Top Chef/Absinthe) and Chris Cosentino (Incanto/Iron Chef America).
SPIRITS/COCKTAILS – "Green Cocktails" with Scott Beattie (author of Artisanal Cocktails), H. Joseph Ehrmann (Elixir) and Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole); "Agave Academy" with Rebecca Chapa (Tannin Management) and Julio Bermejo (Tommy’s).
WINE – "Raid the Cellar" with Rajat Parr (Michael Mina restaurants) and Larry Stone MS (Rubicon Estate); "Sparkling Personality" with sparkling wine masters from Schramsberg Vineyards, Domaine Carneros and Roederer Estate.

These are just a few examples… there are sessions on chocolate, sushi, oysters, cheese, eggs, making the perfect coffee, beer brewing, trends in wine and spirits, marketing, design and service, food reviewing and everything of interest to those who love food and drink.

Evenings are equally enticing: the Opening Reception highlights Rising Star Chefs and Bar Stars from the SF Chronicle’s last five years of winners, as well as an advance screening of Julie and Julia, the highly anticipated Meryl Streep film. Galas run nightly, like a Pacific Rim feast from Charles Phan, Martin Yan and Arnold Eric Wong; an LBGT culinary gala at Orson with Elizabeth Falkner, Emily Wines, Harry Denton; American Culinary Pioneers Awards given to Joyce Goldstein, Judy Rodgers, Patricia Unterman, Emily Luchetti, Patrick O’Connell; a dinner honoring Master Sommelier, Larry Stone; a bluesy rock party from chefs with musical ties.

Convinced yet? The hard part now is choosing which events, days and sessions to splurge on. This surely creates a problem when your choices are this good and plentiful. Go online and take a look at the line-up and whether you’re a cocktail hound, wine imbiber, beer brewer or food fanatic, you’ll want to be a part of this momentous event.

$40-250 (discounts for Visa Signature card holders)
August 6-9
www.sfchefsfoodwine.com

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NEW OPENINGS

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Spencer on the Go!
Maybe the food cart mania is getting to you, or, like the rest of us, you’re ever thrilled to find gourmet food on-the-cheap popping up around town. Well, here’s one we haven’t seen before. Laurent Katgely, Chez Spencer’s talented chef, launched Spencer on the Go! last Thursday night outside of Terroir wine bar, offering fine French fare from a shiny, converted taco truck with Spencer’s chic logo on the side. It was a long wait for food debut night, and Frog Legs and Curry were sadly sold out by the time I got there, but I hear waits have already improved, the crowd was friendly and festive, and I dig the Grilled Sweetbreads and amazingly addictive Escargot Puffs (escargot, breaded and on a stick)! With a menu all under $9, pair French snacks with Perrier and cookies or take it across the street to Terroir and order a glass of wine. Watch for the truck to soon be at Tuesday and (upcoming food cart-centric) Thursday farmers markets at the Ferry Building. It’s the bon vivant’s ideal "fast food".
6pm-12am
Thursday-Saturday

415-864-2191
http://spenceronthego.com

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Urban Burger
It’s time for a new burger joint on Valencia near 16th, Urban Burger opened last week in the tiny, former Yum Yum House space, now brightly painted sporting white leather stools, orange walls, and playful signs with phrases like "Nice Buns". Besides build-your-own burger options, there’s a list of ten hefty special burgers like a Breakfast Burger loaded with cheese, bacon, fried egg and fries (yep, all together), Mission Heat, with chilies, pepper jack and chipotle, or a Cubano with grilled ham and swiss. Opening day, I enjoyed the Buffalo version with blue cheese and hot sauce. Want it a bit lighter? Choose turkey, gardenburger, or Portabella mushroom instead of beef. But if you’re downing a hearty burger, why not pair it with a Mitchell’s milkshake and beer-battered onion rings?
581 Valencia Street
415-551-2483
http://urbanburgersf.com

Ding dong, Wicked Witch is alive

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AFRO-SURREAL What was black music like before hip-hop took over? On Chaos: 1978-86 (EM), a compilation of private press recordings by the obscure machine funk guitarist Wicked Witch, it resembles squelching synthesizers riffed like rock guitars and deep, rumbling bass stomps. Unevenly tuned fretboard licks mash with splashing, polyphonic drum patterns as a mysterious leading man uncomfortably murmurs lyrics like "I just can’t hang out, too much time is lost."

As a young guitarist hooked on Cream, Sun Ra, and Weather Report who mostly played for family and friends in southeast Washington, D.C., Wicked Witch’s Richard Simms didn’t achieve local fame, much less a national audience. But his subterranean woodshedding reverberates with tremors from an industry in upheaval. Musicians adopted electronic equipment en masse, supplanting the flowery string arrangements of 1970s disco with keyboards and drum programming. It wasn’t just black musicians transitioning to the computer age: early-1980s rock offers contrasts between lush new romanticism (Human League, Duran Duran) and crass arena sounds (Foreigner, REO Speedwagon). While the latter is celebrated via redundant VH-1 retrospectives and football stadium soundtracks, early-1980s black music and its heroes (the System, Imagination) remain unexplored.

Nelson George describes the period in 1988’s authoritative history The Death of Rhythm & Blues. "Synthesizers of every description, drum machines, and plain old electric keyboards began making MFSB and other human rhythm sections nonessential to the recording process," he writes, somewhat overstating his case. "There were so many … with all the personality and warmth of a microwave."

George’s "microwave music" condemnation still resonates, and this crucial period of black music — just before the hip-hop, R&B and quiet storm era — has largely escaped serious critical attention, save for disco aficionados who cherry-pick proto-house music stars like D-Train and Larry Levan. Meanwhile, Wicked Witch’s unintended documentation of the black new wave — meshing machine gun funk with spacey keyboard ambience on "Fancy Dancer," giving a shambolic twist to Mahavishnu Orchestra-style jazz fusion on "Vera’s Back" — has reemerged on the collector’s market. Simms’ private press singles, which include two 7-inches and a 12-inch long player, have been bootlegged. Original copies trade for $100. This probably led EM, a Japanese specialty label, to contact Simms and assemble Chaos.

"It wasn’t commercial," Simms said during a recent phone conversation. Forced Exposure, the Boston distributor handling Chaos, had passed on his information, but it took more than two weeks to finally reach him. Though pleasantly surprised by the novelty of an interview, he’s somewhat suspicious of the affair. When asked how many copies he pressed up, he shoots back, "Why are you inquiring about that?" as if this writer, armed with a copy of Goldmine magazine, wants to corner the market on Wicked Witch collectibles. And how did Simms come up with the name Wicked Witch anyway? "I’m stumped on that one," he says. "I think I wanted something dramatic, like theater."

Simms remembers forming his first band, Paradiagm with teenage friends "on an original-type kick" from around the area. The group recorded the track "Vera’s Back" before going their separate ways. "We were trying to do an original act, but people didn’t really accept it," he says. Chuck Brown’s ingenious go-go style, an amalgamation of James Brown’s call-and-response breaks and N’awlins marching band jazz, reigned as D.C.’s unofficial soundtrack. And since Paradiagm wasn’t a go-go band and didn’t play covers of radio hits, they couldn’t get bookings: "It was too hard to break new material." Simms managed to reach the manager of Return to Forever, Chick Corea’s jazz fusion superstar collective. But he says, mysteriously, "We did vocals, and they weren’t doing no vocals."

After that came Wicked Witch, which Simms describes as a "studio thing" where he worked out his musical ideas and recorded them. Yet even that was relatively short-lived. "My background is jazz fusion," Simms says. For Wicked Witch, he tried to merge fusion and funk, resulting in tracks with cryptic time signatures and spaced-out melodies. "If it was more funky, I think it would have been it. But it wasn’t funky enough. But I still dig it."

By the mid-1980s, the leather-clad hero of "Fancy Dancer" disappeared in the Chocolate City, just as the hip-hop era had begun. "Kids, a job, other things you gotta do … all of the above got put on top of the music. And then the music became close to nothing," Simms says. Before that happened, however, he pressed up those now-collectible records for himself. "Nobody was doing it for me, so I might as well do something on my own, right?"

And kielbasa for all: Polish Festival this Sunday

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By Marke B.

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Apologies, my veganista friends

I may be the world’s biggest queer Arab disco hip-hop leather muppet, but my last name is Bieschke and I was raised Polish (and French Canadian, but that’s another story for another “post-racial” day). And man, do I love a nice big grilled kielbasa dressed on a bed of tart, moist sauerkraut. I’ll be getting my fill — and taking in some serious polka oompah-pah and traditional polska loveliness at this Sunday’s Polish Festival in Golden Gate Park. Not sure if I’ll be dressing in traditional costume, despite the fact that hipster decolletage sure is trending that way …. somebody hand that fixie-pixie a tuba!

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And if the weather clears up, me and Hunky Beau might even take our mustard-stained mugs over to the deYoung entrance to watch the swingin’ participants of Lindy in the Park if they’re out and about … and even join in. Now that’s multicultural.

San Francisco Polish Festival
5/3, 11am-5pm, free
San Francisco County Fair Building
Golden Gate Park
(9th Ave and Lincoln Way)
www.polishfestival.com

How To Destroy Your Eardrums, Part 6

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By Nicole Gluckstern

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Throbbing Gristle blur the lines at the Regency Ballroom, 4/23. Photos by Morlock E.

It’s a veritable rogue’s gallery at the Regency Ballroom on April 23, every single statesperson of the Bay Area underground having emerged from their respective lairs for Throbbing Gristle, the first, the foremost industrial noise band come back to destroy the universe, one eardrum at a time. The last time I saw such a profusion of familiar faces was, well, last week at Leonard Cohen. And just like at Leonard Cohen, the faces around me bear expressions that are expectant, electric, slightly starstruck. Unlike Leonard Cohen though, the band launches first into a sweet little ditty penned in tribute to the Moors Murderers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, “Very Friendly”.

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Genesis P-Orridge, hand out

“Could you imagine what might have happened if Myra Hindley and Ian Brady had met me and Cosey back than?” quips Genesis P-orridge, who wears the role of flamboyant frontperson like a comfortable pair of bright pink polka-dotted stockings. An array of “greatest hits” follows: “Persuasion”, “Something Came Over Me”, the infinitely creepy “Hamburger Lady”. The set may verge on this side of predictable, but honestly, these are the songs we all want to hear.

The venue lights stay on, loud; the sound system cranked, loud; Genesis P-orridge channeling Marianne Faithfull in a bright orange Stevie Nicks tunic, loud. More “disciplined” than dangerous, the evenly rhythmic computer-generated beats smack just as much of Coil as chaos unleashed. Still, at certain points in the evening, the relentless throb threatens to dislodge both my intestines and my equilibrium. “If I stand with my legs apart I get an erection,” I hear someone mutter. And ultimately, that’s the crux of this whole experience, this sonic onslaught. Industrial at its hard core is precisely the music of solitary erections, the music of intestinal distress, the music of bondage games, vertigo, and boots of shiny leather (just like Cosey’s). That said, all those iMacs onstage? Neither sexy nor disturbed. The blue-screened sea of iPhone photogs below me? Ditto. The price of progress, I suppose, disturbance demystified.

Snap Sounds: From A to Z

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By Johnny Ray Huston

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Actress Hazyville (Werk) Werk label head Daniel J. Cunningham charts a triangular electronic space beyond singular genres yet quite familiar. Dark loveliness gives way to boring repetition then returns, while focal points and sources remain just out of reach.

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Anita Carter Songbird (Omni) This is singing. The daughter of Maybelle and sister of June (whose husband pitches in on one track) is faultless from the Joe Meek-like future scenario "2001" to the pop of "Hang a Little Sign" on through to the sublimely sad and gorgeous "Sweet Memories."

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Various artists The Birth of Bossa (Él/Cherry Red) Weirdly, there are no Tom Jobim recordings here, but the influential "Chega da suade" gets two versions, including one by samba singer Elizeta Cardoso, whose down tempo emotionalism is showcased. Another odd gem from Él and Cherry Red.

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Ella Washington He Called Me Baby (Soulscape) A name that evokes two legendary divas couldn’t have helped this Florida woman carve out her own rep. A shame, because she can sing her ass off — tearing it up in the verse, building momentum in the bridge, and ripping the roof off in the chorus. One highlight: "Sit Down and Cry," which even Irma Thomas might envy.

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Wavves Wavves (Fat Possum) Wavves wishes they all could be California goths, on the beach, riding the surf, in the summer. The distortion is delicious, as are the guitar solos, the nyah-nyah lead vox and the falsetto harmonies that teeter between blissed out and freaked out.

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Wicked Witch Chaos, 1978-86 (Em) The Em label outdoes itself by uncovering this slab of kinky gothic urban funk by one enigmatic leather-and-spike-clad Richard Simms. The 12-minute "Vera’s Back" is a contender for jam of the year.

Playlistism on YouTube after the jump:

Fluffy bunners

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› superego@sfbg.com

Look about you, horny toad. There may not be wee lambykins gamboling on your microlawn or the scent of fresh asparagus pervading your water closet yet, but all the mad party signs of spring are sneaking up to floor you: secret sunset shindigs (www.pacificsound.net), hunky Jesus Easter bonnets (www.thesisters.org), blackout drag road trips to Reno (www.trannyshack.com), and, that ultimate in vernal equinoxious signals, a flood of out-of-state gay porn stars looking for extra cash on Rentboy.com and the back pages of the Bay Area Reporter. Spring has sprung! And will probably be passed out in its stiff leather chaps, turquoise Lycra dress shirt, knock off Gucci wraparounds, and George Michael stubble on the corner of 18th and Market soon.

That’s right, those "Oscars of gay porn," the annual GayVN Awards, are coming upon us yet again, as the Castro Theatre plays host to the biggest circle jerk in the butt biz for another year. Downsizing, of course, is out of the question, despite the rash of porno pink slips being fisted out across the industry, which has been hit hard by a combo of economic deflators, internal tussles, and continued grappling with amateur Web competition. (We’ll see if the upcoming onslaught of 3-D dick flicks provides the stimulus package our local studios — second only to backwoods Eastern Europe in terms of sticky-fingered output — so sorely need.)

No, GayVN organizers are gut-pumping all the lubricious glitz they can into a whole weekend of kiki hurrah, with pre-parties, post-parties, Tupperware parties, and brunches that no one will eat at galore. Inflatable personality Janice Dickinson hosts the awards ceremony itself, with backup from homegirl Margaret Cho and Alec Mapa from Ugly Betty (ha!). Online erotic video-on-demand powerhouse Naked Sword, a.k.a. the giant candy-colored Flash octopus that froze my dinky Windows and made me cry with my pants down, will host the official afterparty, Shameless — "the party you’ll never forget, or remember!" — with some big-name DJs and performers I already can’t! It’ll be a wondrous semi-tragedy unfolding in fast motion, worth it if only to ogle the prancing scene. Just please try not to look at the camera when it’s over.

GAYVN AWARDS CEREMONY Sat/28, 7 p.m., $95. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF. gayvnawards.avn.com

SHAMELESS GAYVN AFTERPARTY Sat/28, 10 p.m., $25. Wunderland, 181 Eddy, SF. www.nakedsword.com

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TINGEL TANGEL CLUB


The louche cabaret monthly celebrates a year of mingling salacious New York City talent and West Coast underground hotness. Original Cockettes Rumi and Scrumbly, singer Novice Theory, "hypersexual" musicians SlowMo Erotic and more light up the stage, and ever-crushable JD Samson of Le Tigre will Sam Ronson the turntables afterward. Tingel Tangel Le Tigre — it’s an anagram.

Wed/25, 8 p.m., $16. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF.

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FUCK MIAMI


Oh dear, is it that time of year again? Half our stellar nightlife talents (and a lot of pre-tanned wannabes) will be sucked into the studiously Spandexed and belotioned black hole that is the Winter Music Conference in Miami. If you’re too broke — or too allergic to aggressive slickness and pushy V.I.P. chicks — to jet to the coca beach, share the moment with a slew of worthy left-behinds at this lengthy affair.

Fri/27, 4 p.m.- 2 a.m., free. Mars Bar, 798 Brannan, SF.

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"HOMELESS NIGHT"


This party promises to be wronger than shitting in a urinal: anarchic drag weekly Charlie Horse is hosting a homeless-themed night. Partially controversial gender clown Monistat joins perky Percocetted hostess Anna Conda to present shameful acts by talented messes to actually help benefit homeless services. La-da-dee, la-da-dah, don’t try to rip the wigs off these queens or they will cut you.

Fri/27, 10 p.m., free. The Cinch, 1723 Polk, SF.

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LOOK OUT WEEKEND


Happy hours are all the populist rage, especially in these queasy economics, no? One of the biggest and brightest, Look Out Weekend, is moving into new quarters at Vessel off Union Square. The delicious electronic stylings of Oh Land and DJing by the Magnificent Seven complement yummy eats and fashionable freaks at the relaunch. Will L.O.W. 2.0 be as raucous as the first version? Hey, it’s free, so go see for yourself.

Fridays, 4 p.m.-9 p.m., free. Vessel, 85 Campton Place, SF.

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ROYALTY


Well! It may be a bit bombastic, but the name just fits. SF soulful house music king DJ David Harness inaugurates a new monthly to rain some of that ol’ hands-in-the-air spirit down on the children-in-waiting at the lovely Triple Crown. The Crown’s sound system is winning extreme plaudits, so be prepared for a high-fidelity throwdown.

Fri/27, 10 p.m., $5. 1760 Market, SF.

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DEVOTION


A few years ago, DJ Ruben Mancias packed up his little glam-house weekly at the EndUp, Devotion, and skedaddled to NYC to find fame, fortune, and a lot of really neat T-shirts. He’s occasionally popped back into town to show off each, and remind Latin- and soul-tinged house fans of past EndUp glories. Devotion’s eight-year-anniversary will find him back at the space with Oakland house princes Cecil and Dedan warming up. Memories!

Sun/29, 8 p.m.-4 a.m. The EndUp, 401 Sixth St., SF.

San Francisco style

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› culture@sfbg.com

When it comes to fashion, San Francisco is an interesting paradox. Bay Area designers and consumers are notoriously innovative, politically conscious, and stylishly playful. Many who grow up or study here go on to make waves on a national or international scale. And yet this city still is not considered a global style center in the way that New York, Paris, or Milan are. In recent years, even L.A. seems to be getting more attention as a legitimate fashion capital than San Francisco.

With spring (and spring fashion lines) afoot, we decided to profile some of our favorite local designers — those who, regardless of their popularity outside city limits, have decided to stay put or move here to contribute to the San Francisco fashion design dialogue. We predict it won’t be long before the fashion establishment is singing their praises — and wearing their designs. 269-fashioncover.jpg On Lawrence Cuevas and Marivel Mendoza, from left to right: 1) Denim double pocket shirt, avocado tee and twill shorts by Turk+Taylor; 2) Leather jacket and sheer top by Mi, leather hotpants by Shaye, jewelry by Muscovie Design; 3) Raindrop dress by Sara Shepherd, kit leather button shoes by Al’s Attire, jewelry by Muscovie Design; 4) Leather jacket and jeans by Mi, dot tee by Turk+Taylor, white tie by Indie Industries, wing-tip shoes by Al’s Attire; 5) White tee by Mi, corset skirt by Shaye, jewelry by Joy O, polka-dot hat by Al’s Attire. (All Photos by Jeffery Cross. Photo illustration by Mirissa Neff. Styling by Lauren Cohen, Laura Peach, and Juliette Tang. Hair and makeup by Shamika Baker)

 

SOCIALIST STYLE

With delicate features, a smattering of transparent freckles and dark blonde hair that hangs in messy curls to her elbows, Shaye McKenney could be a model. But her approach to fashion is more altruism than narcissism. After returning from an extended sojourn that took her to India, tribal Amazon, and on many nomadic adventures in between, the Oakland native and daughter of a designer opened La Library on Guerrero Street a borrow-or-buy boutique whose purpose is to make stylish clothing available to all.

“The sense of ownership we have is not sustainable,” says McKenney, whose business model was inspired by the designer handbag rental concept seen in Sex and the City. Which is why she doesn’t just sell outright the airy white dresses, embroidered linen jumpsuits, and leather hot pants she makes from her mother’s fabric remnants. It’s passion for social change — as well as for a good pattern and great fit — that drives her. The whole point is being able to share. “We should not have to sacrifice glamour and art because of money and a bad economy.”

 

OLD-FASHIONED, FASHION FORWARD

Tucked away in a former North Beach butcher shop among towers of vintage hatboxes and fabric bolts stacked to the ceiling, custom clothier Al Ribaya is king of the cutting board. His old world tailor shop Al’s Attire makes every imaginable piece of clothing to order, paying more attention to detail than profit. “It’s a difficult thing to make money at,” he admits. “People don’t know what it takes to build something one stitch at a time.”

The other distinguishing factor about Ribaya’s shop is that he outfits people from head to toe. Using the same effort, energy, and remarkable focus, he makes everything from shoes crafted with soles of repurposed tire treads or turn-of-the-century buttons to suits, shirts, pants, jackets, skirts, and dresses. He even makes hats from suit fabric remnants. Every garment is custom labeled with the wearer’s name (alongside Al’s, of course). But despite all this retro hard work (and handiwork), Ribaya’s styles are remarkably fresh and modern. 269-fashiondoll1.jpg On Lawrence, clockwise from top: 1) Striped hat by Al’s Attire; 2) Double-pocket zippered denim shirt by Turk+Taylor; 3) Chambray golf jacket by Al’s Attire; 4) Dark denim jeans by Mi, 5) Silver wing-tip shoes by Al’s Attire; 6) Seersucker shorts by Turk+Taylor, 7) Brown leather jacket by Mi; 8) Avocado tee by Turk+Taylor. Underwear and socks by American Apparel.

 

FORM AND FUNCTION

What if one piece of clothing could be worn seven different ways? What would happen if you took a jacket and turned it upside-down? Or backward? These are the questions that the innovative, boundary-breaking creative minds at Harputs Collective have been asking. Their answer— called the swacket —hangs beside an oversized mirror in the airy industrial Harputs Own shop. The collective members are waiting for curious customers to come and play with the architectural sweater/jacket outerwear—putting it on backward, changing the swooping collar into a hood, then flipping it upside-down and adding a belt, until the most flattering fit is found.

The studio was started in September, a serendipitous confluence of a few thoughtful designers, a retiring tailor who stocked the store with fabrics and machinery, and an established high-end retailer with such a sense of play he will dye garments from New York lines when they are past season just to see if they will sell better in indigo than white. Our favorite part? A garment that fits well and can be worn several ways is less likely to go out of style — and therefore inspires us to consume less. (Our least favorite? They declined to participate in our fashion shoot. But we love ’em anyway.)

 

FASHION PHILOSOPHY

Mi Concept‘s visionary pieces are offered as a bespoke capsule collection for people who appreciate fashion-forward, cutting-edge design — and who aren’t afraid to look like time travelers from some distant utopian future.

Before designing any piece of clothing, Dean Hutchinson, creative director of the Mi Concept, asks himself, “How do I stimulate conversation?” The purpose, Hutchinson, says, is to challenge people to think beyond fashion. It must be working: ever since Mi Concept emerged at 808 Sutter last December, conversation and buzz have followed.

Peek inside the unmarked store and you’ll find an eerie modernist sarcophagus illuminated by fluorescent tubes, where dauntingly expensive-looking clothes cling to hangers as if worn by invisible ghosts. Together the space and the clothing create a synthesis of progressive, modern design.

Hutchinson eschews classic forms in favor of postmodernist distortion, working with asymmetrical lines and deconstructed shapes, often incorporating multiple silhouettes in a single garment to create an effect that evades easy labeling in any genre. “The other day someone said it was like a marriage between Rick Owens and Jil Sander,” Hutchinson said. “That was sort of flattering. But I don’t think about fashion like that. I have an initial idea, and then it just takes on it’s own life. It’s art.” 269-fashiondoll2.jpg On Mari, clockwise from top: 1) Bias-cut raindrop dress by Sara Shepherd; 2) Rouched front dress with pockets by Jules Elin; 3) Bell sleeve wrap jacket by Jules Elin; 4) Corset skirt with teal detail by Shaye; 5) Kit leather button boots by Al’s Attire; 6) Brown leather hotpants by Shaye; 7) Black leather jacket with sleeve zippers by Mi; 8) Polka dot hat by Al’s Attire; 9) Zipper-front dress by Turk+Taylor. Underwear and socks by American Apparel.

 

ECO-FRIENDLY FOR EVERYDAY

Jules Elin’s designs for women are simple and casual, without sacrificing style. The ideal wearer seems to be someone who is practical and comfortable but can appreciate the occasional coquettish detail — like a bell sleeve or a floral lining — on an otherwise unembellished piece.

While Elin is conscious of seasonal trends, there is nothing overtly “fashion-y” about her classic silhouettes: a swing coat is spruced up with extra-large buttons, a zippered jacket is adorned with a ruffled Peter Pan collar, and both are stylish without coming across as self-consciously en vogue. Elin’s pieces are made with organic cotton and get bonus points for not having to be dry-cleaned. On being called an eco-designer, Elin reflects, “I never really thought of it as being progress; I thought it was the right thing to do.”

When it comes to the designs themselves, San Francisco is always an inspiration. “There’s a lot of movement and architecture to the pieces,” she says. “But they’re also really sweet in a way that matches the demographic of this city.” And it’s Bay Area weather that determines the length of Elin’s sleeves: always long enough to be worn over the hands when it’s cold. San Franciscans are responding positively in turn, and even the dire economy hasn’t slowed the growth of her brand. “It’s just made me realize I can always work harder.”

 

CLASSIC SF DAYWEAR

When examining Turk+Taylor‘s well-edited collections of sustainable, nouveau-preppy clothes, the aesthetic appears so cohesive you could never tell that they nearly always result from a disagreement between the designers, Andrew Soernsen and Mark Lee Morris. “We fight all the time,” Soernsen proclaims. “We end up yelling.” During our interview, Soernsen and Morris often contradicted one another while answering the same questions — even the straightforward ones. “But somehow,” says Morris, “it all comes together.”

Soernsen and Morris don’t have fashion degrees. “We can’t sew. We aren’t pattern-makers.” The two designers run their business out of Soernsen’s apartment in NoPa, where boxes of samples are stacked on the floor, racks of clothes clutter every room, and eco-friendly fabrics perilously overflow from shelves and surfaces. Somehow, amid the jumble, they’ve managed to create beautiful collections of casual daywear year after year.

This year was the brand’s fifth, but neither Soernsen nor Morris has quit their day-jobs. “I don’t know how we have time to do this,” Soernsen admits. “We’re so unorganized.” The self-deprecating posturing belies the fact that they’ve grown into an influential label synonymous with San Francisco style. A perfect example? Pop into the SFMOMA store, and you’ll notice the museum tees are all by Turk+Taylor.

 

ACROSS THE POND AND INTO THE BAY

Sara Shepherd is, at heart, a contradiction: edgy London meets cuddly San Francisco. Originally from England, Shepherd moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University and stayed on to teach at the academy and create a fashion line out of her SOMA studio.

Shepherd’s Victorian menswear-inspired clothing evokes images of urban dandies and Byronic heroes, but her work is consciously feminine and innately modern. With tailoring that emphasizes shape over ornament, Shepherd draws her inspiration from classic British icons, whether fictional, like Alice in Wonderland, or real, like Elizabeth I. Despite the distant historical comparisons, her vision remains practical and wearable for San Francisco women who “know their own mind, who feel strong and confident in what they wear and who they are.” Like Elin, she’s also careful to consider San Francisco weather when designing. “There needs to be the opportunity to layer the clothes. There’s always, always a layer to them.” More local design! See our Pixel Vision blog for 50 more of SF’s hot designers and an exclusive guide to reconstructing a boring button-down into something better, with designer Miranda Caroligne.

WHERE TO BUY

Al’s Attire

1314 Grant, SF; 415-693-9900. www.alsattire.com

Harputs Own

1525 Fillmore, SF; 415-923-9300. www.harputsown.com

Indie Industries and Joy O.

www.indieindustries.com and www.joyodesigns.com

Available at Studio 3579, 3579 17th St., SF; 415-626-2533

Jules Elin

www.juleselin.com

Available at Ladita, 827 Cortland, SF; 415-648-4397

Muscovie Design

www.muscovie.com

Available at Collage Gallery, 1345 18th St., SF; 415-282-4401

Mi

808 Sutter, SF; 415-567-8080. www.themiconcept.com

Sara Shepherd

www.sarashepherd.com

Available at M.A.C. 387 Grove, SF; 415-863-3011

Shaye

La Library, 380 Guerrero, SF; 415-558-9841

Turk+Taylor

www.turkandtaylor.com

Available at ABfits 1519 Grant, SF; 415-982-5726

Strap ’em on and ride with IMsL

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By Marke B.

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“It’s THAT time again. Time to pack your leathers, shine up your latex, lace that damned corset, polish those sexy black boots and get your hot ass to San Francisco. International Ms Leather Weekend is calling YOU!”

Hells yeah. Two years ago, Hunky Beau and I had the unique pleasure of attending the climactic event of this wondrous annual weekend-long affair, the International Ms. Leather competition. We were surprised not only by the warmth and openness of the community but by the humor, dedication, and depth displayed by all the contestants — those skill-testing questions were hard! (The best one: “You’re given a stick of gum, a SuperBall, and a frog. How would you use them in a scene?”) And the outfits and talent numbers were damn hot-hot-hot. At the end we were cheering all the contestants on like happily disciplined schoolboys.

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International Ms. Boot Black 2007 Ms. V (front), IMsL runners up Shdiva and Joanne G (right and left) and IMsL 2007 Lauren, from Phoenix. Photo by David Schnur.

It looks like registration is still open for all you sexy (and sexy curious) leatherwomen out there. This is a perfect opportunity to network with your peers, learn a few deliciously naughty and technically challenging tricks, check out an incredibly diverse array of hotties, renew your commitment to the leather code (Honesty, Trust, Respect, and Integrity), and, of course, cruise the multiple play spaces!

International Ms. Leather Weekend 2009
w/ International Ms. Leather and International Ms. Boot Black competition
March 17-19, 2009
www.imsl.org

Objects of Obsession: Branch out

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SFBG’s Laura Peach rounds up local items and experiences to die for. See her last installment here.

As a girl, I would spend summers wandering through island woods at my grandparent’s house. I always loved the birch tree bark, and would peel pieces off the trees to make little dresses of white and pale pink for my dolls, always wishing that there was a big enough section of bark to create a skirt my size.

Although I was never able to wear the wood of my childhood, recently I’ve been on the lookout for ways to bring the forest alive in my everyday urban home life. Here are a few of my favorite finds, wooden through and through. They just may bring out a different type of tree hugger in you.

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1. Wooden Wallet

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A real slab of wood is not the best thing to have in your pocket. No one wants slivers in their behind. But the thoughtful, science geek designers at San Francisco’s Hlaska were enamored by the beauty and grace of wood grain. They reproduced the patterns found in a real pine tree onto Italian leather for their Evergreen wallet ($125).

Hlaska, 2033 Fillmore, SF. (415) 440-1999, www.hlaska.com

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2. Log Life

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This watering can ($16) is the sweetest stump I’ve ever seen. Hydrate thirsty plants using the log pitcher and they may be inspired to grow grander and greener. Made from recycled plastic, so no trees were harmed and you can hold the branch handle guilt free. Oh, it also makes for a nifty vase.

Doe SF, 629 A Haight, SF. (415) 558-8588, www.doe-sf.com

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3. Pink Poison

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The bright, bold berries bursting off the black branch on this t-shirt ($28) are supposedly poisonous. But such a pretty pink color makes them hard to resist. I might be tempted to pop one in my mouth.
Designed by San Francisco contemporary art golden boyTucker Nichols exclusively for Richmond’s hippest object/art/book shop Park Life, this berried branch shirt is a catchy closet addition for sure.

Park Life, 220 Clement, SF. (415) 386-7275, www.parklifestore.com