Willie's new ride:
Former Mayor Brown has been taking the bus.
It's the same old City, with change to spare
If I woke
from a 13-year nap I would find that George Bush is running
for re-election with a war in Iraq and the poor at home getting poorer.
A closer look reveals that some details have changed. In 1991 it was
about "the economy, stupid." Today it's about, "how stupid do you think
As I looked around the City during the past week I found that many other
things had also changed and stayed the same in varying ways and degrees.
Piccadilly Fish and Chips on Polk Street is a neighborhood institution.
For several years it was commonly known as a no-name joint because until
recently the only sign out front was a 7-Up soda ad. A new sign proudly
proclaims Piccadilly. The fish and chips are as crispy and delicious
On my way to the Piccadilly, I found former Mayor Willie Brown at a
northbound bus stop at Union and Van Ness. Citizen Brown, still dressed
by Wilkes Bashford and Ruth
Dewson, used a Fast Pass. I didn't see it, but I assume former mayors
get a lifetime Fast Pass. Brown will let me know if I am wrong about
Brown sat in the front of the bus and chatted with the driver while
passengers traded expressions of amazement. Had Da Mayor become a man
of da people? Quicker than you can say noblesse oblige,
Brown asked the driver to let him off at Clay Street, where there is
no designated stop. The driver pulled over for Willie. Some things never
change and why should they? A busload of Mr. and Ms. San Franciscos
had an unusual sighting to report at dinner.
Imagine my shock when I turned the corner at Bush and Jones and found
a worker moving sinks and other equipment out of a dark Mister
Lee's salon. Mister Lee's catered to a society and celebrity client
list at his beauty parlor and spa at 834 Jones Street for 37 years.
Mister Lee was a neighbor of mine. Anyone could randomly run into Ann
Caen or Bea Arthur on the
corner because of the presence of his salon in the area. The decidedly
unglamorous block on the wrong side of Nob Hill also appears in the
Eddie Murphy movie "Metro." In
"What's Up Doc?" Barbra Streisand
watches a pizza chef toss dough in the shop that's Cybelle's today.
Lee says he wants to slow down, so he sold the building. He'll continue
to see clients at the St. Moritz salon at the Grand Hyatt at Union Square.
Lee is also taking clients at salons in Marin and Napa. So much for
slowing down! Helen Reid, who runs St. Moritz is delighted to have the
acclaimed hairdresser on staff part time.
Striking changes greet visitors who enter the St. Francis Hotel on Powell
Street. The new Restaurant Michael
Mina opened with fanfare last week. In past incarnations, the hotel's
major restaurant was The Orchid Room, The Terrace Room, and most recently
the Compass Rose.
As its corporate owner Starwood rightly proclaims, the history of the
St. Francis is inexorably woven into the history of San Francisco. As
part of its continuing anniversary celebration, the St. Francis' own
Howard Mutz and Steve Wong have lovingly curated an expansive collection
of artifacts and photos from the hotel's 100-year history.
The displays truly have to be seen in order to believe the registry
of historic figures who have stayed at the hotel, from Ann Richards
to Zubin Mehta. The platinum banded china used by Queen Elizabeth for
the Royal Visit State Dinner
in 1983 induces oohs and ahhs.
Something that's missing from the hotel lobby is also likely to catch
your eye. The historic lobby clock where you could "meet me at the St.
Francis" has been moved to the entrance of the Grand Ballroom. (Update:
The clock was returned to the
lobby after some public outcry. - HD)
The City recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the revitalization
of the cable car system, which was out of commission for two years before
returning to service in June of 1984. Before that time, little had changed
in the cable car, which was invented in 1873.
In March, 1966 Miss America Deborah Bryant appeared for a photo opportunity
in the City as grip operator Luther Cann switched on the Car 527's new
windshield wiper. It was touted as the first innovation in cable cars,
but I've found a non-mechanical exception.
Mona Hutchin was a 19 year-old college student in the early part of
1965 when she staged a protest against the long-held tradition preventing
women from standing on the steps outside the cable car. Police hauled
Hutchin off after she refused to step inside, but there was no legal
violation with which they could charge her. Muni officials then asked
the City Attorney to formalize the prohibition of women from riding
on the outside board, but that request was denied.
The winner of the 42nd Annual
Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest, held last Thursday at Union Square,
was Keith Ware. He was awarded his trophy by the 42nd mayor of San Francisco,
If you think you
remember that the 40th annual contest was held just last year, you are
correct. A Muni historian said that records show the contest started
a year earlier than was previously believed, making last year's winner,
Ron East, the 41st champ.
Finally, everyone who appreciates changing San Francisco should go to
Jessie Street between Fourth and Fifth for a stunning sight - the dome
of the old Emporium. It is held high by a tower of beams in order
for workers to build the new Bloomingdale's under it. Wrapped in white
plastic, the stand-alone dome is visible all the way to Potrero Hill.
The hundred year-old, steel and glass structure weighs a half million
pounds. It will be the centerpiece of the new Bloomingdale's when the
doors open in 2006.
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to use the Local Joints
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