Heart of the City Archives
Mrs. Toad's Wild Ride
by Hank Donat

It's great to see San Franciscans rallying behind Musee Mecanique. I'd miss Laughing Sal because Sal gets all my jokes. The Musee has long been the red-haired stepchild of the Cliff House, as anyone knows who visits there regularly. Leaky ceilings and crumbling walls are the norm in the Musee's basement digs. Since Mr. and Mrs. San Francisco wait until their institutions are threatened before acting to preserve them, the Cliff House remodel might be the best thing that ever happened to the Musee, the country's best collection of antique arcade machines. This triage mentality is only human nature. Just ask the Doggie Diner's plastic surgeon. Moving on...

Stephanie Caruana, the former Playgirl magazine journalist who authored a condensed "Skeleton Key" version of Bruce Roberts' infamous Gemstone File conspiracy in the 1970s has been in touch. Roberts entertained folks at the old Drift Inn, now the Yong San Lounge, on Bush Street with his complex tales linking the CIA, FBI, and the Mafia to JFK, LBJ, Ted Kennedy, Richard Nixon, the Washington Post, Howard Hughes, Martin Luther King Jr., the Watergate conspirators, and many others in an alleged grand machination. Roberts died of lung cancer in 1976 but not before his Gemstone File had been circulated all over the globe in the form of photocopies of notes on cocktail napkins and the like. Among Roberts' claims: Aristotle Onassis had Howard Hughes kidnapped and drugged for at least a decade. The alleged kidnapping put the aerospace industry under the control of the international Mafia, which lead to the assassination of JFK.

Here on earth, Caruana offered to send "Heart of the City" a review copy of a new CD-ROM version of the Gemstone File, which includes hundreds of pages she says were "kept suppressed until about a year ago." However, Caruana reconsidered after reading my recent interview with Angela Alioto in which I shared a cappuccino with the former president of the Board of Supervisors. Did I mention that Mayor Joe Alioto and the Pope were also involved in the skullduggery according to Roberts and Caruana? Oh well, I'll have to skip this new edition, scintillating though it sounds. For those willing to cough up $10 via her web site, www.gemstone-file.com, Caruana promises the new version will reveal "fascinating information about how our country is run, and by whom." And all this time I thought Ed Moose was running the show...

On Van Ness Avenue near Pacific, I watched as a pigeon walked, yes walked, across four lanes of traffic and the median for a bounty consisting of exactly one tortilla chip, only to have it intercepted by a gull in the final inches. Vermin just can't get an even break anymore, and I'm not talking about term limits. In San Francisco, where the most creative men and women have migrated like swallows to Capistrano for decades, we've found only a few words to describe our much reviled pigeon population. Appellations range from winged rats, to rats with wings, to my favorite - flying rats. Get the picture? 

How to be a San Franciscan #131: Drink too much or smoke too much, or do not drink nor smoke at all. The latter is especially appropriate after the former. 

How to be a San Franciscan #132: Don't vote.

That was Holli Thier, fourth-place candidate for the hotly contested Democratic nomination in the 13th Assembly District, tooling down Polk Street the other day in her beige 1989 Honda Accord. Like a true Mrs. Toad adventure, Holli's wild ride from Capp's Corner in North Beach to City Hall for a press conference went down in nothing flat. Reviewing prepared materials and applying her visage at the same time, Thier's hands didn't touch the wheel from Jackson Street to California on Polk. I'll forgive her for risking my life if you will.

Almost from the moment she announced her candidacy, Thier - who just returned from Africa, where she spoke to women about civil rights - was set aside by a lot of our political scribes as an also-ran. That's too bad, because the intelligent and funny Thier, whose message never got further than the standard, "I'll work hard on behalf of the people," is one who actually meant it. Sometimes the person who wins isn't always the person who gets the most votes. Thier, a past president of the League of Women Voters, ran with integrity from start to finish and refused to go negative while Harry Britt and Mark Leno duked it out. She's figured out that in the City on Golden Hills, the high road leads to beautiful vistas. Just try to get there alive, Holli, and keep your hands the wheel! 

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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
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