Cheers to a few of my favorite locals
by Hank Donat
My favorite San Franciscans aren't famous, don't work at City Hall, and might never find their names in the Social Register. Marilee Smeder from the Nob Hill Gazette confirms that a National Social Register still exists, but a San Francisco Social Register has gone the way of antiquarian bookstores. It's just as well. We don't need someone deleting names with white-out every time a rube hands protocol chief Charlotte Shultz a business card without approval from Shultz's canny staffer Matthew Goudeau - a faux pas - as I did. Remember, wait for Goudeau. Shultz, who is famous and does work at City Hall, also happens to be one of my favorite San Franciscans. Still, the locals I admire most are average Joes and Josephines.
Gideon Kramer was frustrated by the shabby appearance of his neighborhood near Dolores Park, so he staked out ten square blocks and personally removed graffiti, stickers, litter and other debris. Next Gideon painted, patched, and polished every trash receptacle, mailbox, and lamppost. His effort is now a model program. Mayor Willie Brown implemented Gideon's approach as the Green Patrol in North Beach. Now the mayor trumpets Gideon as one person making a big difference.
Rob Murray is a ray of light. In a plaid shirt, Rob stood out last week like a kernel of corn in a bowl full of peas at a SOMA loft-warming party filled to the rafters with men in black. Rob doesn't need a scene; he has more sparkle than a roomful of Ricky Martins. Rob, a broker, worked for the recently defunct City institution Sutro & Co. Founded in 1858 by brothers Adolph and Gustav Sutro, theirs was the first brokerage west of the Mississippi. In its day, Sutro & Co. financed the cable cars and IPOed PG&E. Earlier this year the company was absorbed by RBC Dain Rauscher of Minneapolis.
The smart and funny Janet Hung is the proprietor of Castro Tarts, and what could be more appropriate? The chief of tarts on Castro Street is Hung.
Kitty Burns is known on Nob Hill as her alter ego, Mina Harker. Mina is the hostess of the San Francisco Vampire tour, which combines legends of the undead with lore of the City. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, are an autographed program and untorn tickets from a little show at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. It was the final public appearance of the Beatles. The souviners are on loan to the museum from Kitty, who attended the performance. Kitty's enthusiasm for stories of San Francisco and for visitors here is on the level of atomic-powered.
Eight year-old Ethan Fraser is the son of celebrity bartender Mike Fraser, but in their Cow Hollow apartment building, Ethan is the real star. Every holiday, without exception, Ethan liberally scatters the appropriate style of confetti on the building steps. Neighbors love it. If they're self absorbed on Valentines Day, Ethan's heart-shaped confetti reminds them to pick up flowers on their way across town. They've come to depend on Ethan's cue.
Steve Gruel is a federal prosecutor with the Organized Crime Task Force here. That's intense work, but Steve has a hobby that helps him stay connected to the City. He's the extra extra, silently appearing in a dozen movies and TV shows here in recent years. I spied Steve in Little City, smoking cigarettes with Jon Bon Jovi's character at an AA meeting. Steve's wife, Nora Youna, is the fourth grade teacher who lead the charge to repair the heating system at Redding Elementary School on Pine Street after Mayor Brown visited the building filled with shivering tots last year.
Breaking with the premise for two of my very favorite San Franciscans, here's one who until recently worked at City Hall, and another who's famous. Asked how she managed to stay so popular despite her many years on the Board of Supervisors, Sue Bierman tells me, "I always thought of it as fun. Maybe that had something to with it." See why I like her? Next is PJ Corkery, our hardest working columnist. I'm disqualified from that superlative because I drop everything to watch All My Children twice a week. PJ, however, has more than enough verve to cover everybody's business like nobody's business in his daily Examiner column. That he's done so with orthopedic problems, which he discussed in a KRON 4 interview, and still takes the time to support other local writers' work, including mine, is astonishing. When I started "Heart of the City" online in February, 2001, I saw a need. San Francisco had far more columns than it needed but only one written from the singular point of view that is, "I love, love, love this town." That was PJ's.
Between deadlines, I'm attending the gala "Tails of the City" benefit auction for the Destination Foundation and the premiere of Elvira's new movie at the 4 Star on Clement. I'll be back in two weeks with my usual glint on things.
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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat