A 'fairly typical' day in San Francisco
by Hank Donat
On the northeast corner of Van Ness Avenue and Union Street, a section of concrete has been replaced, truncating the sidewalk imprint there so it now reads "VAN NESS A" instead of "VAN NESS AVE."
Ever since I first noticed this on an outing to Upper Fort Mason and Municipal Pier, I've been certain that a mysterious stranger from Hillsboro, Oregon has already made the journey to San Francisco via San Rafael on a #70 Golden Gate Transit bus, stepped out onto Van Ness and Union, and reinvented him- or herself in the time it takes to cross the street.
Somewhere between Russian Hill and the San Mateo County line, "Vannessa" has taken up lodging in the city of self-invention. It's my personal film noir fantasy, and one that rings true in the land of Emperor Norton, Donna Sachet, Warren Hinckle, and Willie Brown.
Noir City is the theme of the San Francisco Film Society's first film noir festival, which starts this week. It's an incredible program of cinematic tales of true grit and true greed, all filmed in the city.
Though well known entries like Dark Passage, Sudden Fear, and Experiment in Terror are cornerstones of the program, the film society and noir author Eddie Muller have unearthed a gem. "Thanks to Anita Monga of the Castro Theatre and a new archivist at Universal," Muller reports, "we have a print of Woman on the Run that hasn't been screened in 50 years, if ever."
The rediscovered film from 1950 stars Ann Sheridan as a woman searching for her missing husband, the only witness to a murder, before the murderer finds him and rubs the poor chump out.
The San Francisco Film Noir Festival runs Jan. 17-24, at the Castro Theatre. Woman on the Run screens Saturday, Jan. 18.
If things like a foggy night or a misspelled street name can evoke a film noir fantasy, a Board of Supervisors meeting can be justly likened to jury duty on acid.
Last week's meeting, during which Supervisor Matt Gonzalez was elected to succeed Supervisor Tom Ammiano as president of the board, was great San Francisco theatre. (Choose the link for photos of the 01/08/03 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.)
"You can't buy that kind of drama at A.C.T.," said Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, after repeated voting failed to break a deadlock between Gonzalez and Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who had four votes each. With six votes needed to win, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell remained similarly stalwart in her position not relinquish her three votes.
As with all live theatre, watching at home on television is informative but nothing like being there. (The regularly scheduled weekly meeting of the full board is moving to Tuesdays at 2 p.m., starting next month. I strongly encourage every San Franciscan to attend a meeting in person at least one time.)
Those who only watch the meeting on television won't see McGoldrick raise his jacket over his face to form an ersatz Cone of Silence in order to negotiate with Peskin just inches from the press box after five rounds of voting failed to produce a consensus.
Earlier off-camera moments included Supervisor Bevan Dufty in his office with his feet up, having his shoes shined while surrounded by a half-dozen supporters as well as Barbara Taylor, who was waiting for an interview, and Kimiko Burton, who draped a purple and white lei over Dufty's video monitor before the meeting.
Though the deadlock suggested to some that no backroom deal had been struck to install a president, it was clear to others that there had been three.
When Peskin retreated and threw his support to Green Party member Gonzalez after the sixth round of voting, the stage was set for Peskin to "lose without losing," as Ammiano later said.
Peskin says he flipped in the spirit of cooperation, but many wondered whether they could have done the same. If anybody thinks the board presidency is not an extremely important position, just ask Dianne Feinstein.
One more-than-casual observer who's tickled pink over the outcome is former board president, mayoral candidate Angela Alioto.
"I'm delighted," Alioto says of the Gonzalez victory, "I'm a strong Democrat but number one to me is San Francisco. Matt is extremely capable and he's proven himself to be a leader. I support Democrats, but hey, St. Francis was a Green!"
Alioto says she'll report in disclosure filings at the end of the month that she's raised more than $250,000 thus far for her mayoral campaign. With the full campaign season still several weeks - if not months - away, Supervisor Gavin Newsom has also raised a considerable campaign warchest.
Former Supervisor Sue Bierman, who spoke in support of Maxwell at the special Wednesday session, said of the meeting, "I think it's fairly typical," and that could only be true in San Francisco.
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Copyright 2003 Hank Donat