Heart of the City Archives

Wherehouse Records, 2083 Union Street. How do you spell 'downturn'?
03/11/03
Waiting for work in the City on Pause
by Hank Donat

I learned a long time ago not to assume too much about the political agendas of those I don't know, at least not on the face of things.

People sometimes think they've got my number because the Fang family publishes the print edition of this column. The conventional wisdom is that everyone - you and me included - is just a mouthpiece for the political agenda of someone who's in charge. 

I wonder how surprised those folks would be to know that in the more than a year since the Independent began publishing "Heart of the City," there hasn't been a single incident of someone from the paper changing the substance of a column, or telling me what to write, or what not to write.

I didn't support HOPE or Care Not Cash, as the paper did. I also don't support the Bush administration's Iraq policy, but I respect Darryl Salomon's right to advocate for it every other Tuesday.

The raison d'être of "Heart of the City" has always been to accentuate the positive, to celebrate life in a city that I believe, in spite of it all, is still the best in the country if not the world.

However, this column was never intended to be literary Prozac. The city is not well, and it's going to take a lot more than a sunny attitude to make it better. 

The police corruption indictments are national news, but the economy continues to be our greatest problem. 

Every day - not just six days a week, but truly every day - I meet folks who are spending their life savings to stay in San Francisco. They know, for all the well reviewed spiritual and emotional reasons, that this is simply where they belong.

What's emerging is a corps of idle talent that's playing a waiting game. Will a new market emerge here before they run out of resources to cover our notoriously high rents and gas that costs up to $2.39 a gallon? 

Hear this if your name ends in Alioto, Ammiano, Newsom, Leal or Ribera: These professionals in finance, law, marketing, advertising, and publishing, as well as artists and blue collar workers, are all waiting for leadership to emerge in the City on Pause. If it does not emerge soon, they will leave. 

While the elbow room is nice, it's the energy of San Franciscans that has driven the city to greatness throughout its history. We can not afford to lose the energy of these talented people.

Putting San Franciscans back to work is the ultimate challenge for our mayoral candidates. These candidates strive against a stream that includes not only the police scandal regardless of the outcome in court, but a national economy all but forgotten by the president in favor his agenda in the Middle East.

Mr. and Ms. San Francisco need jobs. It's a message that's repeated over and over to me wherever I go in the City. If the current crop of candidates doesn't hear this message, San Francisco will find a mayor who does. 

And the beat goes on... Allen White's program at the Metreon which marked the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the Fox Theatre has unearthed no end of oral history and artifacts from the once great movie palace on Market Street. 

Bootleg recordings of performances by celebrated organist George Wright were found, as was footage of the Bolshoi Ballet, which performed at a benefit to save the Fox in 1962. 

Wright is known as the Frank Sinatra of organ music. He died in May, 1998, the same month as old blue eyes himself.

The Fox Theatre's pipe organ, which was considered one of the best in the world, was later installed in the El Capatan Theatre in Los Angeles where it remains today.

Camille Barnes, a San Franciscan who was the last publicist at the Fox, shared some of the best stories. Once, while promoting a screening of the musical "State Fair," Camille was to appear on KPIX with a live pig that got stuck in an elevator at the station. 

It was hours before they could free the little piggy who should have stayed home.

Other Fox vets who surfaced for the anniversary were onetime usher George Freeman, projectionist Dick Bartell, and house manager Ken King. 

Spurred on by community interest, White is now spearheading a plan to install a permanent exhibit on the Fox at the Performing Arts Library and Museum in the Veteran's Building. Email fabulousSFfox@aol.com for more information.

Rob Murray, Bruce Davis, Greg Tepas, and Maggie Powers will represent San Francisco in the 26.2 mile City of Rome Marathon later this month. Rome only has seven hill to San Francisco's 43, and these intrepid atheletes have the calf muscles to prove it.

Maggie is running to raise money for diabetes research. You can support Team Powers by visiting Marine World in Vallejo, where the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is running a month-long fundraiser. Admission is half price through www.jdrfgreaterbay.org. 

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Copyright 2003 Hank Donat
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