Heart of the City Archives

Proprietor Joe Obegi takes a lunch break at Joe's Cable Car Restaurant, an institution at 4320 Mission Street since 1965.

One for the little guys of the Little City
by Hank Donat

Ask not for whom the heart of the city beats, it beats for you, "the little guy." 

People don't talk about the little guy so much anymore, probably out of political correctness. A lot of little guys are women.

So I was glad when little guy landlords - let's call them LGLs - took center stage during the tumultuous Board of Supes committee meeting over potential amendments to the City's rent control ordinance. The proposed changes would favor tenants, who are usually littler than their LGLs.

My favorite LGL is an 80 year-old widow from North Beach. Mrs. P, as she prefers to be known, owns a building at Union and Taylor. One of her three units is a three-bedroom apartment for which Mrs. P receives $575 per month in rent from her tenant of 20 years.

Mrs. P's tenant, the head of a three-income household, saved a nice chunk of change from his outpost at Mrs. P's place and was able to purchase property in Marin. The tenant will stay at Mrs. P's while collecting rent on the Marin digs. Who says socialism doesn't work? Mrs. P, that's who.

Supervisor Tony Hall is another fan of the little guy, with the exception of little guys who come over on BART to block traffic for peace.

At a fund raising dinner for Angela Alioto, who sues discriminators on behalf of little guys, Hall surprised many when he vigorously announced his support for Alioto for mayor. 

Hall told the gathering of Attorneys for Alioto at the Holiday Inn on 8th Street that he would reserve his option to get in the race himself, "only if Angela can't bring it home."

Hall then performed a rendition of "That's Amore" that only a mother could love. 

Building contractor Jim Reid is the little guy in the race for mayor. This month Reid was able to stave off eviction from his Bernal Heights home during 11th hour negotiations with his own LGL. Now Reid's looking for a benefactor who will support his efforts to build affordable homes for the homeless, "the way Gordon Getty supports Gavin Newsom." 

Newsom, the big guy in the mayoral race, told Reid he's Newsom's second choice for mayor if instant runoff voting is in place by the November election. Now that's amore.

Little guy wine maker Tom Kehoe owns the only winery in San Francisco. Tom donated bottles of cabernet for the gift bags handed out to survivors of the 1906 Quake at this years memorial ceremony at Lotta's Fountain.

The gift bags would be the envy of an Academy Award presenter - if the presenter were a San Franciscan. See's Candy and bouquets by Sylverti's on Bayshore Blvd. were also among the goodies.

Joe Obegi is a little guy who has proven that some of the best neighborhood institutions aren't in the famous neighborhoods at all. Joe's Cable Car Restaurant is worth a trip out to Mission Street at Silver Ave. and continues to be the model of a great local joint.

Joe says, "If you give people their money's worth and treat them right, there's no reason they won't come back." On a recent visit I saw folks getting out cabs to drop in for burgers and shakes. 

A true San Francisco-phile, even a committed downtownie, can top off a trip to Joe's by driving past the Patty Hearst arrest location, nearby at 625 Morse Street.

Christina Augello has run the Exit Theatre in the Tenderloin for 20 years. She stars in an encore run of "The Last of the Red-Hot Dadas" starting this Thursday through May 3. Augello portrays The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, a little guy whose influence on the Dada art movement was huge. 

The Norton-esque Baroness paraded around Greenwich Village for five years beginning in 1918 wearing "fanciful artistic clothes," prompting the New York Times to report that Elsa "never met an egg beater she didn't wear."

Also in the theatrical realm, cheers to independent author Tom Slattery whose screenplay "The Last Human" was among the winning entries in this year's FilmMakers.com screenwriters competition. Tom's 2001 novel "End of the Road" is a follow-up to Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." 

Socialite Harry Denton might not seem like a little guy, but when he's hanging out with neighbors of Jasmine's Cafe at Bush and Mason, Harry's just one of the gang.

Among my favorite little guys is Paul Quintilian, who teaches at the St. Paul of the Shipwreck school. Paul was one of 17 teachers at independent middle schools honored by the Herbst Foundation last week for Teaching Excellence. 

The Chauncey Gardner of the Bay View, Paul uses the school's garden to keep his 7th grade students engaged in learning. A complete list of the honored teachers and their schools can be found on the San Franciscans Wall of Fame.

My favorite little guy is the Muni driver who just last night as I was exiting his coach said simply, "See you tomorrow," and in that instant reminded me what makes San Francisco forever The Little City. 

Welcome to MisterSF.com. Please visit the site often to keep in touch with San Francisco, for your own amusement, and to use the Local Joints section as a portal for independent businesses. Keep your money in the neighborhoods... Watch this space for observations, interviews and more from around town. All other sections of MisterSF.com are also updated continually, so come back and watch us grow!

Contact MisterSF.com

Copyright 2003 Hank Donat
mistersf.com home