Heart of the City Archives

Coffee on the Griddle: San Francisco's newest treat.
Hot and cold running City
by Hank Donat

"If ever the Lumiere goes, I go." That's where Martita Timiriasieff puts bottom line on the loss of neighborhood movie houses. 

Memories of the single-screen Royal Theatre on Polk Street continue to come by email since I reported on the Royal's demolition two weeks ago. (Heart of the City 07/15/03.) 

Dave Streich says, "I visited the Royal the day before they closed the doors for good. The last picture was 'Blues Brothers 2000.' The house manager gave me a tour behind the screen and down the stairs to the original vaudeville dressing room. 

Dave describes a sense of spirits, "dancing girls in frilly dresses and funnymen in big bow ties," whirling around the room.

Pam Bousman shed a tear for the Royal, too. "I was off from work on Mondays and went to the matinee week after week. I loved that theater. The screen was huge, and the people who worked there were true San Francisco characters." 

It's the Royal's extra long candy counter that Susan Ford misses most. "It seemed to go on forever," says Susan.

All might find comfort knowing that the condo complex going up on the site will incorporate the Royal's facade.

The inclusion of a theatre marquee on the new building strikes me as mawkish, however, even a bit mocking. It may be a Marquee de Facade, but the theatre, let's face it, has gone the way of all flesh.

Some tributes are more alive. The Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter Street, is named for San Francisco writer Kenneth Rexroth. The Rex includes a new business center called The Study.

San Francisco literary figures are honored in The Study, a quiet workroom for business types. Lillian Hellman, Jack London, Dashiell Hammett, and Rexroth are represented with materials there. 

The Rex's new Cafe Andree is named for Rexroth's wife, Andree Dutcher.

The Study and cafe are elegant additions to the hotel, located just a block from the former Sherlock Holmes Esquire Public House, a replica of the great fictional detective's study that's been gone for years now. 

Farewell Favorites: Wade Crowfoot, the popular City Hall figure who was Supervisor Aaron Peskin's aide, has left us for the London School of Economics & Political Science. Lesson #1 - forget everything you learned at SF City Hall! 

This one hurts. Farewell to the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), which ran out of steam last week after making the City a more beautiful place for 20 years. Every San Franciscan will miss SLUG's priceless contribution to our landscape.

My best wishes go out to Darrell Solomon, with whom I've shared Page A4 of the San Francisco Independent for the past year and a half. Solomon, an attorney with a busy practice in the City, published his final column in that space July 22. 

I'm excited about filling the void with weekly beats of Heart of the City. 

In with the New! Here's an update from mayoral candidate Angela Alioto, who was awaiting the arrival of her first grandson when we visited the St. Francis shrine in North Beach a few weeks ago. (Heart of the City 07/01/03.)

Sebastiano Thomas-Alexander Veronese-Lind was born July 11. "Even the birth certificate lady was a bit taken aback," says Alioto of the baby's name. The proud parents are Alioto's daughter and son-in-law, Angela Mia Veronese-Lind and Jason Lind. Sebastiano is the couple's second child. His sister, Chiara Mia, turns four in October.

A coffee shop opened on Union Square last week, a year after the historic park was rebuilt from scratch as a marble plateau I like to call "the Griddle." Art deco lamps by R.M. Fischer were added in the spring, finishing off the Griddle's new look at last. 

Before the lamps arrived, I wondered whether they would add some character to the square or just look like heat lamps over a griddle. The verdict is in: "Betty, please. Order up!"

Despite breathless coverage on local television, I've yet to talk to a San Franciscan who gives a fig about the feds renaming the San Francisco Bay Area the "San Jose San Francisco Oakland Metropolitan Area." A rose by any other name would smell as sweet as the jasmine on Russian Hill.

Way of all flesh, Part II. It was sad but quite a wonder when a dead whale washed up and was buried on Ocean Beach this month. Independent editor Tom Prete went down to have look and reports that the graffiti written on and carved into the rotting carcass was an unseemly surprise for the gathering crowd. Tom observed the nauseating site so I wouldn't have to. Finally an editor with a nose for news! 

The Space Lady, whose lilting accordion music sprang from the sidewalks of San Francisco for nearly 20 years before she relocated to the Denver area a couple of years ago, says some recent sightings of her in the City are erroneous. 

However, she says, "Someone must have seen my mental/psychic image during one of the many times I've projected myself there." The Space Lady, whose real name is Susan Dietrich, says that when she does return I, and therefore you, will be the first to know.

Unclear on the Concept: If your name is Daisy and you're going to swear someone to secrecy, next time don't do it in your outdoor voice over a cell phone on a crowded 45 Union bus. 

Viva the Little City!

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Copyright 2003 Hank Donat
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