Heart of the City Archives



Mister SF and the three-party system
by Hank Donat

Be advised: When queried for directions to 111 Minna Street, Mapquest.com - the popular website that helps people find their way - provides directions to 1111 Minna instead*. That’s how I found myself ten blocks away from Supervisor Matt Gonzalez’ campaign kick-off party last week.

What happened next could be an ‘only in San Francisco’ story, but who would want to claim it?

Realizing my error, I retrace my steps to Mission Street and hop on an inbound 14-Mission bus - car #5427 to be exact. At Eighth Street, the driver attempts to lower the lift in order to board a passenger in a wheelchair.

Impatience sets in quickly among the passengers. The usual grumbling and half-uttered expletives follow.

A full four minutes later, the driver tires of struggling with the mechanical lift. He decides it’s broken and reluctantly asks the passenger if he can take the next bus.

Unperturbed, the would-be passenger gets out of the wheelchair, picks it up, carries it onto the bus, and sits down in it. Among the other riders tongues wag, teeth click, jaws lower.

For those closely following the mayoral election campaign the Gonzalez kick-off comes as a relief. We went to the first of such events seven months ago.

Of all the kick-offs, Gonzalez’s was most like a party I would attend. That shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement, however. I don’t know if anyone can get elected mayor on the support of art lovers in their mid-30s. That describes 85 percent of those present, not a cross-section of San Francisco.

I ran into “Bohemia” author Herb Gold on my way in. The notorious party crasher known only as Steve from “The Partygoers” (thepartygoers.com), Veterans Affairs Commissioner Veronika Cauley, and California Democratic Party Internet Caucus Chair Rick Hauptman were also among familiar faces and old friends.

A collection of sculpture made from old boom boxes lined the art gallery at 111 Minna. The scent of gardenia filled the air as video footage from the point-of-view of a car driving around the streets of the city was projected onto a screen in the smaller of the gallery’s two rooms. The other is a cavernous space with a long bar.

Asked how he felt on the occasion of Gonzalez’ launch, Supervisor Chris Daly said, “Like a hundred dollars.” That’s Daly, always keeping things within reach for the average person.

Because Gonzalez’ late entry in the race came as a surprise to most progressives, split- or dual-endorsements will not be unusual during the campaign. The winner of the “I support my candidate 50 percent” award is Public Defender Jeff Adachi who actually took the stage to champion both Gonzalez and Supervisor Tom Ammiano at their respective kick-offs.

Green Party member Gonzalez is the subject of next week’s column, the final entry in my series of unique outing with the candidates.

The day before the Gonzalez party, Herb Gold was among the revelers at adman Robert Pritikin’s Labor Day fete at Pritikin’s mansion on Chenery Street.

It seemed like the beginning of summer rather than the traditional end of the season, as everyone looked like sunshine under the swaying poplars in Pritikin’s garden.

Mr. And Mrs. Arnold Laub, Angela Alioto, Eugene Schoenfeld (aka Dr. Hip), mediaman Lee Houskeeper, Adam Reeves, Phil Frank, Karla Le Vey, and half the cast of the Nob Hill Gazette including Bella Farrow were also among those who wouldn’t have missed the event for the world and didn’t.

A performance by Mickey Rooney, an old standard who reminisced between old standards, was a highlight. You have to hand it to a guy who needs a teleprompter to name his ex-wives.

Renaissance man Pritikin, who’s also a magician and sometimes hotelier, is an accomplished saw player. Yes, saw as in that which cuts down trees. Pritikin nearly stole the show from Andy Hardy with a performance of SF favorite “Over the Rainbow.”

But I was most taken by Pritikin’s extraordinary art collection. It includes a Polar Bear sculpture by San Francisco’s legendary Benny Bufano, an oil by Tamara de Lempicka, a reproduction of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch, and the animatronic clock from the recently defunct F.A.O. Schwartz store on Stockton Street.

From the Continuity Department: I also found Dr. Hip Schoenfeld at the Bay View Boat Club a few days earlier at a party in honor of the 60th birthday of rock world personality Dr. Twist.

The boat club is one of the most beautiful environments in all of San Francisco. I hope China Basin and Mission Bay development doesn’t ruin it.

Dr. Twist is a real-life figure in Ron “Born on the Fourth of July” Kovic’s second book, the novel “Around the World in 8 Days.” The novel is a favorite of George McGovern.

Honoring Dr. Twist at the boat club were about a hundred friends including Ron Raynham of the Sierra Club, real estate guru Susan Schellhardt, former Chronicle marketing director Dean Church, Nancy Anderman, Robin Levine, Trish Kettering, and Maritita Timiriasieff.

Twist tells me his portrayal in the hippy-trippy “8 Days” is mostly accurate but adds, “For the record, I did not kill my dog.”

All together now, “only in San Francisco.”

(*It turns out I was typing "Mina" into Mapquest by mistake. I must have been thinking of my friend, Mina Harker." - HD)

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Copyright 2003 Hank Donat
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