A can't-miss Christmas by the bay
'Twas the night
before Christmas when all through the town each creature was stirring
and dashing around. With stockings of fishnet and thoughts devil-may-care,
every Mr. and Ms. San Francisco had better beware.
Mercifully, that will be the extent of my so-called poetry to appear
in this column. Though I am a shameless nostalgia peddler who misses
the Herb Caen Christmas poem as much as the next person, the incongruity
of San Franciscans singing about sleigh bells and snowmen prevents me
from getting overly absorbed in the winter festival.
Still, for a place where the average temperature is 54 degrees, San
Francisco holds its own as a holiday hot spot. Not long ago, Monique
Verrier of the Mission District introduced me to the annual performance
of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Ensemble at Slim's on Christmas Eve.
It is now among my favorite holiday traditions.
Stu Smith's cabaret Hob Nob for Shanti is also a bourgeoning institution.
Since 1974, Shanti volunteers and staff have helped people with cancer,
AIDS, and other life threatening illnesses by providing daily emotional
support and practical assistance.
Smith's benefit, now in its fifth year, was held last week at the Plush
Room and featured performances by a raft of top local talent. Comedian
Bob Sarlatte, violinist Dick Bright, vocalists Tim Hockenberry and Lisa
Baney, and the fantastic bass player Daniel Fabricante all made it a
cool yule along with visiting chanteuse Spider Saloff of Chicago. Bruce
Bellingham of the Examiner and Al Hart of KGO radio were the emcees.
Offstage, Saloff bonded with man-about-town George Tobias, who appeared
as an elegant Father Christmas. Like Saloff, this Santa has roots in
Illinois - northern Illinois it is presumed. "I've played in Peoria
many times," says Saloff, "Jack Benny and I are the only two that were
ever asked back."
Hockenberry stole it with a performance of "Christmas by the Bay." With
lyrics like, "The Golden Gate is glowing on this cool December night
and the city's highest towers shine like presents wrapped in light,"
it's as wonderfully schmaltzy an anthem as "I Left my Heart in San Francisco."
Clark Sterling and Nolan Gasser wrote Hockenberry's sentimental radio
Caen's longtime assistant Carole Vernier, Chuck and Donna Huggins of
See's Candies, and mediaman Lee Houskeeper are all among locals who
wouldn't miss this event and didn't.
Here's a scooplet: Vernier, who's been living on the peninsula, is moving
back to the city in the spring. Add Carole to this list of people who
mistakenly thought that close to San Francisco was close enough.
With plenty of time remaining to plan for each, following are some of
the other best-loved and unique holiday outings in the bay city.
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy is Lisa Geduldig's Jewish comedy night at the
New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Avenue. Geduldig is San Francisco's
most enduring Jewish lesbian comedian. She says pork is kosher so long
as it's in a wonton, so what better venue than New Asia? Judy Gold is
on the bill this year. I watched Gold tape a television special at the
Fillmore several years ago and caught her on cable recently. The new
sets include very funny material on the plight of her kids Ð they have
two Jewish mothers! Proceeds benefit Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
Dec. 24-27. www.koshercomedy.com
If you have to be in Union Square with kids, the Shelton Theater's "Celebration
of Holiday Silliness," a comedy, magic and juggling show is bound to
make everyone's day. 533 Sutter. 522-8900. Dec. 21 and 28 at 3 and 7pm.
San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker is always a great way to introduce
children to classical ballet. It's also among the best of the few major
Christmas events that run beyond Christmas Day. Through December 28
at the San Francisco Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue.
The Christmas Ballet presented at Yerba Buena Center by Smuin Ballet
includes both classical ballet and modern dance and also run through
December 28. www.smuinballets.com
Victorian Home Walks offers a Christmas-themed tour of Victorian homes
daily through New Year's Eve. 252-9485.
I know a die-hard San Franciscan from the Excelsior who frequently visits
Fisherman's Wharf without out-of-town relatives, but I won't blow his
cover. Swallow your pride and catch the lights at Fisherman's Wharf
through New Year's Eve.
In North Beach, Beach Blanket Babylon's Holiday Extravaganza runs through
New Year's Eve at Club Fugazi, Green Street and Columbus Avenue. 421-4222.
Why not round out the year by catching the annual New Year's Eve fireworks
display on the Embarcadero? You can watch from a window seat at the
Top of the Mark or on a rooftop on a hill with a best friend in toasting
distance. I think that's how I'll do it.
Happy holidays from Heart of the City.
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