Heart of the City Archives









Portrait of a City in the Mood for Love
by Hank Donat

Various moods of the city are reflected not only in the alternating winter and spring weather, but also on the faces of ordinary San Franciscans reviewing the concerns of the day.

There were jeers for the 49ers at the Marina Sports Bar for letting quarterback Jeff Garcia get away.

Ask a Giants fan there about Barry Bonds and you're likely to get a breathless, say-it-isn't so expression. Bonds said it wasn't so, that he didn't take steroids, but the story won't go away.

Possessiveness and other states of mind: The Sports Bar's marquee has a possessive problem. The electronic sign announces the number of "tv's" inside. The furniture liquidator on Van Ness Avenue and Geary also advertises "tv's."

There is a trend toward the apostrophe. Last week, a local film critic mentioned that scenes from Philip Kaufman's new thriller "Twisted" were filmed at "Tosca's." It's really just plain Tosca Cafe. If there were a Mr. Tosca who owned the place, I suppose you could say "Tosca's," but there isn't. Tosca is owned by Jeanette Etheridge.

Jubilation continues at City Hall as gay weddings go forward. I was surprised to find applause breaking out every few minutes, flowers everywhere, and happy families running around, still, weeks after the historic wedding of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.

In order to have my own wedding on short notice on Valentine's Day, I placed on my husband's finger a ring that belonged to my late brother. Because I wanted Jeff to know he was marrying a San Franciscan, my own wedding band was a mood ring.

Our first stop after the ceremony was a well known jewelry store. I wouldn't be so crass as to drop names, but I will say it's the place that's mentioned in the song, "Santa Baby."

A protest against gay marriage on the steps of City Hall last week was a striking portrait of the culture wars. African-American preachers Rev. Gerald Agee and Rev. John Clark of Oakland, Dr. Paul O. Cruz of Los Angeles, and Rev. Felix Bobo of Culver City came to San Francisco with about 50 followers from L.A., San Jose, and Oakland to pray for the repentance of gays and lesbians and to denounce gay marriage and Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Their message is clear: the freedom train to Selma was hijacked by gays a long time ago. God says being gay is a big no-no.

The demonstrators are as earnest as you can get. Some began speaking in Tongues. Because of the passion and theatricality of the evangelists' presentation, a commitment to their message is obvious. In other words, they really believe what they're saying. That's more than can be said for certain politicians.

Other members of the African-American community have supported gay marriage. During the Democratic presidential debates, Rev. Al Sharpton was the candidate most outspoken in favor of gay rights. In the city, Thomas Fleming of the highly respected Sun Reporter - San Francisco's only black newspaper when Fleming founded it in 1944 - authored an editorial supporting same-sex marriage.

Gay and lesbian city officials who came and went from the scene of the demonstration were at first nonplussed. As the gay marriage boom has picked up steam in other states, cities, and towns in America, the general sentiment among observers here, gay and straight alike, was that the demonstrators are simply rowing against the tide of history. Oddly, the protest became a scene of tolerance, with the preachers as the tolerated.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty said, "I'm glad they're from out of town. They're welcome to come to San Francisco." He added, "But don't invoke the name of God to tell me we should deny people their rights." Dufty said the push for gay marriage is "an unstoppable movement."

Hearing the harshness of speeches and slogans such as "Homosexuality is Sin," city Treasurer Susan Leal asked me, "What would Christ do?" Five days earlier, Leal performed the marriage ceremony of entertainer Rosie O'Donnell and Kelli Carpenter.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano is never more dignified and worthy of his status as a progressive statesman than when he is confronted by anti-gay forces. Head held high, Ammiano left the scene virtually unnoticed.

Sister Betty Does of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence danced in front of an anti-gay banner while a preacher held a sign over her habit that read, "Repent and Believe in Jesus."

Watching the protest from the top of the steps were Linda Wheeler and Renae Jueson of Seattle, a lesbian couple of 18 years. Jueson, an electrician, marched in civil rights protests in the 1960s and was one of the only professional electricians who would train blacks in Seattle at that time. Wheeler, says Jueson, "is the best thing that ever happened to me." They were married at City Hall the following day.

iPod therefore I am: It looked liked the lines for marriage licenses when Apple Computer opened its new store at Stockton and Market, where thousands got in the queue for a free t-shirt and a chance to see and touch the company's new mini iPod.

Vinny Cecco of Russian Hill is the Apple employee who named the iPod, the company's popular personal music device. Cecco felt the name described something that created a personal space. His team at Apple agreed.

A San Francisco-phile with an iPod will find an overlooked treasure at Apple's online music store, where songs are sold to download for 99 cents each. Brenda Lee's fantastic version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is available there.

Lee's unfamous recording is to some ears better than the one by Tony Bennett that's known all over the world. Frank Sinatra was said to be displeased with his take on the song and withheld it from release for some time. Of course, any one of these recordings would turn my ring from steely black to blue as the beautiful San Francisco Bay.

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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