Monday, April 22, 2019

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon meets Beach Blanket Bingo! 

After 45 years, the musical revue extravaganza that is Beach Blanket Babylon is closing at the end of this year. I was somewhat heartened to read that the the imminent closure was not as a result of a massive rent hike, but rather that the show's head felt it was time to end things. 

HRH the Queen, Mary Martin (Peter Pan), Tony Bennett & Steve Silver, the show's creator 

I first saw the revue with my mother sometime in the late 70s. My hazy memories of the show include Snow White looking for love, massive head pieces worn by the performers that would make Carmen Miranda groan, and a cast of characters pulled from both political and popular realms. The last time I saw BBB was in the late 80s and I want to say that they sent up both former SF mayor Diane Feinstein and Michael Jackson. 

Charles and Camilla on stage with cast

Some of the cast and crew have been with the production for decades. I would imagine that they are reeling at the news. These performers have been blessed with a steady gig and great benefits like paid vacaction, paid sick leave, and health insurance. What will they do next? There aren't many shows in this town for local performers to sink their teeth into over the long haul and there certainly aren't any other shows like Beach Blanket Babylon here at all. A sensational piece of San Franciscana is going the way of the dinosaur come New Year's Eve and how unfortunate it is. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Flintstone House

For as long as I can remember, there has stood an odd cave-like sprawl of a home up on a hill overlooking the 280 freeway. As a child, I would point excitedly at the structure and squeal: 'Flintstone house, Flintstone house!' whenever my parents drove down I-280. I suspect that not only children in the '70s like me said this, but adults as well as the name has stuck all these years. In recent articles regarding The Flintstone House, it is now also known as an 'eyesore' and a property 'not in keeping with community standards'. 

The home's architect, William Nicholson, was interested in creating dome-like structures by spraying shotcrete, concrete projected at high velocity primarily on to a vertical or overhead surfaces, onto steel rebar and wire mesh frames over inflated aeronautical balloons. The technique had been developed just a year before in 1975 and was still considered experimental at the time. Nicholson apparently created a series of these 'dome homes', but this is the only one you might have heard of as of late. 

The original house was a drab beige and sort of fit in well enough along a hillside made up of ever-green trees and dry brush. Sometime in the the mid-2000s, the house was painted a burnt sienna color. -really easy to spot from the freeway (although it always had been). A few years ago, the home was listed on AirBnB. The AirBnB ad showed a structure that had morphed bit from monochrome to this: 

A woman called Mrs. Fang bought the property two years ago and decided to go whole hog with the Flintstone theme. The property grounds are now host to an interesting assortment of statues and other structures. The view from 280 shows a menagerie of dinosaurs. At the entrance to her home stand life-size Flintstone cartoon characters including Betty, Barney and Fred. 

This is what the property looks like now: 

Front entrance

View from Interstate 280

Her neighbors have registered a complaint with the city and it's been determined Mrs. Fang is in code violation. I think the wealthy citizens of Hillsborough are mostly up-in-arms because they think her house looks garish. What's vaguely ironic is that given how large the lots are in this area and how the greenery rather obscures one's view, the neighbors who are upset can't actually see much of what Fang has done to the property lest they are driving by on the highway. 

Fang has retained the services of attorney Angela Alioto, a woman from a prominent San Francisco family who recently unsuccessfully ran for mayor. Mrs. Fang, also not unknown in SF's 'high society', if you will, is the former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. 

Alioto alleges that racism is behind the opposition to Fang's *ahem* improvements. 

According to court documents, the dinosaurs standing in her yard count as 'unenclosed structures that require prior approval and a building permit'. Neither of which Fang has obtained.

I'm interested to know how this saga will pan out. Will Mrs. Fang have to dismantle her pre-historic zoo or will her neighbors have to suck it up in the name of a bit of a cartoon fun? 

An unadulterated Nicholson design in Palm Springs

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

My cousin

I managed to write up a short piece about my cousin, Erik, for his 50th b-day bash being put together by his partner. The plan is to gather missives about Erik from friends and family, replete with photos, into a booklet format and present it to him. If I'm being honest, I really didn't want to write anything. I'm still dealing with the pain syndrome in my foot and that seems to suck up much of my focus. 

Here's the snippet: 

Even though I’m only one year younger, I have always looked up to Erik. He was the one all the adults seemed to like. He was funny, charming, articulate and just pleasant to be around. He could sing, act, dance, ride horseback…what couldn’t he do?!

I remember when he got the part in A Christmas Carol at the A.C.T. in San Francisco. It was a huge deal and we were all very proud of him. I went to see the production with my Dad and remember hearing Erik recite his lines from on stage. -very thrilling. He had such talent at such a young age.

The thing that has most impressed me about Erik was that he always seemed to be his unvarnished self: audacious, a bit flamboyant with tons of charisma. Occasionally, I meet 20-somethings today that remind of Erik when he was that age and I think: Erik did it first, sweetie.  

Erik is a terrific provider for his family and a great father. I’m just as proud of him today as I was then.

Pillow fight between my cousin and me, ca. 1977. I am clearly losing. 

My cousin and me, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Sort of Irish Grandma

My cousin's partner has asked that friends and family write a blurb for my cousin's upcoming 50th birthday bash about how much he means to us. We're also meant to include pictures. I have some old photos stored on the computer, and, while looking for cousin snaps, I stumbled over one of me from 1970ish. I put the more current pic up just below it for contrast. :D 

In the Kodak picture, I'm on my Grandma's lap at the house in Little Hollywood. Grandma Irene was a lovely woman and I adored her. Irene had four siblings: Alice, Bobby Rose (I couldn't tell you her given name) May and Margaret. I think they all might have been born here, save for one girl, Alice, who died on the boat journey over, to Irish immigrants escaping destitution back home at the turn of the last century. By the time I came around, Bobby Rose was both a widow and a drunk; she was nice yet sad. May I knew rather peripherally as she no longer lived locally & Margaret I knew not at all save for the time she came down for a visit & smacked me across the face for interrupting her while she was talking to Grandma. I was 7. Oops. 

After May died, Grandma inherited her dogs: Mr. Chips & the one that had had its larynx removed. Back in the 70s, it was fairly common for barky dogs to undergo this procedure in order to remove their ability to bark. It sort of worked. The barky dog just sounded like it was dry heaving all the time instead. Mr. Chips was lovely, however. Chiquita, Grandma's chihuahua, didn't much like the arrangement, but she, of course, had no say. 

The only time I really understood that Grandma had had a slightly different cultural history than me was when she referred to where her family was from. She'd say what sounded like: County KAHRK. In American English, the county name preceeds the word 'county'. In Ireland, it was apparently the other way 'round. I had no idea where this magical-sounding place could have been. It took me until the early 90s on a trip to Ireland to realize that 'KAHRK' was, indeed, Cork. I have to tell you that when I saw the word 'Cork' for the first time written in Irish (Corcaigh), it sort of all made sense.

Grandma was Irish Catholic. She never much mentioned her faith, but there was a massive portrait of Jesus in Grandma's house. Jesus' eyes would follow you everywhere you went in the room. As a girl, I sometimes would purposely walk bath and forth while looking at him directly in the eye just to test this theory out. It never failed. This Jesus was of the bloody, thorn-crown variety. He was in agony. I found him very unsettling. 

Grandma also made a sort of stew she called Slumgullion. I can't remember all what was in it, but it was hearty and filling (and inexpensive to prepare). I sort of made it up that Slumgullion was an Irish thing (read: poor folk cuisine), but, maybe it was simply an immigrant dish brought over by those hailing from both Ireland and Great Britain. Anyone else grow up eating Slumgullion? 

-off to look for pics of my cousin now. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

55 years ago...

the first graduating class of Woodrow Wilson High School (Spring '64) in San Francisco buried a time capsule on the grounds of their school. What was inside? -nothing about either Elvis or The Beatles, apparently. Found in the capsule were items almost exclusively having to do with school life: prom mementos, a class photo, a commencement brochure & a copy of the school paper. 

In 2014, as the campus was being converted into Phillip Burton Academic High School, a group of adults from the first graduating class were invited to participate in the unearthing of the time capsule. My mother happened to have been class president her senior year, so she was extended an invite to attend. You can see her in the second photo down to the left of two other Class of '64 kids.  


Unfurling the class photo

Prom program, the theme was “Non Dimenticar,” Italian for “never forget". Tickets were $5.

School newspaper

Wilson was the first high school on the southeast side of the city to have been built. My mother never talked about it, but I've heard from others that there was a lot of racial tension as blue-collar white kids mixed with with black kids from Hunters Point on campus. During my Uncle's time at Wilson some 8 years later, the school had already developed a rep for being 'tough'. When I was a teen, Wilson kids were seen as those whom you didn't fuck with. 

Having closed its doors in 1996, Wilson High School is now but a distant memory. How nice for my mom and her old school chums to have been able to participate in the time capsule excavation. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

My chi is out of wack.

Do any of you know what the efficacy is regarding having accupuncture treatment? I'm wondering if part of the discomfort I'm feeling in my toes could be connected to energy blockage from lack of exercise due to a stress fracture of the foot. I have naturally low blood pressure and a wacky condition that leads to my extremities becoming white & hurting if exposed to cold temperatures. Not crazy-cold temps, but just cold enough to bother me & not others. 

PT doesn't seem to be a cure-all, but it has helped. Time, assuming that the stress fracture is still in the healing phase, should continue to heal. In the interim, however, pain signals being sent to my brain for seemingly little to no reason are really getting me down. 

Here's a picture I took before the foot injury back in Sept. I had just finished with a run through the park & was sitting looking at the Windmill. This woman was having her partner take multiple snaps of her with the Windmill and attendant tulip garden as back drop. She sort of looked to me like a human butterfly, so I took a photo of her as well!

Here's a picture of the Mondrian House out by Ocean Beach. It's been painted this way for as long as I can remember. It's a 2 bed, 1 bath home now on the market for 1.5 million bucks. Any takers? 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

'Six degrees...

of Kevin Bacon' is a little game that involves determining how many people (usually actors) distant one is from the actor Kevin Bacon. It's based on the idea posited by a sociologist (I think) back in the early 20th century that we are all six human links, more or less, removed from one another. If one were to take into account social media 'friendships', then I suspect that the degrees to which we could be connected are even fewer. 

Anyway, I figured out the other day that I am, indeed, connected to Kevin Bacon via two other people. Not that it's terribly riveting information, but they are as follows: 


Bo Graham (childhood chum)

Mickey Rourke (worked with Bo Graham in film called Out in Fifty)

Kevin Bacon (starred with Rourke in Diner)

I'm three links from Kevin Bacon, so, according to the language used on the website, The Oracle of Kevin Bacon, I have a Bacon no. of three. 

My husband's route to Kevin Bacon is: 


Quinn (friend of hubs)

Bill (father of Quinn)

Brad Pitt (starred in 12 Monkeys with Bill)

Kevin Bacon (starred in Sleepers with Pitt)

My husband would appear to have a Bacon no. of 4. 

Given that the hubs was futzing around LA in the 90s trying to become an actor, I would think the distance between him and Bacon might be even shorter. 

If you've not already wondered to what degree you might be connected to Kevin Bacon, then do wonder now! It's a sort of silly, but kind of fun pursuit.