SUNDAY NIGHT was big in my house growing up; as a kid in Oakland I used to hang around Chinatown and eat at the old Silver Dragon on Webster with my high-school buddies from Skyline. The big deal in the 70's was how to get inside the Silver Dragon--usually it required at least a 10-dollar tip and even that didn't guarantee admission past the long line.
We had alternatives --my family liked the Grotto in Jack London Square. Again, Sunday night. Packed, a sea of humanity; Italians, Jews, Irish, Mexican, Black, White, it really didn't matter because the Grotto had the best salmon and fillet of sole--you want spaghetti and meatballs? Step right up. Where's the bread? It's coming, no need to ask.
My deal as I got older was heading over to North Beach in the late 70's. That was the last time it was fully Italian and Molinari's ruled the landscape. Vintage old Gino &Carlo was a scene, nightly, out of a Hollywood movie. My first trip there was around 1982. I was 20. The first time I ever met Herb Caen was inside the joint. Classic look, classic place. Herb was holding court with Willie Brown and Wilkes Bashford--I think they were having nightcaps --whatever they were having seemed unique and important. How so? Because later on, Joe Alioto walked in and they all went to the back and closed the door. Another classic scene. I have no idea what they talked about but all I do know is that a very attractive woman server went to the room with lots of good red wine and explicit orders from Alfred the bartender. I was curious as all get-go, especially when the cops came in; later on I learned Gino & Carlo was the SFPD hidden oasis. Still is today too although like most of the city its lost a lot of its soul. I miss the vibe. I miss Alfred too with his wise-ass look and gestalt--one time I walked into the bar with a cigar. It was late at night and I was trying to act like a big shot and impress a girl. You could smoke in SF then but I was reluctant to light up my big stogie so I asked Alfred if I could have permission: "Can I smoke a cigar?" He responded, "I don't care if you smoke crack!" Ah, classic Sunday night response from the classic bartender.
North Beach, circa 1984. The Condor. Carol Doda. Café Sport where a bowl of pasta and sand dabs was about 20 bucks. The streets were clean and you could even park! MUNI was on time and there seemed to be lots of spirit--NO cranes too--bonus time. Stop the presses! Van Ness was still Auto Row and the big pick-up place was Lord Jim's. The Punch Line on Battery was the comedy destination --it was there regularly where the likes of Bobby Slayton, Bob Sarlatte, Steve Pearl and Alex Bennett used to hang out. Every now and then Robin Williams would sneak in late and go up onstage and do a rousing 30-minute set. Complete bedlam. If Robin didn't show up there was Dana Carvey. Dana wasn't as huge a star back then; neither too, Roseanne Barr; as a judge of the SF Stand-Up Comedy Competition, I met Barr there. I had no idea she would eventually end up on the Tonight Show a year later. Dammit, I could have been her Tom Arnold but we didn't mix; she wasn't my type. Thanks for caring.
Back to North Beach and beyond. I liked to walk around and scope the scene and what a scene it was. Fat Tony. Charming numbers runner, Davey Rosenberg, marching outside Washington Square doing favors for Sam Conti. 415 Good Fellas in action. Nobody got hurt for the most part. The food was good. The cops were cool. The girls looked spectacular. A little rancor every now and then. Especially good old Con Murphy. Reminded me of a cross between Charlie Gain and Al Nelder. Characters. All of them. They used to drink at Geno & Carlo and later on have dinner at House of Prime Rib. That's the usual run even today. Sunday night at the House. They used to line up at 3--the place didn't even open up until 4PM. Cocktails! First one who wins liars dice gets a dirty martini on me! Hide the salad and get the King cut going. "Where's my Yorkshire pudding, Alice?" "And can I have extra creamed spinach!" Mission accomplished.
SUNDAY night in the city. Young and handsome, even I had my moments. I used to know this blond named Esther --she worked at Macys part time, was a student at USF and was one hot broad! She was into the theatre and loved all music and play. Met her one night at the lobby bar inside the Fairmont Hotel. I was working at K-101 back then (doing sports and news/entertainment) and got to interview the likes of Joel Grey and BB King. Esther was impressed. We had center seats and coveted dinner service for the Grey cabaret in the divine Venetian Room. What a room. Herb Caen's favorite spot. Thanks Carol Vernier for taking care of yours truly with a big assist to Rick Swig, whose family owned the hotel back then. Still can't fathom the Fairmont as second banana in today's hotel wars. Just go inside the lobby and tell me you don't see magic.
I'm not a native San Franciscan but I have an appreciation of the city, maybe not so much the people because the people have changed; times have changed (naturally) and not all change is bad it's just that the city, in my opinion, has lost its soul. The city of neighborhoods; its people, its characters, its artists have all but disappeared and that's just plain sad. I feel for the generation before me who were able to walk the streets and engage in real conversation. Today, the advent of cell-phones and social media has vaporized the radical concept of good old-fashioned conversation. You can't call anyone, it's against the law. To hell with discourse and the spoken word; you now must tweet and facebook it. Could you imagine Sinatra up on stage singing My Way and some tech schmuck playing with his smart phone? Get the goons, Frank is pissed! And truth be told, I'd pitch in five bucks for the execution.
Those were the days my friends ...Sunday Night. What theatre. What magic. What drama. Bill Graham. What tragedy. George Moscone. Joe Alioto. Leo Ryan. Harvey Milk. 1978. Richard Hongisto. Quentin Kopp. Diane Feinstein. Willie McCovey. John Rothmann. Dave's delicatessen. 1977. Star Wars. The Coronet at Geary and Arguello. Long lines. KGO Radio. Jim Dunbar. Owen Spann. Monte Stickles. Van Amburg. KGO-TV 277 Golden Gate Ave studios with Peter Giddings, John O'Reilly, Jerry Jensen. Jim Lange. Mayor Art Finley. Ronn Owens and Jan Black. Jerry Doyle. Peter Cleaveland "On the streets". The Studio Café across the street on GG Ave. KRON and PIX on Van Ness. Wayne Walker. "Mac". Hunan. Alfred's. Paoli's (If you didn't leave with a woman you didn't like women) Jim Eason. Ray Taliaferro. Ira Blue. Sonny Buxton. John L. Wasserman. Huey Lewis. John Fogerty. Saul Zaentz. Gerald Nachman. Stanton Delaplane. Charles McCabe. Art Hoppe. Art Rosenbaum. Wells Twombly. Ira Miller. Art Spander. Milt Kahn. Evan White. Jim Paymar. Cheryl Jennings. Art Cribbs. Carolyn Tyler. Valerie Coleman. Angela Alioto. The original Original Joes in the Tenderloin. Ben Williams. Joe Starkey. Bill King. Franklin Mieuli. Dick Vertlieb. Human tragedy. The Zebra Murders. Patty Hearst. Tania. SLA. Cinque. Donald Defreeze. Nancy Ling Perry. Mel's Drive In. Bill and Emily Harris. Dan White. Twinkie defense. Harry Denton. James J. Murphy. Tales of the City. Jim Jones. People's Temple. Willie Brown. Harvey Rose. Michael Zwerling. "NewsScene". Mike Hegadus. I'm Johnnnnn MACCCCFlanaghan, KYA! Dr. Don Rose. KFRC. Bill Lee. Dave, your duke, Sholin. Marvelous Mark McKay. Claude Mann. Marcia Brandwynne. George Reading. Belva Davis. Ed Baxter. Bob Melrose. Al Hart. Stan Bunger. Bob Jimenez. Rita Channon. Pete Wilson KRON/KGO. Joe Kapp. Tadich Grill. Spengers. Alioto's. Tommy's Joynt. Kwik Way/Oakland. Biff's. The International Hotel. The Hookers Ball. The Days on the Green. Tower of Power. Eddie Money. The Pointer Sisters. Carlos Santana. Blue jackets. The Paramount Theatre in Oakland. Fenton's. Doggie Diner. Quinn's Lighthouse. Jenner by the Sea. Santa Cruz. Beach boardwalk. Corn dogs. Saltwater taffy. It's it's. Al Attles. Rick Barry. Charles Johnson. Phil Smith. Charlie Williams. KSFO. Lon Simmons. Al Michaels. Don Klein. Monte Moore. Charley and Humphrey. Walt Harris. Bob Wilkens. Joe Angel. John The Count Montefusco. Chuck Muncie. Joe Roth. Memorial Stadium. Jim Plunkett. Gene Washington. Kezar Stadium. The Oakland Civic Auditorium. Keystone Corner. Todd Barkin. Top Dog on Durant in Berkeley. Keystone Berkeley. Neldam's Bakery. Candlestick Park. The Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Arena. The Cow Palace. Gensler Lee Diamonds: the store with the heart! Top of the Hill, Daly City! Eddie Alexander: Good luck everybody! Gregg Jordan. Russ Coughlin. Bill Fiset. Gary Fiset. Golden Gate Productions. FM Productions. The Fillmore. Winterland. Joel Selvin. Dick Bright. Alex Bennett. Gil Haar. Mike Pechner. Harry Geiss. The US Festivals. Steve Wozniak. Roy Steele. Kenny Stabler. Art Thoms. Billy Kilmer. Nate Thurmond. Glenn Dickey. KDIA. KFOG. KSAN. KPFA. Dario's Pizza. Mel Belli. 700 Montgomery Street. K101. Playland at the beach. Snow cones. Kasper's hotdogs. Boz Scaggs. The Balboa Café. Perry's on Union Street. Tower Records. The Marina Safeway. Victoria Station (and tell 'em Johnny Cash sent you!)
Inevitably, I left someone or something out. Apologies.
*Follow me on Twitter