Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
By Bruce Bellingham

Walter Cronkite was in the news last month, but as of this writing, Uncle Walter – the most trusted man in America before Homer Simpson came along – seemed to be doing all right up there in Cape Cod. When I think of Walter Cronkite, I think of his appearance at Herb Caen Day on June 14, 1996. On Channel 5, Marcia Brandwynne asked me why Walter was there: “Cronkite and Herb go back to World War II when they met in London; Walter was working for what was then called United Press, before it was UPI. Herb was there for the Chronicle.” Then Cronkite explained the whole story to the crowd. I was relieved I’d gotten it all right. He marveled about how a whole city could turn out to honor a columnist: “San Francisco didn’t need Herb Caen to bring it fame, but he put a frame around its gorgeous and glorious image.” When I think of Walter Cronkite, I think about the time he talked to Michael Dixon and me about his book on sailing. I also think about how my lust for spare ribs and champagne on my 12th birthday kept me home sick from grade school the next day. That’s how, on Nov. 22, 1963, I watched Walter Cronkite, without his jacket on, break into As the World Turns on CBS, live, and announce the shooting of JFK in Dallas. I owe that witness to history to my mother’s indulgence, and to my youthful penchant for pork and bubbly. “The road to excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom,” wrote the poet. I wonder. ...

More carnal knowledge: Morgan Hamm and Drew Stevenson, who run the deli in Nob Hill’s Le Beau Grocery on Clay and Leavenworth, famed for their Friday Fried Chicken, have become local stars. The gals gush over them, the guys pose probing questions about Thüringer and other meaty matters. My grandmother used to say, “Lips that have touched head cheese shall never touch mine.” She had that message embroidered in a frame, hanging in the kitchen. Nah, Nana never said that. Sorry. Now I owe an apology to animal rights advocates for freely discussing all this anti-veggie behavior. But, PETA, let me ask you: Do you really want a president who wouldn’t harm a fly? ...

After 35 years or so, Van Morrison, who’s been living in Ireland and England, is moving back to the Bay Area – Mill Valley, actually – where his daughter, songstress Shana Morrison, lives. She acquired her musical education in her grandparents’ record store in Fairfax. “Van wants to lie low and cool out for three or four years,” says his old friend, Myles O’Reilly. “Mill Valley is the right place to do it.” In the old days, Van and his band used to show up unannounced at small clubs all over Marin and San Francisco. Of course, most of those clubs, such as, The Lion’s Share, Keystone Korner and The Boarding House, are gone now. For the first time in 13 years, Myles did not have a Bloomsday celebration last month at his pub and restaurant at 622 Green Street. “We thought we’d give it a rest this year,” says his companion, Chiching Herlihy. No worries. James Joyce is always in attendance at the pub – in the mural with the other Irish writers on the wall. Every day is Bloomsday at O’Reilly’s. …

A big turnout at the Washington Square Bar & Grill on June 20 to honor Linda Fimrite, who was the popular hostess there for six years. Linda, who was married to the wonderful writer, Ron Fimrite, had been fighting cancer. She died on May 26 at the age of 72. She was famous and loved by many through her years as a painter, a publicist and a political consultant. Linda loved to tell stories about her time working on Senator Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign in 1968. Linda also worked on John Tunney’s U.S. Senate campaign. She also didn’t mind saying that she delighted in seeing herself described as “the gorgeous Linda Fimrite” by P.J. Corkery and, later, in my column in The Examiner. It became a bit of a tradition. Linda Fimrite was indeed gorgeous, both inside and out. ... Another loss to the neighborhood: Two hundred people crowded into MoMo’s near the ballpark on June 11 to bid a farewell to Leslie Asche, the irrepressible server at MoMo’s and the Washington Square Bar & Grill. Leslie, a voracious reader and astute interpreter of human nature, died on May 1 after a brief illness at the age of 62. No quicker nor saltier wit than Leslie’s. It was a bit unsettling when Jim Schock, the author and broadcaster, suffered a seizure at the bar during the wake for Leslie, and had to be trundled away by ambulance. But Jim’s all right. The doctors declared his condition as indefatigable and sent him home. ... Speaking of ambulances, Oscar Levant’s favorite conveyance, among the fees that are skyrocketing in order to live in San Francisco, is the fare for riding in a city ambulance. It will rise from about $1,000 to $1,500. That’s one way. I might have to go back to taking taxicabs. ...

The veteran actress Diane Baker, who’s in charge of the acting department at the Academy of Art University, is promoting the 50th anniversary DVD edition of The Diary of Anne Frank. When she was 19 years old, Baker played Anne’s sister, Margot. “Please don’t tell me that movie was made 50 years ago,” laments Carole Vernier. “I can vividly remember seeing the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam when I was a kid.” I guess it’s best we not forget. … “I’m not going to let Doctor Sorrow operate on me today,” avows Sharon Anderson. “I wish I’d said it, but Tom Waits did. He said everything good that Bob Dylan didn’t.” … Perry’s on Union Street is observing its 40th anniversary this year. Dr. Harvey Caplan, a Perry’s regular, just observed his 70th anniversary. Harvey’s a rare fellow – a scholar, a musician, and a very convivial, compassionate physician. No Doctor Sorrow is he. … All live music has stopped abruptly at Shanghai 1930. It’s apparently another casualty of the not-so Great Depression of 2009 ... Stu Smith describes Connie Champagne as “San Francisco musical royalty.” She’s to be forgiven for living in Los Angeles. She’s still part of the local fabric of this town. And such fabric, I’m tellin’ ya, dollink, just touch it. Connie sings Judy Garland better than Judy Garland. Connie’s back in town, boys, performing Songs to Make You Gay at the New Conservatory Theatre, 25 Van Ness, from July 9 through Aug. 1. …

A new study shows that a regular toilet plunge, when properly used, is just as effective as traditional CPR in saving a heart attack victim. Yes, a toilet plunger. “Unfortunately,” observes Norm Goldblatt, “most health plans won’t cover it. Too expensive. Do you KNOW what a plumber charges these days?” …

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay, published by Council Oak Books. He’s not about to let Doctor Sorrow operate on him:



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