Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
By Bruce Bellingham

If you stood on the deck of the USS Pampanito, the World War II submarine at Pier 45, and didn’t get a lump in your throat, nor a tear in your eye during the Memorial Day ceremony for the lost sailors, then I’d think your doctor would be hard-pressed to find your heart. There was a gentleness that undulated underfoot as high tide came in that Monday afternoon. It belied the racket that wartime must have created. On a Memorial Day, there was only that sweet sort of battering against the hull of the boat that encourages you to hold onto the ropes just to avoid a bruise on the knees. No such gentleness in those days, just 65 years ago. The only turbulence these days, it seems, might be found in the struggle to get clam chowder ahead of the crowd at Alioto’s. It’s astonishing to think this magnificent steel machine, called a boat, could actually do all the things she did; that is, to dive below the waves, fire large underwater missiles, and save 72 war prisoners who were floating in the unforgiving Pacific Ocean for two days or so. They used to call San Francisco the headquarters for the Pacific Theater during World War II. Some theatre. There’s no business like show business, and those sailors got lost so we can stay in business. …

Meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’d like to sell San Quentin to raise a little money for our languishing Golden State. And why not? Mickey Rooney, who’s running for state treasurer (racing form jammed in his pocket), might exclaim, “Hey, let’s paint up that old state prison, and put on a show!” … Sharon Anderson, a close friend of this newspaper, and a damned good guitar player, is putting on her own show right now, coming to a town near us. It’s called “Oblivion Newton-John”. That’s all right. I’ll hold her jacket for her. My oblivion has already arrived. … More show biz: Michael Dixon, the host of the KCBS News Magazine in the old days, winged into town Memorial Day weekend to collect his Doctor of Divinity from the S.F. Theological Union. Michael says he was amused, and touched, when the Rt. Rev. Lewis Rambo, bestowed the honor on him, saying, “You are now a physician of souls.” Does a doctor of divinity do house calls? I asked Michael. Mr. Dixon – sorry, doctor Dixon – has too much class to respond to something that déclassé. … Oh, speaking of painting things, then putting on a show, the Great Star Theatre, that indomitable fixture in Chinatown at 636 Jackson Street, is getting a new lease on life. At least a new lease. They still have classical Chinese opera there four times a year. The young, ambitious George Kaskanlian, and his partner, Kenny Montero, have taken out a 10-year lease on the place. This is what they have in mind for the opening this month: They booked the Primitive Screwheads, who are happy to splash you with fake blood while you’re seated in the audience. Tickets are 20 bucks per person. You’d think for that money, they’d provide real blood. “Some people wear white just for the experience, then have dinner afterwards.” Great thing about Chinatown: lots of good restaurants, and lots of good dry cleaners. Slain in the spirit, I suppose. ... If you wander up the street to North Beach, you’ll notice some good things going on. One is the restored and wonderful Washington Square Bar & Grill. Under the guidance of Susan and Liam Tiernan, the place has been returned to good music and lots of good cheer. Liam by the way, is a terrific musician, and has the good sense to hire other good players, such as Tim Hockenberry, Terry Disley, Mike Greensill, and Michael Udelson. Michael, the latter, played piano at the Four Seasons Hotel for many seasons. They weren’t seasoned enough to keep him. But The Square has him now. … By the way, there’s been talk about Frank McCourt, the eldest brother of Michael McCourt, who’s pouring drinks for the Tiernans. Yes, Frank’s been sick with cancer, but the masterful doctors in New York are taking great care of him; he’s doing quite all right at age 78. But more news on the Mighty McCourts: Malachy, another impresario of storytelling, broke his leg. I’d likely say to Malachy, “That’s what you get for kicking your friends,” but I’ll wait until he feels better before he thinks that’s funny. …

The San Francisco Film Festival was a great success. It’s always great to the see the local cognoscenti kicking about. I once said to Phil Kaufman,” I liked that film you made about the Marquis de Sade.” Phil shot back: “Yes, The Marquis de Sade knew how to get the ball rolling.” I’ll say. … There’s no way I may get away without saying something nice about Kim Nalley. Kim checks in from New York City to say that she pays homage to one of her many heroes, Nina Simone, at the Great American Music Hall, 855 O’Farrell, June 6. One of the many endearing things about Kim Nalley is that she embraces a panoply of hero figures. Another is Billie Holiday. Kim’s reworking her wonderful show about Lady Day at the Rrazz Room, Aug. 20 – 23. …

Catch-up on the wry: Joyce Maynard, the Marin-based writer who spilled the beans about her intimate friendship with the hyper-reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, is currently dating Steve Little, the overnight weekend anchor at KCBS. If you think I’m going to make a joke about overnight weekends, well, forget it. The New York Times once described Maynard as “the Lolita of all Lolitas.” By all accounts, Joyce and Steve make a very happy couple. This is their little secret. …
Isn’t it fun to engage in a little cheap gossip? Yeah, I know, a certain sweet salaciousness to it. What can I tell you? We do get our feet muddy on occasion, even in this high-toned column. I imagine there’s a compulsion to keep the ball rolling. …

Bruce Bellingham is behind the eight ball with his editor, Lynette Majer, right now. Wish him the best at Don’t call him. Lynette just cut off his phone privileges.


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