Tag Archives: San Francisco

Beach Blanket Babylon Closing in San Francisco After a 45-Year Run

Those hats! Those huge, wonderful, silly hats, each larger than the last.

Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical review, is as much a part of the San Francisco mythos as cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and beautifully painted Victorian houses. But after 45 years and 17,216 performances, the show will close with 2019’s New Year’s Eve finale.

The ever-evolving show uses modified lyrics from popular songs to poke mildly racy fun at celebrities and politicians, many of whom, like Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in the picture below, turn up in the audience sooner or later. (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had already seen an abbreviated performance of the review in 1983.)

The show could probably have run forever, since it had become a sure-fire way for San Franciscans to entertain out-of-town visitors.

Every performance ended with the audience joining the cast in singing a rousing and joyous rendition of “San Francisco”—the real, Jeanette MacDonald “San Francisco”, from the 1936 movie of the same name.

New Year’s Eve at Beach Blanket Babylon

The Beach Blanket Babylon website has an excellent collection of pictures from the show, including one gallery dedicated exclusively to those giant hats. It also includes videos of selections from the show’s New Year’s Eve performances. Here’s the one from 2018:

(All photos found on the Web.)

MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco House Is on the Market

When I heard that the house that was the setting for The Real World: San Francisco was on the market, three things surprised me:

  1. It’s been 23 years since that third series of MTV’s Real World franchise was televised. Season Three was undoubtedly The Real World’s high point, focusing as it did on the tragic, charismatic Pedro Zamora, the 22-year-old AIDS educator who died a few hours after the last show of the series was televised. MTV gets a lot of well-deserved criticism for the coarsening and dumbing down of the culture, but there have been times when it redeemed itself, and this was one of them.
  2. I had no idea that The Real World is still on the air. I’m well out of the demo and haven’t watched MTV for years, so I was unaware that the network has been cranking out its saga of drunken bad behavior, narcissistic fame whoring, and pixelated nudity for 32 seasons. That means the children of the earlier cast members are now old enough to be on the show.
  3. The asking price for the RW house, at 953 Lombard Street on Russian Hill, is $5,800,000. It was originally listed at $7,999,995 in May, dropped to $6,999,000 this month, and dropped again a few days ago. If you’re interested, you can view the listing, with pictures, at realtor.com.

Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent — Now in Theatres

Until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know this film existed, but it’s become my Must See movie of the month.  Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, produced by Anthony Bourdain, is an overdue look at the fascinating Jeremiah Tower.

Here’s the film’s official synopsis:

Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent explores the remarkable life of Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy. Tower began his career at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1972, becoming a pioneering figure in the emerging California cuisine movement. After leaving Chez Panisse, due in part to a famously contentious relationship with founder Alice Waters, Tower went on to launch his own legendary Stars Restaurant in San Francisco. Stars was an overnight sensation and soon became one of America’s top-grossing U.S. restaurants. After several years, Tower mysteriously walked away from Stars and then disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades, only to resurface in the most unlikely of places: New York City’s fabled but troubled Tavern on the Green. There, he launched a journey of self-discovery familiar to anyone who has ever imagined themselves to be an artist. Featuring interviews by Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart, this delicious documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of America’s first celebrity chef, whose brash personality and culinary genius has made him a living legend.”

And here’s a recent interview with Jeremiah Tower and Anthony Bourdain, discussing the documentary on CBS This Morning:

Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, fresh from the Tribeca Film Festival, is now playing at a single theatre in Los Angeles and a single theatre in New York, but will expand to another 11 cities on Friday, 28 April 2017, with many more venues to follow.

For a great look at the early days of Chez Panisse, you can’t do better than this excerpt from David Kamp’s book, The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation which Vanity Fair published under the title “Cooking up a Storm”. Kamp combines a thoroughly researched look at the origins of Chez Panisse with gossipy stories about the drug-drenched environment and the complex sexual entanglements of the key players.

Feud: Bette and Joan, the first of Ryan Murphy’s accounts of famous “complicated” relationships, has just ended its season. He’s tackling the story of Prince Charles and Lady Diana next. If he’s at a loss for a third season, he should consider the story behind the decades-long debate about whether Tower or Alice Waters was most responsible for the rise of Chez Panisse to the first ranks of American restaurants.

The Steps of San Francisco

The Moraga Steps are a charming example of the creative ambiance that makes San Francisco my favourite American city.

The base of the steps is at Moraga Street and 16th Avenue.   In the early years of the 21st century, ceramist Aileen Barr and mosaic artist Colette Crutcher, working with more than 300 volunteers, created the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project.

It took more than two and a half years to complete the project.  Along the way, they used over 2,000 handmade tiles and 75,000 fragments of tile, mirror and stained glass to create the 163 separate mosaic panels that comprise the Moraga Steps.   There’s one panel for each step riser.

Here’s a glimpse of the result.   All photos were found on the Web.

San Francisco, 110 Years Ago Today — A Few Days Before the Great Earthquake

The film that’s reproduced in this video was taken by a camera mounted on the front of a San Francisco cable car on 14 April 1906.

That was four days before the Great Earthquake, which lends the film a certain Last Days of Pompeii quality.

David Lemon, who posted the video to YouTube, included a detailed commentary in his notes on the site.  He mentions, for instance, that historians have been able to identify the owners of the cars that appear in the film by looking at old license plate records, which sort of demonstrates both that end of privacy isn’t new, and that once it’s on the Internet, it’s forever.

Best viewed in short doses–it gets repetitive–and with sound effects muted.

William Del Monte

Photo from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo from the San Francisco Chronicle.

This is Bill Del Monte, who was the last known survivor of the 1906 earthquake.  He was less than three months old when it hit, and died just three months ago, at 109 years old.

The San Francisco Chronicle gave him a nice write-up when he died.

Don Herron and the Search for The Maltese Falcon

For a long time, The Maltese Falcon was my favourite movie.  I’ve seen it more times than I’ve seen any other film—in theatres and on tablets, on late-night TV and on videotape, on PCs and at movies-on-the green.

Commemorative Plaque in San Francisco

Commemorative Plaque in San Francisco

Don Herron lives in San Francisco, where The Maltese Falcon takes place.  Since 1977 he’s been leading the Dashiell Hammett Tour, which is now the longest-running literary tour in the US.   The three-mile, four-hour walking tour takes Sam Spade fans to the buildings where Hammett lived and wrote, and to the key locations from the books and the film.

The New York Times gave the tour a nice write-up last year.

Herron leads tours for groups by appointment, and for anybody who shows up in San Francisco’s Civic Center at noon on selected Sundays in May, September, and October.  This year, he’s leading tours every Sunday in October.

I’ve never taken one, but my brother David, who once considered renting Hammett’s (and Spade’s) apartment at 891 Post Street, has.  He saw the Buzzcocks live before I did, too.  But I’m not envious.

Sure I’m not.

Here’s the original 1941 trailer for that movie about The Bird: