When it comes to the category of arts and entertainment, gift ideas are an open field. This is a practical one: Why not get someone a membership to any of the local museums? Perhaps a gift certificate for A.C.T. is more your thing. A.C.T. gift certificates are available for any amount – from a single ticket to a five-play package. Plus they never expire and are redeemable for all A.C.T. performances and events, as well as classes in the Young Conservatory and Studio A.C.T. For more information, visit www.act-sf.org/gift.
Or how about a gift card for the ever-splashy Teatro ZinZanni? It can go toward a ticket purchase, pay for drinks, or even to snatch up items at the ZinZanni Gift Store. Go to www.zinzanni.org.
Jerry Cimino, who runs North Beach’s Beat Museum, has a suggestion for locals and auslanders alike: “Even if you’re scaling back for Christmas, you’re still probably going to be buying some gifts for friends and family – do it at Kerouac.com. You may be tempted to buy from Amazon or some other discounter to save some money. I’d ask you to remember that Amazon does not have a Beat Museum for you to come visit.” To make a purchase, click on www.kerouac.com/homepage.htm.
The St. Regis Hotel is offering a holiday package that might have been more expensive a year or two ago. Tickets for St. Regis Aficionado’s Holiday Magic includes a performance of ODC Dance’s The Velveteen Rabbit, accommodations for one night at St. Regis including two tickets to the private pre-performance tea party at the St. Regis with visits from the show’s leading characters, and VIP seats for the performance. The package costs $395. 415-284-4000, www.stregis.com/sanfrancisco.
I have some ideas for books as gifts this year. There’s a new pictorial history, Historic Photos of San Francisco Crime (Nashville: Turner, 2006). Hannah Clayborn has gone through more than 200 rare photographs to portray the City’s malfeasance, murder and mayhem from the late 1800s to the modern era, while also exploring the legacy of corrupt politicians, gangs, prostitutes, and thieves. Now, that’s a great gift! Gets me in the holiday mood. What would San Francisco be without its undercurrent of menace and crime?
Weller’s War: A Legendary Foreign Correspondent’s Saga of World War II on Five Continents(New York: Crown, 2009) is a collection of dispatches by Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II correspondent George Weller. Anthony Weller, the reporter’s son, edits it. Perhaps Weller is not the household name that Ernie Pyle is, but Walter Cronkite described Weller as “one of the best war correspondents.” The most compelling part of this collection is the reporting that Weller did from Nagasaki, an excursion that got Weller into big trouble with the American military. His accounts of the horrifying visit remained unpublished until now. George Weller was a reporter’s reporter. Anthony Weller is the author of three novels and is a well-known jazz/classical guitarist.
Peter Laufer, the local author and radio journalist, has been covering politics so long, he wanted to try something different. Very different. So he wrote a book about butterflies. “I was trying to get away from the political world as far as I could,” says Laufer. The result is The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists (Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2009). It’s a fascinating, lyrical exposition of a world that does not meet the common eye. I like the part about Yoshi, the Butterfly Smuggler. “Butterflies are hope,” one of Laufer’s sources explains. And we all remain endangered.
Purchasing tickets for the numerous shows and events around town for your best pal or loved one is another thought. You know it has to be Christmas if Linda Ronstadt is back in town. She’ll narrate Peter and the Wolfon Sunday, Dec. 13, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and conductor Donato Cabrera. Later, sing Christmas carols along with Linda and the company. No, she will not be performing “You’re No Good” The orchestra also performs selections from the Nutcracker. For information visit www.sfsymphony.org.
Seeing and hearing Chanticleer, the celebrated men’s chorale group, is a great holiday idea. Sharing the experience is even better. The lads never disappoint. They perform their medieval and Renaissance sacred works – as well as traditional carols – in their show, A Chanticleer Christmas, at various locations, Dec. 12–22. For information visit www.chanticleer.org.
The S.F. Symphony’s Colors of Christmas brings singers Peabo Bryson, Sheena Easton, Jennifer Holliday, and Maxi Priest to Davies Symphony Hall on Dec. 14–16 at 8 p.m. Sheena Easton? Really? That nice Scottish show gal who sang “Morning Train”? Visit www.sfsymphony.org.
The people at Grace Cathedral love this time of year. The choir of men and boys present A Cathedral Christmas, Dec. 12–13 and Dec. 19–20 at 3 p.m. They’ll present their favorite carols and popular holiday tunes – should the Fates allow. For tickets visit www.cityboxoffice.com.
There’s a fine line between St. Nick and St. Vitus. Are you ready for a Dance-Along Nutcracker? It returns for four performances Dec. 12–13 to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This is a popular off-the-beaten-path sort of event. Each year has a different theme based around Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite characters. This year, it is Blazing Nutcrackers (sounds like Mel Brooks) – Tchaikovsky meets the Wild West. For information visit www.dancealongnutcracker.org.
Lisa Vroman is a terrific singer. She appears in Holiday Pipe Dreams Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. with a quintet of San Francisco Symphony brass musicians and organist David Higgs for this year’s concert, showcasing Davies Symphony Hall’s magnificent Ruffatti organ. Go to www.sfsymphony.org.
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus takes it all Home for the HolidaysDec. 15–17 and Dec. 24, a Christmas Eve with carols, exuberant sing-alongs, and zany comic routine. Visit www.sfgmc.org.
Singer Noah Griffin, a well-known San Francisco figure, offers a simple gift at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko again this year. Griffin’s show is called You’re My Gift For Christmas, on Dec. 16, at 8 p.m. He’s such a romantic. Griffin will sing his seasonal favorites by his perennially favorite singers – Nat Cole, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, and others. For information on this and other holiday concerts at the Rrazz Room visit www.therrazzroom.com.
The Smuin Ballet returns to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with The Christmas Ballet as well as their slightly sensual Cool Christmas. They perform Dec.16–27. For information visit www.smuinballet.org.
The annual Christmas pageant, Black Nativity: A Gospel Celebration of Christmas, is a real winner. The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre provides holiday gospel music each year with new songs, new music, new staging, and new artists. It’s very ambitious, and it bursts with passion. Performances are at the Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street on Dec. 16–27. For information visit www.lhtsf.org.
American Bach Soloists’ conductor Jeffrey Thomas leads America’s “best specialists in early music,” including a splendid quartet of soloists in a performance of Handel’s Messiahat Grace Cathedral on Dec. 17–18, 7:30 p.m. For tickets visit www.americanbach.org.
In the mood for a sing-along? The San Francisco Symphony Chorus joins with the San Francisco Symphony Dec. 17–19 to perform holiday choral favorites, including audience sing-alongs of everybody’s favorite carols. Visit www.sfsymphony.org.
Golden Bough, the Celtic music ensemble, is celebrating 30 years in 2010. They’re getting the party off to an early start with a celebration of the winter season with ancient carols on Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. at Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento Street. For information click on www.oldfirstconcerts.com.
The iconic New Orleans band Preservation Hall Jazz Band gets Davis Symphony Hall hopping with A Creole Christmas on Dec. 19, 8 p.m. For information visit www.sfsymphony.org.
Enjoy an evening dripping with holiday nostalgia with Connie Champagne as the legendary
Judy Garland on Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. at the Rrazz Room. Connie does Judy Garland better than Judy
did. She will sing tunes made famous on Garland’s 1963 television special, along with the
unexpected numbers. For more visit www.therrazzroom.com.
The 17th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedyis a fixed point in an ever-changing world. Yes, that’s Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant, Dec. 24–27, with comics Jonathan Katz, Hilary Schwartz, and the irrepressible Lisa Geduldig. For information visit www.koshercomedy.com.
Yoshi’s San Francisco New Year’s shows feature singer-songwriter
Ledisi whose new album, Turn Me Loose, is getting rave reviews. Dec. 29–31 and Jan. 1–2. For more go to www.yoshis.com.
There was a lot of talk about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the crush of activity at the downtown stores, and at the malls – but picking up some handmade items at the Celebration of Craftswomen at Fort Mason’s Herbst Pavilion might be a more rewarding effort. The celebration is open Dec. 5–6. Unusual crafts and art pieces by more than 200 of America’s finest women artists support programs for women and girls. Go to www.celebrationofcraftswomen.org.
It’s all happening at the zoo, also known as the Beast Museum. You can see the San Francisco Zoo’s traditional “presents for the animals,” where the beasts receive wrapped boxes containing some of their favorite treats. Dec. 12–13, 19–20, Dec. 26, and Jan. 1; 11 a.m.–3 p.m. The event is included with paid zoo admission, and available daily, rain or shine. I understand the emus are quite fond of Reese’s peanut butter cups. For more information visit www.sfzoo.org.
The Exploratorium will screen a couple of holiday films, The Sweater and Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales on Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. For information visit www.exploratorium.edu.
This is a fun yet terribly civilized thing to do on Christmas Eve – take somebody special with you: Christmas Eve Afternoon Tea in the Lobby Lounge, at the Ritz-Carlton on Nob Hill, Dec. 24 at 3:30 p.m. Enjoy the simple, gentle pleasures of afternoon tea as the harpist plucks away languorously. Have a cuppa tea, finger sandwiches and sweets. For reservations call 415-773-6198.
One more thing: In a random act of Christmas kindness, write a letter to Santa and bring the stamped letter to Macy’s, addressed to “Santa At The North Pole,” and drop it into the special Santa letterbox. For each letter received, Macy’s will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation up to $1,000,000. Letters will be delivered to the Post Office for mailing to Santa. For information visit www.macys.com/believe.
You can’t do this is any old town. The 24th Annual Japanese New Year Bell Ringing Ceremony takes place on Dec. 31, from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Temple bells are struck 108 times so the ills of the old year might be discarded. Visitors can take a group turn ringing the Asian Art Museum’s 16th-century bronze bell. Numbered tickets to ring the bell will be distributed at the Admissions Desk starting at 10 a.m. (one ticket per family or group; first come, first served). For information visit www.asianart.org. Ring in the New Year. Ring out the old, as soon as possible.