Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
by Bruce Bellingham

I wonder how many Facebook friends Carl Sagan would have had?” These are the sorts of disturbing questions that keep comedian Norm Goldblatt awake at night. Norm is also a scientist. His jokes don’t go for the jugular as much as they go for the frontal lobe:  “I bought AOL in 2001 for 100 bucks. It’s now trading at 5. Logged on the other night. I could have sworn I heard, ‘You got nailed.’” … Norm Howard, now retired from KQED-FM, confesses he turns 70 this month. One of his guilty pleasures at this stage: “I enjoy nude beaches – after a few minutes I find I have them all to myself.” … One of my guilty pleasures is watching reruns of The Streets of San Francisco on KOFY Channel 20 at 11 a.m. on weekdays. The last refuge of the underemployed. The other day, a young-looking Paul Sorvino (a show from 1976) played a N.Y. detective who greatly irritated S.F. coppers Karl Malden and Michael Douglas by repeatedly referring to this town as Frisco. It became a running gag for the hour and was certainly inspired by Herb “Don’t Call It Frisco” Caen’s column. Hard to believe that Herb’s been gone 12 years this month. …

Speaking of the running gag, some may recall when Herb used to endlessly tease the town of Chico (nestled in the Sacramento Valley) in his column after a reader told him how Velveeta was proffered in the gourmet cheese section in a Chico supermarket. In 1987, Playboy crowned Chico State the No. 1 party school in the nation. Chico native Kelda McKinney, who works for Karen Larsen Associates, the indie film promoters on Ritch Street, says things have been more sedate in Chico in recent years, but word around campus is the kids want their status back as the preeminent party town. “More drinking, more partying, more outrageous behavior is the new order of the day in Chico,” reports Kelda. “I’m glad I live in San Francisco. It’s so sane here.” … Caen was fond of “namephreaks.” He would have liked the name of the vet in charge of tending to Claude, the albino alligator with the sore claw at the Academy of Sciences: Dr. Freeland Dunker. …

Herb Gold, the famous novelist who frequents the It’s A Grind and The Crepe House cafes on Polk Street, paid homage to his old friend, Dick Seaver, the editor who died last month in N.Y. at the age of 82. Mr. Seaver resisted small minds and big censorship to bring writers like Samuel Becket, Henry Miller and William Burroughs to American readers. Mr. Seaver’s death hit Herb pretty hard. … The Crepe House is enduring a salutary invasion of Russians – two charming ladies who work the floor, Elena Gorobchuk and Oxana Ryabanskaya. “They are the best,” says their boss, manager Saad Muyatash. It just occurred to me. Is it really 20 years since the fall of the Soviet Union? …

Fort Mason’s Magic Theatre, facing financial collapse, managed to save its 43rd season by raising $450,000, mostly through small contributions on its Web site – in much the way Obama financed his campaign. The show went on with its new production, Tough Titty, by Oni Faida Lampley. … S.F. native Ginger Kroll just landed a juicy part in the film Notorious, the story of rapper Notorious B.I.G. Ginger’s part is apparently physical in every way. Stunning Ginger does her own stunts. … Check out artist David Montgomery’s new show, even if just for the intriguing title, Trying to Cope with Things That Aren’t Human at 1928 Folsom Street, Thursday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. through Feb. 28 … If you’re in the San Mateo area on Friday, Feb. 6, drop into the San Mateo Marriott Convention Center (1770 South Amphlett Boulevard) for a performance by Chamber Mix. It’s a premiere of a work by local composer John Bilotta, who graduated from the Music & Arts Institute, which used to be in Pacific Heights. It’s called The Poems to Come for flute, clarinet, viola, cello, and piano. It’s at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10 at the door. For information, visit …

Chesley Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot from Danville who created “The Miracle on the Hudson” seems to be just the hero that people were looking for in the middle of this most bleak winter. Up at Le Beau grocery on Leavenworth, Frank Abrams never lets the facts get in the way of his cynicism. “What’s all this about Canadian geese bringing the plane down?” he asks. “How’d they get over the border anyway?” Anti-Canada jokes are back. News reports of the crash landing brought a new expression to the lingo, “bird strike.” Bird strike? I didn’t know they even had a union. …

This month marks President’s Day. It’s a memorable one because we have a new president who’s likely to be memorable. His hero is Lincoln. Obama didn’t take a private jet to his inauguration. He took a train, as Lincoln did. He took the oath of office with his hand on Lincoln’s bible – the first time, anyway. Nice touch. The President’s Day holiday was signed into law in 1971 by Richard Nixon. It combined the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln and was meant to “honor all the presidents of the past.” All of them? Even Nixon? I’m sure that’s what he had in mind. He certainly didn’t create the holiday to give bank employees the day off. Bush would have done that. Nixon didn’t use banks. He had his money delivered to him in battered suitcases by burly men in bulging jackets while he was on the golf course.

From the pictures of Lincoln I’ve seen, he looks like he never got any sleep. Obama already looks like that. Old Abe was fatigue personified. At the end of his term, he had guided the country through the Civil War and all he wanted was a nap. But, oh, no, Mrs. Lincoln insisted they go to the theater anyway that last night. Ulysses S. Grant oiled out of that evening and quietly slipped out of town. “There are two things that scare the tarnation out of me,” Grant might’ve said. “Running out of Tennessee whiskey, and running into Lincoln’s wife.” She had a terrific temper. “Emancipation Proclamation?” she shrieked at Abe. “I’ll show you Emancipation Proclamation. Take out the garbage!” … Washington and Lincoln were remarkable figures who seemed committed to doing the right thing and made great sacrifices to do so. We might not be able to remember the exact dates of their birthdays anymore, but we can recall enough to wonder, “Why can’t we find anybody like them?” Maybe we have. Mr. Obama, it’s your turn. America is looking for another hero during this very cruel winter.

Bruce Bellingham is also a columnist for the Marina Times and for Media People. He’s the author of Bellingham by the Bay published by Council Oak Books. Because of his restless nature, he’s been described as peripatetic. That’s not to be confused with pathetic. E-mail:

Browse Column Archives

Bookmark and Share Print Page

September 2011 Issue


Amici's East Coast Pizzeria

Horse Shoe Tavern Amici's East Coast Pizzeria



Alfred's Steakhouse Gallenberg

Grateful Dog Sf Alfred's Steakhouse

Getting to know the Reillys 10 Questions with Chef Todd English June Top Picks

Copyright © 2005 - 2008 NorthSide San Francisco