Bellingham by the Bay
by Bruce Bellingham
A post-holiday bombshell hit the Big 4 at Nob Hill’s Huntington Hotel. Ten people were laid-off, including the personable barman Michael Wales, and the always-exuberant Mamie Jung, a 16-year veteran of the Big 4. They’re in a state of shock. Word is that Willie Brown, a regular, is in high dudgeon. In addition, lunch service has been ended, and the Big 4’s famous breakfasts will also join the annals of history. What a shame. I swear the Big 4 served the best eggs Benedict in town. …
Even the most jaded of North Beach denizens had to agree that it seemed to be a first for the neighborhood: A casket was carried from a hearse into O’Reilly’s Irish Pub on Green Street, the last leg of life’s journey for Bob Foley. It was a true Irish wake, something out of James Joyce. Bob was a chap with many hats and many friends; he was a retired officer with the SFPD, a merchant seaman and a vet of Desert Storm. Bob was only 58.
“His ashes are inside,” whispered Myles O’Reilly, who arranged the event following Bob’s service at Sts. Peter & Paul. “I’m really saving the coffin for myself.”
How Irish is that?
No more Irish than the turnout for the farewell last month for Tony Guilfoyle at St. Agnes Church in the Haight. Tony was Kimberly’s dad and Gavin Newsom’s former father-in-law. Tony hailed from County Clare, Ireland, where the River Shannon spills into the Atlantic. The bagpiper played “Danny Boy.” The U.S. Army color guard crisply folded the flags and ceremoniously placed them in the hands of Kimberly and her brother, Anthony. The popularity and the respect that Tony garnered was reflected in the faces of the several hundred people who turned out to mourn this lovely man.
“The Chronicle was correct when it said that Tony was a legend,” eulogized John Shanley. “ Then again, even a broken clock is right twice a day.” That’s all right. Tony never had to fish for compliments. Also speaking wittily and elegantly: retired SFPD deputy chief Diarmuid Philpott and Mel Murphy of the Building Inspection Commission. Among those in the church were Mayor Newsom; Judge Newsom; Hilary Newsom Callan and her husband, Geoff; Congresswoman Jackie Speier; Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, and Sean Elsbernd. Clint and Janet Reilly were there, as was nearly everyone in S.F. who played with Tony in real estate and in politics. Kimberly’s closing remembrances about her dad would clutch your heart. There was an Irish wake, too, after the service, at Matrix/Fillmore, which was closed for the event. It included a concentration of the City’s machers. Pat Kelley, the face of the PlumpJack empire, was sweet and subdued. Bill Fazio murmured in the dark about how he needed a new pair of eyeglasses.
“I thought I was buying Jim Brosnahan and his lady a drink the other night at La Jardiniere,” Bill allowed. “Jim’s over six feet tall. The fellow comes over and thanks me. He’s about 5-foot-3. That’s not Brosnahan. Then I get the check for $59. For two drinks! I wonder what they were drinking. No matter. I still have to get new eyeglasses.”
Fazio still has his sights on becoming the next District Attorney, hoping that Gavin might appoint him when Kamala Harris moves on to her next gig. I hope Gavin does just that. …
Martha Smilgis, the dear friend of the late P.J. Corkery, the famed three-dot Examiner columnist, calls to say that a memorial service for P.J. will be held at the Delancey Street restaurant on the Embarcadero on Jan. 14, from 6–8 p.m. All are welcome. P.J. died from cancer in September. Willie Brown is slated to talk at the service – and you know that will be entertaining. Corkery and Mayor Brown collaborated on Willie’s bio, Basic Brown. Perhaps I’ll say a few words, too. When I worked with P.J., he’d occasionally express his admiration for the Irish satirist Flann O’Brien: “I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.” That certainly amused Mr. Corkery. He was anything but vacant. He was preoccupied at all times with expressing the flow of life in S.F. His death certainly leaves a great vacancy. …
Frederica von Stade, the famed mezzo-soprano and Bay Area treasure, was chatting me up the other day, kindly taking a bit of time out from rehearsals for her new opera Three Decembers, composed by her friend, Jake Heggie. “Jake has a great talent, has a great heart,” gushes Flicka, as she’s known to her friends and fans. “He also chooses the texts of great American poets, such as Raymond Carver and Vachel Lindsay.” Flicka’s a great American, too. She fights relentlessly for music in the public schools, acknowledging that today’s dismal economy makes it all look bleak: “If we could only put money into schools, we wouldn’t have to put so much into prisons.” Flicka’s getting ready for her farewell tour in 2010. I don’t want to think about that. The notion leaves me vacant and preoccupied. … The nice people at the S.F. Opera threw a party last month for the incoming music director, Nicola Luisotti, who was introduced to a handful of media folks, artistes, and various members of the consul corps. Luisotti masterfully navigated the opera’s orchestra through last year’s La Bohème. Outgoing music boss Donald Runnicles praised the dashing, young conductor from Viareggio, Italy. Runnicles presses on to his next gig in Europe. S.F. Opera’s general director David Gockley popped into the party briefly before racing off to a fundraiser. Let’s face it: these are scary times for everybody and the opera has one helluva house nut to cover. More diverting: Dame Edna, dressed in civvies in the person of her doppelganger, Barry Humphries, chatted up Maestro Luisotti amicably. “I don’t think Nicola has any idea who Dame Edna or Barry Humphries is,” whispered Jon Finck, the opera’s marketing master. “I think I’ll just stay out of it.” No worries, as they say in Dame Edna’s native Australia. All seemed to be well and harmonious. …
Baby’s in Black and White: Jim Marshall, the rock star photog (yes, he took that famous cross-star shot of the Beatles at Candlestick Park in 1966, their last public appearance) reports that he has two new books of pics coming out this year. … Sascha Stolz, always perambulating, notes that Andy’s Chinese Restaurant on Polk and Union still provides a menu that reads “2401 Pork Street.” Truer than you know. … Big doings at The Family Club on Jan. 24: A Burns Supper in honor of Robert Burns, the Scottish national poet, who might have been 250 years old on Jan. 25 if he hadn’t quaffed so much Scotch for a’ that an’ a’ that. … Amid Iraq and the ruin of the country, the media remained obsessed with the shoe-hurling episode in Baghdad. “If I see that damned clip one more time on the television,” observed Charlie Mandel, “I’ll start throwing my shoes, too.” Leah Garchik confessed to me, “I think I’d throw my boots at Bush.” Not the good ones, Leah. I was hoping for something more from the oh-so-clever, not-so-incumbent Commander in Chief about the shoe-flinger. Perhaps something like: “I looked the man in the eye, and got a sense of his sole.” Hey, whatta ya want? It’s only January. Don’t blame me. Look on the bright side. Bush is out of office. Let’s face it, that’s got to be a good start. …
Bruce Bellingham is a restless cat. He likes to wander around San Francisco. They don’t allow him to drive, so let’s be grateful for that. He gallivants, as his mother used to say. He meanders. He’s a Meanderthal. That’s right. See him doddering and shuffling up and down Nob Hill and around the northern environs of the City. If he moves too quickly – and that’s not likely – catch him at firstname.lastname@example.org.