Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
By Bruce Bellingham

The people who’ve been working at the Rite-Aid store on Bush & Larkin were informed that all San Francisco Rite-Aid stores will close at the end of March. That means all the employees in the store –
with an average of seven year’s service to the company – will be let go. They’ll have to apply to Walgreen’s, the new owner, for their jobs as new workers.

“This store is like a family to us, it’s like family to the neighborhood,” said one sweet, sorrowful lass behind the counter. “I have no idea what I’ll do.” The Rite-Aid store has been a haven for those who know a bargain, and need a bargain.

I wasn’t going to get to the bad news all at once. But here it is: Sandy Zane died the other day. He had retired as a reporter for the Chronicle a few years back. You may recall his byline as Maitland Zane. His friends knew him as Sandy. Both names suited him: the patrician-sounding one, and the more accessible sound of Sandy. He was both men – he knew where he stood with the world. Sandy could embrace the comfortable company of the denizens of the saloon as well as the stiffer, stuffier prince and princess regents of Pacific Heights. That’s why he was a great reporter, and a great writer. He could make everyone, regardless of social stripe, be pleased to talk to him. I first met him when he interviewed me for the Chron when I was a 19-year-old filmmaker in 1971. I immediately knew that he was very curious, and, curiously, not condescending. A rare mixture. We were fast friends. Sandy Zane was also a terrific jazz pianist. Occasionally he’d call and play Fats Waller tunes for me over the phone. Sandy graduated from Harvard. I didn’t know about his Harvard days until I read Kevin Fagan’s piece in the Chronicle. Sandy would likely be the last person to boast. He was anything but self-absorbed. He loved to explore the activities of others. It might be fair to say he was a Dickensian hero, such as Jacob Marley: “Mankind was my business!” Sandy had a great gal as his wife, Joanna Thompson Zane – also a very funny writer. They were so in love. For once
you can say they deserved each other, in the nicest way possible. I’d like to say I deserved Sandy Zane’s friendship. I hope I did. I was very happy to have it…

I was also pleased to know Susie Strauss, who died last month. She was a great gal and a P.R. wizard. She skillfully promoted The Cannery, and was at the Fairmont for years. Susie could get the hotel’s name into the paper and – even more masterfully – keep the hotel’s name out of the papers, if something untoward occurred on the property. Above all, she had a generous heart, always thinking of others. Susie was also very funny. Her son, Bill Strauss, founder of the political satire troupe, The Capitol Steps, died in December 2007 at the age of 60. Susie was 85 years old. …
Speaking of hotels, I must clarify something I wrote about the Big 4 at the Huntington. Although the kitchen has ended the lunches, breakfast at the Big 4 is still available, and as wonderful as ever. They stop serving breakfast at 10 a.m. The bar opens at 5 p.m. (Don’t panic. You can get a drink with breakfast if you ask for it.) So, there. The best eggs Benedict in the region are still safe. Happy hollandaise are here again. Riley Jenkins stood at the bar at the Big 4 and opined about the economy: “I think we learned too late that the Trickle Down Theory was really a Trickle Up Theory – for the wealthy.” I guess that puts the trick in the trickle…

Still speaking of hotels, the Hotel Maxwell on Geary is now named the Hotel Frank. That’s for the owner of Personality Hotels (the new proprietor), Frank Limby. Personality also bought the Hotel York on Sutter and changed the name to Vertigo. Dizzying all these name changes. … As for personality, Deirdre Black, the Goddess of Galway who pours drinks at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in North Beach, imparts her recipe for life: “Do less.” More I cannot add. A group of United Airlines pilots stopped at the pub and gave their opinions about skipper “Sully” Sullenberger’s extraordinary landing in the Hudson River on Jan. 15. The consensus: “It really was a miracle, given the amazing confluence of events.” … One of those rainy days last month gave me yet another excuse to listen to the Need My Sugar CD by Kim Nalley, la bella diva of Nob Hill. Her sultry version of “September in the Rain” makes me want to trade in my Chuck Taylors for galoshes. Kim appears at Biscuits & Blues on Saturday, April 11. … South Carolina authorities decided not to charge Michael Phelps after he was photographed smoking a bong at a party. So, he should testify against himself? I’m pleased to see this story go away. After all, it’s here today, bong tomorrow. And punch lines like that remind me of Deirdre Black’s advice: “Do less.” And as soon as possible…

Bruce Bellingham is a columnist for the Marina Times and author of Bellingham by the Bay: Adventures in Radio & in Real Life. Doddering and shuffling, he meanders hither & yon, hence the description of Bellingham as a Meanderthal.

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