By John Gollin
When we featured Maurice Kanbar on the July 2007 cover of Northside San Francisco, the response was surprising, and a bit overwhelming. Calls and e-mails came in from across the country asking for copies of the issue. Kanbar’s reputation as a prolific inventor, philanthropist and Renaissance man, we discovered, was widespread. Some of this we figured was probably due to his inventing Skyy vodka. Over the years, he apparently has acquired his own fan base that somehow became aware of our story. The interest in the Kanbar story was amazing, especially in comparison to the response we received to our June 2007 Gavin Newsom cover story. The score: four to one in favor of Kanbar.
Kanbar is back on our cover this month with a bottle of Blue Angel vodka, one of his most recent inventions. Northside S.F. star writer Bruce Bellingham is here to tell us the story of the latest chapter in this prolific inventor’s life. And Jane Richey, our portraitist extraordinaire, has returned to once again photograph Mr. Kanbar for the Northside S.F. cover.
In our June 2008 issue, San Francisco writer Mary Beth Starzel introduced our readers to San Francisco Village (SFV), an “innovative, multigenerational membership program that provides many of the benefits of a retirement community without giving up one’s independence, identity, and own home or apartment.”
In early January, friend of Northside Publications and Hill & Co. marketing manager Lynne Fox sent me an invitation to SFV’s official launch party at the Jewish Community Center on February 7. Lynne is an SFV board member, which isn’t a surprise because over the years as a volunteer, she has tirelessly contributed her time, talent, energy, and resources to the San Francisco community. In 1991 she played a key role in the launch of the first annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, where she served as the first chairwoman.
Lynne suggested that we update our June SFV story with news of its launch. We thought it was a great idea, so Mary Beth and I attended the party. This gave us the opportunity to partake in the festivities, mingle with the crowd of 250-plus, and meet and chat with a few individuals from San Francisco Village’s core team, including the inspirational Rev. Mary Moore Gaines (founder and president), Nancy Loucks (executive director), Gladys Thacher (founder), and board members Eva Auchincloss, Aurèle Carlat, Gayle Geary, and Jack Herndon. We think you’ll enjoy Mary Beth’s story, which we hope will inspire you to spread the word about San Francisco Village and, if it meets your needs, sign up for a membership.
It’s not common practice in the newspaper industry for a publisher to direct readers to an advertisement, but in this case I’m compelled to make an exception. On the back page of this issue, you’ll find an ad placed by San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 asking for San Franciscans to join a coalition to “… tell the Board of Supervisors: Don’t let politics get in the way of our neighborhood safety!” I’m in full agreement, and encourage you to assist our firefighters in their campaign to keep our San Francisco Fire Department fully funded.
On December 30 of this past year, I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to find my next-door neighbor’s three-unit building engulfed in a massive fire that brought 60 firefighters to my street. The fire gutted the building as I stood there in shock, watching the drama in disbelief, my little dog, Max, huddled in my arms. Someone standing behind me pointed out that the fire had spread to my roof. Someone else gingerly suggested to me that, “unfortunately John, your life will never be the same.” They were assuming because of the ferocity of the blaze that my building was also doomed to the same unfortunate fate as my neighbor’s building.
They were wrong. We all watched as a phalanx of firefighters stormed my building, breaking down the doors of the flats above mine. (My upstairs neighbors were away for the holidays and their doors were bolted shut.) The firefighters extinguished the flames in my building. The worst had not happened for me.
I’ve always supported and admired the men and women of the San Francisco Fire Department. But now they have my eternal gratitude.