Bellingham by the Bay
by Bruce Bellingham
There was a flurry of interest last month in a fellow claiming to be Lamont Dozier – the man who wrote all those hits for The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Temptations – who was going around town, hustling people and fleecing small business owners.
A quick-witted bartender at the Hyde-Out saloon on Nob Hill spotted him and called police. They carted him off to the hoosegow.
The alleged imposter, identified by the SFPD as Alan Young, was in the Hyde-Out earlier, boasting about his 27 Grammys and getting people to play “his songs” on the jukebox. That included The Temptations’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”
I know. He gave me an interview for this newspaper. That takes moxie. I suppose it only bolstered his credibility as people watched. Well, maybe. He later took a few people to Yoshi’s, where I understand he was treated royally.
“I have to tell you,” I said to SFPD Lt. Lyn Tomioka, “this guy was pretty good. He seemed to know everything.”
“He’s had plenty of practice,” said the lieutenant.
By the way, Lamont Dozier did not write “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” …
Now, on to the real Rolling Stones: The folks at the San Francisco Art Exchange gallery threw a nice party the other night for the famed London rock photographer Gered Mankowitz, where he celebrated his new book of his Jimi Hendrix photos. Gered also traveled with the Rolling Stones on three tours. In one of the backrooms at the gallery, a rather prim, lovely British lady boasted, “Look what we just bought.”
It was a photo I’ve never seen: Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull cooing over a microphone in a recording studio.
“May I ask how much you paid for this?” I asked in my own pedestrian way.
“Oh,” the lady said, “just two.”
“No, silly,” she chortled. “Two thousand.”
Business was brisk. Gered had a good night. He sat down with me later and said he wanted to tell me a story about Brian Jones. Gered was genuinely fond of the Stones’s beleaguered blond boy.
“I was with Brian one day,” recalled Gered, “when he reached into his pocket, and said, ‘I’ve got two tabs of acid for us.’ I told Brian that I did not take LSD. Brian said, ‘Fine, I’ll take both, and then you can write down everything I say.’”
Ah, those were the days. ...
Why is it that the under-class always seemed to get over-charged? Just wondering. ... Valerie Pinkert went to see Aida at the S.F. Opera and said of the Egyptian pageantry, “I’ve never seen so many men in skirts since the Folsom Street Fair.” ... Word from employees indicates that Cala Foods on Nob Hill has regained a lease on life. It will remain as-is for at least another year. Rumors have abounded about its imminent closing for many months now, demolishing the building, constructing condos and all that. ...
Connie Francis had to suddenly cancel her show at the Castro Theatre last month because of emergency hip surgery in New York. Too bad. Stefano Cassolato tells me she wanted to spend a week in San Francisco. He had arranged a dinner for her at the Colosseo restaurant in North Beach. Alas. We’re sorry now. But knowing Connie, she’ll be swinging back here sometime soon. She’s an eternal hipster. ... There have been workshops on the quiet at ACT where the highly talented, such as Betty Buckley, have been hashing out a musical version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. ...
I will always have a bit of a smile on my face when I think of Tony Curtis, who died on Sept. 29 at the age of 85. It was no exaggeration to call him The Prince of Hollywood. Born Bernie Schwartz in the Bronx, he fought off anti-Semitism and fought off the thugs on the street. Whatever they did to him, it certainly had no impact on his enduring good looks. He must have protected his face well during those donnybrooks on the sidewalk.
A child of the Depression, he joined the Navy during World War II. Still Bernie Schwartz, he served on a submarine called the USS Proteus. That was a foreshadowing of his acting career. Like Proteus, the mythological sea-god who could transform into many creatures, Tony Curtis proved to be an astonishingly versatile actor.
He took lessons at the New School of Social Research in New York, where careers are still being launched.
Many of us agree that Curtis’s role as the amoral press agent, Sidney Falco, in The Sweet Smell of Success, is still a riveting, scary performance.
He triumphed in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot as the musician partner of Jack Lemmon. On the lam from the mob, the two had to dress as women to avoid being liquidated by the bad guys. With Marilyn Monroe in the mix, it was quite a trinity of talent. As a zany transvestite, Curtis endeared himself to lots of San Franciscans.
Yet this is why I smile.
I met Curtis when he came to San Francisco eight years ago to appear in a stage version of Some Like It Hot at the Golden Gate Theatre. The show was a silly pastiche, but it was fun. Then in his late 70s, Curtis took the role that Joe E. Brown played in the film. This time, Tony got the punch line: “Nobody’s perfect.”
After the show, Curtis took my columnist friend Dave Donnelly and me backstage and regaled us with stories about Hollywood. One thing was apparent: he really loved being Tony Curtis. He had managed to leave Bernie Schwartz behind and reinvented himself. Yes, he had some bad patches – married five times or so, struggled with hooch and drugs. Then again, nobody’s perfect. ...
Bruce Bellingham relishes life’s imperfections, which give him cause to write. Share your stories with him at firstname.lastname@example.org