Satire has been permanently ransacked. I mean, what’s the use of continuing the effort to make fun of things when the surreal becomes the commonplace? One example is Tom DeLay’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars last month when he cavorted about, and in karaoke style, mouthed the words to The Troggs’s 1966 hit “Wild Thing.” For a moment, even I was speechless. The Troggs, a Brit band, named their group as a lark after the term troglodyte. Life imitates art. Tom DeLay is the real thing. Next, they’ll bring on Bernie Madoff to dance the hora and sing “Havah Nagilah.” Tom DeLay gives crooks a bad name. While his associates remain in prison for cheating American Indians over fake casino schemes, Tom, a former pest controller before becoming a pest in the House of Representatives, now takes lowbrow taste to new heights with the happy assistance of Disney ABC. Heigh-ho. Go ahead, Tom, sue me. Then I can put on my hi-heel sneakers, and appear on “Dancing with the Defendants.” ... Speaking of Disney, the new Disney Family Museum opens in the Presidio this month. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to know this. Perhaps Tom DeLay will greet you at the door. He’ll be dressed as Goofy. …
So glad that’s out of my system. Charlie Mandel is reviving his old Media People publication, this one online, of course. “I want only positive, terrific writing from journalists these days,” says Charlie. “Emphasize positive.” Unlike the preceding paragraph, I guess. Charlie once said the USA Today is wonderful: “I learn less than I knew before I picked it up.” Not so positive. … Brandy Marts is positively the new president of the board of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce. She assures me there’s no truth to the rumor that one of the saints at Peter and Paul will be laid off during the recession. Well, someone’s gotta celebrate Mass at Gino & Carlo. … Speaking of saints, we regret to report that Ray Piccinini, the celebrated waiter at The Stinking Rose on Columbus, died on Sept. 24 at Kaiser Hospital after a short illness. He was a real charmer, a generous and funny man. Ray so dazzled King Abdullah II of Jordan and Queen Raina one night at the restaurant, the royal couple invited Frank and his wife Pamela to the palace in Amman for a visit. For over 40 years Ray would cheer up sick kids on Easter at S.F. hospitals, dressed in a bunny suit. …
Actors Joe Bologna and Renée Taylor haven’t been able to get back to S.F. lately, mostly tied up with rebuilding their house in Beverly Hills. Joe, droll as ever, says, “We had an unlimited budget and we exceeded it.” … Norm Goldblatt is also an assiduous watcher of the economy in Silicon Valley. “Still bad down here,” says Norm. “Special at Outback Steakhouse? Sub-prime rib. Don’t order it. Too risky.” …
Mary Travers died on Sept. 16 at the age of 72. Of course, she was the Mary in Peter, Paul & Mary. Her parents were journalists and organizers of the Newspaper Guild. I ran into Mary back in the 1990s at the dim sum place on Battery Street, Yank Sing. Appropriate name, now that I think about it. I chatted her up at the bar. I asked her how she and the group got its hands on an obscure Bob Dylan song called, “Too Much of Nothing.” Mary told me it was a song that Dylan couldn’t fit onto one of his LPs. “Speaking of old times,” said I, “I was just talking to Enrico Banducci at his restaurant up in North Beach a little while ago. I bet he’d love to see you.”
You’ll recall that Peter, Paul & Mary got a break in the wee, small hours of the 1960s by playing at the hungry i in San Francisco, owned by Enrico.
She scribbled a note on a cocktail napkin for me to carry to Banducci, thanking him for launching her career.
I said to Mary, “This would be a whole lot better if you just carry the note yourself.”
She replied, “I can’t. Too many years have passed. I’m too embarrassed to face him now.”
I dutifully carried the cocktail napkin back to Enrico’s and gave it to Banducci. Naturally,
he regarded me with disgust and said, “You couldn’t do better than this? How come she didn’t come in person?”
Mary was a real sweetheart – there was an air of kindness and authenticity about her.
Peter Yarrow, the Peter in Peter, Paul & Mary, sent me an e-mail after Mary died.
“Contrasting with the times when we were at odds or ‘figuring it out’,” wrote Peter, “when those moments of beautiful flight of spirits joined on stage, particularly at benefits and marches, or even when we found that ‘sweet spot’ in our testing and debating our differing perspectives on issues, or the aesthetic value of a piece of music or art, the sense of the security of our ‘family’ was reasserted. Such moments kept us humble in our awareness of the great privilege of our association and, of course, kept us together.”
Fifty years of singing, fighting for causes or fighting each other, yet staying together – that’s quite a legacy, a very positive one. … Heigh-ho …
Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. He’s been wandering lately. Not so much a troglodyte – more of a Meanderthal. Get his attention at email@example.com