Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
By Bruce Bellingham

A couple of days before the “full-blown Irish wake” at the Washington Square Bar & Grill for the great writer Frank McCourt on Aug. 29, Frank’s kid brother, Michael, who pours drinks at The Square, revealed a great accolade for his late brother. Frank died in N.Y. on July 19. “I’m not talking about the Pulitzer Prize or those other awards that Frank got,” Mike said. “Get this. He was mentioned on The Simpsons. I really wish Frank had been able to see that. He would have been thrilled.” That’s the big one. On the show, Homer and his dad drink up a storm in a Dublin pub then buy the tavern while awash in all sorts of liquid and Irish literary references. Getting a mention on The Simpsons? That’s cool. It’s really arriving while you’re going. Frank always had style, coming or going. … Also in the realm of immortality, someone exclaimed on Showtime’s hit show Weeds, “He’s as sexy as Gavin Newsom!” That’s bound to garner a few more votes for the Gav. Yes, but remember: smoking is not permitted at the polling places. …

At the Balboa Cafe, Judge Bill Newsom, the father of the next governor of California (yes, I think Gavin will pull it off) sat down with Carole Vernier and Diane Weissmuller to show pics of his trip to the nether regions of British Columbia. “We stopped off in Juneau to buy nine cases of wine, then flew 480 miles to the interior of B.C., one of the most beautiful places on the planet,” said Bill. If you’re 500 miles from civilization – that is, away from a liquor store – you have to be prepared. “There we were, several of us in the wilderness, when a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman comes out of nowhere and demands to know if we paid a tariff on the wine. I said we had not. He then announced, and was pretty stern about it, that he had to confiscate the wine. I was speechless, and a little unnerved. Then I heard giggling from beyond the trees. The Mountie broke down laughing, saying it was just a joke that he and his pals were playing. I still don’t know where they came from, but we certainly were happy to share the wine with them.” Yes, Judge Newsom had been punked by the Canadians. You know the old expression: a Mountie always gets his wine. … Diane Weissmuller, the widow of Johnny, the son of Tarzan, also collects old sayings: “Johnny used to tell me that he was born with a silver knife in his back.” Ah. Hooray for Hollywood. Speaking of Johnny Mercer, Turner Classic Movies will air what appears to be a great doc about Mercer, The Dream’s On Me, directed by Clint Eastwood, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. It features a few of my friends, Rod McKuen, Gene Lees and Jonathan Schwartz. This is almost enough to move me to get cable, though my cardiologist ordered me never to watch Glenn Beck. Beck’s Fox News on-air companion is often Kimberly Guilfoyle, who apparently took a sharp right turn in order to get to New York … On the passing of the vituperative cable TV star and newspaper columnist Robert Novak, Charlie Mandel deadpanned, “Everything he ever said went under my head.” …

They say Carly Fiorina doesn’t bother to vote on Election Day. What’s the big deal? Only the little people vote. … How long will it be before the Board of Supes declares a “Squeaky Fromme Day” in S.F.? … 

The riveting Chiching Herlihy, longtime girlfriend of the brilliant Myles O’Reilly of North Beach pub fame, was in high dudgeon the other day. “Whatever happened to chop suey?” she demanded. Good question. It was invented in S.F. but seems to have gone the way of the Hangtown Fry, hang it all. The Hangtown Fry, invented during the Gold Rush, is an omelet with oysters and bacon and can be found only at three places on the planet: the Tadich Grill, Sam’s Grill on Belden Place, and Brenda’s on Polk Street. Most of the gold can be found now in the pawnshops. “There are mysteries in the universe,” contends Deirdre Black, the Goddess of Galway, “such as why there seems to be an Irish pub near every funeral parlor.” …

You have to give Bill Maher credit for talking to Obama through The Huffington Post about the President’s sudden interest in golf: “The only sand trap I want to see you get out of is Afghanistan.”… Yes, our engagement there is a calamity in the works, doomed from the start. It’s not quite like taking Kandahar from a baby. … 

Good on Perry Butler for the 40th anniversary of Perry’s on Union Street. “You shoulda been here in the 1960s,” an old-timer said to me at the bar. “The Pill had just been invented, and the bad diseases hadn’t shown up yet.” Perry’s was a great gathering place for “stews” in the old days, now known as flight attendants. Many of them lived downtown. That’s why, explains Carole Vernier, the catchphrase of the ’60s and early ’70s was, “Are you married or do you live on Bush Street?” … Next door to Perry’s is the office of the realty company Sal Salma & Co., also celebrating 40 years in the Marina. Sal, a genial, safe-made man, owned the Marina Cafe on Lombard. He once held a “Calamari Festival.” I wrote a poem in honor of the occasion: “Would I be a quisling to a brisling if I professed a preference for squid?/Would I be a bounder to a finnan haddie or flounder, a rat to the sprat if I did?/Would I be forsaken by cod if I pledge my palate to calamari?/Rebuffed by beluga, the tuna, the tortuga, a heel to the sole? OK, OK, so I’m sorry.” … And we’ll leave it at that. …

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. He’s currently working on a new book with the unworkable title of “In the Realm of the Senseless.” Please torment him at

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