Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
By Bruce Bellingham

You gotta love the story about the woman who lost her healthcare coverage for the treatment of her clinical depression because the insurance company noticed she posted a photo of herself on Facebook wearing a big smile and a bikini. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not funny. It indicates how far the insurance companies will go to get out of coming through with the coverage. I’m sure the person who cut off the woman’s benefits is getting a nice end-of-the-year bonus. “This is one reason I never smile in public,” deadpans Ed Guelld. And this is one reason I don’t wear a bikini. …
      When Norm Goldblatt’s daughter was 12, she had terrible acne. “Don’t worry, honey,” Norm consoled her. “That’s what Photoshop’s for.” … Seriously, I was delighted to learn that Smokey Robinson is following me on Twitter. I’ll have to Tweet him back: “I Second That Emoticon.” …
      There was a mad crush of people at the Palace Hotel for last month’s 100th anniversary bash for KCBS Radio. It harkened back to the old days when companies threw big holiday parties for their employees instead of throwing the employees out, as is the contemporary custom. It was a good time to remember old times. Many KCBS luminaries were there, both past and present – Don MozelyStan BungerKen BastidaJerry WilcoxBarbara TaylorTodd SmootDebra Ingerson … news director Ed Cavagnaro … and the grand old gentlemen himself, Al Hart, looking natty and serene. When I worked with Al at KCBS all those years ago, we managed to track down Ginger Rogers on the day that Fred Astaire died. Al said that people would stop him on the street months later to ask how he found the reclusive Ms. Rogers. When Al talked to her, he mentioned how much elegance the ultimate dancing couple (who disliked each other in real life) produced on screen.  Can you imagine? We once had Fred Astaire and now we have Donnie Osmond doing the cha-cha. “The word, Ms. Rogers about you and Mr. Astaire,” Al said on the air, “is class – that’s all there is to say.” Class is the word that will always be associated with Al Hart as well. …
      Maurice Kanbar, who donated a Niagara of his Blue Angel Vodka to the party, meandered restlessly through the crowd. “I’m looking for my date,” he growled. I wonder if he ever found her. … We do seem to find Willie Brown everywhere. He was at the KCBS party, too. Later in the week, he delivered a tribute to his old friend, Sam Conti, the Broadway strip club impresario, at Sam’s funeral at Halsted N. Gray on Sutter. Willie’s eulogy was on videotape. … Mayor Willie seems to have become a film critic, as well, in his Sunday column in the Chronicle. I was puzzled by his dismissal of movies that have subtitles until it occurred to me that Willie Brown has trouble seeing.  … Our own Sharon Anderson also likes to pay homage to cinema. She went to see Paranormal Activity: “I’m not sure if I believe in life after death, but the movie was so boring, I wonder if there’s life before death.” … Diane Weissmuller, who is not necessarily a senior, observed that the price of a discounted senior ticket at the Kabuki Theatre is around 10 bucks. That includes a $1.50 “amenity fee.” What amenities are these? I called the manager of the Kabuki twice but he did not get back to me to explain this surcharge. Then again, I did not pay the price, so why should I merit the amenity of having anyone return my phone calls? …
      At the close of 2009, people are more than a little apprehensive. But their uneasiness is only exacerbated by news that Oprah is retiring her daily TV show 18 months hence. Psychotherapists can hardly keep up with the demand of the number of traumatized patients. A lot of those rattled patients are authors who won’t get their books on her show in time. Amid the miasma, word comes that Bill Moyers is retiring from his PBS show in the spring. Now, that is a loss. … Carole Vernier, who was Herb Caen’s longtime assistant, is a treasury of great stories. This one was engendered by my recollection that San Francisco once was a robust landscape of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. Some of the prominent Rolls owners included Melvin Belli, Nate Thurman … and Pete Marino, who was a pop music promoter. Pete was perennially tanned and heavily laden with gold chains around his neck. Pete convinced Carole to be a celebrity judge for a chameleon race in Oakland. This was for the release of an album by Labelle called Chameleon back in 1976. I guess the race was a lizardly version of The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County. Pete borrowed 20 chameleons from Rent-a-Reptile (OK, so I made that up) for the event. “It was so hot in Oakland that day,” remembers Carole. How hot was it? “So hot that the chameleons wanted to change into something more comfortable.” …
      I guess I’ll quit while I’m not ahead. But I’d like to say to the good readers of Northside San Francisco, thanks for your attention and your consideration this year. As Allen Ginsberg wrote, “I Beg You Come Back & Be Cheerful.” …

Bruce Bellingham is also a writer for the Marina Times. He’s convinced that he has a sure-fire way to get Oprah’s attention next year: deliver his book to her in a wastepaper basket so her producers won’t have to work so hard. Reach out to Bellingham at

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