Project founder Woody LaBounty
paced like an expectant father in a hospital waiting room. The setting,
however, was a muddy lot on Kirkham Street near 47th Avenue in the
Sunset District. There, workers from the Sheedy crane company were
busy preparing four surviving earthquake shacks for delivery to the
San Francisco Zoo.
LaBounty and the WNP spearheaded the effort to move the shacks, which
were used as temporary homes for survivors of the 1906 Earthquake
and Fire. Fewer than 25 such dwellings remain of the 5000 that were
retrieved from camps following the City's recovery from the disaster.
Many of those, such as the Kirkham shacks, were fashioned together
to create small homes. "This is the big day," LaBounty said of the
effort to save the shacks, "It took us two years to get here."
About a hundred history buffs and Sunset neighbors turned out to watch
the dramatic scene as one by one, the four shacks, each no bigger
than a large tool shed, were raised into the air and mounted onto
flatbed trucks. "We're not in Kansas anymore!" came a shout from the
crowd as the first cottage went skyward.
Now that the shacks have been moved to zoo property, they will be
renovated for historic preservation and use as a focal point for next
year's centennial celebrations.
Artist Anna Conti made the
scene on Kirkham Street early last Saturday morning. Conti is a Sunset
resident and a true Ms. San Francisco. After reading an item in this
space a few weeks ago about a pick-pocket who openly discussed her
crimes on a cell phone on Muni, Conti couldn't wait to share her own
adventure in cell phone indiscretion.
"I was on a half-full N-Judah at about 9 a.m. on a Saturday," Conti
says, "When a man sitting behind my husband and I opens his cell phone
and starts talking loud enough to be heard at the opposite end of
"'Yes, this is John Brown,' he says, 'and I'd like to report a case
of identity theft. No, I just opened the account and hadn't used it
yet. I had to close another account because of an earlier identity
theft. Someone nearly cleaned me out, and I'm still fighting with
the bank over that one. My account number?'"
Conti says she and the other passengers sat in disbelief as Mr. Brown
(whose name I've changed to protect the careless) revealed his address,
phone number, and Social Security number to anyone who was listening
and everyone else who was trying not to. "By the time we got off the
train," says Conti, "we knew his whole financial history, plus when
his apartment would be empty, and what was inside." Unbelievable -
I finally had a chance to check out the new location for Conti's favorite
portrait subject, the Doggie Diner
sign, on the median strip across from the zoo near 45th Avenue.
Though many consider it a place of honor, others are disturbed that
the sign has been removed from its context at the Carousel Diner several
If I had my druthers, the sign would have been moved to SBC Park,
but it does seem appropriate that the Doggie now faces east, toward
the past, rather than south, toward Los Angeles, as it had since the
days of Playland. If the new location is good enough for Diana Scott
and Joel Schechter of the Ocean Beach Historical Society it's good
enough for me.
There were memories to spare at the recent "Valencia Rose Revisted"
event at the Main Library. Jim Van Buskirk and Doug Holtzclaw organized
the evening of stories about San Francisco's legendary comedy club
that helped launch the careers of Whoopi Goldberg and most of America's
first openly gay and lesbian stand-up comics in the late 1970s.
Valencia Rose founder Ron
Lanza said he knew the place was blessed by the start by spirits from
the venue, a former mortuary that currently houses the New College.
Much has been written about the club that introduced audiences to
Tom Ammiano, Karen Ripley, Marga Gomez, and Broadway favorite Leah
Delaria, but an unusual claim to fame was revealed. Because the building
had a loading ramp for coffins, the Valencia Rose was one of the first
wheel chair accessible nightlife spots in the City. Lanza was also
a pioneer of smoke-free venues, the Valenia Rose and later Josie's
Cabaret, long before local laws prohibited lighting up indoors.
Ammiano recalled that the Valenica Rose provided a place for gays
and lesbians to see their own lives and stories reflected on the comedy
stage for the first time. "There was always a feeling like Mickey
Rooney and Judy Garland cleaning out the barn to put on a show," Ammiano
says, "The performers felt like stars. We were all hoping to be the
first out gay comedian on the Tonight Show."
That distinction went to comedian Bob Smith in the mid-1990s, more
than a decade after the Valencia Rose closed.
Welcome to MisterSF.com. Please visit the site
often to keep in touch with San Francisco, for your own amusement,
and to use the Local Joints
section as a portal for independent businesses. Keep your money in
the neighborhoods... Watch this space for observations,
interviews and more from around town. All other sections of MisterSF.com
are also updated continually, so come back and watch us grow!