Heart of the City Archives

Mayor Gavin Newsom denounces President Bush for homophobic campaign tactics on the first anniversary of Wedstock.

Locals offer insight into life in The City
by Hank Donat

I thought I had seen everything to do with cell phones on Muni when I saw and heard a woman on a crowded 45 Union bus loudly swear someone to secrecy about an affair, but I thought wrongly. Last week, I found myself northbound on the 24 Divisadero line sitting next to a young lady who got on the horn and chatted in a casual voice about having recently robbed a woman's purse.

"A hundred and some dollars and checks," said the gal with beautiful striped fingernails, adding that it was a good thing, too, because she had bills to pay. Pretending to mind my own business, as were a half dozen others, I opened the Examiner and, to my amazement, there was a report on the alarming rise of pocket picking on public transportation. (Do you ever look around for the invisible director?)

Now, did the person on the other end of the phone know how to deposit checks in the bank that were made out to someone else? No. Neither did the recipient of a second call made by the star of our story. Next, just in case she had gone unnoticed by anyone, she idly tested ring tones for three stops.

It could be a commercial for Apple's iPod, but it's really City life. By the way, here's a familiar warning. The indiscrete thief also had this to say: "Her purse was wide open. That's what she gets for bumping into me."

A more wonderful expression of San Francisco life is the fact that it was necessary to make a bee line from Mayor Gavin Newsom's historic "Shame on you," speech under the City Hall rotunda in order to make it to the fried chicken opening at Powell's Place on time.

Newsom spoke to an audience of thousands of gay men and women on February 12, the first anniversary of Newsom's decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Four thousand gay couples wed here last year before the California Supreme Court struck the marriages down several weeks later.

Newsom denounced politicians who ask gays and lesbians for money then tell them it's too soon for them to have equal rights. In a speech that some City Hall watchers said was his strongest to date, the mayor saved the rousing round of shame for President George W. Bush.

As Newsom led the chorus, "Shame on you! Shame on you!" I couldn't help thinking of the more than two decades of bull dykes, drag queens, leather guys, and other street gays I've heard deliver exactly the same outcry. Now the baton has been passed to a seemingly conventional straight, white, Irish Catholic mayor. As one wag put it, Newsom is "all guts, big glory, and of course great hair."

Having married a same-sex partner at City Hall last year myself, a highlight of the anniversary event was reuniting with the couples with whom we bonded during our hours long Wedstock experience. What a pleasure to see Gary Schilling and Stefan Hastrup, Margaret Curry and Julie Gill, and Scot Hammond and Seth Lawrence. All are as happy and in love as a year ago.

At Powell's Place, gospel singer and restaurateur Emmit Powell unveiled chic new digs finished in the Jazz Preservation District on Eddy Street. Powell's was a favorite on Hayes Street from 1972 until last year.

Powell's Place is a good example of San Francisco for San Franciscans. That's what Chip Conley offers visitors to his Joi de Vivre hotels with his new volunteer Golden Gate Greeters program.

Conley, the City's wunderkind hotelier, was alarmed by a recent Travel & Leisure survey that rated San Francisco 19th out of 25 cities for friendliness and 20th out of 25 for the likelihood of a visitor to meet someone new.

Conley enlisted Elizabeth Smith, whom he met while Smith was observing Conley and other members of the mayor and Angela Alioto's Ten Year Plan homelessness council. Smith had previously worked with a program in New York that matched visitors with locals willing to entertain them.

Golden Gate Greeter Gill Eklof lives in Bernal Heights. A native of Sweden and a San Franciscan since 1987, Gill says she advises visitors to wear comfortable shoes. "See the City by foot or you'll miss the best of it," adds says Eklof, "Be curious and hungry and you'll have a great time."

Gavin Coombs, who lives on Cathedral Hill, says he was intrigued by the program because, "people who live in San Francisco are especially prideful and people who visit San Francisco are looking for that." He says every visitor has their own preconceived notion about what is a tourist destination and most want to steer clear of them.

Coombs recommends the Castro Theatre to film lovers, 111 Minna to art lovers, and the Audium, Fillmore, Warfield, Bimbo's, or the Great American Music Hall to music lovers. He also favors Hayes Street for shopping and Vallejo Street on Russian Hill for views. Whether you're from Napa or Nashville, it seems like you'd be in good hands with Coombs.

Some of my favorite locals attended a celebration for the Golden Gate Greeters at Suede on Bay Street last week. Making the scene were Rob Bhatt of Where magazine, Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt mastermind Jayson Wechter, the drag performer Putanesca, actress AJ Davenport, writer/performer Heather Gold, Haight Street tour guide and right-on sister Pam Brennan, and the self-styled octogenarian, bon vivant and world traveler Peg Brennan

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!

Contact MisterSF.com

Copyright 2005 Hank Donat
mistersf.com home