Heart of the City Archives


Take a ride with these Funny Girlz
by Hank Donat

We are blessed to have so many botanists in San Francisco. A couple of weeks ago, after skipping through the gentle hail of falling blossom petals from Bay Street to the Sunset, I asked the Universe, "Why are there always cherry blossoms weeks before the Cherry Blossom Festival?" Well, I've been informed about blossoms in this town and you will be, too.

Mike Sullivan says, "All of the pink blossoming flowers now are plums. There are two different varieties, but both are plums. The cherries bloom in early April, according to this book I have called 'The Trees of San Francisco,' which I trust on these things." Mike should know - he's the author of that very fine book!

The mysteries of San Francisco are not lost on Assemblyman Mark Leno, either. Leno pointed out the beautiful plum trees outside his sign company on Brady Street. "The sidewalk is covered in fallen pink petals," says Leno.

Last week, Leno introduced legislation targeting Ellis Act abuse. California's Ellis Act was passed in 1986, ostensibly to allow small property owners to get out of the rental business. In practice, however, the Ellis Act is routinely used to evict long term tenants. According to housing rights activists, 25% of tenants evicted under the Ellis Act are senior citizens.

Leno's bill would limit Ellis Act evictions to landlords who have owned for at least five years. If passed, the bill would prevent people who have no intention of being landlords from buying rental properties for the purpose of shaking tenants out of rent controlled units.

February 19, 2005 was moving day for evicted tenants at 424-434 Francisco Street in North Beach. Neighbors, lefty activists, and concerned citizens including Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Port Commissioner Sue Bierman, Marc Bruno, Larry-Bob Roberts, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Denise Deanne, Sister Bernie Galvin, and Lorna Derider showed up to express support for an end to Ellis Act abuse. Derider lived in the building on Francisco Street for 38 before being evicted under the Ellis Act.

Authors of the web site landlord.com support the Ellis Act as written. According to the web site, "rent control in any form stinks."

In the ongoing pantheon of favorite independent businesses, Erica Martinez would like to recommend Japanese Weekend Maternity. Located at 500 Sutter Street, next to the Lori's Diner, the San Francisco-based company makes all of its clothing right here in the city.

Barbie White opened up shop in the early '80s. Martinez says, "All of the designs are fresh and innovative and I love that she keeps the design and manufacturing processes in San Francisco." For more information visit japaneseweekend.com

My friends involved with this year's San Francisco International Asian Film Festival, March 10-20, assure me that these are two of the must-see films of the program.

"Saving Face" is the opening night film by Alice Wu of San Jose. The film's star, our own Joan Chen, is scheduled to appear at the opening night at the Castro Theatre and later at the festival's gala at the Asian Art Museum at Civic Center. The set-up of "Saving Face" is provocative: "A lesbian's widowed mother turns up pregnant, refusing to name the father and ostracized by her traditional Chinese community."

"Hiroshima Mon Amour" is a classic Alain Resnais film from 1959 being shown to a whole new generation at the Castro on March 12. The screening will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima. For more information and schedules visit naatanet.org.

San Francisco's best bass player Fil Lorenz appears with the BIG Soul-tet, a 13 piece jazz orchestra that includes Hammond organist Wil Blades, at John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room on March 3. The show is a tribute to jazz organ master Jimmy Smith, who passed away February 8.

Comedian Lisa Geduldig has announced a date for her 7th annual Funny Girlz celebration of women and humor at the Herbst Theatre. On April Fools Day, Geduldig welcomes Tonight Show veteran and former "Roseanne" writer Cathy Ladman, Atlantis Cruise regular Shann Carr, Marshall's Women in Comedy Competition winner Carla Clayy, two-time Comedy Central "Laugh Riots" finalist Gretchen Rootes, and Boston Comedy Festival vet and new San Francisco resident, Alana Devich.

I'm delighted that Geduldig announced this lineup because it provides an opportunity to tell a juicy story about one of the cast members. Around 14 years ago, I was in a comedy show at a nightclub in Berkeley with a dozen comedians including one of this year's Funny Girlz.

The F.G. had a friend I'll call "Gertrude," who spent the entire day and night, until 2 a.m. fetching wigs, costumes, make-up, nachos, cigarettes, and whatever else the comedians and performers needed.

The F.G. gave me a lift back to the City, over the Bay Bridge with only she and I and lots of costume type things like wigs and boas in the car at about 2:30. Feeling rather exhausted, I said, "It sure was wonderful having Gertrude around. What a fantastic help she was."

"Yeah," said the F.G., "She's my slave."

"Well," I said, "it's always nice to have an extra pair of hands."

"Yes," the F.G. repeated flatly, firmly, "She's my slave."

After that I sat in silence all the way home, knowing I had left part of my innocence somewhere around Treasure Island. Viva San Francisco

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Copyright 2005 Hank Donat
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