Heart of the City Archives

Kevin Shelley: "I'll win because of the haircut."

Of earthquakes, haircuts, and other natural disasters
by Hank Donat

One of my favorite spots in the entire City is the chair where I get my hair cut at Hon Vo's Polk Street Hair Design. Before the current spa craze, the beauty chair was one of the few places a man or woman could legally receive 30 minutes of uninterrupted nurturing. It's also the site of many memories of anticipation. A quick trim adds to the excitement and gravitas of a special event. On the occasions that I ask for an extra short cut, Hon knows I'm leaving for a long trip.

Last week, I visited the chair before leaving the City for the 90th birthday celebration of my beloved grandfather, Arthur Audette of Fall River, Massachusetts. At the salon on Polk Street, as the Bangles' disco version of "Venus" played over the radio, I thought about my own longevity. "You know, Hon, the first time you cut my hair this song was a hit."

"Now you're old," says Hon.

There's a terrific artifact of notorious San Francisco on the table of James Gold, a veteran of Vidal Sassoon who currently has a station at Hon's shop. A piece of Kevin Shelley for Secretary of State campaign ephemera is autographed as follows: "To my friend James, I'll win because of the haircut! Kevin."

PS: My grandfather still has a head of beautifully thick, white hair. This is a hopeful sign that my professional relationship with Hon Vo could ultimately last longer than Shelley's political career.

Onward: Each year, Taren Sapienza and Lee Houskeeper, organizers of the 1906 quake memorial event, cast a wider net in search of living survivors. At this year's celebration at Lotta's Fountain before sunrise on the 18th, there may be a survivor who was in Fresno at the time of the quake. Soon I may have to bring my grandfather back from Fall River as a stand-in.

Let me be the first to say publicly that it would be a pity if the City took the event away from Sapienza for next year's Centennial, which is likely to be an international media event. Sapienza picked up the baton from her father 30 years ago, organizing a party that's as home spun as you can get. It starts with Sapienza tapping the mic, "Is this thing on?" and goes from there.

Sapienza tells me, "We've confirmed a half-dozen survivors so far. Francis Mae Duffy of Medford, Oregon is a survivor who was in the City at the time of the quake. Her father was a cable car operator." Sapienza reports that a contingent of Duffy's relatives from around the country is coming to honor Duffy on the occasion of her first appearance at the quake memorial.

PG&E and the City have more contemporary disasters on their minds. They are sponsoring a free forum on lessons learned from international disaster response and what can be done locally.

"Lessons Learned" gets underway at 7:30 a.m. and runs through noon at 77 Beale Street in the PG&E Conference Center. According to organizers, "Natural disasters that have impacted us internationally provide valuable lessons that help to refocus our local planning for natural and man-made disasters."

Speakers will discuss the consequences of the Kobe and Loma Prieta Earthquakes, and how San Francisco's planning has been changed by these disasters. Doug Sandy from the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services & Homeland Security will speak, along with Charles Eadie from the Office of Redevelopment and Housing in Watsonville and PG&E Safety Manager Dave Powell. For more information and to RSVP, phone Ann Stangby of the OES&HS at 558-2782.

In other event news, Mark Pitta, Michael Capozzola, The Meehan Brothers and Clarinda Morales bring "North Beach Comic Relief" to Cobb's Comedy Club on Sunday April 24 at 3 p.m. The event is a fundraiser for the continued restoration of the North Beach Jazz Mural at Broadway and Columbus. For tickets and information contact the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, 989-2220.

Beginning this month, ArtHaus directors James Bacchi and Annette Schutz present "No Contest" by artist Adam Kurtzman. The inspiration for Kurtzman's sculpted installation comes from the classic Kewpie Dolls of the early 20th century. For more information, phone ArtHaus at 977-0223 or visit the gallery on the web at arthaus-sf.com.

Sony Holland, the local jazz singer whose repertoire includes several original tunes about San Francisco returns to the Empire Plush Room for the first week of June. A little bird tells me Holland has never sounded better following a recent tour of venues in Japan.

Congratulations to former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, whose recent kick-off party for his new law office was big fun. Tony Hall and Frank Gallagher made the scene, as did former District Attorney Terrance Hallinan, V. Vale, Jeff Adachi, Medea Benjamin, Warren Hinkle, and an overflow crowd of admirers and well-wishers.

The office is across California Street from the old Pacific Stock Exchange. In describing the layout of the offices, a neighboring tenant described Gonzalez' digs as, "Just like mine but with much better art."

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