Heart of the City Archives


Part I: Moving right along in search of the City
by Hank Donat

Seventeen years ago I moved all of my worldly possessions to Bush Street in the back of a pickup truck. A year earlier I had moved into an apartment on 20th Street via Yellow Cab. And while I pride myself on my elementary algebra skills, I'd need a drafting calculator to figure out how I ended up with a 40-ft. truck full of stuff to move into the new house. I suppose we all collect things. Here's a small collection of items before they get packed away, too, like so much brick-a-brac.

Kitty Burns, who operates the San Francisco Vampire Tour on Nob Hill was sad to see the Sky Bar at the Marines' Memorial Club close to the public last week. The room is now a members-only bar. Burns had been taking visitors to the Sky for the past few years as her alter ego, Dracula's girlfriend Mina Harker. Now where's a tourist to go for a Bloody Mina?

While "Heart of the City" normally reserves memorial space for dearly departed bowling alleys, greasy spoons, and movie houses, the recent loss of two great San Francisco characters must be acknowledged here.

Mike Tappe was the proprietor of Tappe's Sutter Street Bar and Grille for 50 years. Mike was good friend who seemed interested in maintaining a welcoming "Cheers" type of place where Tenderloin locals were right at home with the English and German tourists who dropped in from the Carlton Hotel next door.

About ten years ago, Mike started giving a free drink to anyone who came in with a lottery ticket that had no winning numbers. After a time, the gimmick was discontinued. "Why, Mike?" I asked. "Too successful," he said, "Who wants to go to a loser bar?"

Over its many years, Tappe's has emerged as a cultural landmark as well. Rod McKuen and Armistead Maupin both dined there at separate times. Jonathan Winters is a regular whenever he's in town.

Tappe died earlier this year after a long and storied life. For a most appropriate toast to the droll tavern owner, I must repeat his final word to me as I last left the man behind the bar several weeks ago: Tootaloo, Mike, tootaloo!

Phillip Horvitz lived a brief, wonderful life. The 44 year-old performance artist, dancer and director died of heart failure on his way to the west coast from New York March 30.

Horvitz, who moved to New York in 1996 after taking San Francisco's art world by storm with a series of successful one-man shows, was schedule to appear at a benefit last Sunday at the Jon Sims Center for the Arts on Mission Street. Horvitz was the Sims Center's first artist in residence.

His most noted work was the solo show, "Yes, I Can," a version of the life of Sammy Davis Jr., in 1993. "Yes, I Can" sold out for weeks at the legendary Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint on 16th Street. Phillip was a profoundly intelligent and creative spirit who will be deeply missed by those who knew and worked with him. His contribution to my own solo stage work, "Popcorn in the Morning," in 1994, infused the piece with a kind of grace and movement that only Phillip could have brought to it. I was grateful for his assistance and for his friendship.

In closing, and in honor of Horvitz, here are a few upcoming events that surely deserve not be overlooked as spring fever descends upon the City by the Bay.

Temptation is a show that's small enough to be moved on MUNI, but it's big on great performances. Directed by Brian Katz, it's a Faust tale with a twist. Bored with his research on conduct at office parties, a mid-level scientist enlists a stranger to uncover secrets of the past. What unfolds is a complex story of temptation, sexual games and things you can't get away with in the office, even in San Francisco. Temptation runs through April 17 at the Off Market Theatre, 965 Mission Street. Visit custommade.org for more information.

The Isadora Duncan Dance Awards show comes to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Tuesday, April 26. Nancy Karp of the Nancy Karp Dancers will receive the Izzies' Lifetime Achievement Award. Scheduled performers include New Style Motherlode, Amy Seiwert & Ethan White, and Carola Zertuche with David McLean on guitar and vocals by Nina Menendez. Visit VoiceofDance.com for more information.

The Theatre of Yugen presents its version of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea for three weeks beginning April 29. Yugen's stylized interpretation brings the Japanese Noh tradition to Hemingway's text. Glass installation artist Kana Tanaka and the Bay Area puppeteer known as Max contributed works to the show's set design. More more information, call 621-0507 or visit theatreofyugen.org.

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Copyright 2005 Hank Donat
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