Heart of the City Archives

The Roxie is toast; a toast to the Roxie. Loved your films, hated your atmo.


The more things change, the more they change
by Hank Donat

San Francisco, San Francisco. If it's a city and a citizenry obsessed with remaining the same, why does it change constantly and so fast?

Quicker than I could wonder whether the renovation of Stern Grove was on track and which performers would christen its new stage this summer, the festival announced its 2005 schedule. The 68th annual Stern Grove concert series, the first on its $15 million Lawrence Halprin landscape, opens June 19 with country rock star Lucinda Williams.

More spare change: I won't shed a single tear for the Roxie. One of the city's last independent movie houses, the Roxie is up for sale. Most observers will simplistically blame the theatre's struggles on competition from multiplexes and a dearth of parking in the Roxie's Mission District neighborhood. However, critical thinkers might be inclined to cop to the fact that the Roxie is the city's most uncomfortable, unpleasant venue from which to enjoy a film.

San Franciscophiles will note that seats from the Roxie once graced the Surf Theatre, a bygone movie house that was located at 4501 Irving Street. Woody Allen shot scenes from "Play it Again, Sam" at the Surf in 1972.

John Frank, a San Franciscan who loves cold treats, is delighted that the Polly Ann ice cream shop in the Sunset is alive and well after surviving a recent threat of its own. The Polly Ann, a fixture neighborhood for more than 50 years, was threatened when developers decided to rebuild the corner of 39th and Noriega. Now, says Frank, the shop is back, "bigger and better than ever. With an expanded location a few yards from it's original site. Polly Ann reopened on February 27, 2005 and continues to serve outstanding ice cream and other goodies."

Frank reports, "Polly Ann has maintained their policy of free mini ice cream cones for toddlers as well as for all dogs accompanied by a human being. On May 8th, in honor of Mother's Day, all mothers will be entitled to a free ice cream cone. Owner Charlie Wu and family continue to create new and exciting flavors at their factory in South San Francisco and a visit to this San Francisco institution is a must." I second that emotion!

Now that the new federal building at 7th Mission looks completely skeletal, watch for a quick finish to turn this construction site into the latest addition to the southern skyline. You know this phenomenon if you have ever seen a real live building appear in your neighborhood seemingly overnight after months of construction.

It's too bad the same thing can't be said for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which may be San Francisco's most notorious story ever - forget Black Bart and Patty Hearst.

I caught up with Tom Sinkovic at Tommy's Joynt just days before his documentary of the bridge folly aired on KRON. It was clear then, as the welding scandal was breaking, that the multi-billion dollar mishandling of the project would be an outrageous story, and it was. But again, with Mr. and Ms. Bay Area busy making a living and pursuing their pleasure-filled lives, there doesn't seem to be too much time left over for outrage.

This just in - Emporer Norton, whose name was raised as a possible moniker for the new span, wrote me via Hotmail, presumable in care of a concerned citizen. At any rate, Norton wants nothing to do with the bridge debacle.

The greatest pleasure that comes from writing about San Francisco is in meeting the men and woman who embody the spirit of our City. I close this week with a fond farewell to Betty Coriarty, whose love of life and can-do spirit made her a true Ms. San Francisco. Betty passed away unexpectedly on April 16.

As a single mom in 1945, Betty became the City's very first female truck driver. As she made her way across 50 miles of the City per day driving for Railway Express, the beautiful lady truck driver was a charming curiosity on the streets of San Francisco. One newspaper wrote a feature titled, "Pert Blonde Drives Truck," that celebrated Betty after 14 years of service. Herb Caen called her "whistle-bait."

A multiple National Safety Award winner, Betty advised San Francisco drivers to, "Think of what you're doing then do it. Indecision causes half the accidents." After more than 20 years, Betty left the truck but not the road. She became a traffic control officer.

I was honored to meet Betty and to reintroduce her to city readers in this space during her latest experiment with retirement. Betty said someone once told her to take her parking ticket and stick it where the sun doesn't shine. Betty told the driver she couldn't - there were already three there. "If I could use a sense of humor when I tagged someone, they actually wouldn't mind getting tagged." So long and ciao to a very cool lady.

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