Heart of the City Archives


When you're down and feeling Cleveland
by Hank Donat

Sunday put me in a Cleveland state of mind. Now, I don't know much about Cleveland except that it's frequently named as a place from which new San Franciscans come. Cleveland represents the former life of a San Franciscan once thirsty for the freedom and sophistication of life in the City. At the outset of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City," Mary Ann Singleton telephones her mother in Cleveland from the Buena Vista, Irish coffee in one hand, to tell mom she's decided to stay.

This Cleveland state of mind, a weariness of the general banalities of life, seemed to follow me to SBC Park, where our own Giants faced off against the Cleveland Indians. It was the first confrontation for the two teams since the Giants clobbered the Indians in the 1954 World Series.

For starters, Cleveland has inexplicably gotten away with keeping Chief Wahoo, the team's tired, racist logo character into the 21st Century. A Google search for "San Francisco diversity" on the Internet yields 5,050,000 pages. "Cleveland diversity" nets only 805,000 pages. These may be completely unscientific measures, but judging also by audience response, San Francisco wasn't feeling Chief Wahoo on Sunday. In fact, the hometown crowd at SBC wasn't feeling much except the sting of a 5-3 defeat.

The dutiful girlfriend of a young Giants fan sat in front of me. When her iPod, which she wore for the entire game, was not sufficient entertainment, our gal fielded text messages for a good two hours. After the Giants had failed to score in four innings, she wasn't the only one looking around for alternate sources of entertainment.

With planned development of the old Navy shipyard at Hunters Point and the construction of towers on Rincon Hill, SBC Park has become the centerpiece of tomorrow's San Francisco. The beautiful bayside ball field, with its beautiful and well-managed crowds, is a jewel in the crown of San Francisco. However, certain questions about the Giants home game experience arise from the point-of-view of the end user. Why do we in the stands hear Renel's commentary only intermittently? Why do chants last only enough repetitions to pick up the beat? And of course, the $90 million question, how much smaller will Barry Bonds and his fan base be when and if he returns to the game?

Even more puzzling are strange cases of pride and prejudice in the gay community. On the heels of news that Supervisor Tom Ammiano was deemed "too political" to co-host KRON-TV coverage of the Gay Parade in San Francisco, I learned that the grand marshals of the gay pride parade in West Hollywood were Paris Hilton and her mom, Kathy. These seemingly unrelated events create a reality that's just paradoxical enough for a headache.

"Paris and Kathy know what it's like to be misunderstood," said one gay newspaper. Ammiano, regardless of one's politics, is nothing short of a living legend in San Francisco, having led a grassroots write-in campaign that nearly put him in the mayor's office after decades of service to the community. Hilton, as far as I can ascertain, looks good in and out of Versace. So what in the world is happening to gay pride?

Also in the heart of the Castro simmers a battle about racism at a popular gay bar. In April, the City's Human Rights Commission found that Badlands owner Les Natali had discriminated against black employees and customers. The HRC is the City's principal entity for forwarding human rights but has no enforcement power. Natali vehemently denies allegations of racism and is appealing the HRC findings.

Meanwhile on the streets of the City, picketers led by the group And Castro For All have been joined on their weekend demonstrations of the bar by a number of present and former supervisors. Supervisors Ammiano and Sophie Maxwell have joined the activists, as have former supes Matt Gonzalez, Angela Alioto - even Amos Brown, whose past support for the gay community here is spotty at best.

There is no mistaking the fact that And Castro for All has the support of the community. Dozens of organizations have signed on to a boycott. But until recently, it was difficult to ascertain exactly what the demonstrators wanted. In the old days of covering gay activism, reporters would be handed a list of the activists' demands.

Last week, And Castro For All made its desire clear. Its members want the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to invoke a morals clause, stripping Natali of his liquor license and effectively forcing him out of business. And Castro For All said in a press release, "Racial discrimination to the degree found by the City against Mr. Natali and SFBadlands is not just a civil wrong, but can and should be found by the CA Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and other regulators to constitute 'crimes of moral turpitude.'"

And that's why I'm in a Cleveland state of mind. The thought of invoking a morals clause comes with baggage for any gay person over 30, reminding us of the time and places from which we came. These clauses have been used by employers and others to fire and harass gays for decades. I wonder if Paris Hilton has an opinion about them, or am I being too political during this, Gay Pride Month? I'll call her people. Meanwhile, have a happy Gay Pride Day, Sunday, June 26.

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