Heart of the City Archives

Longtime SF publicist Lee Houskeeper is the City's latest columnist.

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by Hank Donat

It's street fair season, so you know what that means. If you're in the market for a macrame hanging chair or garlic fries now's your time. For the rest of us it mostly means traffic problems.

Writing a column isn't what it used to be no matter if you are dead or alive. But we make it look like so much fun that the ranks of men- and woman-about-town who are eager to share their comings and goings, who opine and observe to amuse and inspire you, is growing.

Lee Houskeeper, the longtime San Francisco publicist who each year garners millions of dollars in free ink for the early morning 1906 earthquake party, now brings his "San Francisco Stories" to the monthly Marina Times' and New Fillmore's Northside section.

Houskeeper's first outing in the Northside included items on a North Beach comedy fundraiser for PETA, Stinking Rose waiter Ray Piccinini's Easter Bunny act, and a report on the annual topless routine by the performance artist Famous Melissa aboard Dr. Hip Schoenfeld's yacht The Higher Hopes. Altogether it was a lively debut for a man who celebrated one of his first bylines after decades as a source for others.

Also in his first outing, Houskeeper admits he's not a San Francisco native. But, like Herb Caen, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist whose name is synonymous with San Francisco, Houskeeper says he was conceived here.

Houskeeper joins Kathryn Pellegrini in the Northside section, which is also available online at northsidesf.com. Pellegrini is a fifth generation San Franciscan who grew up in the Marina. Her "Around the Scene" focuses on the City's fundraising and social benefit culture.

Newly-minted columnist and 2005 Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshall Donna Sachet reports on fundraising and social life in the gay community in the Bay Area Reporter. Sachet is bi-weekly.

Also in the Bay Area Reporter, Bill Barnes has stepped up to replace political columnist Wayne Friday, who retired earlier this year after 30 years on the beat. Friday was called the Herb Caen of the Castro by Herb Caen.

On the internet, Malik Lopper (maliklooper.blogspot.com) and Supervisor Chris Daly (sfgov.org) have interesting blogs that will keep you in the loop of progressive politics. Looper is not only a native San Franciscan, he uses the word "Frisco" without apology.

Last week, columnist and radio man Bruce Bellingham sold one of Caen's manual typewriters to "Martini" author Barnaby Conrad III. Bellingham says he and Conrad will jointly donate the machine to a museum. The typewriter was one of those that Chronicle staffers used to produce the paper following the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989.

All of these columnists have one thing in common. They all know it's not about us; it's about this wonderful town. So, onward to the streets of the City.

A year after a runaway delivery truck went through the front of the Gold Mirror restaurant at 800 Taraval Street, the neighborhood fixture is ready to reopen with its windows and its Sicilian/Tuscan menu intact.

San Francisco's famed trial lawyer Nate Cohen remembers that the back bar at the original Gold Mirror at 935 Fillmore Street was adorned by a hand-painted nude figure. "Like the kind you'd find on a World War II bomber," says Cohen.

Owner Giuseppe DiGrande and his family moved the restaurant moved to the Sunset in the late 1960s. Damage from last year's accident was extensive. Now, Italian craftsmen have created a spectacular tile floor and restored the Gold Mirror's unique interior design and character.

Some fun discoveries were made during the renovation. When a mirror was removed from the behind the bar, workers found the original mirror, replete with that fetching nude. "Goldie" would see the light after all these years. A vintage matchbook from the conservative '50s was also found. It featured the Goldie character, conspicuously clothed in a bathing suit.

And here's a tip for Dave Queen, a San Franciscan who's always on the hunt for the City's best Osso Bucco. Gus Konstin, owner of the historic John's Grill, is a Gold Mirror regular and always orders veal.

Over the years, the neighborhood restaurant has hosted countless regular gatherings for groups including The Elks, Lions Club, Godfather's Club, Comedy Day in The Park Committee, Floral Club, and a monthly "Fight Night" that includes screenings from Stan Smith's collection of historic fight films. Now that's what I call the heart of the City.

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