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Preview: SFGate: Leah Garchik

Leah Garchik


City Arts & Lectures founder Sydney Goldstein steps down

Wed, 5 Jul 2017 07:01:00 UT

“I am looking forward to sitting in a good orchestra seat or even in the green room” at the Nourse Theatre, “and enjoying the programs along with other patrons,” said Goldstein last week. “With a full-time staff of four, everyone has always had their hand in every aspect of the work, from booking to setting the stage and handling travel and accommodations,” Goldstein said. Many programs are parts of series, such as the 826 Valencia College Scholarship events that City Arts has produced for 13 years. Goldstein was organizing literary events for the College of Marin in 1980 when she booked her first speaker, Fran Lebowitz, who was to lead off a series of six fundraisers for the San Francisco Public Library, in the Herbst Theatre. Soon after that, Steven Barclay, who had taken Goldstein’s job at the College of Marin, came to work with her at the new company, “and added a lot,” said Goldstein, crediting Barclay with snagging Tony Kushner, for example, and adding “energy and taste that built up a certain part of our audience.” With design and communications manager Alexandra Washkin, they manage an email list of almost 25,000 patrons, as well as a separate snail-mail list the same size. With the help of patrons and supporters like Moti Kazemi of BBC Construction, Helen and John Meyer of Meyer Sound and the school district’s facilities chief David Goldin, the restoration cost less than $2 million. “Sydney did the work of finding a new venue, and against so many odds, raising money and finding really talented people to make it work for us and to make it work for so many other presenters,” said Goldstein-Breyer. “I think the main lesson is to trust your instincts,” said Goldstein. Because you can poll a lot of people and you end up with something that maybe by the numbers seems like the right thing, and it’s not.

Netflix project for SF-based ‘Tales of the City’ in development

Tue, 4 Jul 2017 13:00:00 UT

The project doesn’t have a formal go-ahead, but the first of 10 scripts for installments has been written by “The Hours” novelist Michael Cunningham, according to Maupin, the series’ executive producer.  

Summer of Love concert and light show come to Golden Gate Park

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 03:19:23 UT

There were 18,000 to 20,000 music-loving, feather-and-bead-draped, flower-holding Summer of Love veterans and hippie-wannabes gathered in the hollow in front of the Conservatory of Flowers during the first summer night of the year, Wednesday, June 21, according to estimates by Rec and Park staffers. The Surrealistic Summer Solstice concert started in the early evening and ended — with an “All You Need Is Love” sing-along — after the 9:15 p.m. light show was projected on the Conservatory, a formal wedding cake of a building that took on a multicolored psychedelic pattern as though she were a Victorian bride boozily wrapping herself in Janis Joplin velvet. In the VIP pavilion, Charlotte Shultz recalled that her husband, the late Jack Mailliard, was president of the Police Commission when the hippies and the police were sparring. Former Mayor Willie Brown, who’d taken a lead role in raising funds for the lighting (co-produced by Obscura Digital), relished the civic moment, and also joked from the podium about “poorly dressed” Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, who was thereupon defended (“don’t insult Phil”) by Shultz, who not only recalled a certain yellow plaid suit worn by Brown (“bad, bad, bad”) but also mentioned that hairdo you had. The pavilion atmosphere was unstuffy — and there had been a generous amount of time for liquid refreshment before the speeches — but the laughs that it drew sounded wary. Proudly decked out for the occasion in much-admired 1975 Mickey McGowan boots (like the ones in the de Young Museum show, and much admired by passing fashionistas), she reports that the biggest sing-along in her area was “White Rabbit,” and there were boos when Mayor Ed Lee was introduced. Musicians included members of Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Chambers Brothers, Country Joe & the Fish and It’s a Beautiful Day — all backed by Moonalice. People were interested in time traveling, going back to the days of freewheeling dancing ... old hipsters reliving their pasts through the music that got all this stuff going. Concert producer Dawn Holliday (behind the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass free festival at Golden Gate Park) said that from her vantage point on John F. Kennedy Drive, she looked down in the beautiful valley in front of the Conservatory, (where) people were dancing and spinning, and it just looked so peaceful. In front of the Conservatory near the end of the light show, I stood with others in parallel position — arms up as if in religious trance — wielding cell phones in an attempt to capture the vibrancy of the sight.

The joyfully persistent art of being ‘incredibly annoying’

Fri, 2 Jun 2017 21:31:41 UT

Buell’s “Joyous Persistence” event on Thursday, June 1, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as The Chronicle’s John Wildermuth Head of Hamlin School Wanda Greene, daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, roared a musical welcome to participants, probably 95 percent of them women. Obama administration Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis, running for lieutenant governor, made a case for standing up (“our beautiful country ... elected the worst possible person ever”) and then author and civic leadership advocate Eric Liu got down to the practical matter: how power works. Thursday, of course, was the day that President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accords, and there was a lot of talk about reaction to that serving as a model for future action. Cheryl Haines of the For-Site Foundation talked about Ai Weiwei and political art, and Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, talked with Greenpeace’s Annie Leonard about climate change. There was plenty of practical advice — use consumer power to reflect your priorities (; use civic channels to protest (; look for trustworthy news sources ( — for everyday use. [...] in nodding to candidate Kounakalis, he drew a few groans with a joke about the job’s main duty being “picking up the obit section to learn whether the governor has succumbed.” The reception was better when he noted that “California is an antidote for cynicism,” and talked about his hopes that his two daughters have the same opportunities as his sons. The bottom price for a ticket to the daylong event was $100, but I sat next to Joan Bullen of Mill Valley, who, with her daughter, Emma Mastra, was there on “scholarship.” The afternoon closed with Anna Deavere Smith performing three segments from her work, including an interview in which she was the voice of civil rights leader John Lewis, describing the chief of police in Montgomery, Ala., apologizing to him for beatings/arrests Lewis had suffered in the ’60s. Artist Michele Pred, carrying a purse emblazoned with the words “Equal Pay” in lights, gave away, one by one, a fistful of dollar bills, each marked with a percentage of the wages earned by women in various ethnic groups as compared with white men, and each cropped to reflect that percentage.

You can now drink while watching the opera, symphony, and ballet, at least at the moment

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 13:00:00 UT

The San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, and San Francisco Opera (which has long allowed patrons in boxes to sip Champagne while soaking up arias), agreed to a six-month trial in which the hoi polloi would be allowed the same privilege. For the Ballet and the Symphony, the trial started in January; because the opera season is in the fall, its experiment begins with summer opera. Drinks in enclosed containers can be toted into the hall to be slugged at will. What with tweeting and slurping, the culture connoisseur has nary a chance to nap.

Dermatologist says 'cell callous' is joining 'tech neck' as a 21st century health issue

Tue, 30 May 2017 18:53:17 UT

Callous and corn creams designed for feet may help, or a superficial cortisone shot. But sufferers should adjust their phone grips. "Palm it," says the doc, "or better yet, put it down."

Is Donald Trump’s pen mightier than his sword?

Tue, 16 May 2017 20:09:03 UT

Almost daily, we see photos of our man in the White House holding up documents he’s signed, his facial expression mimicking the proud glee of a toddler holding up the handprint he made for Mother’s Day. Reader James Brzezinski, whose challenging name may have led to a lifelong interest in names and signatures, has studied the presidential signature on the letter in which FBI Director James Comey was fired, for example, and is thinking that the president signs with the ancient family name that preceded Trump: Wieder’s suggested picks for Comey’s replacement include: the president’s daughter Tiffany Trump (“just accepted to Georgetown law school”); Mike Flynn (“has ‘lock her up’ tattoo”); actor Mark Harmon ( “‘NCIS’ consistently No. 1 in the ratings”); Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner ( “still has Tuesdays open”); Joe Arpaio (“‘se habla’ this”); and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (“makes Arpaio look like Pope Francis”). The Art and Poetry of Resistance at the Museum of International Propaganda in San Rafael, Patrick Gannon noticed a meter minder about to ticket his car. The parking enforcer asked if the car with a “Facts Matter” bumper sticker was his and then added, “I bet in this case you’ll hope that the facts don’t matter, eh?” She didn’t ticket the car. [...] Kevon Cottrell, who just watched the 2000 movie “American Psycho,” reports that 16 minutes into it, the lead character, who seems to be a wealthy up-and-comer, asks, “Isn’t that Trump’s car?” Later, he spots Ivana Trump. The movie, based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, was known for its gruesome depiction of a serial killer. [...] according to an appraisal in Rolling Stone magazine, “At its heart, ‘American Psycho’ is a caustic satire about materialism and the empty feeling that comes with chasing it.” When Bernadette Peters sang “Am I Losing My Mind?,” “Send in the Clowns” and “Children Will Listen” at the Palace of Fine Arts on Saturday, May 13, Billy Cook and Julian Grant wondered if “she was offering subliminal commentary about current events in Washington.” In keeping with that, Will Durst, whose new show, “Durst Case Scenario,” opens in July at the Marsh, is wondering whether “this whole thing might be a plot by the pharmaceutical industry to sell more Xanax.” Mark Davis sent photos of an installation in which a neighbor had used a front fence to create a Mother Guilt Depository.

SFMOMA paints the town red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 06:52:08 UT

Greb was wearing an insect costume with a full mask punctuated by a zipper for a mouth; Duffy was in a traditional-looking men’s suit. Cell phones were handed to friends to capture the lineup, as laughing and delighted strangers, turned — with arms around each other’s shoulders and waists — into an impromptu rainbow. The party, conceived, designed and delivered by Stanlee Gatti, began at 6:31 p.m. with the arrival of guests, who after preliminary grazing and guzzling (thank you, McCall’s waitstaff) made their way from that lobby through the doorway’s hanging rain forest of yellow plastic strips to viewing places on the landing outside and on the steps down to Howard Street. Brisk winds sent the dry ice vapors up the stairs, and people began coughing and covering their mouths and noses with scarves. Upstairs, in a clear tent in the fifth floor sculpture garden, each Birthday Supper table was decorated with a neon version of the word “one” in some language or another (sure, eins is one in German; but when I attempted to look up bat the next day, Google plunged me into a sea of baseball stats). Brad Barton was doing card tricks; in a tattoo parlor, people lined up for real permanent ink, a deer head or avocado (skin of a certain age would turn it to guacamole in months, I concluded); Barry McGee said it took him and Clare Rojas only two days to cover the walls with graffiti; Helado Negro and the Tinsel Mammals, human yetis covered with glittering strips of foil, wowed camera-wielding spectators. In the center of the darkened room is a huge machine-like structure with parts moving back and forth, video images playing on wall-size screens, a tick-tock sound augmented by lower brass and words whispered (“a suitcase of teeth and glasses”) presumably by Kentridge. When I emerged from that respite — being surrounded by art as opposed to being surrounded by art lovers — my longtime companion (all in white) was chatting up two women in short skirts, one of whom sported a bandage over her fresh tattoo, as a hot-chocolate-and-churros lady offered those treats from her cart. [...] we went downstairs, where PR peer Allison Speer, Prada blinged-out, said she’d only been able to buy her showstopper necklace after promising the company Instagram selfies of herself wearing it (at Costco, you don’t have to promise anyone anything).

Poetry on a Sunday afternoon, the scene at City Lights

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 22:27:51 UT

Poet Erica Lewis, whose day job as a publicist for arts groups mandates spotlighting the works of others, was herself in the spotlight Sunday, April 23, at City Lights, where she read from her new book, “mary wants to be a superwoman.” The man next to me pulled a copy of Bob Kaufman’s “Solitudes Crowded With Loneliness” from the shelf and skimmed through it while he waited. “How do you know her?” I heard one audience member ask another about Bullwinkel. Looking around, my glance fell on the bamboo blinds hanging crookedly in one of the windows, through which you could see laundry flapping across the alley, almost near enough to touch. H.L. Brown suggests that the threat of violence at UC Berkeley speaking events would be lessened if all speakers and everyone in the audience were required to be nude. At the Park Tavern this week, Sally Bedell Smith, author of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, spoke to members of the Monday Group, who gather periodically to reap wisdom from authors and civic leaders. Smith, author of seven previous memoirs, is a thorough journalist — she interviewed 300 people for this work — and a measured speaker. When she spoke to this group about her Pamela Harriman biography, she employed a handful of neat index cards. A thoughtful man full of opinions, he walks around jotting down his thoughts on little white pieces of paper, she said. A silver notebook on the dinner table allows him to keep on jotting during the meal. [...] she said, he sometimes lies on the floor of his country house so he can hear the comments of tourists who can’t see him; he does not carry keys, but performs an intricate set of movements with two doorknobs that allow him entry to his house.

African children’s tale is parable for our time

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:28:25 UT

African children’s tale is parable for our time The Handful Players, a children’s company that performs at the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition, are giving a free performance of Chinaka After the bully caterpillar takes over a rabbit’s hut, it says, I’m going to build a fence around it and make you pay for it. [...] the animals get to together to oppose the Long One, and with their help, the rabbit gets the Long One out of his hut. P.S. In Los Angeles, Mark Share was struck by a sign on a vacated space: “The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy is closed.” , who died on the last day of March, the New York LGBT Film and Media nonprofit Newfest, NYC Pride, and a team from Ogilvy & Mather created a rainbow-hued typeface. Jerry Barrish, who was busy as a bail bondsman during the Summer of Love, attended the de Young exhibition on the era, and found himself locked up — in traffic. After the museum closed at 5:15 p.m., he says, it took him an hour and 15 minutes to get out of the garage. All six of America’s 2016 Nobel Prize winners are immigrants. The Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association had a rededication event on Wednesday, April 19, for the restored mini-park at Taylor and Beach, whereupon stands Benjamin Bufano’s 18-foot-tall statue of St. Francis. After its first unveiling in Paris, Bufano’s 13-ton granite sculpture was shipped in 1955 to San Francisco to be installed at the St. Francis Church in North Beach. The church didn’t like it, says association treasurer Mike Villeggiante, and the statue was sent to Oakland for installation at a restaurant. A Mill Valley man was surprised that a friend of his who was being prepared for surgery was asked in a phone interview: “Is anybody in your house abusing you verbally or physically?” [...] on Monday, April 24, the day the Frisky Scale appeared in this column, Mac McCarthy was struck by the Peanuts cartoon of the day:

SFFilm Festival pays tribute to its builders

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:00:00 UT

The SFFilm Festival’s bash at YBCA on Friday, April 7, provided filmmakers and film fans with a kind of recreational respite. There was talk of movies and stars and distributors, of course, but there was also pleasant random conversation. Fred Levin, son of Irving Levin, the movie house owner who 60 years ago founded the festival, told Sheila Ortona, wife of Italian consul general Lorenzo Ortona, that 61 years ago, the Italian consul general had approached his dad, telling him that high-end department stores were going to be featuring Italian wares and clothing for a week. On Sunday, April 9, friends and admirers (and he has many) gathered at the Castro to pay tribute to Tom Luddy, winner of this year’s Mel Novikoff Award, which is given to “an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the film-going public’s appreciation of world cinema.” Luddy’s cultural interests go beyond filmmaking — notably, to music and art and food, particularly Bay Area passions — but the award paid tribute most of all to him as a “deeply human bridge-builder,” said SFFilm Executive Director Noah Cowan. Luddy was cited for personal generosity — his appreciation of filmmaking masters and his championing of filmmaking newcomers — and for his wizardry at connecting them. Waters said Luddy had made Chez Panisse famous, by bringing film people there; afterward, Etheredge said the same of Tosca. Peter Becker of the Criterion Collection of movies described a summer afternoon (presumably in the Wine Country) when Luddy, Wim Wenders, Akira Kurosawa and Francis Coppola attended a county fair together, and Coppola’s vehicle broke down. On Thursday, April 6, every seat in every pew at Grace Cathedral was filled with people mourning the sudden death of Charlot Malin, 48. Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe” was played by members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra with soloist Mingjia Liu, that group’s principal oboe, the plaintive sound wafted to the vaulted ceiling. Afterward, the crowd spilled out into the plaza, reassured on this cloudy but warm afternoon to find old friends and share good thoughts about Charlot.

The de Young’s Summer of Love opens in spring of discontent

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 21:24:03 UT

“I’m Dede Wilsey, a flower child,” said the president of the board of trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco at the start of the press briefing before the opening of The Summer of Love Experience. Wilsey was wearing a designer (Andrew Gn) flowered dress, real baubles (“I left my hippie earrings in the country”), and fresh camellias woven into her hair with rubber bands usually used for her Malteses’ topknots ( “I never realized how much it hurt”). [...] I thought her opening statement, while having little to do with the cultural and curatorial scholarship that went into creating this show, was an honest reflection of what most people who lived through that time were thinking. Steve Miller Band’s “Children of the Future,” stood by a display that utilized blinking colored lights to demonstrate the brilliance of the concept. Directed by Moscoso, Mayes had photographed pigeons in the Civic Center and then taken shots of people jumping off chairs. The series of photos was superimposed on each other; the end result looks like rainbow-colored silhouettes of people in flight. Light artist Ben Van Meter watched over a projected segment of the 100-foot-long light show he designed for the Avalon Ballroom. While downstairs, within the show, artists were pleased to talk about their works; upstairs, there was a hubbub of excitement and music, as guests who’d tied bands around their foreheads and put on glad rags they’d foraged from the backs of their closets mingled with costumed role-players — eye-lined Johnny Depp look-alikes are apparently good for a variety of occasions — pretending to be hippies. A crowd of 80 — including Danny Glover, Deborah Santana and KTVU’s Dave Clark — gathered at the Museum of the African Diaspora recently for a fundraiser for Opera Noir, a nonprofit company that promotes “cultural diversity in the classical arts.” Artistic Director J. Rosalynn Smith-Clark says the Divas & Desserts event raised $52,500, a hearty chunk of support for the project to educate youth, support new artists and perform works by African American composers in addition to those by traditional European composers. [...] in other employment notes, Elaine Molinari finds it interesting that although six out of 11 San Francisco supes are women, it was a man, Mark Farrell, who introduced a bill that might (by making it illegal for an employer to ask job seekers about past salaries) help women close the gap between what they’re paid and what men are paid.

With opening at Castro, SFFilm Festival is off and running

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 16:32:11 UT

With a new name, a new place in the calendar and a new commitment to focusing on local talent, the SFFilm festival opened on Wednesday, April 5, with a showing of “Landline” at the Castro Theatre. Bravo for the brevity of the standard introductory remarks and thank-yous that preceded the movie. [...] for the trailer, a film collage set in San Francisco that focused exactly on storytelling, which is, of course, what movies are all about. [...] bravo to the Cosmo Alleycats, who played vintage dance music at the opening-night party at the Regency Center. [...] to the Regency itself, which was designed to house a Masonic lodge, and perhaps due to that proud function, has the snazziest, most elegant porcelain urinals in town. Nancy Cartwright, one of the writers on the movie “In Search of Fellini,” was at the 20th Sonoma International Film Festival with Maria Bello, one of the stars of the movie. At the Ledson Hotel next door to the Sebastiani Theater, they were gathered for a reception preceding the showing of the movie, when a bunch of skateboarders who usually hang out in the plaza across the street got in. Cartwright, who has received much praise as (since 1989) the voice of Bart Simpson, performed an instant Bart impression for the skateboard invaders. According to Clyde Leland, Mick Mulvaney, director of the office of management and budget, has determined that it’s useless to spend any more money on climate change because there’s no future in it. Bonnie Weiss’ modern version of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”: “Once we had Obama/ Life made sense/ Filled with meaning and hope./ Now we’re stuck with Bannon, Trump and Pence/ Brother can you spare a rope?” There was nothing specific about these gaping fissures in the roadway, but perhaps St. Antipas, patron saint for dentists (hole-fillers) might help. The entries include an SF Weekly interview in which Evan Karp (Datebook’s own Out Loud columnist) asked him to name one thing he would change in the Bay Area: “I would make Oakland a little closer to the City.”

Symphony Pride concert brings joy to LGBTQ community and friends

Thu, 6 Apr 2017 20:47:51 UT

“There’s a camaraderie,” said Asia scholar and journalist Orville Schell, glancing at orchestra members taking their places as we in the audience took ours. In early winter, in response to the passage of HB2, the North Carolina law that removed protections for transgender people, the orchestra’s administration canceled two concerts scheduled to be performed Wednesday-Thursday, April 5-6, in Chapel Hill, N.C. And then, on a “dark, rainy day in December,” said the Symphony’s interim director, Derek Dean, at a reception following Tuesday night’s very uncommon concert, maestro Michael Tilson Thomas; his husband, Joshua Robison; and their longtime friend Mark Leno came up with the notion for Symphony Pride. Robison and Leno would chair a concert raising money for five nonprofits — Larkin Street Youth Services, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco LGBT Center, the Transgender Law Center and the Trevor Project — that benefit the Bay Area LGBTQ community. The eclectic program included almost exclusively music written by gay composers, thumbnail sketches of whom were narrated by the maestro and displayed on monitors. Members of the orchestra — wearing rainbow ties and scarves — joined in at the chorus when McDonald sang “10,432 Sheep”; the Symphony Chorus stomped, clapped, sang and hooted through Meredith Monk’s “Panda Chant II.” Near its end, in a short video, keyboardist Robin Sutherland, violist Matthew Young and violinist Eliot Lev talked about coming out and the acceptance they’d found in the orchestra. Ending a performance that had been greeted with the excitement of a sports championship, the passion of a revival meeting and the spirit of a barn-building, Thomas embraced the intersecting communities of performers and listeners. [...] in an effort to break my addiction to late-night reruns of “Law & Order,” I am engaged in a long-term binge of watching “Oz,” HBO’s first series, which I somehow missed seeing. [...] considering the president’s environmental policies, he’s still doing that. When his girlfriend objects to it, he answers, Loopholes are an American tradition! [...] it’s not the law, it’s the tax code.

‘Broad Strokes,’ by Bridget Quinn

Wed, 5 Apr 2017 23:03:18 UT

If I’d have likened it to “talking with a contemporary,” you’d have pictured a panel discussion, two women in straight back chairs, legs neatly crossed. Picture its writer and reader splayed on soft living room furniture. A San Francisco writer who has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Quinn describes the lives and particularly the hardships of female artists, most of whom are known to art lovers but not so well that their faces are emblazoned on tote bags. Despite being ignored/put down/patronized by professional connoisseurs and comrades, each possessed enough drive to hack her way into a cultural universe dominated by men. Quinn chose to write about 15, she explains, because that number is one less than the number of female artists mentioned in her own edition of H.W. Janson’s “History of Art,” the weighty text that has been the entry point to art scholarship for generations of liberal arts college students. To some, this sisterly call — come on in, the water’s cold, but you get used to it — may be a bit melodramatic, but it’s in keeping with the tone of the text, which is not aimed at the dry academic. Rather, Quinn’s informality seems to beckon a bunch of gal-pal connoisseurs to sit beside her as she considers art by such hailed masters as Artemisia Gentileschi (who at least had a movie made about her), Louise Bourgeois, Lee Krasner (“Ah, Krasner’s heart”) and Ruth Asawa; and some lesser-known painters, such as Paula Modersohn-Becker I didn’t know you could have a child and make great art. The author is an easy prose conversationalist, and — with apparent intent — brings her audience closer by sharing details of her life (her own education, her family, her pregnancy).