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Preview: SFGate: Leah Garchik

Leah Garchik


The music, the caviar, the gowns, the beading ... and the ketchup

Thu, 8 Sep 2016 20:06:53 UT

The music, the caviar, the gowns, the beading ... and the ketchup On his way to the festivities, cultural stalwart Norman Larson, who lives at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, cut a natty black-tied swath through the neighborhood regulars on his way to the Symphony. A Supreme Court justice nominated by a woman might have to cast a deciding vote on this: If a party-goer wears a dress with a long train to such a crowded event, doesn’t it violate the constitution to impose on others the responsibility of not stepping on it? Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser-Permanente (which sponsored the patron’s dinner), recalled the first time he’d heard a symphony play. Folks,” said the conductor to the major donors gathered ’round, “This is the stuff of legend that you heard tonight. Nion McEvoy reported having glimpsed Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks blues rock band, which was to play the Fox in Oakland on Friday as part of its Wheels of Soul Tour. Consider that, I say to the spiffed-up gentleman who said at the cocktail reception, “This is like the first day of school ... for old people.” Amy Tan, glimmering in silver, and Lou DeMattei described having been invited to the White House for the Aug. 2 state dinner for the president of Singapore. After a circuitous trip that included a stop in N.Y. to pick up DeMattei’s tuxedo, they checked into their Washington hotel about 90 minutes before the dinner.

Which movies to watch this weekend, Aug. 26

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:28:17 UT

Which movies to watch this weekend, Aug. 26 Anna Gunn plays an investment banker attempting to steer an Internet encryption company through its initial public offering while federal agents, duplicitous co-workers and an unscrupulous lover all strive to undermine her. Rated R. 110 minutes. The film explores her personal fears and uncertainties and her professional self-assurance. An exceptionally good modern Western, focusing on two bank-robbing brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) pursued by a pair of Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham) across dusty and economically depressed West Texas. Weighty themes are examined here — the law, racial issues, American history, family loyalty, institutional responsibility — but there are some very humorous moments as well. Rated R. 102 minutes. Groceries learn the truth of what happens when they’re taken out the door in this very rude — and surprisingly thoughtful — comedy for adults. Rated R. 89 minutes.

‘Eva Hesse’ documentary about ‘a good painter’ and more

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 00:08:08 UT

To make a variety of observations, these fragments are not presented quite chronologically; rather, they are interspersed throughout the documentary. With the cyclical nature of fashion, the ’60s, when most of the still pictures of the adult Hesse were taken, are once again stylish. [...] she was. Fearlessly, Hesse abandoned paint and brushes to experiment with other materials — latex, plastic, rope — and, five years before her death, morph from painter to sculptor. The movie portrays Hesse making art feverishly, her work eliciting great respect from artists like Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra and her friends. Born in Hamburg, Germany, Hesse was 2 when she and her older sister were sent out of Germany in a Kindertransport headed to the Netherlands, where they lived in a children’s home. At the end of the war, by which time her parents had divorced, they realized that no one else in their families had survived the Holocaust. The day that Hesse’s mother learned that her parents had died in a concentration camp, she threw herself off the roof of the apartment building where she was living with her daughters. (She was in analysis most of her adult life.) She was a prodigious letter writer and journal keeper, and it is mostly her own words that piece together the narrative of this film.

Art, bonhomie and inescapable violence mingle in Wine Country

Wed, 13 Jul 2016 13:00:00 UT

A curator explained, for example, that one section of Amalia Ulman’s mixed-media “Destruction of Experience,” which printed materials said was an exploration of womanhood, had to do with Justin Bieber hiding his identity as a woman; another section was a tribute to a former CEO of Bayer Pharmaceuticals. When we first saw Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “Untitled 2011 (Police the Police)” a couple of years ago, artists were working on the piece — a commissioned installation “intended to develop over time,” said the program — at the party. A few years later, in its expanded version, it included references to marriage equality, transgender acceptance, “no to evictions” and most of all, Black Lives Matter. A pile of T-shirts, gifts to guests, read “Police the Police.” Among those guests were people whose lives, in a variety of ways, have been intertwined with various aspects of the law: enforcement (former mayor and onetime police chief Frank Jordan), justice (former chief justice of the California Supreme Court Ron George), legislation (Rep. Nancy Pelosi). [...] the days of this 2016 season — usually filled with the slow pleasures of summer, a walk down the street with ice cream cone in hand — are saturated with bloodstains, unacceptable but all too explicable results of history. After the play, dramaturge Philippa Kelly conducted a talk-back, the actors, having changed into street clothes, sitting onstage in a row. The play’s gripping; they were sitting in a circle of audience affection. [...] the conversation turned to one particularly electric moment, when Rose (played by Margo Hall) decides to raise the infant girl fathered by her philandering husband. At a Thursday, July 7, reception for the exhibition, it was impossible to merely glance at the photos without reading the words of each person. Most are touching expressions of peace, hope, regrets over lost love, gratitude for long love. [...] there was Nelly, who said (among many other things), My last husband was blind and wasn’t able to have sex during our 16-year marriage. Many stories are told, of course, and they are different from each angle.

Woman leaving flyers in SF asking people to date her best friend

Wed, 6 Jul 2016 15:59:35 UT

On the windshield of her Jeep one recent morning in San Francisco, Barbara Trice was surprised to find a flyer headlined, "Please, someone, for the love of God, date my best friend."

The potato chip challenge for DIYers

Wed, 6 Jul 2016 13:00:00 UT

Intriguing pledge made in a radio ad heard while driving, for a company touting the sale and installation of replacement windows in older homes: “Your house could be covered with potato chips, and we wouldn’t crack a one.” [...] why would you cover your house in potato chips? If you insist on potato chips, and this project takes your entire supply, you may be left with tubs of onion dip. Despair not, the dip could be pressed into use to spackle the spaces between the siding and the window frames. Checking out the weekend’s movie offerings and noting that the Embarcadero Center Cinema was showing both the tragic documentary “Weiner” and the comedy “Wiener-Dog” moved Marsha Monro to pose the question: “Got mustard?” There was a picture of an attractive young woman with notes about her assets (“She has a real job doing sports stuff”) and qualifications for candidates ( “Know things about sports”). An inquiry emailed to the address on the flyer elicited a response from a woman who said she is just trying to find my best friend a great guy! I’m sick of all the terrors of Tinder and online dating. After new car had three tires and rims stolen, the victim left a note on the car: To whoever stole my wheels, may you use them for a positive purpose. The man was “making a splashy public display of washing down the hood of his black Mercedes convertible sports car,” using bottled water. Daniel Ellsberg was one of the speakers at the memorial service Saturday, July 2, for Ben Bagdikian, Pulitzer and Peabody Award-winning reporter, former national editor of the Washington Post and until 1990 dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In 1971, the New York Times’ publication of excerpts from the Pentagon Papers was stopped by a federal judge invoking national security. The memorial gathering, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Berkeley, included a family-led sing-along to songs by Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, including “Mr. Bigot,” which L.S., who was there, described as “particularly apropos of today’s politics.” [...] doesn’t that seem like George W. Bush plowing ahead with reading “The Pet Goat” after receiving news of the attacks of 9/11?

Dissident SF museum board members resign in protest

Sat, 30 Apr 2016 03:54:37 UT

Two trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, including former City Attorney Louise Renne, have quit the board in opposition to the leadership of embattled board President Diane B. Wilsey. Renne and Dan Johnson, also an attorney, gave up their seats on the Board of Trustees, claiming they could no longer uphold their duties to protect the financial integrity of the city-owned FAMSF, which includes the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. “I just felt that the governance at the museum made it virtually impossible for any board member to fulfill their fiduciary duty,” Renne said on Friday. The resignations come in the wake of an ongoing controversy that erupted when Wilsey allegedly authorized a $450,000 disability severance payment without board approval to a former city engineer who worked at the museum. Wilsey has consistently claimed she did not need board approval for the payment, but the office of state Attorney General Kamala Harris launched an investigation. “I did not believe it was appropriate for a public entity to anonymously repay the money that was owed because it did not address the underlying problem, which was the decision to pay the money in the first place,” Johnson said on Friday. Gutierrez had claimed Wilsey had acted improperly in issuing a check to Bill Huggins, the retired engineer, who was also the husband of the late Therese Chen, a FAMSF registrar said to be a close confidante of Wilsey.

The Met’s dilemma: Which comes first, party or exhibition?

Thu, 14 Apr 2016 20:48:26 UT

The only reason The Chronicle’s Little Man is not jumping out of his chair here is that the Little Man has scored a seat at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, and he’s afraid if his bottom isn’t in constant contact with his chair, some ne’er-do-well will slide into it. On the one hand, curator Andrew Bolton, whose trademark is socklessness, presides over the exhibition, which is a collaboration between the Anna Wintour Fashion Institute at the museum and its Department of Asian Art. [...] Vogue editor Anna Wintour, after whom the Costume Institute has been renamed, presides over the party, pushing out the riffraff while she beckons hordes of waxed, Spanxed and/or near-naked movie stars. “He can’t be on his cell phone the entire time,” she says of someone else, ordering an aide to call whoever he is before the party to share that dictum. Curators who watch over the Asian statuary and paintings fret over the possibility that their treasures will be used mainly to accessorize the dresses and robes. [...] on gala night when the exhibition opens, those art lovers who can drag themselves away from such cultural pursuits as ogling George Clooney and Kim Kardashian ooh and aah over the combination of objets and wearables. Koda, incidentally, is shown in the film referring to Rihanna’s fur-embellished Guo Pei gown, which requires at least three macho schleppers in suits to help her get the train up the outside stairway, as “transcendent.” [...] there are 800,000 visitors to the exhibition, a record.

Is 'Butler' on your resume? Here's the $175,000 SF job for you

Wed, 23 Mar 2016 22:14:01 UT

The salary, "depending on experience," is $175,000 a year. Considering the lure of that, I'm imagining that even Carson is polishing his resume.

Gathering to raise money for a Tony Bennett statue

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:00:00 UT

Willie Brown; Charlotte and George Shultz; Ron Conway; Daniel Lurie; Lucy Jewett; Rich Guggenhime; Larry and Pam Baer; Cissie Swig; Nancy and Joachim Bechtle; Stanlee Gatti — gathered in the Penthouse of the Fairmont on Tuesday night, Jan. 26, for the mover-and-shaker version of passing the hat. [...] Brown, long practiced in such matters, implored the crowd with these words: “We need to continue the flow of resources.” In this case, the resources are going to the creation of an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of Tony Bennett, to be placed on the lawn of the Fairmont Hotel. The monument is in recognition of Bennett’s rendition of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” and will be unveiled in celebration of his 90th birthday, which will be marked here with a big blowout on Aug. 19. Charlotte Shultz, Brown and the Fairmont Hotel’s Thomas Klein hosted the reception. Bennett is also a painter who’s had his work in galleries and in coffee table books. Had he ever considered painting his own commemorative self-portrait? “I paint all the time,” said Bennett, who was there with his wife, Susan Benedetto, and her parents, “but I don’t paint that well.” Bennett — whose own favorite artist is John Singer Sargent — meant “that well” as a comparison of his skills as a painter to those of Bruce Wolfe, the “exceptional sculptor,” in his description, who’s already begun the work. The artist, also at work on a sculpture of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, created the Kurt Herbert Adler bust in the lobby of the San Francisco Opera House, and has also sculpted likenesses of Margaret Thatcher and Arnold Palmer. Having found it in karaoke bars in the most remote areas of China, performed “in the heaviest Chinese accents you could imagine, you know you’ve reached every corner of the world.”

SF vintage clothier ‘flabbergasted’ by raid over banned animals

Fri, 1 Jan 2016 08:01:00 UT

A day after more than a half dozen wildlife-protection agents raided vintage clothier Decades of Fashion on Haight Street, the owner said Friday she was “flabbergasted” that state inspectors had closed her down for hours and taken away enough clothes and accessories to make a six-page itemized list. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife enforces prohibitions on sales of items that include leopards, tigers, antelopes, kangaroos, sea turtles and other protected animals, but owner Cicely Hansen was shocked the agency targeted a vintage shop offering goods from the 1880s through the 1980s. Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, said people can possess the items in question, but that it’s against the law to sell them. Hansen said her father was a probate attorney, and from his experiences, she thought, “when you go in and get the whole household of things, it’s all inclusive.” The shop owner is well aware of other laws that regulate the sale of secondhand materials, particularly to prevent the fencing of stolen items. “Two girls were sent to a coffee shop to wait,” for a period that turned out to be all day. The wildlife wardens “went downstairs to my personal closet and took all my grandmother’s collection of leopard collars,” said Hansen. “If we feel there’s enough evidence to make a case,” he said, that evidence can be presented to the District Attorney.

Which movies to see this weekend, Nov. 27

Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:47:53 UT

The Eye Has to Travel explores the life of Peggy Guggenheim, whose instinct and taste carved out a place for herself in the firmament of 20th century artists. A fascinating story about a woman who amassed one of the world’s great art collections, all the more interesting because of the remembrances of an array of art pundits and historians. Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie are longtime friends, having one last Christmas night bender before they enter the boring stage of adulthood. Hung with care on the barest of plots, the aggressive randomness of this stoner buddy comedy fuels some genuinely inventive comic moments. Rated R. 111 minutes. The latest from Steven Spielberg is a sure, solid ride, with Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan, who is enlisted to represent a Soviet spy and then actually endeavors to give him good representation. Rated PG-13. 141 minutes. Rich in emotion and period detail, this story of a young Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) who moves to Brooklyn in 1951 is one of the best films of the year. Rated PG-13. 112 minutes. Pixar’s dinosaur-themed Western adventure has an original concept, disarming emotional heft and features the most impressive visuals in animated cinema to date. The film is limited by visible seams in the script, with a shifting tone that varies from light comedy to surprising menace, sometimes too abruptly.

Sex and art two of Peggy Guggenheim’s favorite things

Thu, 19 Nov 2015 18:35:23 UT

By the time she spoke to biographer Jacqueline Bogart Weld, in recorded conversations that are the framework for the documentary Peggy Guggenheim: [...] looking back at her life, as this film does, it was Guggenheim’s collection of 20th century art, housed today in a museum in her palazzo in Venice, that fulfilled the most desperate wish of this not-devastatingly-attractive, not-hugely-rich woman: to stand out in the world. A census of her many love affairs — including playwright Samuel Beckett, who spent four days in bed with her, disentangling himself from the sheets only to open the door to get a delivered sandwich — illustrates not so much her need for passion as it does her need for power. Peggy Guggenheim was born to eccentric parents — Florette, her mother, was known for repeating every sentence she said exactly three times — who were part of New York’s traditional wealthy German Jewish community. The family fortune was made in the mining business by Peggy’s uncle, Solomon Guggenheim, namesake for the Guggenheim Museum (which owns and manages her collection). Determined to break away from the stultifying environment in which she’d been raised, Peggy Guggenheim went to Paris in the ’20s, cavorted with Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, Kiki de Montparnasse. With World War II threatening, she founded Guggenheim Jeune, a gallery in London, and later moved to New York, where she ran the gallery Art of This Century, and collected works by Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and other members of the New York School. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who also made “The Eye Has to Travel” about her aunt, Diana Vreeland, really seems to “get” Guggenheim, a woman of privilege who was both vain and insecure about her powers as a woman, and at the same time, secure enough in her taste as a collector to follow her instincts and make a major contribution to modern art. In the conversations that form the framework of this engrossing and well-made movie, Guggenheim’s tone is somewhat flat.

Squaw Valley Community of Writers finds food in words

Sun, 18 Oct 2015 13:00:00 UT

The writers conference was founded in 1969 by novelists Oakley Hall and Blair Fuller and nonfiction writer David Perlman, science editor of The Chronicle. Most of the evening’s program, emceed by poet Matthew Zapruder, featured speeches and poems of tribute, augmented by the band Los Train Wreck, a fitting homage to the conference, where evenings often end with singing and playing music. Poet-novelist Elizabeth Rosner described the valley setting, “a bowl inside a mountain range that held thousands as we walked, talked and ate words.” Novelist Amy Tan paid homage to late writers who’d participated and compared the experience of going to Squaw and learning whether your work is any good to glimpsing your face in a mirror after you’d been able to see only the back of your head. In keeping with poet Robert Hass’ image of Oakley Hall with wineglass in hand, watching the action at the pearly gates, I am imagining Hall smiling at hearing his daughter, community executive director Brett Hall, carrying on both the day-to-day organization and the spirit of the gathering: “My father always said to me, ‘Try not to f— it up.’” The resulting traffic tie-up, report Audrey and Bob Sockolov, delayed the Symphony opening for 20 minutes. [...] at the de Young Museum on Thursday, Oct. 15, steam from a dim sum table serving station activated a fire alarm at the opening of “Jewel City,” art from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Guests went outside, firefighters arrived, guests returned, more dim sum was consumed. The night before returning from New Orleans, where he’d attended a professional conference, designer Eric Heiman realized he’d mistakenly booked a flight a week away. Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, traces at least three paths: The history of viticulture in California; the story of con man Mark Anderson, who set the warehouse fire that destroyed $250 million worth of wine; and the route of a bottle of wine, made in 1875 by Isaias Hellman, the author’s great-great-grandfather, to Dinkelspiel’s wineglass. After the fire was out, a hole was cut into the side of the building, and the fire department pumped the wine out of the basement “through 2,000 feet of pipe laid down on Bryant Street toward barges on the bay.”

Yearly sounds of heaven at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Thu, 8 Oct 2015 13:00:00 UT

At the Linda Mar Shopping Center in Pacifica, Julian Grant spotted a priest emerging from a Prius with an “I Brake for God” bumper sticker. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is huge and crowded, but when I talked with several of the San Francisco police officers on duty there, they said there hadn’t been any problems. If you had paid big bucks to get in, you might feel entitled to walk through the crowd without being delayed by clogged traffic. The whole event — mainly, of course, the music, but also the kids tumbling over each other on the lawn, pressed-together people loosening up miraculously to let wheelchairs roll by, the lolling, the grinning — is in keeping with a serene euphoria all the more precious because of its rarity. Nancy Bechtle, sister of founder Hellman, wearing a cowgirl outfit that had belonged to Dale Evans, was front woman for Nancy and the Lamb Chops on the Bandwagon stage. The Chops included various members of the Hellman clan; fiddler Alexander Barantschik, concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony; and on mouth harp Joshua Robison, husband of Michael Tilson Thomas, and were “totally fun,” writes Paul Williams. [...] the Kronos Quartet played at HSB for the first time, in a tribute to the “Third” album created by the ’70s pop group Big Star. Offstage conversation ranged from Parks “telling me about how he, as a kid, played for Albert Einstein,” said Kronos leader David Harrington, and Henry Hung, new leader of the band at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, talking about the music energy there. Systrom, who has an unassuming manner, started the conversation with an anecdote about having to wait to take a selfie with President Francois Hollande of France because Hollande was in conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Dunham, a staunch feminist and recent Twitter dropout, called Instagram the least “toxic” of the social networks, and decried the “trolling and bullying and verbal abuse” that abounds on the Internet and causes “psychic turmoil.”