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Sam Whiting





 



Aleshia Brevard, SF drag star and transgender pioneer, dies at 79

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 00:25:21 UT

Aleshia Brevard, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at Finocchio’swho went on to transgender surgery and a career in television and movies, died July 1 at home in her apartment in the Santa Cruz County town of Scotts Valley. The cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis, said Joyce Nordquist, Ms. Brevard’s landlord and friend of 60 years. “Within a year of that life-changing surgery I was balancing a showgirl’s headdress at the Dunes Hotel,” she wrote. “Aleshia was a true pioneer who never lost her zest for life,” said Stryker, who featured Ms. Brevard her in the Emmy-winning 2005 documentary Screaming Queens: In the film, Stryker said, Ms. Brevard described what life was like in the Tenderloin before there was an organized movement for transgender rights. Dreams of stardom were never mentioned, and the only venue for performance were school talent contests. “I was proud of her as a brother,” said her younger sister, Jeanne Cauble She was not the typical teenage boy. Though Ms. Brevard was taller and slimmer than Monroe, she could pull off the body language and the voice in the days before lip synching. A year or so later, she moved back to Los Angeles to have gender reassignment surgery. Ms. Brevard’s most prominent film role was in “The Love God?” with Don Knotts, in 1969. “Limousines whisked me from one press party to the next, and at each exciting stop I held court as the honored guest,” she wrote of that experience, on her website. When the roles dried up, Ms. Brevard returned to Middle Tennessee State University, where she earned a master’s degree in theater arts. Ms. Brevard is survived by her sister, of Midland, N.C. A private memorial service will be held in Scotts Valley.




Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais wins major national award

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 17:37:34 UT

Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais wins major national award San Francisco Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais has been named a winner of the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Prize for outstanding performance in visual arts journalism. “This is an extraordinary honor for a man who has spent his career in visual arts administration before joining The Chronicle as our visual art critic a year and a half ago,” said David Wiegand, assistant managing editor, features. Charles has brought a keen eye, a wealth of experience and, most of all, an appreciation for the importance of art in our world to his job as the Chronicle art critic. The Rabkin Prize is funded by the estate of abstract painter, folk art collector and Manhattan real estate investor Leo Rabkin, who died in 2015. Entries were judged solely upon their submission, by a three-person jury comprising readers of the arts press.



Artist’s graphic-style views of the night city

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 21:28:58 UT

[...] she knows it when she sees it — a neon sign burning late at a liquor store or a motel, in Chinatown, the Mission, and through the fog in the Outer Sunset where she lives. From that image, she creates a vibrant painting, a process that involves five colors at most, to create the effect of a vintage cartoon or comic book. “I’m trying to create a style that evokes a sense of nostalgia and familiarity,” says the 25-year-old artist. “Liquor stores and corner stores, motels — things like that — are a facet of every city and town,” she says. The liquor stores and corner stores there are in strip malls, but she loved them just the same. In the crush of humanity, she started taking pictures and later combined them into a painting of a man eating a hot dog in front of a liquor store. Above the liquor store is an apartment building with clothes drying on a fire escape. The pieces in the 111 Minna Gallery show are as large as 5 feet square, which means more signs, more people and more streetscape.



Gray Reisfield, niece and confidante of Greta Garbo, dies at 85

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 23:11:17 UT

Gray Reisfield, niece and sole heiress to the estate of the reclusive Swedish screen star Greta Garbo, has died. “Kata (family nickname for Garbo) taught my mother to swim in the Pacific Ocean,” said Derek Reisfield. At about the time she was meeting stars with her aunt, she changed her name just as her aunt had done, from Ann-Marguerite to the easier to handle Gray. From Los Angeles, the family moved to the Santa Fe artists community, and Mrs. Reisfield rode a horse 3 miles or more to Santa Fe High School, from which she graduated in 1950. Always academic, she went east for college at Bryn Mawr and advanced from there to Yale Law School, where she was among three women in her class. [...] Garbo (born Greta Lovisa Gustafson), was still considered one of the great screen goddesses of the 20th century, but she hadn’t made a film since the comedy flop “Two-Faced Woman” in 1941. Garbo turned her back on Hollywood and was trying to turn her back on her public in New York City, where she took refuge. “Kata would come visit us fairly often, either by car and driver, and very often she took the bus,” said Derek Reisfield. “She was quite canny,” said Reisfield, a management consultant, technology investor and co-founder of MarketWatch, the financial news and information site. The estate closed in 1994, but Mrs. Reisfield continued on as the unpaid guardian of the Garbo legend. Mrs. Reisfield did interviews, was featured in a television documentary and was an adviser to Garbo museum exhibits in New York and Santa Barbara.




50 years of protest photos in 50-year-old gallery

Fri, 7 Jul 2017 17:24:09 UT

Nobody loved the draft, and while national news photographers were looking for hippies with flowers their hair on Haight Street, Berkeley documentarian Nacio Jan Brown was shooting a protest against the Vietnam War at the Oakland Induction Center. The exhibit of 63 images covers just about every protest, from antiwar rallies at San Francisco State through the Black Panthers, People’s Park in Berkeley, the United Farmworkers March, Greenpeace, AIDS activism, Chinatown rent strikes, Black Lives Matter and through to the Women’s March last winter. For every gathering of resistance, there seemed to be at least one photographer, and the 33 photographers in the show amount to “the ones who we could find their negatives or their digital files, ” says Ken Light, professor of photojournalism at UC Berkeley, who curated the show along with his wife, Melanie Light, a photography appraiser and archivist. When word got around about the project, photographers started sending the Lights digital files, hundreds of them. The Lights turned a home office into a “Resisters Room,” and papered the walls with thumbnail prints attached by pushpins. “We had too many pictures of policemen beating up people and protesters holding signs, which were kind of boring,” Light says. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Resistors: 50 Years of Social Movement Photography in the Bay Area:



Most of a Mexican Museum collection fails authentication

Fri, 7 Jul 2017 16:53:12 UT

Most of a Mexican Museum collection fails authentication Almost all of the artifacts described as the oldest in the permanent collection of the Mexican Museum are either forgeries or cannot be authenticated to display in a national museum. According to the report, only 83 of 2,000 artifacts from the pre-Hispanic, or pre-Columbian, era could be certified as museum-quality by an independent team of museum curators who came from Mexico City to conduct the test. The other 1,917 are considered “decorative,” and will probably be given to schools or smaller museums before the museum moves from its temporary Fort Mason site to a permanent home in a luxury condo tower being constructed near SFMOMA. The $80,000 report was undertaken as a requirement of the Smithsonian Institution, which accepted the Mexican Museum as an affiliate in 2012. The recognition by the Smithsonian took the Mexican out of the realm of small community museums, where it has operated since its founding in 1975. All of the items studied, both fake and real, were donated to the museums, and no tax deductions were given to donors without independent authentication, Kluger said. [...] hand-me-downs cannot be part of any museum that offers parts of its collection on loan and accepts artifact loans from the Smithsonian. According to the museum’s website, the pre-Hispanic Collection goes back 2,500 years and represents 2,000 pieces encompassing Mesoamerican, Central American and Peruvian cultures. The items include vessels, tools, ceremonial objects and body ornaments from Teotihuacan, Mayan, Zapotec, Nayarit, Colima and Peruvian Incan civilizations. The 83 items that were authenticated include male and female figurines, jars, bowls, vases and necklace ornaments. According to Chávez, who has taught a course in art and culture in Latin America at the Berkeley journalism school, the report and the board’s response to it are positive signals.



Bill Evers, SF environmentalist and attorney, dies at 90

Fri, 7 Jul 2017 01:42:05 UT

During a long and distinguished career, Mr. Evers switched between private practice and public service. An activist in eradicating urban blight, he chaired the Citizens Committee for Sign Improvement, which successfully fought to get free-standing billboards removed from residential neighborhoods in San Francisco, in the 1960s. Mr. Evers was involved in the opening of the Alpine Meadows ski area, which opened in 1961, and Boreal Ridge, which opened in 1964. On his mother’s side, the Dohrmann family owned and operated the Emporium department store. Among his designs was the long-gone Hamm’s Brewery, noted for its twinkling sign of a glass filling with golden beer. Mr. Evers soon took a position as a legal assistant with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington. By the end of the dinner, they had shaken hands to form the Tahoe Improvement and Conservation Association. By the late 1970s, Mr. Evers was involved in public policy, and in 1977 he served as president of SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association. In his later years, he became involved in the Gladstone Institutes, a nonprofit medical research institution in San Francisco. Mr. Evers was a founding member of the President’s Council and served as chair of the Stem Cell Science Team.



Light show to wash Park Conservatory in psychedelia

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 23:22:23 UT

On Wednesday night at 9:15 p.m., he will find out, along with an expected 10,000 spectators, when his installation “Photosynthesis” flashes to life as the pinnacle of the “Surrealistic Summer Solstice” free concert in Golden Gate Park and probably the peak moment in the citywide celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The show, which involves a series of psychedelic flowers and insect patterns projected onto the white glass exterior of the Conservatory, will run nightly from sundown until midnight through Oct. 21, funded privately through the San Francisco Parks Alliance. Anticipation is high for the Grand Lighting of the Conservatory, and it will build through a three-hour jamby a band of ’60s survivors at a stage set up along John F. Kennedy Drive near the Conservatory. “Photosynthesis” will run in sequences of 15 or 20 minutes then start up again, with the lighting effect created by 10 projectors built into the refreshment kiosks outside the Conservatory. The artwork is a collaboration between Davis’ nonprofit studio, Illuminate, and Obscura Digital, known for lighting big structures like the Sydney Opera House.




Permit for Summer of Love concert in park denied for 2nd time

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:01:44 UT

Citing unresolved safety, transportation and legal issues, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission on Thursday again denied promoter Boots Hughston a permit to host a free concert in Golden Gate Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The 4-2 vote was greeted by boos at the end of a long morning of public testimony on behalf of the Council of Light, an organization of volunteers hoping to put on the event under the leadership of Hughston on Aug. 27 in Sharon Meadow. [...] to me, the issues are overcrowding and that they haven’t hired an event planner or medical and police personnel. Fellow Commissioner Tom Harrison also voted against the appeal after hearing San Francisco police officers had not been contacted by Hughston. Commissioners Kat Anderson, who described herself as a “hippie at heart,” and Gloria Bonilla both voted against upholding the staff denial and expressed hope the concert could still take place this summer. The denial of the appeal came less than a week after the city, under the auspices of Rec and Park, said it would hold its own free Surrealistic Summer Solstice event Wednesday, including a concert featuring members of the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Chambers Brothers, plus a lighting of the Conservatory of Flowers in psychedelic colors. There were suggestions that Rec and Park had stolen the Council of Light’s idea and undercut it with its own event, which the council pointed out was advertised without a permit in place — one of the reasons the commissioned turned down Hughston. Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg explained that Rec and Park does not issue permits for its own events, therefore had not skirted rules for the Surrealistic Summer Solstice. Hughston, in his customary unbuttoned button down over a dirty black T-shirt, particularly took umbrage at requests by staff that he partner with a more experienced event producer, emphasizing that at 68 years old, he has been producing events for four decades. Kurt “Crowbar” Kangas, who lived through the original ’67 Summer of Love festivities, added that the members of the Council of Light have more experience years in staging concerts and events combined compared with Rec and Park staff. David Grace, a theater manager who once worked at the Fillmore, went so far as to suggest that Rec and Park staff was corrupt, and ended his testimony with one word: “Extortion.” [...] none of it worked.




Richard Stephens, Academy of Art president, real estate mogul, dies

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 23:37:16 UT

Richard Stephens, Academy of Art president, real estate mogul, dies Richard Stephens, an educator and the mastermind behind the Academy of Art University and real estate conglomerate, died June 6 at his winter home in Phoenix. Mr. Stephens had just completed his own education at Stanford in 1951 when his father, also Richard Stephens, appointed him president of what was then called the Academie of Advertising Art, which had one facility, a loft on Kearny Street. Under Mr. Stephens’ leadership, the academy grew from 35 students studying advertising to a peak enrollment of 18,000 students studying photography, illustration, fine art, graphic design, industrial design, fashion, interior architecture and design, animation, motion pictures and television and acting. Rebranded first as the Academy of Art College and later the Academy of Art University, it is a for-profit business and has often drawn complaints that its central business is real estate acquisition. With 40 properties, Mr. Stephens, his daughter, Academy of Art President Elisa Stephens, and various trusts in their names are among the largest landowners in San Francisco, with more than 1 million square feet and an estimated value of well over $100 million. “Any time you have a for-profit educational facility you are going to have controversy,” Brown said. Besides that, you are not interesting unless you are controversial. For years, there were complaints that the Academy of Art violated city zoning restrictions by operating dormitories in buildings zoned for hotel and single-room occupancy, and illegally converting buildings to academic facilities. In 2016, the school was sued by the city, which claimed that at least 33 of the academy’s portfolio of 40 buildings were out of compliance with zoning laws, signage regulations or historic preservation rules. The settlement included $20 million in fines and fees and conversion of two academy buildings for up to 174 units of affordable housing. “My folks never thought of buying anything because the Depression scared the hell out of them,” Mr. Stephens told The Chronicle in a wide-ranging interview 10 years ago at the academy’s Auto Museum. After the war, he studied at Menlo College in Atherton before transferring to Stanford University, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1949 and his master’s in education in 1951. The school was headquartered at 740 Taylor St. in a leased brick building that had once housed the French Consulate and later a Benihana Japanese restaurant. Any building that would be difficult to transform to another commercial use could always be turned into either an art studio or student housing, usually without the proper permits from the city. Mr. Stephens’ educational philosophy has always been that secondary education is no indicator of artistic talent.



LSD king Owsley Stanley’s ‘Sonic Journals’ surface after 50 years

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 22:36:43 UT

Way out in the western hills of Sonoma County where no one can hear it, Owsley “Bear” Stanley’s personal speaker system is cranking Doc and Merle Watson’s version of “Tennessee Stud,” recorded by Bear at the Boarding House in 1974. With father and son Watson trading flat-pick leads, the sound coming out of those speakers is too clean and rich not to be shared with neighbors and everyone else. On June 23, the Owsley Stanley Foundation, headed by Starfinder Stanley will release the first of his late father’s legendary “Sonic Journals” in record stores. Never the Same Way Once will introduce an archive of 1,300 tapes recorded live at San Francisco dance halls and nightclubs in the 1960s and ’70s. Bear, the renowned sound engineer who built the Wall of Sound for the Grateful Dead, never had the time or money to catalog and transfer his concert tapes to digital files. “He had told me that if he didn’t manage to deal with the tapes before he died, he expected I would deal with them to his exacting standards,” says Starfinder. Whereas other sound engineers would stand at the back of a hall and work a console of switches to equalize the sound, Bear did it by microphone selection and placement, both during the sound check and during the concert itself. When a set was about to start, the backside of Bear could be seen sticking out from a speaker box while the front side was still inside soldering wires. “He really viewed them as capturing a musical event and not as a recording that could be cut up and overdubbed and reconfigured,” says Starfinder. The Sonic Journals first reached the bluegrass market with “Old & in the Way,” a Jerry Garcia side project with David Grisman and Peter Rowan, recorded at the intimate Boarding House on Bush Street in October 1973. Released on vinyl in 1975, it “was the No. 1 selling bluegrass album of all time before ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ (released in 2000) knocked it off,” says Starfinder, who was too young to remember it. [...] he remembers being taken as a teenager to the secure climate-controlled vaults of the Grateful Dead where the Sonic Journals were stored. “I’m the second oldest son, but the one that thought the most like him,” says Starfinder, who was born while his father was in prison for drugs. A chunk of that came when the Dead named the foundation as one of 20 nonprofits to share proceeds from charity auctions accompanying the “Fare Thee Well” tour of 2015. The selection process includes an “adopt-a-reel” program in which donors of $400 can select a band or even a specific show to transfer, and Hawk will search it out. [...] converting a show to digital does not mean that the listening public or even the adopt-a-reel donor will ever hear it. “Every release is its own tangled path of negotiations with artists and estates,” says Hawk, who serves as executive producer. There are sets by Jefferson Airplane, Santana, early Fleetwood Mac, and all strains of bluegrass, jazz, country, folk, classical, Indian, reggae, Motown and Cajun. Because Bear was a completist, the box set is not a greatest hits package. A single night with the crowd banter trimmed out will soon be available on vinyl, and either can be ordered now at www.owsleystanleyfoundation.org “If you turn off the lights and turn up the sound system, you can be transported back in time to the Boarding House in 1974,” says Starfinder’s wife, Audrey, who was born in 1983.



Promoter again denied permit to mark Summer of Love anniversary

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 03:45:00 UT

For the second time, promoter Boots Hughston has been denied a permit to stage a free concert in Golden Gate Park to honor the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Last week, Hughston told The Chronicle that he was awaiting permission from the city Recreation and Park Department to announce the show, and that a permit would be forthcoming. [...] on Thursday, Diane Rea, manager of permits and reservations for Rec and Park, sent Hughston a letter of denial, stating that he had not met conditions required to protect the park and surrounding neighborhoods. Reached by telephone at his Mill Valley home Saturday, Hughston denied all the charges leveled at him in Rea’s letter and said he had not yet decided whether to appeal the rejection before the full Rec and Park Commission. Hughston forwarded an email string to support his claim that his production organization, the Council of Light, has been treated unfairly, burdened with excessive demands and denied due process, under the authority of Dana Ketcham, director of permits and property management for Rec and Park. Hughston, a onetime colleague of Chet Helms and the Family Dog and now a real estate investor, had already held a 40th anniversary tribute to the Summer of Love at Speedway Meadow in the park. [...] on Feb. 7, he was denied a permit for the Polo Field by Rec and Park, for “numerous misrepresentations of material facts in your application.” Hughston appealed that denial before the full Rec and Park Commission at a Feb. 16 hearing, which started off with a passionate rally on the steps of City Hall and continued in the hearing chamber. Speaker after speaker asked the commission to allow the all-day festival on the grounds that the Summer of Love was a crucial point in the history of the counterculture and its 50th anniversary should be adequately honored.



Then-and-now photos of San Rafael span 133 years

Wed, 7 Jun 2017 19:17:10 UT

Among the treasures in the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Civic Center is a brochure titled “San Rafael Illustrated & Described,” from 1884. Drawn by Chris Jorgensen of the San Francisco Art School, that piece of promotional ephemera has been kept in a locked case since 1935, but out it came last fall, into the hands of Novato photographer Michelle Sarjeant Kaufman. Kaufman, who specializes in historic then-and-now pictures, was dispatched to find every location in the brochure to photograph it from precisely the same vantage point, 133 years later. “I went out into the world and looked for those buildings,” says Kaufman, 48, a Marin native and graduate of Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo. To find it, she went to city directories from the 1880s and followed the lead to the Sanborn insurance maps, which guided her to San Rafael’s Second Street, where she went looking for traces of a railroad line. When she calculated the location, on a two-block street, she recognized one building from the rear of the illustration, still standing with a peaked roof and tiny square window near the top. The pictures were made with a digital single lens reflex, set to a slow shutter speed. The photo of the planing mill is outside the third-floor offices of the Board of Supervisors, along with a map to find it and a description of Isaac Shaver, the local lumber king.



Green sisters take their spots in YBCA 100

Tue, 6 Jun 2017 07:01:00 UT

The Green twins have been named to the 2017 YBCA 100, putting them in company with 98 non-twins judged to be “provocateurs, instigators and innovators” by staff and board members at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The minds named Tuesday come from across the country and range from filmmaker Barry Jenkins, who won the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards for “Moonlight,” to Jill Soloway, Emmy-winning creator of “Transparent,” to Elaine Welteroth, editor of Teen Vogue. Local winners include Julie Phelps, artistic director of the Tenderloin dance company CounterPulse, musician Zakiya Harris and Linda Harrison, executive director of the Museum of the African Diaspora. The Greens may be the only twins, but there are several community organizations, including Smart Bomb Oakland, the Stud Collective and 100 Days Action. “That’s our passion,” says Melonie, who works out of the home office, a converted bedroom in their flat. To create that office space, the dining room was converted into a second bedroom which Melonie volunteered to take even though she is older and has seniority. The goal is to move the office out of their home and into a laboratory space downtown, where they will offer all the technological tools their clients need tell their stories, along with workshops and space for live showcases.



West Edge Festival is moving — but can’t say where

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 21:45:29 UT

West Edge Opera, the sponsoring entity, lost its use of the historic 16th Street Station in West Oakland and has not finalized a replacement space yet. The festival opens Aug. 2, and free shuttles to the as-yet unknown location will be offered from the West Oakland BART Station. Founded as Berkeley Opera in 1979, and renamed West Edge in 2012, the Berkeley company presents a summer festival of three complete, fully staged operas in a space that was not built for fully staged operas. For the past two seasons it has used the 16th Street Station, a Beaux Arts landmark that was built in 1912 as the terminus for transcontinental passenger train travel. To stage an opera in the Main Hall, everything was brought in by West Edge, including electricity, a platform stage and seating for 500. In March, West Edge was informed by Bridge Housing that Oakland would no longer grant special permits for public events inside the station, and the scramble began.