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Sam Whiting


John Sampas, Kerouac estate guardian, dies at 84

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:43:03 UT

John Sampas, Jack Kerouac’s brother-in-law who ended up controlling the late author’s literary assets and getting many of them published, has died at his home in Greenwich, Conn. A polarizing figure in the small but passionate world of Beat literature disciples, Mr. Sampas fought long legal wars over the legitimacy of the will of Kerouac’s mother, Gabrielle, who outlived her son by four years. “John’s mission in life was to develop everything that Jack had written,” said his niece, Mary-Claire Paicopolis, a New Hampshire cardiologist who confirmed his death. Mr. Sampas died last Thursday, just one day after conclusion of his last battle, the auction of the long-lost “Joan Anderson Letter,” written by Neal Cassady to his buddy Kerouac and credited with inspiring the spontaneous writing style Kerouac would adopt for “On the Road.” Kerouac had been the childhood friend of Mr. Sampas’ older brother, Sebastian, a poet and writer who died while serving in World War II. The Sampas version is that Stella Kerouac became Gabrielle’s caretaker, and when Gabrielle died in 1973, a combination of her estate and rulings by a Florida judge left Kerouac’s literary estate to Stella Kerouac. “John was very smart, and very interested in preserving the legacy of Jack Kerouac,” said George Tobia, Mr. Sampas’ longtime attorney. Challenges to Mr. Sampas’ authority over the estates came from representatives of Kerouac’s blood descendants, namely a daughter from an earlier marriage, Jan Kerouac, who died in 1996, and a nephew, Paul Blake. There was speculation at the time that if this was the source for “On the Road,” then its value could approach or even surpass that of the original scroll. Mr. Sampas never married, and he is survived by an adopted son, John Shen Sampas of Greenwich, Conn.; his twin sister, Helen Surprenant of Dracut, Mass.; and more than a dozen nieces and nephews.

Royal Robbins, mountaineer and clothing company founder, dead at 82

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:48:04 UT

Royal Robbins, mountaineer and clothing company founder, dead at 82 Royal Robbins, a legendary clean climbing mountaineer who conquered Yosemite’s Half Dome in Tretorn tennis shoes, and opened a clothing line in his own catchy name, died Tuesday at his home in Modesto after a long illness. The standard was to pound or drill pitons into the granite. In a 2010 interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Robbins said he strengthened his courage as a kid by jumping from the roof of a moving boxcar train onto the roof of an oncoming train. In 1957, he made the first ascent of the northwest face of Half Dome as part of a four-man team. A tourist snapped their photo, and when they got the film back and saw what they were wearing, “They decided they’d better get into the outdoor clothing business,” said Royal Robbins chief executive Michael Millenacker. The couple started the company in 1968 in the carport of their Modesto home, selling to retailers like REI. In addition to kayaking and climbing all over the world, he published a three-part autobiography, My Life: When I touched the rock, it had in turn touched my spirit, awakening an ineffable longing, as if I had stirred a hidden memory of a previous existence, a happier one.

Matt Phillips, master of the monotype print, dies

Mon, 6 Mar 2017 20:24:33 UT

Matt Phillips, an artist and academic credited with reviving and promoting the monotype style for making singular impressions on paper, died Wednesday at age 89. Mr. Phillips, a longtime resident of Emeryville, died at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland from congestive heart failure, said his son, Joshua Phillips of New York City. “Matt helped foster a new regard for the monotype as an artistically viable medium,” said his ex-wife Sandra S. Phillips, curator emerita of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Phillips taught literature and philosophy at the American University of Paris, and later built up the art department at Bard College in upstate New York, where he taught for 27 years. “He often described himself as a ‘painter-poet,’” said his youngest daughter Miriam Phillips, a professor of dance at the University of Maryland. [...] the image was pressed onto rice paper to create the finished artwork. “My one concession to a mechanical tool is an etching press,” he told The Chronicle in 2002. In 1964, he returned to join the art department at Bard College in New York, where he met the former Sandra Sammataro, who was on her way to a doctorate in art history. Mr. Phillips was also married to paper conservator Susannah Hays, his collaborator on limited edition art books. Survivors include his partner, poet Elizabeth Chapman of Palo Alto, daughters Kate Phillips of Oakland and Miriam Phillips of Washington, D.C., a son, Joshua Phillips, of New York City, and a brother, Alan Phillips, of Seattle.

Aileen Clarke Hernandez, NOW leader and activist, dies

Thu, 2 Mar 2017 02:25:37 UT

A City Hall memorial will be held Monday for Aileen Clarke Hernandez, an entrenched San Francisco civil rights activist, labor leader and feminist, and the second national president of the National Organization for Women. Ms. Hernandez died Feb. 13 of complications of dementia in a memory care community in Orange County where she had been in living to be near her niece, Annie Clarke. “Aileen was the strongest and most influential woman leader on behalf of minorities and women that we have seen in this country,” said Belva Davis, who was the first black woman to become a TV newscaster in the West, at San Francisco’s KPIX-TV, an achievement she attributes largely to the inspiration of Ms. Hernandez. “I grew up knowing about Aileen and knowing her significance in the African American community,” said board President London Breed, who read the proclamation. Among the list of advocacy groups that Ms. Hernandez either started or ran are NOW, Black Women Organized for Action in San Francisco, Black Women Stirring the Waters and the California Women’s Agenda, an action alliance of more than 500 advocacy organizations statewide. An outstanding student, she attended Howard University, where she was introduced to politics and became active in the NAACP. In that capacity, she was a featured speaker at the Commission on the Status of Women Conference, where NOW was conceived, in June 1966. Ms. Hernandez later resigned the EEOC in protest of its inaction on sex discrimination cases. According to Clarke, Ms. Hernandez moved to San Francisco in the 1970s, bought a pair of flats in the Outer Richmond and opened her own consulting firm, Hernandez and Associates, to take on racism and sexism in government and corporations nationwide. “Aileen was well known because she was in the forefront, marching or standing with women and addressing issues not only related to women but to young people,” said Williams, who recalled meeting Ms. Hernandez at an action in the Bayview. In 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom named Ms. Hernandez chair of the African American Out-Migration Task Force, to address the city’s shrinking black population. Survivors include nephews Steven Clarke of Huntington Beach (Orange County) and Mark Clarke of Ottawa, and nieces Susan and Annie Clarke of Orange County.

Bus shelters bring Summer of Love’s ghosts back to life

Wed, 1 Mar 2017 21:06:34 UT

To get the answer, the San Francisco Arts Commission assigned a series of six bus shelter poster designs to Deborah Aschheim, a ’60s-centric Los Angeles artist who was alive during the Summer of Love — just barely. “I wanted to bring these ghosts back to life so as you are walking down Market Street, you are time traveling,” says the 52-year-old artist. With a degree in anthropology from Brown University, Aschheim put what she learned to work while searching through the archives of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the GLBT Historical Society, and in the special collections at UC Santa Cruz. The hard part was tracking down the photographers or their estates, 50 years later, to get permission from the owner of the copyright, which in some cases was not the photographer. “At the time I was drawing these, I was thinking about how we live now with our focus on careers and material success,” Aschheim says by phone from Los Angeles, where she recently marched to protest President Trump’s immigration policies. “Since the election, the values that people were fighting for in the ’60s have become more urgent,” she says. Aschheim will be followed by Sarah Hotchkiss’ interpretation of the cultural scene as covered by the underground press, and Kate Haug’s Summer of Love trading cards. If the six posters by Aschheim are not enough Summer of Love, you can proceed directly from Market Street to the ground floor of City Hall for “Jim Marshall’s 1967,” an exhibition of 80 blown-up images by the king of all San Francisco rock ’n’ roll photographers.

Modernism on the move again, 37 years later

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 04:23:36 UT

When Martin Muller arrived from Geneva by way of Little Rock, Ark., to open a San Francisco art gallery in 1979, he was too new to know not to put it upstairs in a lighting warehouse South of Market. Modernism, as he called it, turned out to be the first commercial art gallery in SoMa. [...] Modernism is pushing the frontier again, having come to rest wedged between an SRO hotel and an auto body shop on Ellis Street. “I find it personally exciting, as someone in the world of culture, to be a pioneer in a neighborhood where I feel I can have a meaningful contribution,” says Muller, who laces his formal English with a French accent. When asked the precise name of this neighborhood, he is unashamed to summon his gallery director, Danielle Beaulieu, to tell him where he is sitting. Pioneer though he is, Muller is not the first art dealer to stake a claim on the raggedy side of Ellis. Jessica Silverman opened her gallery in a vacant corner store at Ellis and Leavenworth three years ago and “it’s been fantastic,” she says. The door is locked, and if you press your nose against the glass you can see an oversize painting of a young girl holding an assault rifle. Anyone enticed enough to find out can press the buzzer for admittance through a heavy metal door. “In 1979, people were calling the (SoMa) gallery asking if it was safe,” Muller says. Bohemian clubbers and nightclubbers stood shoulder to shoulder to see Gottfried Helnwein’s paintings of children smeared in blood, wrapped in bandages and pointing automatic weapons at them. During gallery hours on a sunny day, the north side of Ellis is a good place for people to warm in the southern exposure, often while lying down on the pavement. The commotion that bothered him the most was a rent increase he describes in his typically overheated way as “dramatic and exorbitant, to the tune of doubling.” In response, he sent his broker to follow the art gallery wagon train south to Dogpatch and the Do Re Mi (Dogpatch, Potrero, Mission) Arts District.

Park Commission says no to Summer of Love anniversary concert

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 18:07:22 UT

A City Hall rally followed by two hours of impassioned testimony that included a man on his knees begging and a sing-along to “Give Peace a Chance” failed to convince the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission that it should allow a free 50th anniversary Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park. By a unanimous vote Thursday, the commission upheld a staff decision to deny promoter Boots Hughston a permit for his planned June 4 event at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park. Because of concerns over public safety, traffic, lack of organization and a wildly fluctuating crowd-size estimate, Hughston was advised to find a partner with more concert promotion experience and submit a new application. Hughston said he has spent nine months on the event and planned to pay the $200,000 city cost out of pocket. Because he had put on a 40th anniversary Summer of Love celebration in the park, he believed his permit probably would be granted and announced the concert a few weeks ago. Performers were to include Eric Burdon and War, and the original rhythm section of the Santana Blues Band. [...] his permit application had not been approved, and on Feb. 7 Rec and Park sent Hughston a terse rejection letter. Michael Carabello, conga drummer with the original Santana band, read about the show in The Chronicle and called to say, “This is the first I’ve heard of it.” On Facebook, Burdon’s wife and manager, Marianna Burdon, wrote: This world is full of deluded characters spreading false information for their own opportunistic purposes. ... After the rain, about 100 flower children — yes, they still exist — carried placards to the steps of City Hall. Many of the speakers, who overflowed into a secondary room, took their full two minutes just to give their Summer of Love credentials, though none could top Buell’s own.

Huge Robert Frank pop-up show to open at UC Berkeley

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 21:52:44 UT

Books and Films, 1947-2016, is so comprehensive that it requires two galleries in separate buildings on campus. The Reva and David Logan Gallery for Documentary Photography, at North Gate Hall, will show “The Americans,” along with the original contact sheet for every image in the book. “His work is revolutionary in showing an America that was not seen, but also creating a way of seeing in photography that was new, powerful and charged,” says Ken Light, professor of photojournalism at Cal’s Graduate School of Journalism. Steidl plans to stay longer than one day this time, to attend Friday’s opening and give a lecture at the already sold-out event, “Gerhard Steidl: ‘Print is not dead — The Beauty of Analogue Media in a Digital World.’” After the exhibition ends March 3, the work will be removed by students and either destroyed or transformed into collages and hats by the students. All that will remain is a $5 catalog printed on broadsheet, like a 60-page edition of the New York Herald Tribune. “Robert’s prints have become so valuable now that this is a more democratic way of showing it, which is what he wants,” says Light. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Carmella Scaggs, socialite and ex-wife of singer

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 01:07:33 UT

Carmella Scaggs, who was drawn to San Francisco from Seattle by the music scene in the 1960s, married Boz Scaggs and joined the San Francisco social swirl, died Friday. “She was lively and funny and vivacious and a joy to be with,” said Jann Wenner, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone, who stood as witness when Boz Scaggs and the former Carmella Storniola were married in Aspen, Colo. Among the heads she turned was that of Boz Scaggs, a tall and skinny guitarist who came from Texas with the Steve Miller Band. With her Sicilian American good looks and fashion-model figure, she was able to charm her way into the right rooms on the right nights. The couple took a ski trip to Aspen with Wenner and his then-wife and got married on a whim. Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson was recruited to be the wedding photographer, but he was too loaded to remember to put film in the camera. With her husband and without him after their divorce in 1980, Mrs. Scaggs attended opening galas and was a regular at Stars, a fraternity house for the glitterati operated by Jeremiah Tower in the heart of the Civic Center. Mrs. Scaggs appeared frequently in the column of the late Chronicle society editor Pat Steger and was also a favorite of the late columnist Herb Caen. Once when Caen was covering a society cruise on the Nile in Egypt, Mrs. Scaggs made a dramatic arrival from Naples in the company of a movie producer. Once her boys moved out, Mrs. Scaggs moved from Presidio Heights to a house on Russian Hill, and became a dealer in rare books and antiques.

Free Summer of Love concert canceled by city

Thu, 9 Feb 2017 01:31:25 UT

In a blistering three-page letter citing “numerous misrepresentations of material fact,” the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department denied a permit for a free Summer of Love 50th anniversary concert to be held June 4 at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park. Event promoter Boots Hughston was sent a rejection letter Tuesday, less than two weeks after he had made a public announcement about the concert, telling The Chronicle that the city department had given him the date and go-ahead for the event, with a permit all but assured. In her letter, Diane Rea, manager of permits and reservations for Rec and Park, stated that after nine months of work, Hughston had still failed to supply adequate information about how security and crowd control would be handled. “This is a character assassination on me all the way down the line,” said Hughston, 68, who claims a long history of putting on peaceful free tribute concerts in Golden Gate Park. The golden anniversary concert was to have been a major focal point of a Summer of Love celebration that involves all the major museums and cultural institutions in San Francisco and Berkeley. Hughston said he’d lined up Eric Burdon and War, the original rhythm section of the Santana Blues Band, and Country Joe McDonald, as well as remnants of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Moby Grape, Sons of Champlin and the Youngbloods. The Summer of Love was a cultural event that changed the world,” Hughston said, “so for them to want to stop it blows my mind. Outside Lands, the mega music festival produced by Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly Productions, paid the city more than $3 million for its music festival in the park last year, according to Rec and Park. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free festival, paid $176,000 — but it does not use the Polo Field, an athletic field that requires extra care.

Chris Hellman, dancer turned philanthropist, dies at 83

Wed, 8 Feb 2017 00:47:17 UT

Chris Hellman, a British ballerina who made her mark as a tireless board chair, fundraiser and confidante to dancers for the San Francisco Ballet for more than 30 years, has died at 83. Mrs. Hellman, wife of the late investment banker and bluegrass benefactor Warren Hellman, had been out of the public eye for many years while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. “There are no words to express how much Chris Hellman has meant to SF Ballet and to me personally,” San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson said in a statement. During that time, she oversaw the company’s exodus from the War Memorial Opera House and its return in 1998, after a two-year seismic upgrade. A year later, she stepped down as board chair but still served as honorary co-chair of the ballet’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2008. At the age of 10, Mrs. Hellman started training at the Royal Academy of Dance, riding the train for an hour to London. While sailing home from an American tour aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Mrs. Hellman met Warren Hellman, who was an undergrad at UC Berkeley, on his way to walkabout in Europe. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1955, Warren Hellman, great-grandson of Wells Fargo Bank owner Isaias Hellman, joined the U.S. Army as an officer. Upon his discharge, Warren Hellman entered business school at Harvard. [...] it wasn’t just money. Because Mrs. Hellman had been a dancer, she knew exactly when exhaustion would take over during a performance run, and in the long Christmas grind of the “Nutcracker,” fruit baskets and food would always arrive, courtesy of Mrs. Hellman. In at least one contract dispute while she was board chair, Mrs. Hellman was able to step in and bridge the gap between dancers and management. Mrs. Hellman retired from the board of trustees in 1999 and was awarded the Lew Christensen Medal, the highest honor the Ballet bestows. A private family memorial will be held Sunday, and a public celebration of her life is pending.

SF Art Institute opens archives to public

Wed, 1 Feb 2017 21:30:32 UT

The handwritten minutes of the board meeting of the San Francisco Art Association dated 1878 show approval being granted for one Mr. Muybridge to use its gallery to debut his motion picture project. Film historians consider that event on Pine Street to be the first-ever movie screening, thus making the heavy ledger book that describes it a marquee attraction to a one-of-a-kind show at the San Francisco Art Institute. The Art Institute, which opened as an association in 1871, was the first art school in the West, and now for the first time it is opening its archives in a free and improvisational exhibition called “Ghosts of the Tower.” “It’s that primary-source thing,” says Jeff Gunderson, the institute’s special collections librarian and archivist, as he lifts the bound volume marked March 21, 1871, to Aug. 29, 1889. “Ghosts of the Tower” is not an art exhibition, per se, because most of the collection will remain in cardboard boxes on racks in the Walter and McBean Galleries. Upon request, a curator will pull a box off the shelf to access an exhibition catalog for visitors. There will also be a rotation of posters and pictures, letters and memorabilia displayed on a table. In addition to visual arts, there are tapes to listen to, like Angela Davis’ classroom lectures and John Cage’s befuddling answers to questions.

John Knoop, filmmaker and daredevil, dies

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 21:00:00 UT

Mr. Knoop succumbed to lasting impairments from a horrific nighttime bicycle crash in Golden Gate Park that left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down in 1997. “His instinct was to go to the drama, no matter how dangerous,” said filmmaker Gaetano Maida, who once watched Mr. Knoop grab his camera and run toward gunfire, not away from it, while filming a story in Bangkok. In 1975, Mr. Knoop co-founded the Film Arts Foundation, an important resource and support group for independent filmmakers in the Bay Area. In his memoir, “Faultline: A Nomad Filmmaker’s Journal,” published in 2013, Mr. Knoop recounted how he escaped the farm by learning to fly airplanes, having earned his private pilot’s license at age 16. Five years later he left the goat farm for good and moved to a flat on Waller Street, with his wife and two young kids. Hired as the Western editor for the Farm Quarterly, he pitched the idea of a documentary about farming, even though he had never made a film. Once the home office saw the finished product it was agreed that he would leave the Farm Quarterly. In January 1997, he got funding for a film project about the children of the “disappeared,” people who were executed by the military dictatorship in Argentina. Survivors include sister Janet Kurtz of Arlington, Mass.; brothers Christopher of Cincinnati, Rudolph of Mendocino County and Anthony of Occidental; and children Tanya of Oakland, Michelle of Cotati, Geoffrey of El Cerrito, Hennessey of Sausalito and Savannah of Brooklyn.

Summer of Love 50th Anniversary concert announced

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 22:57:06 UT

The event, to be announced at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, will include Eric Burdon and War, the original rhythm section of the Santana Blues Band, Country Joe McDonald, and remnants of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Moby Grape, Sons of Champlin and the Youngbloods. In all, there will be 21 bands and 25 speakers, along with Tibetan monks and American Indian rituals. “The anniversary is being produced by the actual people who worked on the original free concerts, which caused the spark that made San Francisco the epicenter for creating the most positive association that has happened in 100 years,” Hughston said. [...] as now, the concert will be promoted by psychedelic posters being drawn by Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson, pioneers of the genre.

Ciel Bergman, Berkeley-born painter and art professor, dies

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 21:38:25 UT

Ciel Bergman, a Berkeley High School yell leader who once modeled for a Norman Rockwell painting, then later became an acclaimed postmodern landscape painter in Santa Barbara and Santa Fe, N.M., has died at 78. The cause of death was lung cancer, said her daughter, Bridgit Koller. The gallery had represented Ms. Bergman since a show called “The Last Sunset of the 20th Century,” for which she made a painting of nearly every Santa Fe sunset of 1999. A human response to the world of nature, said Peter Selz, professor emeritus for the History of Art department at UC Berkeley. The adjective ‘beautiful,’ abhorred by most contemporary critics, identifies her work. Once a registered nurse who worked in a hospital psychiatric ward, Ms. Bergman was a struggling single mom of two when she couldn’t resist the pull of her art. Upon graduation, she became a lecturer in painting and drawing at both UC Berkeley and California State University Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). In 1975, she got a SECA Award in painting from SFMOMA and was also featured in the 1975 Whitney Biennial, an exhibition of contemporary American art hosted every two years at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Ms. Bergman had been appalled by all the litter on the beach, so she and her students went out and collected enough trash to fill seven garbage bins and installed it at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Art Forum. While on the faculty at UC Santa Barbara, Ms. Bergman traveled to China, where she had an epiphany to only make paintings of beauty from that point on. In 1956, she graduated from Berkeley High School where she was head varsity yell leader, which led to a brief stint as an art studio model. “I have strived to create work that is sensuous, luminous, alive with emotional heat, honest and transcendental,” Ms. Bergman stated on her website,