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Bellingham by the Bay

Smooth sailing through these rough waters

There’s a lot of confusion about what’s happening with plans to hold the America’s Cup race in San Francisco. It seems at least some of the activities will be held in New York. … That’s unsettling. The TV show Alcatraz is filmed in Vancouver, and Coppola makes his movies in Romania and Argentina.

“One thing is for sure,” says the inimitable Flicka McGurrin, who owns the waterfront Pier 23 Cafe. “We’re staying, no matter what happens.” The America’s Cup construction will happen around her – including displacing Teatro ZinZanni. “I’ve got a good lease, and it’s smooth sailing for us.”

Not so for the landmark saloon on Powell Street, the Gold Dust Lounge, where amid the live music, the tourists and the locals, the dust never settled. The Gold Dust’s lease is up, and there’s little chance the funky watering hole will survive. By the way, it never did achieve official landmark status. It’s a shame Herb Caen’s not around to fight this continuing corporate cleansing of the City. … “I can predict what San Francisco will look like in 30 years,” growls the curmudgeonly Cosmo Sostenuto. “Nothing but fast food joints, nail salons, single women walking their dogs, and 1,000 branches of the Academy of Art University.”

Valerie Pinkert reports that there is a three-hour workshop titled “Awakening the Female Pelvis” offered at the Mindful Body on California Street in Pac Heights. Last time I spent three hours trying to awaken a female pelvis was at the junior prom. … Good Vibrations, the emporium that’s awakened many a pelvis, is celebrating its first 35 years in business.

Going the way of the pay phone, an old-fashioned newsstand is hard to find these days, but there are still two good ones on the north side of the City. Fadi Berberi’s Smoke Signals, boasting 1,300 titles of magazines and papers (plus books), has been on Polk Street near Vallejo for 16 years. Moe Salimi and his sister, Anne, run Juicy News on Fillmore at Jackson – 20 years in business. … Across Fillmore Street, Phil Kaplan has been pressing clothes for 60 years at his Bon Cleaners. “I’ll never retire,” says Phil. “What am I going to do? Sit home and watch television?” If you’re at home watching reruns of Cannon at 11 o’clock in the morning, then something’s amiss.

Norm Goldblatt, the physicist-comic, almost never misses when he does stand-up. “I think I invented a new device,” quips Norm. “It’s called the Zero Entendre, judging from the audience reaction.” … I’ll bet Norm brings down the house. That reminds me of an old joke: Zsa Zsa Gabor is a great housekeeper. Every time she divorces, she keeps the house. … That line calls for Zero Tolerance.

Mental health professionals in the Nob Hill area are trying to deal with a new phenomenon: post-Cala-Foods-closing traumatic syndrome. Herb Gold, Russian Hill’s illustrious writer, may have contracted it. “I miss Cala Foods in the wee hours, when it was an incredible pick-up arena. Of course, there were a lot of trannys and hookers. That’s not really my cup of tea.” … Some locals are bereft since the 24-hour supermarket shut down in December. It was a nocturnal community, of sorts. Dr. Dean Ornish warns me: “Isolation can be deadly.”

Bob Melrose, the KCBS cop reporter with bulldog tenacity, retires on April 12. Gee, we worked together as editors back in the 1980s. … Watch out for nostalgia, a curse for a columnist. … Ronnie Montrose, who used to play lead guitar for Van Morrison when Van lived in Marin, died last month. After playing with Morrison, Ronnie hired another singer named Sammy Hagar. Ronnie, with the intense eyes, playing like a man possessed, was only 64. … Davy Jones of the Monkees, a figure from my formative years, was 66 when he died in February. … Amid the cascade of obits for musicians – Whitney Houston, Davey, and Ronnie – there was word of the death of Don Cornelius, creator of Soul Train. The show was a vehicle mostly for black girls, who were almost never seen on TV in those days except for playing maids, hookers and troubled nightclub singers. Cornelius put real people on the air, and America could see that some people could have a good time and no one felt threatened. Let it all hang out, baby. There was more sex on that show than any cocktail party at Caligula’s house. But it was not odiously graphic. The show depicted couples dancing, motioning toward each other in a captivating way. Of course, the Motown tunes were great. Don Cornelius broke through the Dick Clark white-guy television mold. Don knew that black women were assertive (“Look out boy, ’cause I gonna gitcha!”) and were going to be a strong force in this country. Don led a new sort of rebellion from Chicago onto syndicated television. Onward Motown soldiers. Everyone else, just get on the train.

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. E-mail: bruce@northsidesf.com
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