The photographer and the Crissy Field pigeon

A particularly painterly photograph by Annie Leibovitz: Misty Copeland, New York City, 2015. photo: © Annie Leibovitz from WOMEN: New Portraits

The ubiquitous Annie Leibovitz took her acclaimed show of photographs, Women: New Portraits, to Crissy Field last month. The new portraits are on a 10-city, worldwide tour. They include Annie’s pics from 15 years ago. Her corporate sponsor, UBS, said it was all right to call her Annie. Why select this windswept tundra, Crissy Field, as a locale for her show? “I always loved Crissy Field,” she said, “even when I was a student at the S.F. Art Institute.” That’s where she studied painting, then turned to photography. She got a job at a fledgling magazine here named Rolling Stone. “Coming over here this morning, I noticed there was a heron on the wetlands. It was beautiful. I got a feeling that I was home again. They call the bird their Crissy Field pigeon.”

It’s no surprise that Annie was a painter. It shows in the portraits, particularly the one of Misty Copeland, using a mix of available and artificial light. You’d swear it is a painting. Oh, Annie brought an old friend along for the press opening — Gloria Steinem. You’d never guess that she turned 82 last month. They both praised the work of Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, and their friend, Susan Sontag, who said, “Every photograph is a novel.” … The impresario Marc Huestis put on a great tribute to David Bowie at the Castro Theatre, which screened The Man Who Fell to Earth, 40 years after its release. Candy Clark, the film’s co-star, was there. I had no idea that Terry Southern was in the film for a miniscule moment. I asked Candy about him. (Marc said I could call her Candy). “Oh, Terry was very funny, very polite, and very naughty. He wrote, Candy, you know. But it wasn’t about me.” There were strippers in drag, a woman’s choral group (Conspiracy of Venus), an outrageous fashion show that would make The Village People look like The Stepford Wives. Kitten on the Keys played wondrously, and Tammy Hall soared on electric piano. … More community standard: Scrumbly Koldewyn brings his new show, The Untamed Stage: Weimar Berlin Kabarett (we could use some more decadence) to the Hypnodrome (575 10th Street) through May 28. … I knew Scrumbly from back in the 1970s. He performed with The Cockettes. One of The Cockettes, Daniel Ware, worked in the Gazebo Cafe on Polk Street washing dishes. A few Cockettes were in and out during those days — forgive the expression. … When The Cockettes made their New York debut, they flopped. The gays in New York so badly wanted them to succeed. But it was hopeless. Gore Vidal said at the time: “Sometimes having no talent just isn’t enough.” Sadly, AIDS took so many of that coterie. … Diane Weissmuller was a waitress at the Gazebo. That was how the owner, Robbie Campbell, paid her for all the money she’d lent him. The debt was forgiven for fun. I was a cook there. We really whooped it up. After all, it was San Francisco in the 1970s. Tales of the City, and all that. Tales was really very tame. To this day, Diane and I are good friends. Water under the bridge? Nah. Gallons and gallons of Harvey’s Bristol Cream (none left for Harvey) … Heineken … vodka (imported from the corner store) … and, of course, rivers of champagne. The boys had their Quaaludes. … Robbie, a good-looking mulatto man, was a cabaret star in Europe in his heyday — opened for Josephine Baker at The Lido in Paris. Kid you not. (“Here is le noir Americain!”)  Robbie’s big opening number: “Bingo, Bango, Bongo, I Don’t Wanna Leave the Congo.” So he was always tap-dancing on the Gazebo dining room floor, blasting the show tunes on the house system. When the music stopped, he’d say, wistfully, “My life is over.” … Diane and I often reminisce about O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown coming in for dinner. (They lived on Russian Hill.) It was obvious to anyone that they were deeply in love. Diane recalls how O.J. would ask if I were cooking that night. If so, they’d stay for dinner. Chili chicken, of course. O.J.’s favorite. … Keeping with the vintage Frisco folk theme: Lawrence Ferlinghetti turned 97 last month. Herb Gold is 92. Herb’s just a kid. … Lawrence (he said I could call him Lawrence) succeeded in his effort to rename some San Francisco streets after local literary figures some 20 years ago. I shamelessly supported it when I was on KQED-FM. In Lawrence’s office above City Lights Books, we sat and talked. I mentioned the San Francisco writer, Richard Henry Dana. “I think he wrote Three Years Before the Mast, right? Or was that two years?” I asked. … Lawrence said, “It was three or four. I don’t remember, either. Maybe it was five.” Dana got more and more prolific with time. So Lawrence was 97 on March 24, I think. Or maybe it was the 23rd. … “Does Mommy have to put you back in the cellar?” said the young mom to her 2-year-old son on Polk Street, as he tried to open a box with copies of the Marina Times. …. Overheard at Trader Joe’s on Nob Hill: A young man, in Millennial-speak, “I don’t go on Facebook anymore — unless I have to talk to my grandmother.” …

Send to a Friend Print

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. You can't talk to his grandmother, but he may be reached at [email protected]

...yes, you may call him Bruce.