Bellingham by the Bay

Tragedies and rebirth

It’s a most cruel twist of fate. People living in the Northside of San Francisco are still talking about how Tom Ferguson, a popular Marina resident, was killed after being struck by a car on Lombard, near Bobo’s restaurant on Sunday night, March 25. He was 45. Tom’s girlfriend, Amy Collins, was with him, but not injured. Tom was a bartender at Harris’ Steakhouse. He loved the outdoors, whether being on the water, hiking up a hill, or playing golf. He once hit a hole-in-one. Amy is the sister-in-law of Peter Osborne, owner of Momo’s and Pete’s Tavern, near the ballpark. It’s astonishingly sad, but Amy’s best friend was Rory Moore, who was fatally injured in the collapse of a staircase behind her home on Russian Hill. That happened on March 18, just days before Tom was killed. Rory was also a bartender. She worked at Cresta’s on upper Polk Street for 20 years. … That’s a lot for anyone to absorb. Then came the drowning deaths of the five sailors from the S.F. Yacht Club. That calamity has left many speechless. “It’s just too much to take in,” said one local seafarer. …

It was a little startling to see the Balboa Cafe on Good Morning, America last month. Of course it was about the infamous Louboutin shoe attack one night in the Bermuda Triangle. “So many of my older customers were fascinated by this story,” said Pat Kelley, the doyenne of the district and host at the Balboa. Some were simply amazed at the cost of the shoes — around $900. It’s certainly a well-heeled neighborhood. … “It’s a shoe-in for column coverage,” deadpanned Michael Rawls. OK, that’s enough. The lads at Swan Oyster Depot also got airtime — a profile on the PBS cooking show, Lidia’s Italy. Food maven Lidia Bastianich sat at the counter as Jim Sancimino plied her with fresh oysters, prawns, and the world-famous clam chowder. Swan is the most successful biz in the region because of the hard work by Jim and his brothers Steve, Tom, Vince, Kevin and Brian, as well as Guy Spinale and Brian Dwyer. There’s always an Irishman charming his way into the operation. … Speaking of charm, Nob Hill’s great jazz singer Kim Nalley and her husband, Michael Lewis, announce the birth of their baby daughter, Lydia. “She was born as ‘La Vie en Rose’ was playing,” kvells Kim. Lydia came in on cue on March 26 at 1:15 p.m. … Songstress Paula West, who also lives on Nob Hill, is shattered by the sudden death of her longtime pianist and friend, George Mesterhazy. He was only 58. I’m trying to fend off the obits — but it’s tough these days, it seems. …

Melissa Manchester wowed them at the Rrazz Room last month with her hits, such as “Midnight Blue” and “Come In From the Rain.” She told the packed house that her life has been like a movie. “Carole Bayer Sager and I wrote a song; I sang it as a demo. Carole said she knew Dionne Warwick’s producer, so we sent it to him. He called back: “I don’t think the song’s right for Dionne — but who’s the woman on vocals?” Yes, that’s how Melissa’s 40-year career began. …

The saloon on Polk Street called Blur is back in business after it was shut down for 10 days for serving minors. It’s still the best name for a tavern I’ve ever heard. I wonder if there ever was a hazing at Blur? … I heard the most cacophonic, noisome screeching coming down from the roof of an apartment house on Clay and Hyde. Looking up, I saw three green parrots with red markings smugly gazing down on me. I rushed into my house to get some saltines, but they had flown. Perhaps the famous parrots that abandoned Telegraph Hill are moving to Nob Hill. Why not? That’s where the grown-ups live. The people there usually keep their expensive shoes on to walk their poodles through Huntington Park. … Tod Alsman and his partner Chris Fogarty are building an empire in S.F., in the PlumpJack tradition. The lads are going great guns with their taverns, the R Bar on Sutter and the newish Wreck Room on California. Now they’ve taken over La Barca, the Marina landmark that closed on March 31. Chris’s dad, by the way, is Michael Fogarty, a bit of a landmark himself. The well-read Michael is a barman at the Balboa. When he’s not pouring drinks, he’s poring over books, particularly history books. … Sharon Anderson also loves history: “Now that Titanic’s been released in 3-D, you’d think they’d see the iceberg coming in time.”

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