Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Back From Las Vegas

After a working vacation in Las Vegas, I'm dog-tired and drained. I had a great time, even though I was there covering a series of events for a newspaper. I saw a bunch of celebrities -- like the singer Jewel, baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, actor Ben Affleck and more. That's one thing I like about Las Vegas -- you get to see stars walking right through the casinos just like normal schlubs like you and me. One of the highlights of the trip is when we got to see the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show LOVE at the Mirage. All I can say is Wow! I will be reviewing it in more detail soon, but for now let's put it this way -- it's AMAZING!! This spectacular show called LOVE was created from a personal friendship and mutual admiration between the late George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. LOVE brings the magic of Cirque together with the unmatched spirit and passion behind the most beloved rock group of all time to create a vivid, intimate and powerful entertainment experience. Using the tapes at Abbey Road studios, Sir George Martin and Giles Martin have created a unique soundscape of The Beatles music for LOVE. The custom-built theater at The Mirage features 360 degree seating, panoramic video projections and amazing surround sound. I loved LOVE and so will you!

Monday, October 23, 2006


What do we have here? A stowaway? United doesn't allow dogs in the luggage!
I have blogged every single day since I started this thing, but I have to leave town for work this week, so the blogging will finally get a break. If you're bored, you can always look at any of my archived material. Also, you can click on Next Blog in the upper right hand corner of this page, and visit any of the other great blogs out there. I'll be back in the blogging game upon my return on October 31, ready with more amazing stories of LIFE ON THE EDGE.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NBA's Stephen Jackson is an Easy Selection as My Douche Bag of the Month

(If some of these guys weren't NBA athletes, we'd see them for what they truly are -- COMPLETE THUGS!! Stephen Jackson got involved in an incident outside a strip club a while back, and then instead of admitting he screwed up, he's now trying to say he did the right thing and people just misunderstand him. Yeah, going to a strip club while you should be in training with three guys who all have guns with them is really a smart thing to do. You're all over it, Stephen! Jackson is trying to play it like he's the victim here. Ever heard of staying home and resting so that you can earn some of those millions someone is dumb enough to pay you? Not to mention you're already on probation for some other stupid sh-- you did earlier. Man, these a-holes really make me mad. Way to stay out of trouble, Jackson. If you didn't have a jump shot you'd probably be in prison right now. Guess what? Stephen Jackson is my Douche Bag of the Month! And it was a no-brainer!)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson fired shots in the air in apparent self-defense after he was hit by a car outside a strip club early Friday -- the latest blow to a team struggling to rebuild its image.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Jackson and teammates Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie Hunter committed an "error in judgment" by staying out late during training camp. No one was seriously injured.
"Stephen is very lucky," Carlisle said. "It was a potential life-threatening situation that was averted. And right now, the biggest emotion I feel is relief that he's going to be OK."
Police said the disturbance began with an argument inside Club Rio involving patrons and players. The players said they left the club, but the patrons followed them. Then things turned physical.
Sgt. Matthew Mount, a police spokesman, said Jackson fired five shots from a 9mm pistol outside the Indianapolis club after he was hit in the mouth and struck by a car that sent him tumbling onto the hood. Officers were searching for the vehicle and three men wanted for questioning.
Carlisle said Jackson needed stitches in his lip and face but had no broken bones or other damage. His status for Wednesday's preseason opener against New Jersey was unclear.
"He's got some scrapes and bruises, but this guy is going to bounce back," Carlisle said.
Police said a small amount of marijuana was found in the passenger-side door of the car belonging to Tinsley. Carlisle declined to comment on that, saying he didn't have enough information. Mount said no arrests were made because police could not determine who had the marijuana. Three others were in the car with Tinsley, police said.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league was monitoring the situation. The NBA's drug policy says players who test positive for marijuana face rehabilitation, fines and suspensions, depending on whether it is a first offense. Testing is done randomly throughout the season and for reasonable cause.
Tinsley and Daniels also had guns in their cars, and all three armed players had weapons permits, Mount said.
Mount said police were reviewing a security tape and 911 calls from the club. The grainy image shows a car striking Jackson and at least one shot being fired into the air, police said.
The Pacers are still trying to shake the damage from the fight between Pacers and Detroit Pistons fans at Auburn Hills, Mich., two seasons ago.
Indiana was a title contender the last two seasons but those hopes were dashed by fallout from the brawl and suspensions and injuries. Fans often booed the team and crowds fell to their lowest level in nearly decade in last year's 41-41 season.
This year, the team has taken out ads and billboards featuring players and the slogan "It's up to us." The Pacers held parties for season-ticket holders in an effort to renew interest.
They also brought in 12 new players, including former Pacer Al Harrington. Even Jackson, who was suspended 30 games for his role in the brawl and often was at odds with Carlisle last season, talked about spending a summer "soul-searching" and returning with a positive attitude.
But instead of being asked about the positive moves, a new up-tempo offense and the exhibition opener Wednesday against New Jersey, team officials again were answering uncomfortable questions.
Jackson, a 28-year-old guard, joined the Pacers in 2004 and averaged 16 points during the 2005-06 season.
He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault charges related to the Auburn Hills mayhem and was sentenced in September 2005 to a year's probation and community service. He was named in a lawsuit filed by a Detroit fan in connection with the brawl.
During a recent news conference, Jackson hugged Carlisle and sat by his side to answer questions -- a gesture the Pacers hoped would symbolize improved team chemistry.
"As a franchise, we have to take responsibility for what goes on," Carlisle said. "Our players realize that being out that late during training camp is not the right thing. It's an error in judgment, and it's going to have to change."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

2007 MLB World Series: The Cats Will Land on Their Feet & The Cardinals Will Be Their Kitty Litter

A replay of the first World Series I remember, (1968, Detroit won 4-3) this one should be fun to watch on a lot of different levels. We have two veteran managers with two very similar styles, both leading teams with superstars and role players galore. One of them will join Sparky Anderson as the only manager in the history of the game to win a World Series in each league. Detroit has a distinct advantage going into the series, primarily because the Tigers have had a good long rest and Jim Leyland has the option of setting up his starters in any order he desires. The Cardinals are at a real disadvantage because their best hurler, Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter, will not be able to start until Game 3. With a rotation of Verlander, Rogers, Bonderman and Robertson, the Cats are going to be tough to hit, especially since St. Lou’s best hitter, Albert Puljos, can be pitched around without too many repercussions. On the other hand, Detroit’s lineup is stacked with smart, young hitters like Rodriguez, Ordonez, Casey, and Granderson. The fans in both cities will be bouncing off the stadium walls, but my guess is that the Detroit Tigers will win it in 6.
But, what do I know? I picked the Mets and the White Sox to be in this year’s World Series, with the Chisox coming out as a repeat winner. That was a bad pick!

Friday, October 20, 2006

This Week's Restaurant Review: Millennium in SF

The other night we ate at a place called Millennium, a totally vegan restaurant in downtown San Francisco. I had only been to a couple of vegetarian spots in my life until moving to SF last year, but now I’ve been to several and I can’t believe that in many ways I am beginning to think I could live sans meat and actually enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong – a nice steak, a couple of fried pork chops with apple sauce, meat loaf, barbecued ribs, a juicy brisket and other such items still cause me to salivate and swoon – but I’ve learned not to be frightened by meals that don’t involve something that was breathing prior to hitting my plate. Millennium is a true vegan establishment – they talk the vegan talk and walk the vegan walk, because they don’t have anything on their menu that had a face or anything that comes from something that has one. That means no dairy, no eggs, and no honey, for that matter. The only things you’ll find at Millennium grow out of the ground. And, believe me; they don’t sacrifice taste or variety in doing it that way. Located in the Hotel California on Geary Street, this restaurant explores the pleasures of perfectly prepared produce from every angle using every method of preparation imaginable. To kick off this all-natural exploration into the vegan universe, we started off with some pretty amazing appetizers. By far the best thing we ate all night was the Sesame Cornmeal Crusted Oyster Mushrooms ($9.00). They came with a cucumber mint salad, and a sweet & spicy apricot ginger coulis and they kicked ass. The texture and the flavor was a winning combination. I ate more than my share of this appetizer, which resulted in sideways looks from some of my dining companions, but to be honest, I really didn’t care. If this is the kind of stuff vegans eat, count me in! The other appetizer we sampled was a Black Bean Torte ($8.00), which consisted of a whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantains, smoky black bean puree, manchamanteles sauce, cashew sour cream (without dairy), and a golden watermelon-jicama relish. I would say it was just okay. When I saw plantains listed as an ingredient, I thought it would have some of those flavors, but the rest of the dish overpowered the entire affair. For entrees, we had the Grilled Rosa Bianca Eggplant Napoleon ($22.00) which had more produce in it than your average Whole Foods Market. It’s a sage scented flageolet bean ragu seared garlic polenta cake with a summer ratatouille, arugula and Greek basil salad and a smoky Romesco sauce. If you know what that means, go for it, but all I know is that it tasted pretty damn good. The only criticism I might have with this dish is that it was very busy. There were so many flavors bombarding my taste buds in unison that some of them got lost. We also had the Chipotle Grilled Portobello and Zucchini Tamale ($21.00) with dried cherries and toasted almonds, sautéed greens, ancho-carrot “cream,” roasted tomatillo salsa and spiced pumpkin seeds. A version of high-end Mexican vegan cuisine, no doubt, this dish was muy caliente and mucho flavorful. All in all, I would say that Millennium is a very intriguing place that has taken vegan gourmet food to a whole new and exciting level. I would recommend it if you’re on a healthy food kick and even if you’re not. Millennium is located at 580 Geary Street in SF and their phone number is: (415) 345-3900.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Online Dating Sucks!!

(This is an article I wrote a while back about my experiences in the online dating world.)
I was very skeptical about entering the world of online dating when I initially signed up with match.com. As a 48-year-old single male with more issues than Reader’s Digest, my expectations were understandably low to start with. I’ve never been married, I don’t have any kids and my best friend is my shrink. I decided early on that I would probably be satisfied having a relationship with someone who simply had fewer problems than I did.
I had heard both horror stories as well as wondrous tales about the online dating experience, some undoubtedly as much fiction as truth, and all of them left me extremely tentative about entering the fray. One woman I know went on 26 online dates before meeting a suitable mate, whom she eventually married. I admired her thoroughness and determination. When I went to purchase a new car, I only looked at about five vehicles before making a decision. This gal kicked more emotional tires than I can count on all my appendages combined, which means she’s either a.) a complete control freak, b.) very high maintenance. c.) desperate as hell.
I guess what I felt might make me so potentially easy to match up with someone was the simple fact that after so many years of being either lonely or in dysfunctional relationships, I was quite frankly numb. A woman with a pulse who had the ability to talk in complete sentences would do just fine. My expectations were understandably quite low.
To get set up, I put a fairly honest and rather simple description of myself on match.com along with a recent photo. I hate it when people put misleading pictures of themselves online. If they say they’re 40 years old and the picture shows them standing in front of a Chevy Vega wearing a peace sign necklace and bell bottoms, you can pretty much tell that the photo is about a current as an old copy of the Magna Carta.
I immediately got responses to my profile and a few stood out right away. One woman sounded really nice and her picture was incredible. A really hot looking 30-something blonde with a killer body in a little bikini, she immediately caught my eye.
Two weeks later, after a series of e-mails back and forth, we met at a restaurant on Union Street in San Francisco. When I got there, I had problems finding the place. She was blocking it, along with the sun. The last bikini this gal wore had to have been the size of the Bikini Islands. I admit, I’m no svelte athlete myself, but the upper sections of this individual’s arms were bigger than my legs. I am so grateful that the place where we met was a buffet; otherwise I would have had to take out a small business loan to cover the bill.
I’m not someone who is usually too hung up on looks, but to be deceived to this degree didn’t sit too well with me. I could see she had a pretty face, and I’m assuming that the photo she had on match.com was at one time in the distant past actually her. But, since then she had gorged her way into being the behemoth that sat right in front of me – well, actually all around me. Discouraged and feeling defrauded, I bailed out halfway through the tiramisu – it was all-you can-eat and I could tell she was just getting started.
Undaunted, I went home and got back on the computer to see if there were any honest people out there who wanted a guy they wouldn’t be tempted to eat.
The next woman I started talking to was a school teacher from Berkeley. We met for coffee on a Sunday morning in a little café down on Telegraph. She was gorgeous, intelligent, vibrant, compelling, funny and….extremely opinionated. Listening to her was like watching CNN, the O’Reilly Report, MSN, 60 Minutes, Crossfire and the 10:00 News simultaneously on crystal meth.
Within minutes, I knew all of her feelings on Bin Laden, Bush, Rice, Cheney, Hillary, Robertson, Gore (both Al and Tipper) abortion, illiteracy, baby seals, childhood diabetes, fossil fuels, the greenhouse effect, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Bosnia and some other countries I’d never heard of.
When she wasn’t hugging trees, creating colorful protest signage or pelting right wingers with rotten, but always organic fruit, this woman was angry at everything she felt was wrong with the world. At first, I thought it was inspiring. Wow, here’s someone with a set of beliefs that she’s not afraid to live by.
But, eventually I found out that one of the main items on this gal’s list of diatribes was the entire male race. She wasn’t just angry at the wrong things in the world, she was mad at the world in its entirety, at the human race in general, and men in particular.
Eventually she began to focus on all of the many things that are wrong with me and started a crusade against them. Needless to say, I bailed even more quickly from her than I did from Jabba the Hut.
Returning back to my Compaq Presario like a puppy that had just been chastised for peeing on the carpet, I slowly but reluctantly got back into the online dating game. I changed over to another web site, eharmony.com, figuring I’d have better luck. But, what scared me was that I started to see a lot of the same photos and profiles that I had seen on match.com.
I began to realize that there are people out there who are addicted to online dating. They use it like a shopaholic uses malls or a junkie uses smack. It’s a seductive vehicle, I must admit. Where else can you shop for potential mates and bid on them like baseball cards on e-bay? Where else can you meet so many different people in such a short time and in one location? When you go to the Humane Society to look for a pet, they only have a couple dozen cats and dogs there, maybe 40 at the very most. But, the selection on a popular dating site can provide you with hundreds, even thousands of viable choices.
So, I continued my search with a vengeance and a new-found commitment. I figured hey – maybe that woman who dated 26 guys had it right – play the field and have some fun and if you never find Mrs. Right, so be it. Play the human love lotto and let the chips fall where they may. Life isn’t fair, in fact, it specializes in being unfair. But, I thought, what the heck, I won’t invest too much into the process so how badly can I get hurt?
I’m happy to report that ever since I took that attitude things have been great. I’m not quite at 26 dates yet. I think I’ve met about 11 women online. But, instead of looking at it like a do-or-die situation, I treat each experience like a fun new adventure. That way I’m totally at ease, there are zero expectations and consequently no disappointments.
I used to think online dating was a quagmire of false hopes and a respite from our shallow lives. But, now I know that’s exactly what it is and consequently the whole thing is just a lot more fun.
I hope Chewbacca has lost a few pounds, because she seemed nice enough, between mouthfuls. And I hope Ms. Berkeley has mellowed a bit. Maybe I’ll meet up with one or both of them again on another dating site in the not-too-distant future and we can look back at the entire mess and have a good laugh. But, one thing I’m sure of is that this time around it will be better, because I’ve put the whole online dating thing in perspective. I’m happy with it and content with myself -- for the first time in a long, long time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Playing Nurse Today

Some of my loved ones are down for the count today and I am taking care of them. I actually like to do it. I'm bummed they're hurting, but I'm happy that I'm there to help. Maybe Florence Nightingale is somewhere in the branches of my Family Tree. See you all tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Teenager Terrorist Threat Thwarted!

A 14-year-old girl in Sacramento put an anti-Bush message on her myspace.com page. I guess it showed a picture of our president with a dagger stuck in his outstretched hand, with the words, “Kill Bush” scrawled beneath it. The girl was pissed off by the war in Iraq. She removed the message from her myspace page as soon as she learned in school that is was a no-no to post such material, but by then it was apparently too late. The Secret Service came by her classroom a week later and aggressively questioned her. They must believe that she’s a legitimate terrorist threat. Maybe they suspect that she’s hoarding bomb-making devices in her hair gel, or possibly plotting against the government during afternoon recess. They painstakingly combed through her pom-poms, her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, her fruit juice boxes and pudding cups, as well as her Little Miss Kitty backpack and Justin cowboy boots. They also made her empty out all her piercings and remove all of her temporary tattoos. Thank God our government is so on top of stuff like this. Next thing you know, kindergartners will be transporting terrorist correspondence in pop-up picture books and nerf balls. They may even start trying to involve celebrities like Barney and the Cookie Monster in their conspiratorial acts. Nip this stuff in the bud before these kids learn about things like Freedom of Speech and the Right of Assembly. Hats off to our government for making sure these children grow up to be just as frightened as their parents.
(Please Note: Wow! I am getting a lot of nasty e-mails on this one. So, let me say this. I don't think it was right for this young lady to use the words, "Kill Bush." I am in no way condoning that. Maybe if she had written, "Bush Stinks!" or "I Don't Like Bush!" or even "I Hate Bush!" that would have been a little smarter on her part. When you write "Kill (anyone)" it comes off like a death threat and that will upset people every time and rightfully so. I was simply trying to help people see the humor in this incident. Some of you should really just chill...)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Baseball Announcer Steve "Psycho" Lyons Gets Fired from MLB ALCS Telecast for Messin' With Lou Piniella

(I have to say I saw this coming. I just had a feeling putting Steve Lyons and Lou Piniella together in the TV broadcast booth was going to be a real problem. Piniella is a highly respected former player and veteran manager even though he is, in my opinion, a very flat and pretty dull announcer. He's as cool as a cucumber until you piss him off, and then he turns into the long-lost cousin of Attila the Hun. Just ask any of the umpires he's berated and intimidated over the years. Lyons has always had a quick wit and a very thin filter between brain and mouth. He's like the kid in class who's always cutting up and saying inapproriate things. After watching Game One, I could see these two would clash. The racial stuff will always take a guy down. Lyons has one of the most coveted jobs in the business and he had to blow the gig by being a smart-ass. Wow, he reminds me a lot of......ME!)

This article appeared recently on www.cbssportsline.com:

DETROIT -- Fox baseball broadcaster Steve Lyons has been fired for making a racially insensitive comment directed at colleague Lou Piniella's Hispanic heritage on the air during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
The network confirmed Saturday that Lyons was dismissed after Friday's comments. He has been replaced for the remainder of the series by Los Angeles Angels announcer Jose Mota.
"Steve Lyons has been relieved of his Fox Sports duties for making comments on air that the company found inappropriate," network spokesman Dan Bell said.
Lyons had been working in the booth for the ALCS alongside Thom Brennaman and Piniella, the No. 2 broadcast team for Fox this postseason.
A call to Lyons' cell phone was not immediately returned Saturday.
In the second inning of Friday's game between Detroit and Oakland, Piniella talked about the success light-hitting A's infielder Marco Scutaro had in the first round of the playoffs. Piniella said that slugger Frank Thomas and Eric Chavez needed to contribute, comparing Scutaro's production to finding a "wallet on Friday" and hoping it happened again the next week.
Later, Piniella said the A's needed Thomas to get "en fuego" -- hot in Spanish -- because he was currently "frio" -- or cold. After Brennaman praised Piniella for being bilingual, Lyons spoke up.
Lyons said that Piniella was "hablaing Espanol" -- butchering the conjugation for the word "to speak" -- and added, "I still can't find my wallet."
"I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit too close to him now," Lyons continued.
Fox executives told Lyons after the game he had been fired.
Piniella, approached before Saturday's Game 4, declined to comment on the situation except to say: "No, he's not here today."
This was not a first-time offense for Lyons, nicknamed "Psycho" during his nine-year big league career as a utilityman that ended in 1993 with the Boston Red Sox.
Hired when Fox began broadcasting baseball in 1996, Lyons was suspended without pay in late September 2004 after his remarks about Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Green is Jewish and elected not to play one of the two games at San Francisco that took place during the Yom Kippur holiday.
The network apologized for Lyons' remarks at the time.
Earlier in the playoffs, while working the Mets-Dodgers NLDS, Lyons unwittingly made fun of a nearly blind fan who was wearing special glasses to see the game.
"He's got a digital camera stuck to his face," Lyons said.
He also once pulled down his pants on the field during his playing days.
Lyons, 46, was a career .252 hitter with 19 home runs and 196 RBI for Boston, the Chicago White Sox, Atlanta and Montreal. He was a first-round draft pick by the Red Sox, 19th overall, in 1981.
(NEWS FLASH: As I was writing this, I got a HOT NEWS TIP that the aforementioned Lou Piniella will be named the new manager for the Chicago Cubs by tomorrow. Thank God, because he's a lousy announcer! Piniella's first hiring for his new coaching staff? You guessed it, not Steve Lyons, but listen to this -- Steve Bartman!! This is what my sources are telling me.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Our Mayor Likes Undernourished, Underage Blondes with Fake ID's? And You Call That News?

A skinny little blonde by the name of Brittanie Mountz is making a lot of news lately because she's going out with our very eligible single Mayor Gavin Newsom. I met the waif-like Twiggy doppelganger myself about a month ago when she was our hostess at a trendy SF restaurant called Aqua. She seemed nice and cute enough, although a tad too skinny for my liking. I remember at one point a 20-something stylish looking yupster tried to hit on her and she just rolled her eyes. I bet she must have been thinking to herself -- "I've got the mayor, who the hell are you?" Anyway, there's been a little controversy surrounding her lately, because the crack reporting duo Matier & Ross of the SF Chronicle are saying she's been seen drinking in public, yet she's not yet 21. Underage drinking in SF? What a headline grabber! Matier & Ross are no doubt a shoo-in for the Pulitzer for that incredible piece of investigative reporting. Woodward & Bernstein, move over! High school kids all across the city are thinking of changing their college majors to journalism so that they can make the kind of impact on society that Matier & Ross have made. Next thing you know they'll be reporting about a love affair between two male penguins at the SF Zoo! Or that someone parked in the Fire Chief's reserved spot last Tuesday! Man, this is cutting-edge stuff! I have only lived here a year, but I can tell you that there are more fake ID's in this town than real ones. In fact, many women over 21 have fake ID's to prove they're much younger! Give us something substantial for once Matier & Ross. The last big story you broke was the 1989 earthquake....2 days after it happened!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Two Hottest New Shows on TV

There are 2 new shows on TV this season that I like. The first one is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's written by the same guy who wrote The West Wing and it's smart and fun. It's about a Saturday Night Live-type show and the characters are well-designed.

The other show I'm enjoying is Friday Night Lights (see photo). I think it's better than the movie it's based on. It's not all about football and it's smartly written as well. In the movie, the big star running back gets hurt. In this one, the star QB gets paralyzed during the first game.

When TV is written well, it's fun to watch. I recommend these two shows. The rest is pretty much s--t! If I have to see another show like Lost or Heroes, I will vomit!

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Book: "Marilyn, Joe & Me" by June DiMaggio -- Is it Fact or Fiction?

(There's a new book that just came out called "Marilyn, Joe & Me" by June DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio's niece. It supposdly reveals a bunch of new things about Joe and Marilyn's relationship and about how she died. Now, several people are coming forward and saying the book is a fraud and that many of the things in it never happened. This is an article I found online by a writer named Mark Bellinhaus)

Let’s begin with the most outrageous character – June DiMaggio. Who is she? The last name itself creates interest and memories of the sweet past, the Yankee Clipper, Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," and even Madonna includes the name in her “Vogue” ode to fame. But now I want to change that famous lyric to "Where have you come from, June DiMaggio?"
No one had ever heard of her, so it was extremely hard to find out anything, even with expensive investigations. But now she is willingly joining the media circus, without explaining where she was hiding while her legendary uncle Joe was alive. CBS is planning a 48 Hours special on Marilyn Monroe for this month, supposedly with June DiMaggio, and we look forward to the funny but absurd little stories she seems to have dreamed up and written down in her fictional memoir Marilyn, Joe and Me!, her "what if?" journal.
I watched her last November during the press opening for Marilyn Monroe: the Exhibit at the Queen Mary, and it was a weird, unreal experience—like a theatre performance gone bad. When talking about Marilyn, she shouted and stuttered, then regained her pace and followed (it seemed to me) her rehearsed lines.
Let’s begin with her one excusable untruth, her age. She claims to be 77, but for any former actress and dancer, knocking five years off is forgivable. But not so when it comes to twisting facts and fabricating fictions about the biggest and best-loved movie star of the 20th century. June says she was best of friends with Marilyn Monroe, and that her mother, Lee, wife of Tom DiMaggio (one of Joe's eight siblings), was Marilyn’s closest friend, and even knew who murdered her — Lee was chatting with her on the phone when the killer walked into Marilyn’s bedroom. Lee never told, because “she wanted her children to live.”
During June DiMaggio’s interviews, her co-writer Mary Jane Popp, actress, infomercial and radio host (www.PoppOff.com), always stood close by her side and sometimes gave the answers for her, because she sounded very coached and prepared. June repeated herself with what seemed like anger in her voice, camouflaged as a "sweet old lady with the trademark bangs". In some ways she reminded me of a marionette being dragged from one stage to the next, with her explosive news on Marilyn Monroe. She gave interviews even in the hallways, always making sure that the viewers would believe (and buy her book), her statements still sounding in my ear: "THAT IS THE TRUTH!” and “YOU CAN READ ABOUT ALL THIS IN MY BOOK!" But you can feel when someone is hiding something, and now I can prove it.
CBS recently referred to June as "the last DiMaggio," but that’s not so, Joe's brother Dom DiMaggio is still with us. When I called him at his home in Florida, Dom confirmed to me that "June DiMaggio is not the biological daughter of my brother Tom." So June is related, but only through her mother Lee. She is a step-DiMaggio only.
In my research, I find no evidence at all that Monroe was even friendly with Lee or June DiMaggio. The San Francisco newspaper story on Marilyn and Joe’s wedding has Lee and Tom on the guest list, but June is not mentioned. The names of Lee and June do not appear in four of Monroe's personal address and phone books -- these items sold at auctions in recent years for astronomical amounts. Because of my friendship with most of the known Monroe collectors, I could ask the new owners to look into those personal and intimate Monroe artifacts; it was not surprising to find that June DiMaggio and her mother Lee are not listed in any of them . . . while Joe DiMaggio and his son Joe Jr. are present in all of them.
In the infamous December Playboy interview, June DiMaggio claims to have attended the funeral of Marilyn Monroe ("as I was riding along with my uncle Joe in a limousine..."). There are numerous photos disproving this statement.
We also have a witness who can testify to June’s absence. Funeral director Allan Abbott, 68, was a pallbearer for Marilyn’s funeral. At Joe DiMaggio’s request, he also stood at the door checking off the names on the brief guest list, handing programs to each person on the list. He told me he’d never heard the name June DiMaggio in his life. Ernest Cunningham’s book The Ultimate Marilyn identifies the small group of invited guests but June is still missing.
Allan Abbott was 24 at the time Monroe was buried, but his memory is still fresh. This man’s statement was the true reason I continued in my investigations. My deepest appreciation goes out to him, a great man who had the honor of carrying Marilyn Monroe’s casket to her crypt, where we can visit her now, pay tribute, and weep.
June is the latest in a long line of Marilyn frauds, men and women coming out of nowhere, claiming to be Marilyn Monroe's son or daughter (or husband or lover, whatever). There’s a man claiming to be the illegitimate son of Marilyn and JFK, insisting that the three of them had lived openly in Marilyn’s Brentwood home. There was Robert Slatzer, who passed away last year, who claimed (with nothing to document it) that he had been married to Marilyn.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mark Ulriksen: Cole Valley Artist Makes Good

(This is an article I wrote for the Haight-Ashbury Beat newspaper. Mark is a great guy and a fantastic artist. To check out his stuff, visit: www.markulriksen.com.)

Mark Ulriksen is a lot more than just an award-winning freelance illustrator who creates acrylic paintings for many of this country’s best known magazines, book publishers and ad agencies. He’s also a native San Franciscan and an integral part of the creative and political environment of Cole Valley.

Since 1993, Ulriksen has published more than 500 illustrations and over 20 magazine covers for publications including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vibe, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times. He has worked for advertising agencies, creating paintings for clients like The Vanguard Group and Cole Haan shoes. He also paints commissioned pieces, primarily family portraits and dog portraits. In addition, Mark has done several book covers, and recently illustrated his second children’s book called “The Biggest Parade” by Elizabeth Winthrop.

Ulriksen, 49, was born in San Francisco and grew up primarily in San Carlos. He graduated in 1980 from Chico State University with a BA in visual communications. Upon graduation, he got a job as a graphic designer for a publishing group for Northeastern University in Boston, a position he held for the next two years. After that, he worked in various capacities within a variety of graphic designer jobs. In 1985, Mark returned to San Francisco and in 1986 moved to Cole Valley. At that time, he tried his hand at freelance illustrating and found the experience “very humbling.”

In 1986, Ulriksen parlayed his freelance gig into an eight-year stint as an associate art director and then later head art director for KQED’s San Francisco Focus magazine. In January of 1994, Mark made a full-time commitment to working independently and hit the ground running.

“After I decided to seriously start marketing myself, things happened quickly,” Ulriksen said. “In the course of one week, I got assignments from GQ, Rolling Stone and Esquire. I knew at that point I could do this for a living.”

Mark said it takes him approximately three days to create an illustration – one day to conceive it and two days to paint it. When he’s doing magazine covers, the deadlines can be very tight. “Typically the most a magazine will give you is a week,” Mark said.

Mark loves living in Cole Valley, where he resides with his wife and two daughters. He likes being close to Golden Gate Park and enjoys the political environment, the architecture, and the fact that there’s a friendly neighborhood market right down on the corner.

“We love this neighborhood and don’t plan on ever leaving” Ulriksen said. “It’s a very creative environment here. The actor Danny Glover lives down the block. Many creative individuals, including artists, musicians and filmmakers, live in this area. It’s a great mix of people here.”

Mark is also very interested in keeping the look of the neighborhood from changing for the worse. “We recently formed a neighborhood group to fight the demolition of a house nearby,” he said. “We tried to preserve the house and we lost. But, we did win in a sense, because we were able to force the contractor into building a new house that fits the look of this neighborhood. We prevented him from building another one of those faceless stucco condos.”

Mark said that one of his more well-known New Yorker covers is the one he created as a take-off on the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” featuring Dick Cheney and George W. Bush on a hillside standing very close to each other while Cheney holds a smoking rifle. The cover appeared in February shortly after Cheney shot an associate while bird hunting. Another famous cover he did that has received a lot of attention is called “Shakespeares in the Park” which shows the playwright walking a dog, riding a bike and just generally enjoying himself in New York’s Central Park.

Ulricksen was one of the local artists participating in San Francisco’s annual Open Studio, October 21-22 again this year. “Leslie and I welcome people into our home,” Mark said. “Open Studio usually happens right around the same time as the World Series. We’ve actually had people come here and sit down with us and watch a game.”

Mark also likes visiting other artists in their homes during Open Studio. “I enjoy seeing how other artists set up their workspaces,” he said. “Where they put their brushes and how they do their art is something I can always learn from.”

In some cases, Mark will paint portraits of people for publications and then later the personalities themselves will purchase the paintings from him. Martin Scorsese, John Travolta and O.J. Simpson attorneys Christopher Darden and Robert Shapiro have all bought original Ulriksens of themselves over the years.

Mark’s goals for the future include getting more heavily involved in working for the New Yorker doing covers, as well as increasing the amount of personal work he does for galleries. He’d also like to continue to do illustrations for children’s books and maybe even write his own.

“There’s a lot of freedom in kid’s books,” Mark said. “I want to explore that avenue more, because I enjoy being a storyteller.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oops! I guess I goofed on the Torre story!

Two days ago I wrote a silly poem saying Joe Torre was going to be fired as the manager of the New York Yankees. I really believed it. Knowing George Steinbrenner and how volatile he can be, I figured there was no way that Torre was going to be able to keep his job. Well, yesterday it was announced that Torre's staying. Oops! It's a good thing I'm not a legitimate sportwriter, because I would be getting heat like you wouldn't believe for what now appears to be a pretty stupid poem. Sorry, Joe. I never should have doubted you. Now hopefully you can get rid of Alex Rodriguez, who I am convinced is a liability. But, beware, Mr. Torre -- now that Steinbrenner has agreed to let you stay, he probably is going to be keeping a tighter rein on you, which many a manager in the past (ex.-- Billy Martin, Buck Showalter, etc.) couldn't handle.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

This Week's Restaurant Review: Foreign Cinema in SF's Mission District

Foreign Cinema
The San Francisco Mission District is so strange. If it weren’t for the trendy restaurants, awesome burritos and cool nightclubs, I wouldn’t ever want to go there. It’s a rough neighborhood in so many spots, but there are a ton of great places to eat, drink and party in that part of town, so much so that it’s not just a destination, it’s a culinary and entertainment haven. Foreign Cinema is a perfect example of this phenomenon. When you first walk up to the place, you’d swear it’s a tattoo parlor or a porn theater. You fully expect to see a couple of junkies and/or winos laid out by the front door. Then, after walking down a long hallway with white candles, you enter the place and it is paradise. Foreign Cinema, which is attached to the Lazslo Bar, is a superb restaurant with exquisite, imaginative food and a totally unique approach to dining out. This spot was the one of the hottest places to be seen at in the late ’90’s by people who knew. When the dot comedy became a dot tragedy and Internet-related companies began folding like crepes, Foreign Cinema became less hip and easier to get into. I think that’s great, because now you don’t have to know somebody to get a reservation or wait two hours for a table. The place is currently accessible to everyday working stiffs like you and me. This French bistro is where Chez Panisse holds their Christmas party every year, so right there you should know that the food is no joke. The twist here is that they show films in their courtyard, so you can dine, wine and watch classic cinema all at the same time. It’s been called a drive-in for foodies -- where film meets food. Where you can see celluloid and gather cellulite. They have a different movie every week at Foreign Cinema – from “Annie Hall” to “Cabaret” to “2001 A Space Odyssey.” They project the films up onto a blank wall in the back, and the sightlines are great, but when it’s packed on weekends, it’s difficult to hear the dialogue. They have those old drive-in speakers all around the place, just like the ones that you’d hang on your car windows at the real drive-in back in the day, before the way they do it now where the audio comes in over your car radio. Chef John Clark, formerly of Zuni, and Chef Gayle Pirie, formerly of Chez Panisse, are true artists and the menu is astounding. I’ve heard they have an incredible brunch, though I’ve never been and they also have a kid’s menu, which is a special rare treat if you are toting brats. The film aspect of Foreign Cinema is a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. But, people come there for the food, plain and simple. The menu reads like an award-winning movie script. First, there are the appetizers – they set up the story and get you hooked into the plot. Foreign Cinema has 20 different types of oysters featured at their oyster bar, from Hog Island Tomales ($18/dozen) all the way to the very rare and extremely expensive Wescot Bay Flats variety ($22/dozen). The night we were there, we had the Chilled Foreign Cinema Gazpacho with Crème Fraiche ($6.50), and although I usually don’t care for cold soups, this was so good I licked my bowl and the person’s next to me. If I had known the person it probably wouldn’t have been quite so embarrassing. The salads are all special—unique yet simple. They have an Artichoke and Green Bean Salad with Oil Cured Olives that comes with a lemon vinaigrette and Parmesan cheese ($10) that is light and fresh. The Beef Carpacio with Fried Herbs, Waffle Chips, Fried Capers, Manchego and horseradish sauce ($10) was a complete delight and I could have eaten three of them. For featured dishes, we had the Seared Sea Scallops with Heirloom Tomatoes, Haricot Vert Bacon, Aioli, Basil Sauce and Breadcrumbs ($23). I have had more sea scallops than your average SF Fisherman’s Wharf sea lion, and I have to tell you this is the best way I’ve ever had them prepared. They also have a renowned Mixed Grill at the Foreign Cinema, and on the night we were there, it consisted of Moroccan Duck Breast, Quail and Chicken Sausage, Roasted Grapes, Canellinni and Liver Toast ($23). They also have a steak to die for, a Grilled Natural Rib-Eye from Meyer Ranch in Montana, that comes with grilled potatoes, romano and yellow wax beans and an Argentine salsa ($30). Foreign Cinema is a wonderfully one-of-a-kind restaurant, and when you leave the place you’ll have to stop yourself from saying “That’s a wrap,” because it’s film, food, drinks, fun, art, and people-watching all wrapped up into one big storyline. Foreign Cinema will leave you happy and begging for the sequel. Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission Street, SF (415) 648-7600. http://www.foreigncinema.com/.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Poor Joe, We Hate to See You Go!

Oh, Joe we hate to see you go.
But, you've lost in the first round 2 years in a row.
Those are 2 big chokes and they're cutting you no slack.
What do you expect when you're driving a baseball team that's a Cadillac?
The fans of New York won't tolerate the loss.
And neither will your overbearing boss.
It's the end of a wonderful, underachieving story.
Of an owner named George and an employee named Torre.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Passing of the Buck

(Buck O'Neil was a respected spokesman for baseball, a true gentleman and one of the last great Negro League players. I first became enamored with Buck when I saw him interviewed by Bryant Gumbel many years ago. The only shame is that he never got into the Hall of Fame. He will be missed.)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Buck O'Neil, a batting champion in the Negro Leagues before becoming the first black to serve as a major league coach, has died. He was 94.The beloved national figure as the unofficial goodwill spokesman for the Negro Leagues died Friday night in a Kansas City hospital, eight months after he fell one vote short of the Hall of Fame.O'Neil was admitted on Sept. 17 with what was described as extreme fatigue. Bob Kendrick, marketing director for the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame, said O'Neil passed away about 10 p.m. EDT with close family members nearby. No cause of death was given.Baseball commissioner Bud Selig asked for a moment of silence to be observed before Saturday's playoff games."Buck was a pioneer, a legend and will be missed for as long as the game is played," Selig said. "I had the good fortune of spending some time with him in Cooperstown a couple of months ago and I will miss his wisdom and counsel."A star in the Negro Leagues who barnstormed with Satchel Paige, O'Neil later signed Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Ernie Banks as a scout. In July, just before he was briefly hospitalized for fatigue, he batted in a minor league All-Star contest and became the oldest man ever to appear in a professional game."What a fabulous human being," Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said. "He was a blessing for all of us. I believe that people like Buck and Rachel Robinson and Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa are angels that walk on earth to give us all a greater understanding of what it means to be human. I'm not sad for him. He had a long, full life and I hope I'm as lucky, but I'm sad for us."O'Neil was readmitted to the hospital on Sept. 17 after he had lost his voice as well as his strength.A huge celebration of his 95th birthday has been planned for Nov. 11, with a guest list of about 750 that included many baseball greats as well as other celebrities and political leaders.Kendrick told The Associated Press the party would still be held, only now as a tribute.Always projecting warmth, wit and a sunny optimism that sometimes seemed surprising for a man who lived so much of his life in a climate of racial injustice, O'Neil remained remarkably vigorous into his 90s. He became as big a star as the Negro League greats whose stories he traveled the country to tell.He would be in New York taping the "Late Show With David Letterman" one day, then back home on the golf course the next day shooting his age, a feat he first accomplished at 75."But it's not a good score any more," he quipped on his 90th birthday.Long popular in Kansas City, O'Neil he rocketed into national stardom in 1994 when filmmaker Ken Burns featured him in his groundbreaking documentary "Baseball."The rest of the country then came to appreciate the charming Negro Leagues historian as only baseball insiders had done before. He may have been, as he joked, "an overnight sensation at 82," but his popularity continued to grow for the rest of his life."He brought the attention of a lot of people in this country to the Negro Leagues," former Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "He told us all how good they were and that they deserved to be recognized for what they did and their contributions and the injustice that a lot of them had to endure because of the color of their skin."Few men in any sport have witnessed the grand panoramic sweep of history that O'Neil saw and felt and was a part of. A good-hitting, slick-fielding first baseman, he barnstormed with Paige in his youth, twice won a Negro Leagues batting title, then became a pennant-winning manager of the Kansas City Monarchs.In 1962, a tumultuous time of change in America when civil rights workers were risking their lives on the back roads of the Deep South, O'Neil broke a meaningful racial barrier when the Chicago Cubs made him the first black coach in the major leagues.Jackie Robinson was the first black with an opportunity to make plays in the big leagues. But as bench coach, O'Neil was the first to make decisions.He saw Babe Ruth hit home runs and watched Roger Clemens throw strikes. He talked hitting with Lou Gehrig and Ichiro Suzuki."I can't remember a time when I did not want to make my living in baseball, or a time when that wasn't what I did get to do," he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2003. "God was very good to old Buck."Born in 1911 in Florida, John "Buck" O'Neil began a lifetime in baseball hanging around the spring training complex of the great New York Yankee teams of the '20s. Some of the players befriended the youngster and allowed him inside.In February 2006, it was widely thought that a special 12-person committee commissioned to render final judgments on Negro Leagues and pre-Negro league figures would make him a shoo-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It would be, his many fans all thought, a fitting tribute to the entire body of his life's work.But 16 men and one woman were voted in and O'Neil was left out, one vote short of the required three-fourths.Several hundred of his friends and admirers had gathered at the Negro Leagues Museum for what they thought would be a celebration. Instead, they stood in awkward, restless silence as the old man once again -- (for how many times in his long, eventful life?) -- brushed bitterness aside."Shed no tears for Buck," he told them. "I couldn't attend Sarasota High School. That hurt. I couldn't attend the University of Florida. That hurt."But not going into the Hall of Fame, that ain't going to hurt me that much, no. Before, I wouldn't even have a chance. But this time I had that chance."Just keep loving old Buck."But among his close friends, few believed that his heart wasn't really broken.In the months that followed, O'Neil embarked on an exhausting schedule that had him flying to California, Ohio, Arizona and New York among other stops. He spoke at the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. In July, he batted in the top and bottom of the first inning of the Northern League All-Star game.On the Net: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: http://www.nlbm.com.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Where's Mini Mona?

( Photo caption: "burp!")
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is by far the most famous painting ever created. It has a great and amazing history. It was unveiled in 1507, stolen in 1911, recovered in 1913 and some idiot even threw acid on it in 1956. Thousands of legends and rumors surround the portrait, all the way from it's really Leonardo in drag, to the rumor that she's not actually smiling but has gas. Now, Newsweek magazine reports that Mona is believed to be pregnant in the painting. Infrared photography leads scholars to believe that Leo painted a gauzy garment over the Mona Lisa's dress -- the fashion for pregnant women in 16th-century Italy. If this is true, then why haven't we ever seen a painting of Mona's kid? Maybe it explains why she seems to be glowing....and possibly gassy. At the time of this blog, Mona was unavailable for comment.

Friday, October 06, 2006

San Francisco is RUDETOWN, USA!!

( I hope this doesn't sound like a lot of whining. Angelina says it does. But, I'm going to say it anyway!)
San Francisco is one of the rudest places on the planet. Wherever you go, people are rushing around without any concern for anyone else. You see it when you’re driving, especially. People won’t let you change lanes, they will tailgate you to the point where it’s dangerous, and heaven forbid if you somehow upset them on the road, because they’ll flip you off and cuss you out if you so much as glance in their direction. If you’re walking the streets of SF, it’s just as bad. Drivers will not give you the right of way for any reason. They rule the road and you’d better know it. I’ve talked to several SF natives about what’s being referred to as “the Manhattan-ization of San Francisco” and they tell me that it wasn’t always like this. It all seems to have started right after the 1989 earthquake and no one can really say why. I think it’s because no one is from here anymore. Everybody is a transplant from somewhere else and their attitude is “I’m getting mine and f--- you if you get in my way.” Also, in a big city where people live on top of each other, there’s a certain amount of strain due to the close proximity of other supposed human beings. There’s also a real feeling of anonymity here – it’s like “Hey, I’ll never see you again because this city is so big, so I don’t feel like I have to be accountable for my behavior.” Coming from living in San Jose for almost three decades, I’m not used to it. People there are much friendlier, laid-back and courteous. I mean, you’re going to find pockets of nice people and a-holes wherever you go, but I’m talking about the norm. Sometimes I meet people and I am amazed how wonderful they are. It makes me proud to be a part of the human race. Other times I encounter people that make me realize that all we really are is primates with opposable thumbs who beat the rest of the monkeys to the top of the food chain. When I first moved here a year ago from the South Bay, I’d like to believe that I brought with me a friendly approach to life. That’s just my nature. I’d give up shopping carts at the grocery store and let other customers go ahead of me at the checkout stand if they only had a few items, for instance. Now, I don’t do those kinds of things anymore, because, for one, no one says thank you or seems to appreciate it if you do. Cutting folks off in line, ignoring people when they’re trying to get by, snarling at them if you look at them sideways – the citizens of SF are just plain rude! I admit, it’s changed me, but I refuse to become one of them. Welcome to San Francisco, California, aka Rudetown, USA!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What the #!&^%(*!! Was That?!?

Yesterday in the NLDS series between the LA Dodgers and the NY Mets, the Dodgers made the most boneheaded play I have seen in a long, long time. With zero outs early in the game, both Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew tried to score on a hit by Russell Martin. Kent hesitated, thinking the ball might be caught and Drew got stranded in no-man's land halfway between third base and home. They both got thrown out by a mile! And these guys are supposed to be seasoned veterans who don't make rookie bush league mistakes like that. Kent runs about as fast as my little mutt Ratdog in the mud, and J.D. Drew had no business even thinking about going home. You can time these clowns with a sundial! Instead of having the bases loaded with none out, the Dodgers killed a potentially big inning with really stupid baserunning. In the end, it cost them, because they lost to the Mets 6-5 and are now down 1-0 in the best-of-five series. Most of the time I bleed Dodger Blue, but when they do things like that, I just bleed!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Busboys Deserve Our Respect

Busboy Union Proposed by 30-Year Veteran
By R.A. Howard

Gino Arguello, a 54-year old busboy in San Francisco, is aggressively organizing a busboy’s labor union and is quickly gathering support from local busboys as well as waiter’s and chef’s unions and trade groups throughout Northern California.

“Bus persons have been pushed around too long,” Arguello announced at a meeting of over 40 Bay Area busboys on Tuesday. “People treat us like crap and it stops now! Busboys are people too and should not have to feel like second-class citizens. Just because I got like a 350 on my SAT doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I just don’t test well.”

Arguello started out working at DiMaggio’s in the North Beach District of San Francisco in 1976, but was terminated after just one day for allegedly sexually harassing a waitress. “I told her she had a nice set,” he said. “What I meant is that she set the table well. Of course, I was staring at her breasts when I said it. I mean, they were huge!”

Arguello speaks three languages – Spanish, Italian and a form of English that is a mix of Ebonics and shadow puppets. “Sometimes the best way to communicate is to say nothing at all. Gestures and facial expressions can say more than words, know what I’m saying? I also hate it when people talk in fragments. Not cool. No way. At all.”

Arguello has been fired from more busboy jobs than he can recall. His longest tenure was at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. “They forgot my name, so they couldn’t fire me. Once they tracked down my paperwork, I was gone. But, in the meantime, I lasted more than four months.”

He believes the union will mean better conditions for busboys throughout the state. “For one, we deserve better tips,” Arguello said. “My old boss Vinny used to give me tips all the time, but I don’t bet on the ponies, so what good is that?”

Arguello also believes that busboys take the heat when servers screw up service. “This woman bitch-slapped me one time because she thought I broke wind,” he said. “But hey, it was her waiter, not me. Whatever happened to whoever smelt it dealt it? The union will help us bring that kind of stuff back. It’ll be old school.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My Favorite Neighborhood Bar: The Bus Stop in SF

The Bus Stop
My favorite bar in San Francisco has to be the Bus Stop at the corner of Union and Laguna Streets. It’s a really fun spot that attracts two very different types of crowds, one during the day and another at night. When the sun is shining, The Bus Stop crowd is comprised primarily of locals and working stiffs like firemen, teachers, nurses, cops and plumbers. There is also a group of retired old-timers that come in there during the day. These folks are great to talk to and love to engage other patrons in conversations about everything from sports to movies to politics, even religion. As long as you don’t cuss or get too loud, nothing is taboo at The Bus Stop when it comes to verbal communication. I have walked in on many public debates there, about topics like “Why do the 49ers stink?” to “Did Barry Bonds use steroids?” or “Why the hell can’t we catch Bin Laden?” The week day bartender there is Paulie (pictured above), a San Francisco legend in his own right. He’s originally from Boston, which means The Bus Stop is more of a Boston Red Sox bar than a SF Giants bar. But, Paulie will talk intelligently about pretty much anything that’s on your mind. One of the great things about the man is that he’s also a great listener, something that’s so important with bartenders. I am so tired of bartenders who hog the conversation or don’t care what you have to say. Paulie is the antithesis of this – he’s almost like a very good psychiatrist. He really seems to care about his patrons and I know he does. At night, The Bus Stop transforms into yuppie paradise. The hot chicks come into the place in droves, which of course attracts all of the 20-something male wannabe players from all over the Bay Area. The babes with fake boobs show up in their finest fashion show outfits wearing enough high-priced perfume to make us forget about Chernobyl. They do their very best to ignore all of the guys in the room, until of course they meet the one they want to go home with, at which point they get catty competing with the other hoochies in attendance. It’s very similar to the way moose or lions hook up, except for the credit cards and the Jaegermeister. Watching this mating ritual every single evening gets tiresome, so I go in there after dark only when I have friends in town or if there’s a particularly good baseball or football game I want to watch in a fun atmosphere. The bartenders at night are Ron, Jason and Rick, who are seasoned professionals and really interesting guys. The Bus Stop doesn’t serve food, but they don’t mind if you bring your own in there, either. There are a ton of good restaurants nearby that will deliver grub to you right there. They have two pool tables in the back and approximately a dozen flat screen, high definition TV’s throughout the place. They are also really good at accommodating people who make requests to watch certain games. The Bus Stop has a great Happy Hour every week day after 4 pm, with some very generous drink specials and they have about 10 beers on tap. This bar is one of the oldest and most popular drinking establishments in the city and many people have been coming there for more than 40 years. Their motto is, “A place where friendships are formed to last a lifetime.” And I would add to that, “And where hangovers are created every day.”

Monday, October 02, 2006

Yuletide Yuckfest 2006 Lineup Announced

Contact: Ed Attanasio
(415) 595-4555

“Yuletide Yuckfest 2006, a Comedy Benefit, to be held on December 3rd at Rooster T. Feathers to Raise Funds for local Toys for Tots

On Sunday, December 3rd from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale is hosting “Yuletide Yuckfest 2006,” a comedy show benefiting Toys for Tots and celebrating its ninth straight year. Comics Clinton Jackson, Jacob Sirof, Gretchen Rootes, Carla Clayy, Dan St. Paul, Nick Leonard, Hymie Laredo and many special guests will converge on the stage at Rooster T’s to make people laugh for a worthy cause. Also featured will be music by the band “Chubby’s All-Stars,” with special guest Viv Savage, former keyboard player for the famous band, “Spinal Tap.” Admission is $10.00 and an unwrapped toy, or $15.00 without one. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.
Hymie Laredo, whose real name is Ed Attanasio, will host the big event. He sees the show as a chance for comedians to give back to the community, by providing new toys for those less fortunate.
“There is just something about giving kids toys that makes me happy,” Attanasio/Laredo said. “My niece needs a storage locker just to keep all the toys I’ve given her over the years. It’s the little kid in me. It probably makes me feel better than it does the children. I guess Santa Claus must be somewhere down the line on my family tree.”
The comedians featured have been on Comedy Central, VH1, the Comedy Channel, Nickelodeon, the Tonight Show, and more.
Rooster T. Feathers is located at 157 West El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, next to Goodyear Tires. Ample free parking is available. Rooster T. Feathers’ phone number is (408) 736-0921.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Restaurant Review: Sicilia in Bocca: Great Italian Food in Morgan Hill

Is Sicilia in Bocca in Morgan Hill one of the best Italian restaurants in the South Bay? Fuggetaboutit! It’s the whole package when it comes to great dining – a fun, relaxed atmosphere, wonderful food and an owner who is passionate about every little detail.

I have been to Sicilia in Bocca (which literally means “Sicily in Your Mouth”) a dozen times, and every visit is just as memorable and pleasant as the last. Just off Monterey Road and directly behind the Morgan Hill Police Department, Sicilia in Bocca is located in a Victorian-style home that has been converted into a quaint, intimate restaurant that seats about 35. Approximately15 tables fill the dining room, and when weather permits, you can eat outside on the patio as well.

Tony is the owner, and no – his last name is not Soprano. It’s Graziano, like the famous prizefighter, which is fitting because this Tony used to actually fight in the ring. And although he's not a large man by any means, he looks like he’d be able to hold his own in a tussle. He also has a soft and very endearing side, and just talking to him, you can feel the love and conviction that he has for his establishment and his food.

Tony came to the United States in 1972 from Palermo, Sicily, working primarily in the restaurant business. His mentors along the way taught him well, including top-notch culinary maestros like Frank Sinatra’s personal chef. In October 2000, Graziano fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant. Sicilia in Bocca was born.

At Sicilia in Bocca, the food is without a doubt the main attraction, but Tony is a marvelous sideshow to be sure. Just listening to him describe his daily specials will have you drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs. He also enjoys introducing diners to each other, creating a fun and comfortable atmosphere where everyone is interacting. Some patrons enjoy touring the kitchen, which Graziano encourages. If something isn’t on the menu, you can ask for it, and if the ingredients are on hand, Tony is always more than happy to oblige.

But, I must warn you. If you’re looking for your standard Italian faire – like lasagna and pizza, for example – Sicilia in Bocca may not be for you. This is real Italian cuisine, created and served by a man who grew up there and learned at age 15 how to cook from his mother. Everything Tony creates is made with the freshest produce, meat, poultry and seafood. He shops every morning for organic vegetables for his soups and salads, and only buys fish that has just recently stopped swimming. All of his pastas are made from scratch, and he even makes his own lemon liqueur.

The other night, my family and I started off the evening with a classic caesar salad ($6.00). It was in a word, bellisimo. The romaine lettuce was crunchy and the salad was not over-dressed, a common snafu when it comes to some caesars. We also had an incredible minestrone soup ($4.00/cup or $7.00/bowl) that in itself could have been an entire meal.

The main courses we ordered consisted of a fresh fish special of sautéed sea bass topped with capers, olives and tomatoes, accompanied by a pair of polenta squares (market price/just ask); a pasta dish called Pappardelle alla Modicana, ($12.00) a sausage and ricotta cheese creation with a fresh tomato sauce, and a scene-stealing meat entrée, called Medaglioni ai Funghi Porcini, ($19.00) beef medallions sautéed with dried porcini mushrooms, rosemary and a red wine demiglaze sauce. Each dish was exciting and different with a distinct blending of tantalizing flavors and textures.

Sicilia in Bocca is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, starting at 6:00 p.m. Reservations are required for parties of more than four people, and although he says he closes at 10:00 p.m., if there are still hungry people at the door, Tony will stay open.

Sicilia in Bocca has a great wine list, featuring a wide variety of whites and reds from Northern California and the Old Country. And the desserts, like the gelatos served in fruit bowls, are a complete delight. The address is 25 West Main Street in Morgan Hill. For reservations, call (408) 778-0399.

The fact is that Sicilia in Bocca is Tony Graziano. And that’s probably what makes this place so unique and special. The man puts his heart and soul into every aspect of the restaurant and stands behind it with extreme pride and unbridled enthusiasm. You can see it in his smile and in his twinkling eyes. You can feel it through the atmosphere and ambience that he’s created. And you can surely taste it in his outstanding food.

I can’t recommend Sicilia in Bocca enough. How much do I like this place? Let’s put it this way -- I dream about this food when I sleep at night. I always look forward to eating there again and to seeing Tony Graziano once more.