Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are You Ready for Paws for Laughter?

Paws for Laughter is a Comedy Standup Fundraiser for San Francisco’s Rocket Dog Rescue, to be held on Saturday night, January 15th, 8 pm at Fort Mason’s Southside Theater in San Francisco and starring co-headliners Jeff Applebaum and Steven Pearl. Also appearing are Josh Applebaum, Coree Spencer, Max Curry, Sam Obeid and special guests. Tickets are $30 each and available by calling (415) 994-5335 or buying online at Doors open at 7 pm.

Steven Pearl is a well-respected comedian whose been compared to a tornado on hyper drive. His high-energy comedy act is both outrageous and hysterically original. Born in Far Rockaway, New York, and raised on Long Island, Steven Pearl has been performing stand-up comedy professionally since 1979. He began his stand-up career in such prestigious NYC comedy clubs as "Catch A Rising Star" and "The Improv", moving to San Francisco in 1979. In San Francisco he immersed himself in the comedy scene and was often performing seven nights a week. By 1985, he found himself opening for the then up and coming L.A. based comic Sam Kinison. He eventually discovered a comedian could only go so far in San Francisco and moved on to Los Angeles in 1987.Some of his many credits include writing for and working with such comedic legends as Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Rodney Dangerfield. A true journeyman comic, Steven Pearl continues to push the envelope of both good taste and sanity.
Comic Jeff Applebaum is a New York native who has finally learned how to speak English after living in California for 19 years. Jeff’s clean comedy act examines his particular life experiences, which include being the only white kid on his Little League team in Queens, having a Chinese wife who orders from take-out menus in fluent Mandarin, and raising a pre-teen son who calls himself “Jewnese,” because he says it sounds better than “Chine-ish.”

Jeff recently made his national TV debut on CBS as a comedian on the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and was cast to play classic comic Joey Bishop, in the long-running musical tribute "The Rat Pack Is Back," in San Francisco, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Jeff is also credited and appears in the blockbuster film "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith.
Rocket Dog Rescue is an all-volunteer nonprofit group dedicated to saving homeless and abandoned animals from euthanasia in overcrowded Bay Area shelters. Rocket Dog Rescue places non-aggressive dogs into temporary foster homes where they are socialized, spay/neutered, vaccinated, and treated for any medical or behavioral conditions which would otherwise limit their adoptability. The organization then actively seeks out permanent quality homes for these deserving animals through our volunteer network, online adoption page, weekend adoption fairs, and neighborhood poster campaigns.

Founded in 2001 by Bay Area animal activist Pali Boucher, Rocket Dog Rescue is a 501-C3 nonprofit corporation supported completely by donations. Their all-volunteer, home-based organization guarantees that your donations are completely focused on saving dogs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

November is a Month of Great Art, Film, T-Shirts, Animation & Music with Andrew Dolan & The Good Sams

Andrew Dolan is a multi-talented artist, illustrator, t-shirt designer, band front man, musician, filmmaker, songwriter and animator. In his just 28 years on the planet, Dolan has pursued his creative side tirelessly literally since birth and now he’s happy to share his music and images with the world once more.
And that’s why Dolan is converting the old post office building in his hometown Moss Landing, Calif. into a performance space and an art gallery called Surf Hound Studios, to display his animation, present a film he’s produced and rock the house with his three-member country/old-time classic band, The Good Sams.
The Good Sams are releasing Dead Sam’s Music Double Feature, their first record on November 20th with a party where half of the $10 door admission will go to Baby Mathew, a local child who has Leukemia.

It’s an exciting time for Dolan for many reasons, he explained. “In a nutshell, I am going public with my art studio! We’re creating a great space for art at the old post office building here in Moss Landing. We’re providing a creative environment for the community to gather and it just so happens to be a working artist space.

Dolan has assembled a very busy schedule of art, film and music in November. “We’ll be hosting an open mic night every Tuesday night in November. On Friday nights we’ll be for screening classic cinema of the cult classic variety. We’ll kick it off starting with Faster Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill! on November 5th and further screenings are yet to be announced. In addition, Surf Hound Studio will also act as a store front for my t-shirt business, which I founded with local artist, surfer and skateboarder Luke Braddock in 2008. We’ll be selling our original Moss Landing t-shirts and other designs of the fashionably progressive sort, as well as limited edition posters, flip books, and a whole lot of Surf Cartoon Art from the animation. And of course The Good Sams will be playing on Nov. 20 at our first record release party. Bring a camera to capture some of the freakish sights, because you’ll have to see them to believe them!”

What was the genesis of his art exhibit, we asked Dolan. “My paintings are essentially large stand ups of characters I created for my animation initially featured on FuelTV,” Dolan said. “My creations, including Bad Bob, The Kook, the Naked Mermaid, the Shark, and the Octopus. Works will include original hand-painted frames from my animation. Also, life-size wood cut outs of the characters in my movie will be on hand. Since before The Good Sams first formed as a band, My main artistic influences have been Jim Phillips, Rick Griffin, R. Crumb, and Dr. Seuss.”

How do you describe the music played by The Good Sams? “The punk thing usually gives old-time music a bad rap,” Dolan explained. “People want to classify it as cow punk, or psychobilly, or something lame. But our punk is in our hearts, so we don’t like it to be categorized. It’s 100% original, but our sound is what we call classic early country. Some folks have said we remind them of Bob Wills, Django, Johnny Cash, Emmett Miller hybrid, and that’s very flattering, of course, to put us in the same sentence with those musical legends. Major contributions on the record came from local top names in bluegrass, including Darryl Cornell (lead guitar) and Peter Hicks (fiddle and mandolin).”

Let’s meet the members of The Good Sams, as described by Dolan:
Andrew Dolan:
“I write the songs. I am 28 now, and I’ve been writing music and lyrics since I was 18. My dad, Phillip Burgess, was an artist and a musician. He wasn’t around while I was growing up. My mom realized quickly that I had the same talent my father possessed, so she always encouraged me to play music. I wasn’t too into it at the time, so I didn’t nurture that part of my art. I think I just wanted to surf all the time at that period in my life. I hadn’t seen my dad for over a decade, until one day when he showed up on our doorstep, bearing hand-carved hope chests. He asked if I had a guitar. I did, an old Gibson that my mom salvaged from a junked car on my grandpa’s junk yard. That guitar has a bunch of names carved into it, and the neck is bent. My father tuned it up, sang, and finger picked the opening lines of Momma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys. His voice was a sound that I was looking for in my music, and I wanted to sound like my dad from that moment on. I’ve been finger-picking, writing songs, and singing ever since, and that was 10 years ago. I graduated from Cal-State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in May 2010 with a film degree, and the Dead Sams Music was my thesis project.”

Corey Helgeson: “Corey, 26, is our bass player. We knew each other for years because we both surf and live in the same town. We finally discovered that he plays stand up bass, and we both gravitate toward the same old time American music, as well as 80’s punk. We jammed one time to see if it was cool and we’ve been playing original old time music together ever since. Corey makes surfboards for a living and he’s a great member of The Good Sams.”

George Brooks: “He joined the band for Halloween in 2007. George plays a mean peddle steel guitar and we wanted that honky tonk sound for our act, so we’re pleased that we found him. He’s pretty old, I think, uh, sixty or something, but he’s extremely cool and my neighbor.”

Sunshine Jackson: “She’s a great backup singer and a percussionist for the band. She also provided voices for my animation. Sunshine is also a long-time member of a very popular band in Monterey, Calif. called DTR.”

Upcoming important dates for Andrew Dolan and The Good Sams:

Sunday, October 31st
KPIG Radio: 107.5 FM
11 am
The Good Sams will be performing their Halloween song

Friday, November 12th
KZSC Radio: 88.1 FM
8 am

Saturday, November 13th
Moss Landing Chamber Of Commerce
8071 Moss Landing Rd.
Moss Landing, CA 95039
noon-5 pm
The Baby Mathew Event!

Saturday, November 20th
Surf Hound Studios
Old Post Office Building, Moss Landing Strip
7981 Moss Landing Rd.
Moss Landing, CA 95039
6 pm to 9 pm
Admission: $10
$5 of cover goes to Baby Mathew with Leukemia.
Surf Hound Studio's doors are opening on November 2nd.

Saturday, November 20th
Old Post Office Building, Moss Landing Strip
7981 Moss Landing Road
Moss Landing, CA 95039
6 pm-9 pm
Surf Hound Studio
Double Feature Release Party!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

20 Minutes with Martina

I had a chance to talk with Martina Navratilova for 20 minutes the other day to plug an upcoming charity fundraiser starring Martina and Gigi Fernandez. I called her in Paris and at first I thought oops--maybe I caught her on a bad day.

“You’re late,” she said.

(I was exactly one minute late—I forgot to dial the international code. So, I did what I always do—diffuse an awkward moment with some humor)

“I write for a publication called The Marina Times in San Francisco, and my editor told me that if I can get a good interview with you, maybe they can change the name to The Martina Times.”

(She laughed. Whew, I thought)

Q: It seems like you do a ton of fundraising for PETA and so many other organizations. Is it almost like a full-time job?
A: Yes, it could be if I said yes to everything. The key is to say no sometimes because there is only one me and you can only do so much and then I have to pay the rent. I have to pick my spots, so I stick with things that I believe in and work with causes I want to be involved in and that make sense to me.

Q: We recently watched Unmatched, the ESPN 30 30 documentary about your lifelong friendship and rivalry with Chris Evert and it’s a wonderful documentary. Can you think of a rivalry in professional sports that is anything even close to the one that existed for so many years between you and Chrissy?
I can’t think of one. Writers have mentioned Ali and Frazier, but they only fought against each other three times total? Ted Williams and DiMaggio, but they never really faced each other. Palmer and Nicklaus in golf, for instance? I can’t think of one close to what we went through, because we were #1 and #2 in the world and then we would switch, so there isn’t anything else like that, I think.

Q: You had a trainer for a while who told you not to be so chummy with Evert, because she was the enemy, correct?
Yes, Nancy Lieberman was my trainer for a while and she was so competitive that she told me, “Chrissy has something you want and you just can’t be hanging out with her and being all buddy buddy.” And she was wrong about that, but in the end I learned that I did play differently against friends; I was nicer. It was like I didn’t mind losing against my friends. It was telling myself, “Hey, it was Chris who beat me—it’s not that bad.” I needed to get that killer instinct, but I think that Nancy Lieberman took it too far and Chrissy and I were able to find a nice balance eventually. Chris herself had a hard time being close to me, and she had to stop playing doubles with me, because once I started beating her, she didn’t want to hang out with me either. First it came from her and then I started backing off as well. Then we became closer after we quit playing, because then we weren’t competing against each other. Even in the heart of competition, we never lost the empathy and respect that we had for each other.

Q: You were on the reality show, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here and you lost to somebody named Joe Swash?
Well, I didn’t actually lose. I finished second out of 12 people. There are so many so-called celebrities out there due now to these reality shows. It’s kind of bizarre. Look at this flight attendant who slid out of a plane, now he’s getting his own show. Today, you can be famous just for being famous. It’s called “instant celebrity”. I get calls all the time to be on reality shows, but I haven’t found one I want to do. Dancing with the Stars has been recruiting me, but I can’t do those high heels and I just don’t see myself dressed up like that. It’s just not me. The Apprentice would be fun, but they offered me such little money to be on it. I don’t need to be on TV that bad.

Q: I also read somewhere that you’re a pescatarian, which means you only eat fish for your animal protein?
A: I also eat some meat now, but only very little. I was a total vegetarian for seven years and then I discovered that my body was screaming for animal protein, so I started eating meat, but only as little as possible. Your body chemistry changes as you get older and I want to get back to the point of not eating meat again, but not right now I eat primarily fish. I won’t eat lobster because I’ve seen them alive in the water, and I don’t want to kill them. They have to live so long to get to a decent size and I just feel guilty about it.

Q: Speaking of lobster, you played for the Boston Lobsters, a Women TeamTennis Association team in the ‘70s. Why hasn’t team tennis be a success in this country?
A: Well, I think because people still see tennis as an individual sport. I loved playing on a team and I thought it was good for the spectators to see so many different top players in 1.5 hours. You don’t get to witness that in a standard tournament format. Then, the fans get to see the same players playing week after week, so they build a bond with the members of their team. In a tournament, after two days three quarters of the field is gone, and if you didn’t get tickets to the finals, you’re out of luck. I don’t really know why team tennis hasn’t taken, other than maybe people don’t see tennis as a team sport. I do remember that the money wasn’t that great. I made $60,000 for the season for 40 matches. We were grossly underpaid. Players get more for first round doubles today!

Q: I know you’ve been on The Howard Stern radio show more than once and you’re a good friend with Robin Quivers. Have you gotten heat from your management or from the public for being on that show?
A: Not really. Robin is a friend of mine and I have a standing offer to be on the show. Howard is very respectful of me on the show. He’s very bright and says exactly what he feels. I wasn’t worried, because I knew I could hold my own with him. I respect the man and in many ways, we agree politically.

Q: I read somewhere that a tennis writer chose you as the #2 best tennis women’s player of all time behind Steffi Graff. I found that surprising. Don’t people pretty much consider you as the greatest female tennis player of all time?
Most do, but it will always be debated, just like the debate on the men’s side. Not everyone will love me and that’s just fine. I’m not all concerned about how writers or anyone else sees my career, because I’m happy to have made a living playing the game I love, and that’s enough for me. Awards and recognition are nice, but really in the end, it all about how you acted and what you achieved.

Q: What is your favorite Czech food?
Anything with mushrooms in them is my favorite, especially truffles. White truffles are coming into season right now and I love them.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ratdog 2.0

My little Chihuahua mix Ratdog was evidently not feeling well one evening in August. Initially, we just thought the deaf little yapper had indigestion. But, when he couldn’t walk the next morning, things become serious rather quickly.

“Call the vet right now!” my wife exclaimed. But, our normal vet had a full schedule, so we jumped online. The first name we found when Googling was the San Francisco Pet Hospital on Fulton Street. “Can we bring our dog down immediately?” we inquired and they said “Yes!”Luckily an appointment fell through, and we were able to race the ailing mutt to the clinic post haste.

That was our lucky day, because we ran into Dr. Jessica Hunter, an amazing veterinarian who gave us the facts quickly and kept us informed throughout the process. She was calm while we freaked out by the fact that we could lose our little friend, and that was key because she placated us and focused on the situation at hand without getting emotional.

Money is always a concern when it comes to your pet’s health and it’s always part of the job, according to Dr. Hunter, and in this case it was a major issue with us. Do we drop significant money on this very old dog, or is it time to make a tough decision and go Doggy Kevorkian on the animal?

“Financial considerations are always a major deal, especially during a recession,” Dr. Hunter said. “I give people options so they can decide for themselves. In a perfect world, I want to do as much as I can for the animal, but if people can’t afford that, we can sit down and figure out an alternative if it exists. Hopefully, I can help them with their decisions, so that we all agree on how to treat their pet.”

Dr. Hunter gave us options, which is the best way to go with people like us who aren’t wealthy. “Some clients say do whatever you can to help the animal and others tell us what their budget is. We want people to be comfortable and 100% onboard for what we’re doing. I will present them with what I believe is the best scenario and then we can trim it down if it’s necessary.”

What was Ratdog’s prognosis? “He was profoundly dehydrated and he couldn’t stand,” Dr. Hunter explained.”He had a major oral infection and what I would describe as a raging urinary infection as a result of his decaying teeth. When we got his blood work back, we saw that he had a very high white cell count. The little guy was fighting the major infections. And his kidney numbers were elevated. It appeared as though his kidneys were failing, but we felt as though he might still have an outside chance to make a comeback.”

How close was our beloved mutt close to passing onto doggy heaven? “I would say 24-36 hours,” Dr. Hunter said. “He was basically dying. It looked bad, but he’s a tough little guy and he got in here with little time to spare. Infections such as these can progress quickly, so if you see your dog acting strange or slowing down, get the animal to a vet fast.”

We thought he was a goner, but by hydrating him and getting antibiotics in his system fast, Ratdog rallied and miraculously came back 100%, thanks to the great work by Dr. Hunter and all of the people at SF Pet Hospital.

Dr. Hunter is a 2008 graduate of the UC Davis Veterinary School and she’s been working for a little more than one year for the SF Pet Hospital. She lives in the Mission with Nena, her German Shepherd Husky mix. The SF Pet Hospital has been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest pet hospitals of its kind in the state. Dr. Lee Morris DVM has been running the hospital since 1980 and Dr. Robert Leyba DVM joined the team in 2004.

As Ratdog’s owners, we were obviously a little shocked and upset at the prospect of losing our old friend, but Dr. Hunter said the right things to sooth our nerves and get us on the same page. “People at vet school used to say, ‘we want to work with animals—not people,’” Dr. Hunter said. “But, that’s not the reality of the profession. You have to work with animals and their owners, so you need to learn how to do both.”

How to deal with dog and cat owners is a touchy subject, especially when people are concerned and scared to lose their pets, Dr. Hunter explained. “You can’t talk over their heads by laying a bunch of medical jargon on them they won’t understand and overwhelm them. And on the other hand, you don’t want to talk down to people either. So, it’s a fine line, made worse by stress and uncertainty.”

Amazing vets like Dr. Hunter save animals’ lives every day and never ask for praise, because it’s just part of the job. Ratdog is better than ever and he might just live to be 120. Since his comeback, he’s more annoying, yippy and under foot than ever—we’re calling him Ratdog 2.0—and we couldn’t be more indebted to this doctor who stepped up to keep this little ugly mutt on the planet and gave him a chance to pass on to Canine Heaven the right way—of old age, hopefully many years from now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Maury Wills Stole the League in the 1960's

Maury Wills was a switch-hitting batter, slick fielding shortstop, base stealing phenomenon who played prominently with the Los Angeles Dodgers(1959–66, 1969–72) and also with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1967–68) and Montreal Expos (1969). He was an essential component of the Dodgers' championship teams in the mid-1960s, and deserves much credit for reviving the stolen base as part of baseball strategy. In a 14-season career, Wills batted .281 with 20 home runs, 458 runs batted in, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples, and 586 stolen bases in 1942 games. He is a seven-time all-star and in 1962. As of 2009, Wills is a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization serving as a representative of the Dodgers Legend Bureau.

One player changed his life: “My high school was full of great runners; really fast guys who were much faster than me. They stuck me in the middle of their four-man relays, but I wasn’t fast enough to anchor. I played every sport, but baseball was always my favorite. Then one day everything changed when a professional baseball player showed up on our playground and he was from the Washington Senators. We didn’t know anything about the Washington Senators. No word ever got in or out of the projects back in those days. But this man had a nice uniform on, color coordinated with the piping down the sides of his pants; his shoes were clean and were shined up real nice; he had belt loops and he was well-groomed with clear eyes and he was white. How he made it to our neighborhood I’ll never know. And we were like—wow, before this we used to idolize the guys in our neighborhood who played on the weekends, they called them semi-pros. They all had mismatched uniforms on. Argyle socks under their stirrups. And they all had a half pint of whiskey in their back pockets and they looked like they hadn’t slept all week. They were our heroes and we wanted to grow up to be just like them. We figured if we grew up and played on their team, we would be successful. They were hard-working men, many who didn’t have jobs and surely weren’t looking around for a job, guys who just played Negro-league style baseball on the weekends. That’s where I learned to play Negro league style, which involved a lot of running. It’s what they call ‘small ball’ today, but I call it baseball. And then all of a sudden, here comes this white professional baseball player and his name is Jerry Priddy, you can Google him and he died years later and I doubt he even knew how much he impacted my life as a kid. Years later as a Los Angeles Dodger, they used to ask us to go out into the community to talk to kids and some of my fellow players didn’t want to go. But, I always went and I’ll always go if people ask, because I am indebted to Jerry Priddy for what he did for me when he singled me out on that playground many years ago. Players would show up at these community events and then just stay for the agreed-upon minimum 20 minutes, but I was always thinking, Jerry Priddy didn’t leave after 20 minutes, he hung out with us for at least two hours. So, I would always stick around and usually I was the last player there.”

Inspired by Jackie Robinson: “In 1947, I started hearing a lot of talk in the projects about a man named Jackie Robinson playing for a team called the Dodgers. Oh, who is Jackie Robinson? Where’s Brooklyn? I started asking. They told me it’s in New York and I asked where’s that? So, I walked away and said to myself, I’m going to play for the Dodgers one day. That’s when I thought that I could be a major league player.”

His MVP year: “I won the MVP in 1962 and Willie Mays keeps reminding me that he should have won the MVP that year. This is 2010, and he’s still telling me about it. I told him Willie get over it, man. I always got the Dodgers that one run we needed and especially that season.”

The Brooklyn Dodger vets: “Those early years of the Los Angeles Dodgers featured guys like Duke Snider, Carl Furillo and Gil Hodges, but by that time they were even more distant and intolerant of the wave of younger players coming in. They were a whole different breed of cat coming from Brooklyn. Different players from different eras have varied approaches to the game, but these guys were not what you’d call warm and fuzzy. I’m not saying they weren’t good people, but they sure couldn’t be categorized as nice people, you know? They were grumpy and standoffish in many ways. They wouldn’t help you or hang out with you. On that team you were on your own—you either made it on your own or failed on your own on that team. I have a good friend from that period—his name is Don Newcombe—and he’s still grumpy to this day. Gilliam was aloof, but a little nicer than the other ones.”

Alston & Koufax: “Walt Alston was a gentleman and very dependable, but he was a no-nonsense guy, but he didn’t say many words and I can’t remember really seeing him smile or laugh much. He was all-business, just like many of his veteran players. A good friendship developed over the years between me and Sandy Koufax. When he had arm trouble, he would stay after the games to ice down his arm, and I’d be there too icing down my legs. So, we spent a lot of time together all alone in the clubhouse, just he and I Sometimes we’d have to find a security guard to let us out of the stadium, because it was all locked up. So, that’s how we became friends and developed a lot of trust. To this day, I have Sandy’s cell phone number and I don’t think many people have it, because he’s a very private individual.”

One game that changed his life: “For a long time, I was batting eighth for the Dodgers. Batting ahead of the pitcher is not a great spot to be in to use your speed and my base running and base stealing abilities. And my bat wasn’t anything to write home about, I had to be a disciplined fielder and things like that to impress them and stay in the lineup. Pee Wee Reese used to take me out at least five days a week to work with me on my fielding—hard, hard, hard. So, then in early July that season (1960) we went to Spokane Washington for the Dodgers on an off day to play their AAA team there. I had played for that team the year before and I maintained my family there, so a big crowd came to the game. I was in the clubhouse getting ready when Alston came back and said, ‘This is a big crowd and I think they came to see you. Why don’t you lead off?’ I was in shock. And he said ‘yeah’. And then as he was leaving the clubhouse, Alston turned back around—now mark this moment because it changed my life—and he said, ‘And don’t wait for the steal sign, if you wanna go, then just go!’ I went out there and got something like four hits, stole about three bases, I was running from first to third on ground balls through the infield and my teammates were telling me, ‘Slow down because you’ll hurt yourself. It’s just an exhibition game’ and I told them, not for me. I had a great day and we went on to Cincinnati from there. We were in the locker room getting ready when Alston walked over to my locker and said, ‘Why don’t you just stay in that leadoff spot? And don’t wait for steal signs either.’ Man, I had a great season after that. I was in the top ten in hitting and stole 50 bases, beating the Dodger team’s record, formerly held by Jackie Robinson.”

Why the Dodgers traded him to Pittsburgh: “Because I jumped the tour in Japan without the team’s permission. We went to Japan after we lost the 1966 World Series. I got hosed on that too. It was supposed to be a voluntary trip, and my leg was all banged up—I busted the cartilage in my right knee earlier that season, getting caught up in a run down in New York playing against the Mets. Koufax and Drysdale said they couldn’t go on the trip because they said they had previous business commitments. But back then, players didn’t have any business commitments, they just didn’t want to go and the team wouldn’t force them. And I showed them how messed up my leg was and they still made me go. But they said I wouldn’t have to play, just sign autographs. I said okay and when I got there they started playing me. Pretty soon, the leg started hurting more and more. I asked for permission to go home and they said no. So, I got my own ticket and went home. The late Walter O’Malley didn’t like it and he got rid me of me—they traded me to the Pirates. I cried for a week when I heard about it.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

Me & Tony Malinosky

He's the oldest living MLB baseball player on the planet and it was a pleasure meeting and interviewing the 100-year old Tony Malinosky. He played only one season for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and one of his college buddies was Richard Nixon. He's lived an amazing life and next month he'll turn 101!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Great Week for Chasing Greats

Last week was HUGE for my pursuit of interviewing the oldest living baseball players for my upcoming book, Chasing Greats (June 2011, McFarland Publishing). My goal is to interview the players who can still be interviewed, and cross off my list of the ones who can't be interviewed for whatever reason.
So, here's what happened last week:
First, I contacted Ray Hathaway (#21 on the list) and interviewed him on the phone.

On Sunday, I drove 12 hours to and from Oxnard to interview the oldest living player, Tony Malinosky.

Later that day, I traveled to Ventura to locate Don Lang (#9). I was able to contact Don's wife and she explained that he cannot speak or recognize anyone. So, unfortunately, no interview there.

And finally, I had to take Eddie Joost (#16) off my list. He told me in very simple terms that he doesn't want to be bothered by any writers. Oh well.
So, four off my list--I'm making good progress!
Top: Eddie Joost
Next from top: Don Lang
Next: Tony Malinosky
Bottom: Ray Hathaway

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gift Cards: Rip-Off Report

We got married last year and many of our friends gave us bank gift cards. What a scam! During this recession, banks are looking for new streams of revenue, including higher credit card fees, higher interest rates and late fees up the yahoo and now I’ve discovered that gift cards are another way to stick it to the consumer.
If you want to give someone a gift card, why not opt for cash? It spends easier and you won’t get saddled with silly fees. The #1 set of fees devised by the bank geniuses are the non-usage ones. There is a time limit with each card—some offer one year or even less—and if you don’t use the cards right away, you’ll be charged at every turn. One of them charges you $2.50 each month over the standard period. If you don’t use it for quite some time, you’ll try to buy something with it and suddenly notice that the card’s balance is way down or completely worthless if you’ve waited too long.
Plus, many of these gift cards have an “activation fee”. One of them charged us $5.95 to use the card the first time. Why does the recipient have to pay this? In some states, they’ve passed laws that let the buyer of the gift card pay that fee. Hard cash doesn’t have this type of activation tax. What a joke!
Also, the gift card companies (major names in our case like Visa and American Express) don’t want to share your balance information on the cards very easily. To find out the balances, you have to go online and input the unending series of numbers to discover how much money is left. They can’t tell you your balance at the stores where you use the cards. So it’s a guessing game and the banks thrive on things like this.
The reason for this is very simple, actually. Most people won’t spend time researching the balances, so in the end the banks know all too well that people will leave a small amount of money on each card. When it gets down to $3.00, for instance, what can you buy with that? Maybe a candy bar or a DVD rental? (not anymore). Banks love the fact that people leave money on their cards. And if they don’t use it promptly, the bank will suck up that balance quicker than you can yell, “Scam!”
And the cards won’t let you buy things that cost more than the balance on the card. Another con job. The merchant will tell you the card doesn’t have enough money in it, so you can’t use it. It won’t use up the balance so that you can supplement it with another card, a credit card or cash. Most people won’t know their balances, so they won’t even know what they can buy with this ridiculous piece of plastic.
So, stay away from gift cards. Buy real gifts, or give silver or actual cash. Your friends will appreciate the gift anyway and all of the money you gift them will go in their pockets, as opposed to the deep ones the banks will swipe away at every opportunity. Whatever happened when banks actually helped people? Now they operate primarily as money vultures, waiting for you to screw up so they can bend you over right at the teller’s window.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Should Gil Hodges Be in the Hall of Fame?

I recently wrote about Lefty O’Doul, a San Francisco baseball legend who deserves be in the Hall of Fame, I believe. Another player/manager who should be in the HOF is the late Gil Hodges. His statistics and contributions to the game as a manager and as a role model make him more than merely a candidate. The Marina has a connection to Hodges, because Gil Hodges III, Gil’s grandson, is well-known in the neighborhood as a co-owner of Liverpool Lil’s. Gilbert Hodges played first base primarily for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the major leagues' outstanding first baseman in the 1950s, with teammate Duke Snider being the only player to have more home runs or runs batted in during the decade. For a time, his 370 career home runs were a National League (NL) record for right-handed hitters, and briefly ranked tenth in major league history; he held the NL record for career grand slams from 1957 to 1974. Hodges anchored the Dodgers’ infield on six pennant winners, and remains one of the most beloved and admired players in team history. As a sterling defensive player, he won the first three Gold Glove Awards ever awarded and led the NL in double plays four times and in putouts, assists and fielding percentage three times each. He ranked second in NL history with 1,281 assists and 1,614 double plays when his career ended, and was also among the league's career leaders in games (6th, 1,908) and total chances (10th, 16,751) at first base. He managed the New York Mets to the 1969 World Series title, one of the greatest upsets in Series history, before his untimely death in 1972. If you compare Hodges to Tony Perez, the Cincinnati Reds’ 1B who is in the HOF, you can plainly see that Hodges deserved to be there. It’s a complete disgrace that this incredible man and player and manager isn’t in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Random Thoughts
I went to NYC in August on vacation and I got to see both of the new baseball stadiums. I was talking to several fans and they all said the same thing: “The seats in these new ballparks are way too expensive.” Now NY Giants football fans are bailing on their season tickets, because the prices at the new Meadowlands are out-of-control, even at Big Apple levels. Are these new fancy stadiums pricing the common man right out of the running for seats? It sounds like it and it’s a shame. Pretty soon, corporations will be the only ones who can afford season tickets, $10 beers and $9 hot dogs! The Bay Area can now claim that we have the most successful horse racing jockey in the world right here. If you don’t know him, his name is Russell Baze, who recently celebrated his 11,000th race at the Sonoma County Fair this summer. When I played the horses many years ago, I made a lot of money betting on horses with Baze atop. When he was riding Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s horses for many years primarily at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields, Baze was as close to being a sure thing as any jockey in the sport.
Will the Lions Roar Again in 2011?
Galileo Academy’s Head Football Coach Mark Huynh is excited about his team this year after the Lions surprised the rest of the Academic League by capturing the title last season (9-3 overall and 6-1 in league). After a talented group of seniors who graduated in June, this team is a very young, but enthusiastic unit, led by Sr. RB Quincy Nelson (“He’s smart, pretty quick and sneaky fast,” Huynh said.); Sr. QB Jonathan Lu (“He got a lot of snaps last year, so we’re excited to see how he’ll do as out #1 guy.”); Sr. Cornerback Waynelle Buckner (“He should make some big plays this year.”); Jr. Center Michael Brzozek, Sr. Cornerback William Kay (“Strong, quick and a hard worker.”); Sr. Middle Linebacker Max Malloy (“He’s a hard hitter and a tough kid.”) and Jr. Nose Tackle Marc Pineda (“He can clog up the middle, which is key to our defense.) Coach Huynh will be running a triple option offense, featuring one fullback and two slot backs, he explained. What teams will be the ones to beat in the Academic League this season? “Washington will be talented and deep and Lowell should be very competitive,” Huynh said. “We don’t know much about Lincoln this year, but I’ve heard they’re a very young, athletic group, so it should be an interesting league this season.” Galileo’s first home game will be against Moreau Catholic on September 18th. Let’s get out there and support the Marina’s only high school football program.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Comics Never Die!

This year marks the 30th annual presentation of the world’s first outdoor comedy concert. That’s right, Comedy Day is turning 30, but you can trust that it will continue to bring five hours of funny to Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 19. The free event features 40 comedians on one stage in a non-stop relay of jokes.
This year’s lineup, a combination of up-and-coming talent, national and Bay Area favorites, and a cadre of comedians who first performed during Comedy Day’s early ‘80s infancy, includes: Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Ammiano, Diane Amos, Ngaio Bealum, Dick Bright, Eddie Brill, A. Whitney Brown, Bruce “Baby Man” Baum, Larry “Bubbles” Brown, Andy Bumatai, Candy Churilla, Brian Copeland, Debi Durst, Will Durst, David Feldman, Marga Gomez, Caitlin Gill, Maximilian Gstettenbauer, Linda Hill, Jeremy Kramer, Grant Lyon, Don McMillan, Dr. Gonzo, The Meehan Brothers, Rick Overton, Steven Pearl, Mark Pitta, Michael Pritchard, Dan St. Paul, Bob Rubin, Bob Sarlatte, Carrie Snow, Barry Sobel, Tony Sparks, Johnny Steele, Howard Stone, Barry Weintraub, J. Raoul Brody And The STUPEDS, And Very Special Surprise Guests!

Founder Jose Simon’s dream of a free, open-air comedy celebration became a reality in 1981, and since that time, more than 600 of the world’s funniest comedians have performed gratis for more than a half-million people. Comedy Day has hosted many of the biggest names in stand-up, among them Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Shandling, Ellen DeGeneres, Eddie Izzard, Dana Carvey, Bobcat Goldthwait, Paula Poundstone, Brian Copeland, Rob Schneider, George Lopez, Greg Proops, Dave Chappelle, Margaret Cho, Greg Behrendt, Dana Gould, Tom Kenney, Dave Attell, Arj Barker, Brian Regan, Jake Johannsen, Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo, and Father Guido Sarducci.

“We all need a good laugh…especially now,” says Debi Durst, Board President of Comedy Day. “Our goal is to give the audience a break from the trials of daily life. Sure, there’ll be jokes about the state of the economy, dubious politicians, upcoming midterm elections, the big oil spill and other scandals, but finding something funny about these distressing times helps people release all their pent-up energy.”

I had an opportunity recently to talk with Dr. Gonzo, a legendary name among comedians from during the 1980’s, a period that people now call The Golden Era of San Francisco Comedy. Dr. Gonzo (John Means) retired from performing more than a decade ago, and returned to his hometown, Mason City, Illinois, to teach community college English for a while and open two restaurants. In his heyday, Dr. Gonzo was most known for his song parodies and opened at concerts for big musical acts, like Huey Lewis and the News, Greg Kihn, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Journey and Carlos Santana, just to name a few.

Q: You haven’t performed in 12 years, but you’ll be back on the big stage at Comedy Day?
A: It’s a weird thing to jump back in again. I was on the road for 20 years and I was getting burnt out on the lifestyle. I had given up all of my vices—all the things that were going to kill me—so I wanted to do something different with my life, so I went back to school and got a degree in English. Then my dad died and I got divorced, so it was tough for a while. So, my life changed drastically in a very short time and I remarried a woman I knew from high school. We’ve fixed up seven buildings here in my hometown. We own two restaurants that are pretty cool. We live above the restaurants, which is great, because I don’t have a lawn to mow and my commute is excellent.

Q: You’re going to see a lot of your fellow comics from the heyday at this year’s Comedy Day. Will it be a fun reunion?
A: It’s going to be a blast! Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years. I was there for so many Comedy Days, so this will be cool. It’s a great experience, because you get to see so many of your friends all in one place. It will be an exciting experience, performing in front of 10,000 people after not being on a stage for 12 years. I’m not getting back into it for a living, but this is more of a kick.

Q: What was it like doing your last gig back in 1998?
A: My desire was gone by then, so it was anti-climatic more than anything else. Things had changed, because the audience got younger and I got older. I thought my last show would be an emotional deal, but it wasn’t. At that point, I was deep into going to school and I thought that performing for that supposed last time would be emotional, but it was more like a monkey getting pulled off my back, actually.

Q: People look back at the‘80’s comedy scene in San Francisco and say it was an incredibly talent-laden time. Did you know that it was that way back then?
A: I think we knew it. There was something special in the city by the way comedy just boomed during that time. I came to SF as a musician and the music scene back then took a dump just when comedy was starting to peak. It was easy for any club with a light and a small stage to do comedy, and there were so many comics out there that shows were everywhere. I don’t think many of us got into standup back then to make money—we just thought it was a lot of fun. We were screwing around and it just happened. Steven Pearl, Doug Ferrari, Will Durst, Bobby Slayton, (the late) Jane Dornacker, Billy Jaye, Michael Pritchard, Linda Hill—they were all here and it was amazing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Interview with Rich Little

On August 8th, Impressionist Rich Little will be one of the panelists featured at Comedy Talks, a series of conversations by comedians about comedy and their careers. We talked to Rich about his many years on the stage, some of the highlights and lowlights and asked him about his current project, a one-man show in which he plays Jimmy Stewart.

Q: What advice would you offer to young comedians or comic actors?
A: They’re different types of standup comedy. What I do is basically tell jokes. Many of the comics today tell anecdotes and real-life stories, and I always tell jokes with a very distinct set up followed by a punch line. It’s a different type of comedy. I put a lot of jokes in my act—not one-liners or stories. Everyone has a different approach of how they do comedy. Back in the early days, guys like Milton Berle, Henny Youngman and Bob Hope told jokes. And then you had people like Shelly Berman and Bob Newhart who told a lot of stories about things that had happened to them. I’m probably of the old-school, but what I’ve been doing for many years is taking an impression and then having a joke in there as well. That way, I’m getting a reaction for the impression, and then I get another reaction from the joke. The best thing I can tell a young comic is get on stage as much as you can, because there’s no substitute for getting up there and doing it. Try not to perform in front of your family too much, because they’re nothing like a live audience. They won’t heckle you and we won’t get an objection.
Q: Henny Youngman told me once that there’s a big difference between getting up on stage and saying random things or developing an act and working it—do you agree?
A: Yes, I am very constructive with my material. I have developed some bits around my voices and these have become some of my standards over the years. For instance, I do a series of jokes based on what stars would sound as an animal; or within a game show featuring many of my voices. I think of an idea on how can I present these characters in a different setting and that’s where I find my hook with some foundation. I do it in a new, refreshing way without just banging out just bit one after another. I’m very conscious of what I’m doing with these voices, instead of just knocking them out.
Q: When did you think wow, I can make a living in this business?
A: The first time I got paid. I was doing shows in my hometown in Canada, doing shows at Knights of Columbus and Shriner’s conventions. Back then I was just a kid who does a few voices and that’s what I liked to do. In the early days, it wasn’t much more than a hobby. I never thought it was going to be a full-time thing, but one day the phone rang and someone told me they’d pay me $50 to perform. Well, I was in shock. I almost told them I would settle for $15! I said to myself, I can actually get paid for this? Not much, but it was a start. I never thought of myself as a comedian during those early years. I thought of myself as a guy who did a few impressions.
Q: When did you first realize you could make “insane” money?
A: When I got on the Judy Garland Show. For a kid in his 20’s, that was huge. After I got that TV exposure, I started getting bigger gigs and that’s when things changed for me. I’m most proud of that period in my life. Some of the work I did with Judy Garland is considered my best.
Q: What were best and worst gigs?
A: I would say that some of my appearances on the Dean Martin Roasts were great fun. My performance at the Reagan Inauguration was also a high point. My worst experience was at the 2007 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Everyone talked during my entire performance and the reviewers weren’t kind.
Q: You have always worked clean?
A: Well, not 100%. It depends on what you call clean. A lot of times, you can leave it in your imagination without really saying the words, it’s debatable if that’s working blue or not. I may do some suggestive material, but I’ve never worked blue. I never swear. People like naughty material, but it has to be written cleverly. Nowadays, some these comics are more graphic than ever. Somewhere along the line, it became popular to be shocking.
Q: What are you working on currently?
A: I’ve developed a one-man show playing Jimmy Stewart. I’m touring the country with that and I want to take it to big theaters and then eventually on Broadway. It’s not just Jimmy Stewart, but 23 different characters as well. We think it appeals to anyone, even if they’re not familiar with Stewart. We’d love to bring the show to San Francisco at some point.
Comedy Talks: Conversations with the Legends of Comedy is a panel discussion that brings the classic late night talk show format to the live stage, presenting a panel of three comedy legends, with host Robert Strong. “These comedy icons will talk about their careers, personal lives, insider gossip, and tips of the comedy trade,” Strong said. “Kind of like a late night talk show, but live on stage. Our hope is that the audience gets to reunite with beloved entertainment personalities so familiar that they feel like old friends. And we'll have a Q&A period too, so people will be able to ask the panelists questions."
Sunday, August 1st: George Segal, Paul Mazursky and Ronnie Schell
Sunday, August 8th: Rich Little, Carol Channing and Steve Rossi
Sunday, August 15th: Robert Morse, Shelley Berman and TBA

All shows at USF Presentation Theater (2350 Turk) at 4:00 pm.

Friends of Northside SF get a $10 discount off of any price level if you purchase your tickets before August 8, 2010. Simply enter the word "northside" in the discount code field when you go to make your purchase, and then choose one of the specially discounted tickets.
For more information about all three shows, visit

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ed's Sports Corner for July

I always enjoy hearing great success stories about local people who’ve made it. Jesse Ortiz is a good example—a Galileo High School and University of San Francisco graduate who’s made it big in the sport of golf as one of the world’s premier golf club designers in the world. Ortiz began his club designing career as a teenager in 1968 with guidance from his father Lou, founder of Orlimar Golf. Together, Jesse and Lou hand-crafted golf clubs for many of golf’s greatest, from Ken Venturi to Johnnie Miller. The Ortiz’ became personal craftsmen for Northern California’s finest golf professionals. While at Orlimar, he designed and developed many successful products introduced by the company, including the TriMetal™ fairway metal line, widely considered to be among the most lucrative and innovative ever introduced. It was consistently ranked among the top fairway metals by professional PGA Tour and senior PGA Tour players in Darrell Surveys. Before leaving Orlimar, Jesse introduced the critically acclaimed TriMetal™ HipTi Driver, which featured not only the thinnest conforming face in golf, but also the strongest and most rigid. Jesse’s metal wood innovations propelled sales from $1.5 million to $100 million in the late 1990s. Since 1998, over 700 PGA professional players have used Ortiz clubs in tournament play. During this period, Ortiz’s name has become synonymous with high-quality woods and fairway metals design. In 2004, the Jesse Ortiz Design Studio partnered with the upstart Bobby Jones Golf Company, and resounding success has followed. Driven by the commercial and critical triumph of the Bobby Jones Hybrid by Jesse Ortiz, the Bobby Jones Players Series by Jesse Ortiz continues to benefit from heavy media acclaim and increasing sales. In 2008 after nearly four years in the workshop, Jesse launched a revolutionary new 460cc driver and a collection of technology-shaping wedges for Bobby Jones Golf. In 1999, Jesse received the International Network of Golf Business Achievement Award and was recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California by Ernst & Young.

Gus Triandos was around many great moments in baseball

Gus Triandos was a very decent catcher during the 50’s and 60’s. He hit 167 career homers, and although he was not fleet of foot (he stole one base and holds the record for most consecutive games played without being thrown out: 1,206), Triandos had a great arm and was known as one of the top-fielding backstops in the league throughout his years with five major league teams. He now lives in San Jose, California and runs a postal company. He was wearing a neck brace the morning I met him, the result of a recent car accident. Gus was a part of a lot of baseball history. A 2-time all-star, he caught Jim Bunning’s perfect game in 1964, used the big oversized mitt to catch knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm during his no-hitter in 1958 and was the opposing catcher when Ted Williams hit a home run in his final plate appearance in 1960.

The perfect game he caught: “Bunning was on his game that day and everything just fell into place. A perfect game is so rare, because it’s never completely in the pitcher’s hands. An error can mess it up and I’ve seen it happen more than once. In the ninth inning, Jim Bunning called his catcher, Gus Triandos, to the mound. What did they talk about? Triandos stated after the game, "He said I should tell him a joke, just to get a breather. I couldn't think of anything. I just laughed at him."

High school: “My senior year, we had 11 guys sign professional contracts. Mission High was the baseball school, Polytechnic was the football school and Lowell was the basketball school in San Francisco at that time. The only one who really made it for any time in the majors was me.”

The 1957 all-star game: “That *$#@ Stengel didn’t even put me in that game. That Stengel really hated my guts. And then the next year it was in Baltimore. That’s when they let the players pick the all-stars for the first time. And I got in because I was elected by the players. And Casey still didn’t want to play me, but he had no choice.”

Players he liked/disliked: “I never got to where I disliked a guy. There were a couple I ended up disliking, but shit, life’s too short. I stayed away from them. You see them now, and you never get a chance to talk. Maybe for a minute at some dinner or event or something. But, there were very few people -- players and managers -- that after it was all over, I disliked…Stengel was one of them. I wasn’t his type of ball player. You know, I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hit to the opposite field. And for some reason he just didn’t like me and it was patently obvious. The greatest thing that ever happened to me was him disliking me. He also made the right pick. He decided that he liked Elston Howard better than me. And that was a helluva pick.”

Umpires: “You almost have to be an ass---- to be an umpire. You have to take so much shit. You start the season out real good friends with them by the end of the season guys were salivating, hell, saying they hated each other’s guts. The only reason the umps liked me is I didn’t show ‘em up, and I never argued with them. Stayed off them so that the fans wouldn’t get on them.”

Players today: “The way things are now, the kind of money these guys are making, it’s messed everything up. In our era, there was more integrity and more love for the game. Look at these fucking guys, they buy 2-3 million dollar homes; some of them have six or seven kids with five different women? It’s crazy.”

HOFer’s: “Any Hall of Famer who thinks he’s so wonderful because he did all these great things in baseball is full of crap. He was able to do it because he was blessed by God with natural ability. He didn’t necessarily have to work that hard to be a star. I’ve seen .220 hitters work a lot harder than a lot of Hall of Famers. There were some good ones, but there are also a lot of bad guys who are Hall of Famers. That’s why I never really idolized Hall of Famers, because I thought they were blessed.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

She IS Edith Piaf!!

Multi-talented Naomi Emmerson brings to life Edith Piaf’s unmatched passion for song, her inspirational story of survival and her unwavering faith in love in Piaf: Love Conquers All, this intimate Off-Broadway hit that has travelled from Montreal to Manila before coming to San Francisco.

Emmerson interprets fourteen of Piaf’s most notable songs in their original French language (dialogue in English) and will be accompanied by Alan Choy’s live acoustic piano. Woven among songs are anecdotes of Piaf's life - her passion for men, music and morphine. A version of Piaf's life was recently brought to the screen with an Oscar-winning performance by Marion Cotillard in “La Vie an Rose”.

Piaf: Love Conquers All runs from July 7 - August 7, 2010 at the Eureka Theatre (215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA – near the Embarcadero). Tickets are $25-$36 and are available at 800-838-3006 or at

I had a chance to talk to Naomi Emmerson recently and we discussed the role she’s played approximately 200 times during her acting career.

What is your attraction to playing Edith Piaf?
“When I first started playing her in 1993, it was a job. But now my motivation is to continually bring her music out to the audience in a meaningful way that is a tribute to her life. The music probably motivates me the most. The lyrics really tell her story, so if you listen to them you’re really getting a window into her life. She had a very mercurial life full of extremes and recklessness and she was things that I am not. So, I get to pretend and then feel honored that there was a woman who made a ton of sacrifices to share her music with the world.”

Tell us three things we probably don’t know about Edith Piaf.
“I bet nobody knows that she was a Rosicrucian later in her life. And she was very mystical and believed in spirits and had many precognitive experiences. She had an Ouija board she carried with her all the time. One time she read the board and then opted out of taking a flight and the plane later crashed. She also helped approximately 150 prisoners of war to escape from the German camps. She would perform for the prisoners and then would make sure to have her picture taken with them. Then, she’d find out these peoples’ names and ID’s were forged for these prisoners. During a return performance, she’d smuggle these prisoners fake ID’s and they could essentially walk right out of the camp. Also, she was by far the highest paid female entertainer of her time—more than Judy Garland or Ella Fitzgerald.”

If you could have lunch with Edith, what would you ask her?
“I actually had a very vivid dream in which we were drinking together in a bar. I would probably ask her if she minds that I’m singing her songs and does she approve?”

Her passions included men, music and morphine and in that particular order?
“I think her men would have been the first one, because without men and love in her life, she couldn’t have done her music, I believe. And then when she had the pain of lost love, she sang even better. So, those were connected. And, of course, the morphine played a big part in her life. Piaf got addicted to it after she was in a very bad car accident. After three years of abuse, she did finally quit. But she never gave up the booze!”

If people are sitting on the fence about seeing this show, what would you tell them to get their fannies in the seats?
“First off, the tickets for the show are very reasonably priced. In New York, we charged $45 and here the tickets are $25-$36. Also, the theater is beautiful; the set if amazing and people who know Piaf will come and really enjoy feeling like they’re visiting an old friend. And for those who don’t know anything about her, they will leave the theater absolutely wanting to know more.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Art of Baseball Shines in SF!

For the 13th year of the annual exhibition, the George Krevsky Gallery has assembled an All-Star lineup of Baseball Art Rookies and Seasoned Baseball Art Pros.

Every year, I make sure that I get to see the baseball art display at George Krevsky Gallery in San Francisco. This year, they’re highlighting new exciting artists while showing respect to the seasoned veterans who’ve contributed in the past. The show is running until June 19, so there’s still plenty of time to see it.

"Rookies" on this year's team, despite their prominence as exhibiting artists, include: pop icon, Mel Ramos; Russian born painter, Valentin Popov; multi-media artist and poet, Naomie Kremer; works on paper artist, Michael Scoggins; infra-red photographer, Robert Hartman; AT & T Park muralist, Tom Mogensen; screenwriter and illustrator, Barry Gifford; and Bay Area Figurative artist, Gordon Cook.

"Pros" returning to the lineup include: Baseball Hall of Fame artist, Arthur K. Miller; nationally exhibited San Francisco painter, Stanley Goldstein; iconic LA artist, Raymond Pettibon; visual storyteller, Dana DeKalb; New York painter, Louis Grant; and mixed media printmaker, Stacey Carter.

George Krevsky Gallery
77 Geary St. 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108
Tel: (415) 397-9748

Fax: (415) 397-9749

Tuesday - Saturday
11 am - 5:30 pm

A Week of Celebrities

What a week. First, I ran into Vince Neil, the lead singer for Motley Crue (bottom shot). And on Thursday, I interviewed Tammy Nelson, the lead role in Beach Blanket Babylon, the longest continuous music revue in the history of the world!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Words for the Finest French Food in the Bay Area: La Folie

Legendary La Folie Owner/Chef Roland Passot knows French food and he creates a piece of artwork every time one of his plates hits the table. Fine dining could be wasted on me, because I have a naïve, untrained palate. I can’t often tell the difference between pork and chicken or duck and turkey. I know my barbecue and comfort food, but fancy high-end cuisine is kind of a mystery to me. We only get to eat at places like La Folie for very special occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries. So, when I do have a fine dining experience, I’m basically a fish out of water.

We knew almost instantly that La Folie was going to offer a charming complete dining experience. With cotton-candy clouds painted on sky-blue walls, La Folie has an atmosphere that exudes class and luxury. Passot’s passion for French fine dining is evident in every aspect of his restaurant—from the professional service, the extensive Franco-California wine list, the amazing small bites between courses and a wide range of rare vegetarian menu offerings. This is Passot’s dream restaurant and we enjoyed being part of his vision.

We decided to go with La Folie’s 4-course plan ($85 per person) and we were pleasantly surprised and beyond satisfied for everything we ate. Some of the more notable items include La Folie’s Confit of Kurabuta Pork Belly with Boudin Noir, Quince Puree and Pickled Cipolini Onions (I could live on pork belly if I could.); Warm Edam Cheese Souffle with Fromage Blanc Sorbet, Crispy Bacon, White Sesame Tuile (You have to order it right away, because it takes time to prepare this amazing soufflé. My only complaint here is that there wasn’t enough of it.); Niman Ranch Lamb Loin, with Carrot and Medjool Dates, Potatoes “Fondante”, Lamb Shoulder Crepinette (I love my lamb so rare I can feel the pulse and this one fit the bill.); Goat Cheese and Fourme D’Ambert Terrine with Baby Pickled Beets, Toasted Walnuts and Frisee Salad (La Folie loves veggies and this dish proves it.); Dungeness Crab Salad Napoleon on Crispy Pineapple Chips, Grapefruit and Pomegranate Gelee (The Gelee solicited glee!);and Seared Day Boat Scallop with Parsnip Puree, Celery Gratin and Lobster Vanilla Sauce (Everyone does scallops, but they can easily be overcooked. La Folie prepared them perfectly.)

If I’m giving stars, La Folie receives all five and more. When it comes down to the food, this place is adventurous without showing off too much. We had a great first year wedding anniversary meal and although the evening wasn’t cheap, we left La Folie exceedingly happy, pampered and anxious to return for another special occasion in the future.

La Folie
2316 Polk Street
San Francisco, Calif.
(415) 776-5577

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ed's Sports Corner

Let’s Get Lefty in the Hall of Fame!

I went to Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant the other day, ordered an O’Doul’s and sat down to interview Tom O’Doul, Lefty’s cousin. Is that triple déjà vu or what? Right now, there is a movement to get Lefty elected to the Hall of Fame. The Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to people who were ambassadors to the game and have promoted the game of baseball during their lifetime. Frank "Lefty" O'Doul did this and was certainly an ambassador, mentor and promoter of the game during his lifetime. If you would like to help in our letter writing campaign to induct Frank "Lefty" O'Doul into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, please send letters to: BUCK O'NEIL LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM, 25 MAIN STREET, COOPERSTOWN, NY 13326-1330.

If you’re not familiar with Lefty, here are his stats—11 seasons, .349 lifetime batting average, averaged 91 RBI and 190 hits each season and led the National League in batting average twice, in 1929 and 1932. Here are some excerpts from my recent interview with Tom O’Doul:

Benefits of a famous cousin: One story I love to relate is that Lefty always came to my opening days when I was playing Little League. In 1954, opening day was approaching and my dad told me, “Cousin Frank’s coming to your opener.” And I thought, that’s cool. So he shows up in a Cadillac with Joe DiMaggio. I’ll never forget the moment, because everyone’s mouth just dropped and stay opened. There was a buzz in the air. But, they were gone five minutes later. I lived off that moment for the next five years, at least.”

Lefty’s early days: “He never made it past the 7th grade and he would always push me to finish school. He had to drop out to work as a butcher. His father, his grandfather and his uncles were all butchers. If he hadn’t made it as a baseball player, he would have been a butcher.”

His relationships with other great players: “Lefty got along with everyone, including Ty Cobb, which wasn’t easy from what I heard. He loved Babe Ruth and they spent a lot of time together. They both had that great sense of humor, so that’s probably why they got along so well.”

The world famous Lefty O’ Doul’s Bloody Mary: “It’s from an original O’Doul family recipe and they’ve served it there since day one. The O’Doul’s drug of choice has always been alcohol. Lefty drank bourbon and water and beer. My uncle loved being in bars and talking to people in bars, so opening his own restaurant/bar in his hometown was a logical progression.”

Why Lefty loved Japanese baseball so much: “Probably because the way they played the game. I think he liked the purity of it. He appreciated their dedication to the game. And they were extremely pleased to learn from the “Great American”. Lefty was the one who brought Babe Ruth to Japan. They were dying to see Babe and he brought them on his first tour there in 1934. He did three tours to Japan total—in ’31, ’34 and ’49. In 2002, Lefty was chosen to be in the Japanese Baseball of Fame.

Harding Park Hits the Top Muni’s List at #10

Harding Park was recently named #10 on GolfWeek magazine’s annual list of the 50 Best Municipal Courses in the country. Harding Park’s Manager Rodney Wilson is obviously pleased to be on the coveted list and cites several reasons why his course scored so high, he said. “People say playing golf is expensive, but if you can compare it to attending other sporting events, it’s very reasonable. We have rates like $46 per round for SF residents who play during the week and seniors who can play for as little as $31 at certain times. We renovated the course in 2003 and it’s in great shape. We’ve hosted several pro tournaments and we’re going to have the Charles Schwab Cup Championship here this year and in 2011. If the pros play here, that must tell you something.”

Ask a Bartender

The World Cup is happening this month, so we searched for those bartenders who really know their soccer. Each of these mixologists discussed which teams they feel will contend and/or pretend when the world’s finest convenes in South Africa.

Mike English, Perry’s on Union: “I’ll give you four teams I like in order: 1.) France 2.) Britain 3.) Germany 4.) Argentina. I believe you’ll find the eventual champion from that list.”

Kevin Corrigan, The Blue Light Cafe: “Soccer’s not my game, but our cook Hugo Bustamante knows his stuff. Hugo’s picks are Spain vs. Argentina in the Final, but watch out for surprise teams like Paraguay and Portugal.”

Derek Brennan, Mad Dog in the Fog: “Spain has to be the favorite. Other teams that should contend are Brazil, Argentina and Holland. Brazil is absolutely loaded with talent and they should go far. Wild cards are Denmark and Ivory Coast. I’d actually like to see an African nation win the World Cup, because I like their attacking styles.”

Neil Holbrook, Kezar Club: “Spain is the favorite and usually the favorites win in the World Cup. They’ve got tons of experience, but the way the draw ends up can be a factor. Italy can also be very good. Honestly, as long as Britain doesn’t win it, I’ll be happy!”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guido the Therapy Cat of San Francisco

Therapy dogs are popular and I encounter them all the time in the city, but cats that perform therapy are fairly unique. So, when I had a chance to see an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) cat in action, I seized the opportunity. And I can tell you one thing—this feline walks the walk and meows the talk when it comes to therapy. His name is Guido and he definitely has a connection to human beings that is real and he knows it.

Guido is owned by Judi Basolo, a commercial real estate sales and leasing agent in the city. She’s his handler, his agent, his media liaison and a full-time manager for this special cat as he performs therapy work throughout the Bay Area.

How did Basolo adopt this four-year-old cat or was it the other way around? “Guido obtained me in 2006,” Basolo said. “I went to Maddie’s SF SPCA to find Guido! That day at Maddie’s in the midst of kitten season, I was surrounded by hundreds of kittens, and this striped little cat stuck his paw consistently out of the cage, like ‘Hey look at me over here!’ The rest is history!”

When did Basolo first recognize Guido’s innate ability to help humans? “A dear friend that lives in Pacific Heights told me she was feeling seriously ill,” she said. “She stopped leaving the house and was not feeling her normal self. So I tossed Guido into his kitty backpack for the first time ever! When we got to her house, she didn’t look good at all and I was ready to take her to the hospital.”

Suddenly Guido jumped out of his backpack and surprised the sick woman on the bed, Basolo said. “Suddenly my ill friend came to life and Guido accompanied her for breakfast that morning and at that moment, I realized there was something for Guido’s future. Guido was roaming around her apartment as if he was on the job. I saw his attitude change almost instantly and I knew right then therapy was going to be his career.”

Once Basolo recognized that Guido could provide significant therapy to people who needed it, she took further steps to introduce her special cat to the world. “A few weeks after that miraculous visit, I talked to the great people at Animal Assisted Therapy and found the San Francisco SPCA’s program, which is run by the wonderful Dr. Jennifer Emmert. Guido had to go through a battery of tests and I learned that only particular pets perform well in AAT work. Guido passed the test and we were official and ready to provide therapy.”

Guido’s paws hit the ground running and pretty soon the accolades and awards started coming his way. A major highlight in Guido’s therapy career took place in 2008, when Guido was honored at Herbst Theatre with The Purring Cat award by Pets Unlimited for his work in Animal Assisted Therapy!

It was a big night for Guido and his owner in more ways than one, Basolo said. “At the reception after the award ceremony, a woman came up to me and said ‘Your cat has inspired me to get my Labrador into Animal Assisted Therapy.’ Well, it’s amazing that a little cat could inspire a dog to do this work, but that’s the magical rewarding side of what we do.”

One of Guido’s regular therapy sessions takes place at The Arc of San Francisco, an organization that provides a primary resource for over 500 people with developmental disabilities in the Bay Area and to empower their clients to make the most of their abilities--learning new skills, holding productive jobs and living ordinary lives with dignity and pride in our community.

When I went to The Arc for one of Guido’s weekly visits, I almost instantly got a distinct feeling that he knows what’s he’s doing and enjoys it. To see the clients greeting Guido and interacting with this cat is amazing. Experts say that continual exposure to pets can help people to live healthier lives, and after sitting down with Guido one morning and watching him work, he has made me a believer.

Being the owner of a popular therapy cat with a jammed schedule is a job in itself, Basolo said. “Guido goes to fundraisers, store grand openings and benefits for his favorite causes. In many cases, he gets invited instead of me! For the past two years Guido has appeared at Saks Fifth Avenue with Jan Wahl benefitting Pets Unlimited. The people want to see Guido and I’m just his chauffeur in most cases.”

Basolo is proud to say that Guido has his very own publication. “The Guido Gazette is sent out each Monday to every continent on the planet. He’s in his fourth year and he’s never missed a deadline. He’s got feline fans everywhere, and the most common note Guido gets is from people who are commending him for his Animal Assisted Therapy work – it amazes people worldwide. He continually amazes me and I live with him!”

(Photo credit:

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Now Dat's Funny!

Dat Phan is the original winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing and is a headlining comedian touring live throughout the U.S. He’s made numerous TV and movie appearances, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Family Guy as a voiceover and Cellular. Dat was born in Saigon, Vietnam and immigrated with his mother to San Diego, California when he was a small child. After 9/11, Dat realized that life is short, so he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a comic. He had to travel along the dreary path of open mics in order to gain valuable stage time, but it paid off on August 5, 2003, when he was named the funniest person in America. Dat took the risk and auditioned for Last Comic Standing, which was an unproven experimental comedy show at the time. And the rest as they say is comedy history. I talked to Dat about his career, his future and the process of being funny. Dat’s culturally insightful comedy inspects ridiculous stereo types and shares his experience of being a regular American guy with a Vietnamese heritage.

When he got the call to be on Last Comic Standing: “I was living under a desk in West Hollywood. It was a closet that I shared with another comic. I was shocked when they called me to come in to try out for the show. The chances of me getting on a TV show and winning it is like one-in-a-million. I had only been doing comedy for six years at that point, so I was basically considered an open mic-er or maybe a feature act once in awhile.”

How he won Last Comic Standing: “I think I won for two main reasons. First, I earned the trust and the hearts of the majority of America, for the most part. Secondly, I decided to shotgun the punch lines to the audience. So, even though I was competing against other comics who had more than 20 years experience; they were using a headliner’s structure, where it takes about 60 seconds to set up a joke. But, I was trained to tell jokes in a rapid fire style, where I use very short minimal setup before getting to the punch lines. With every joke, I wanted to get to the punch line in 30 seconds or less. It was like using a machine gun against a rifle and it worked. It’s like martial arts. Multiple hits in a short time is always more effective.”

How winning the show has changed his life: “I’ve been headlining now for six years and I have grown tremendously as a comedian. One of the main things that has really changed is that now I have a team of co-writers and collaborators. I give them an idea and we develop it into a joke, and then they watch me do it on stage and provide feedback. They’re kind of like a comedy pit crew. I’m able to afford those of resources now and it’s great. Before I didn’t even have a laptop when I started and now I have my own writers.”

Incorporating music into his act: “The theories behind comedy and music are completely different, but I’m working really hard right now at introducing comedy into my act. If you try to fuse comedy and music and it’s not done right, it can be volatile. I’ve written some songs that are similar to things done by The Flight of Conchords. It’s good music, it’s funny and it’s also original. That’s the direction I think I want to go into, but with a Vietnamese twist. So stay tuned.”

Dat Phan will be appearing at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton June 23-27. To find out more about Dat Phan, visit For information on great upcoming events in the Bay Area, visit

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ed's Sports Corner

Weigh in on the corner. Ed's Sports Corner!

They called him “Coach”
A San Francisco football coaching legend, Vince Tringali, died on March 31. He was 81. Tringali grew up in North Beach and played nose guard on the fabled "glory team" of USF (1951-52), on a defensive line that included the likes of Gino Marchetti, Dick Stanfel, and Bob St. Clair, all of whom went on to become stars in the NFL. The ’51 USF team went undefeated, but wasn’t invited to play in any bowls, because the team refused to leave two black teammates (including Ollie Matson) at home. They’re known forever as the “unbeaten, untied and uninvited” team and could be considered the greatest college team in the history of the Bay Area. After his playing years, Tringali coached the varsity football team at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in the ‘60s. Under his leadership, the Wildcats won 19 straight games in 1962 and 1963 and earned a first-place national ranking. At S.I., he coached Gil Haskell and Bill Laveroni, who are now on the coaching staff of the Seattle Seahawks, and Dan Fouts, who played quarterback for the Chargers and earned entry into the NFL Hall of Fame. He also convinced former S.I. basketball player Igor Olshansky to switch to football and he now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2006, NFL Films aired a special on Tringali. Tringali’s influence on athletes and coaches extended beyond St. Ignatius and he will be greatly missed.
The Art of Collegiate Sports
In its pursuit of offering its students a full-blown college experience, the Academy of Art University has rather quickly developed an impressive sports program offering eight sports, including men’s and women’s soccer; men and women’s basketball; women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men and women’s cross country, men and women’s golf and track and field. Athletic Director Jamie Williams, the former 49er tight end who now recruits volleyball and soccer players instead of catching passes from Joe Montana, is very excited about the AAU’s ever-growing Div. II sports program as it builds over its second full year in existence.
“Our motto is ‘Be Artist. Be Athlete.’” Williams said. “I’m always telling our staff and coaches that this program is a canvas for our efforts. Our immediate goal is to be competitive and establish ourselves as a Division II contender. Maybe someday we can be the first arts school to be Division I. I love watching an artist hitting a deep home run or kicking a game-winning goal.”
I’ll be taking a look at this burgeoning program next season and interviewing several of their top artists/athletes. The AAU program plays games throughout the city, so it’s a great opportunity to see Div. II schools in competition right in our backyard.
Giants Opening Day
I’ve been writing sports for at least 30 years in one capacity or another, but Giants Opening Day was my first opportunity to watch the game from the press box and I have several observations. First, cub reporters (like me at age 51) don’t get too much love in the press box. By the time I got in there, all of the seats were long gone and no one was relinquishing their spots for obvious reasons. “Where can I sit?” I asked one of the security people at the door and she told me while laughing, “You must be new.” So, I stood and learned the ropes. The scene reminded me of my pledge days in my fraternity. Most of the other reporters looked justifiably busy and had no time for a newbie, but I must say, however, that some of the bigger names were really nice to me. I ran into Jon Miller (one of the greatest sports broadcasters that have ever lived, right up there with Vin Scully, Bill King and Red Barber, in my opinion) and he actually took some time to talk to me briefly. Duane Kuiper was also a pleasure to meet. Secondly, I pulled a major snafu when I cheered for the Giants from the press box. I got nasty looks from several of the veteran reporters and one of them even reminded me that you don’t cheer in the press box. It’s taboo. The highlight of the day, in addition to a big win for the Orange & Black, was when Jerry Rice threw out the opening pitch to Steve Young. The Giants have a great chance to win the NL West this year, because they have what most teams lack—superior pitching.
Ask a Bartender
This month, I polled my bartenders to find out who will be in the NBA Finals this year and which team will take it all:

Paul McManus, Bus Stop: “Of course, I’m rooting for my Celtics, but not one team is standing out right now. The Lakers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio and even Cleveland have issues. Watch out for the Atlanta Hawks. They’re a very good team and they could surprise.”
Kevin Corrigan, Blue Light: “I’m taking the Lakers vs. the Cavaliers and Cleveland will win in seven. It will be the coronation of King LeBron.”
Gil Hodges III, Liverpool Lil’s: “I like the Phoenix Suns to win the NBA Championship. They’re peaking at the right time and I really like the team’s chemistry. It might be a long shot, but I like the Suns.”
Kevin Young, Perry’s: “I’m going with the Miami Heat over the Denver Nuggets in the Finals. I’m tired of seeing the Lakers and we need some new blood!”