When the stars came out at the Clay

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IN THE SPRING of 1985, the Clay Theatre on Fillmore hosted the premiere of the spaghetti western parody Lust in the Dust. It starred Tab Hunter, Divine and Cesar Romero, who were at the Clay for the screening.

After years of tales about the event, photographic evidence has now surfaced, courtesy of Tab Hunter’s partner, producer Allan Glaser.

Hunter and Glaser came to the Clay last year for a Q&A session about the new film, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. When he walked through the door of the theater, Hunter said: “I was here 30 years ago — what a great place.” During the interview, Hunter spoke about the years he lived in San Francisco’s Richmond District, including a stint working at the Bull Pup enchilada stand at Playland.

Glaser remembered they had photos from the premiere of Lust in the Dust at the Clay, and recently shared the images with the theater staff. They show the crowds lining Fillmore Street as the actors arrived in a black limo. Film lovers were excited to see Tab Hunter and Divine share the screen again; they had starred together four years earlier in John Waters’ film Polyester.

After introducing the film, the actors took seats in the back row and watched the movie with the audience. Beforehand, they planted their handprints and footprints in cement outside the theater in the style of the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

“We have no clue where the prints ended up,” says Michael Blythe, who works at the Clay. “We would love to find them.”

New plan to revamp the Clay

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A  NEW PLAN is in the works to remodel the historic Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street by expanding the concession area in the lobby and offering additional food and beverage options, including beer and wine.

The plan abandons earlier efforts to carve the Clay into three smaller screening rooms and build townhouses above the theater and an adjacent building, with a garage excavated underneath.

“We’ve been trying to figure out a way to get the theater revitalized and bring some life back to the boulevard,” said architect Charles Kahn, who is collaborating with the owner of the building, Blagobind Jaiswal. Jaiswal also owns the building next door housing the Alice + Olivia boutique and the Cielo clothing boutique a few doors south.

“This is all about saving the theater,” Kahn said. “It’s a much more modest project than where we started.”

A public hearing on the plans will be held on Monday, January 4, at 7 p.m. in Calvin Hall of the Calvary Presbyterian Church at 2515 Fillmore.

Kahn said the new plan calls for relocating the restrooms now in the lobby to the back of the theater behind the screen. That would free up space for an expanded food and beverage operation. Seating would also be upgraded and accessibility improved.

Kahn said no changes are planned to the facade of the theater.

UPDATE: The public hearing on January 4 left local supporters of the Clay Theatre optimistic about the future of the 110-year-old movie house. The owner of the building, Blagobind Jaiswall, and his architect, Charles Kahn, said they were “absolutely committed” to renovating and continuing the theater.

Film fans at the meeting questioned plans to move the restrooms inside the theater behind the screen, but no one objected to other renovations, including an expanded concession area serving beer and wine.

“We’re trying to figure out ways to increase the hours the building is open,” Kahn said after the hearing. “I collected some very valuable information.”

Staffers from the Clay attended the meeting and offered a number of suggestions. Afterward, the head of Landmark Theatres, which operates the Clay, said he was encouraged by his talks with the owner and architect.

“So far, so good,” said Landmark CEO Ted Mundorff. “I think it’s the beginning of a plan. If we can get a better theater out of this, then it’s a great plan.”

The question remains how to pay for it.

“That’s gonna be the rub,” said Mundorff. “There’s not this big cash cow that walks in the door when you sell beer and wine.”

Kahn said he will bring detailed plans for remodeling the Clay and expanding its offerings before the city Planning Commission in the coming months.

Landmark announced in August 2010 it would close the Clay, but a last-minute deal kept the theater in operation.

EARLIER: “How the Clay dodged a bullet

Sundance sells Kabuki cinemas

Sundance revamped the Kabuki complex when it took over in 2007.

Sundance revamped the Kabuki complex when it took over in 2007.

ACTOR-DIRECTOR-PRODUCER Robert Redford and his investors have sold their five Sundance movie houses — including the eight-screen Kabuki cinemas at Fillmore and Post.

The new owner, Carmike Cinemas, based in Columbus, Ga., is the fourth-largest theater chain in the U.S., now with 274 theaters in 41 states and ambitions to expand further. A Carmike official said no immediate changes are planned in the operation of the Kabuki cinemas.

Redford at the Kabuki in 2012.

Robert Redford at the Kabuki in 2012.

Sundance revamped the Kabuki complex when it took over in 2007, upgrading the decor, seating and sound and adding expanded food and beverage options.

“We have no intention of eliminating the popular beer, wine, cocktail and food programs offered at Sundance Kabuki,” said Brian Dobson, director of restaurant operations for Carmike. “The current arrangement works.”

Dobson said his company will continue Sundance’s reserved seating program, which allows tickets to be purchased online in advance, and will continue to show no ads before screenings. Sundance’s “custom content” messages projected before films begin will remain, said Dobson.

Ticket prices won’t change, Dobson said, but there may be more “alternative programming” — ballet, theater, opera and small indie films of the type that first put Redford’s Sundance Film Festival on the cinematic map.

Carmike bought all five Sundance theaters — the others are in West Hollywood, Seattle, Houston and Madison, Wisconsin — for $36 million in cash. Carmike will continue to operate the five theaters under the Sundance name, but may not expand the Sundance brand, according to statements both firms issued announcing the deal.

Neither local Sundance spokesperson Nancy Gribler nor Kabuki general manager Michael Spring responded to repeated requests for information about any effects of the sale on the Kabuki’s operations. Spring was said to be on a long conference call with his new bosses in Georgia.

A Mime Troupe arrest in Lafayette Park

Mime Troupe Meadow in the renovated Lafayette Park honors the historic occasion.

Mime Troupe Meadow in the renovated Lafayette Park honors the historic occasion.

By GARY KAMIYA
San Francisco Chronicle

Fifty years ago this weekend, police prevented the San Francisco Mime Troupe from performing a play in Lafayette Park, arresting the company’s founder as 1,000 people jeered. The dramatic encounter expanded the frontiers of artistic freedom in San Francisco and indirectly launched the career of legendary rock promoter Bill Graham.

Read more »

KALW: “For the Mime Troupe, the show goes on

City owed $18 million for Fillmore Heritage Center

The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi's now sits empty.

The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi’s now sits empty.

IT HAS NOW cost more than $18 million in city funds to build the Fillmore Heritage Center and keep it afloat.

There is no new tenant in sight for the huge empty spaces formerly occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club and restaurant. The garage is losing $10,000 a month now that the building has few visitors. The Lush Life gallery also sits empty and has no potential new tenants. The restaurant 1300 on Fillmore continues to operate, but its future is in doubt.

These are some of the details that have finally begun to emerge about exactly what is happening with the project opened in 2007 to revitalize the stretch of Fillmore Street south of Geary once known as the Harlem of the West. Public hearings on July 13 and July 27 brought out scores of restive neighbors, and a thick “informational memorandum” laid out the sad financial facts, complete with spreadsheets, term sheets, notices of default and lease terminations attached.

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The bail bondsman is an artist

 

ART & FILM | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Toward the end of Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish, we see Barrish, San Francisco’s most famous bail bondsman, at his 50th high school reunion. He is shocked to find most of his Lincoln High classmates retired — “playing golf or something” — while he is still in mid-career.

Even Angels Get the Blues | Jerry Ross Barrish

That’s a phrase you hear more often in an art museum, when an artist is given a “mid-career retrospective” of his work. And, in fact, Barrish is an artist himself. Now in his 70s, he has shut down his bail bond office across from the Hall of Justice. But he is only a little past mid-career in creating his detritus-based sculpture — what the Fresno Art Museum called “Art Drecko” in its exhibition of his found-art assemblages in 2008-2009.

Barrish creates figures of people and animals from castoff plastic and other junk he scavenges, and all of a sudden it seems he’s the man of the moment.

Two dozen of his plastic sculptures are on view in a new exhibition, Sculptures from the Plastic Man, at Studio Gallery on Pacific. And William Farley’s 75-minute Plastic Man documentary is part of this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, with screenings in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Berkeley.

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At Yoshi’s, only the sounds of silence

The club formerly known as Yoshi’s closed only 75 days after it was rebranded The Addition.

By CHRIS BARNETT

As a gaggle of City Hall lawyers and bureaucrats scramble to sort out a massive financial debacle of their own making, the cavernous jazz club, restaurant and bar complex at 1330 Fillmore formerly known as Yoshi’s San Francisco, dark for the last six months, isn’t likely to come alive again anytime soon.

The city of San Francisco has now seized control of the venue from developer Michael Johnson, who built the Jazz Heritage Center complex housing Yoshi’s, 1300 on Fillmore restaurant, an exhibition space and a theater, plus 80 condominiums above.

Johnson had taken charge on July 1 of last year when he forced out Yoshi’s owner Kaz Kajimura.

In the months that followed, Johnson eventually renamed the club The Addition and added more eclectic musical acts to the marquee, but never came up with a new concept for the restaurant. Then 75 days after the new venture was officially launched on November 1, it was abruptly shut down and its staff all sacked. Since then, it’s been a ghost building.

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Fillmore jazz era project being updated

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JAZZ | MEAGHAN M. MITCHELL

In 2006, internationally acclaimed photographer and professor Lewis Watts and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer Elizabeth Pepin Silva published Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.

From cover to cover, Harlem of the West is filled with vintage photos documenting San Francisco’s historic jazz era during the 1940s and ’50s. The book also features anecdotes from those who lived and performed in the Fillmore during this period. Currently out of print, it continues to be in high demand.

Now the pair has teamed up again to create a unique, multi-platform history project that tells the story of San Francisco’s Fillmore District in its musical heyday. The goal of the Harlem of the West Project is to bring San Francisco’s Fillmore District history back to life in a book filled with rarely seen photographs and stories from those who lived through the period.

Read more: “Gone but not forgotten

A noir thriller set locally

HOLLYWOOD COMES to the neighborhood April 10 when a new film, Man From Reno, has its San Francisco premiere at the Sundance Kabuki Theater.

ManFromRenoActually, Hollywood is coming back to the neighborhood, since much of the film was shot nearby at the Majestic Hotel and on the streets of Japantown.

It’s the story of a famous Japanese crime novelist drawn into a murder mystery of her own while hiding out from the paparazzi. It stars Ayako Fujitani, Steven Segal’s daughter, and Pepe Serna, a veteran actor with more than 100 film credits, including Scarface. Dave Boyle directs.

Man From Reno fascinates,” wrote a New York Times reviewer, and “nods to noirs from Chinatown to Vertigo.”

In addition to its setting, the film has other local connections. Neighborhood resident Ben Lyon is a co-producer and veteran actor Karl Heinz-Tauber, also a longtime Pacific Heights resident most known for his role in Amadeus, has a scene-stealing role.

“This will be one of the most fun things to happen in the neighborhood in a long time,” said Lyon: “an award-winning independent film made in our own back yard.”

Man From Reno will screen daily from April 10 through April 16.

NICHI BEI WEEKLY: “Identity and authenticity
EARLIER: “The Majestic: living up to its name

New Yoshi’s closes after 6 months

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“YOU HAVE TIME for one more before this joint closes forever?” asked the vocalist for the Hot Sardines, who performed on January 14 — the final night at Fillmore’s jazz showcase, which had opened to great fanfare seven years earlier as Yoshi’s San Francisco.

The end came quickly. Just the day before, the new owners announced they were shutting down “due to some financial hardships resulting from reduced revenue.”

The minority partners had taken over the business only six months ago, on July 1, and rebranded it as The Addition on November 1, sacking the Yoshi’s marquee with a temporary covering.

Former Yoshi’s programmer Peter Williams returned to expand the bookings beyond jazz into soul and R&B. But business declined precipitously and the bar and restaurant — which never got a new concept or chef — had been largely empty.

The new management team, the Fillmore Live Entertainment Group, was led by Michael Johnson, the developer who built the club, two restaurants and 80 condominiums above at Fillmore and Eddy.

“FLEG is in the process of determining how to address existing liabilities of the business,” said a statement the group released. The group is also seeking “a potential lead partner to take over operations [of the club] in addition to re-concepting the existing restaurant.”

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