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: “Portals of the past

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

HarlemoftheWest

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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The Grateful Dead at Winterland, 1977

Winterland, Steiner & Post Streets in San Francisco, December 29, 1977

Winterland, Steiner & Post Streets in San Francisco, December 29, 1977

FLASHBACK | BOB MINKIN

After my summer trip to San Francisco in August ’77, I was itching to get back to the Bay Area. The Grateful Dead provided the perfect excuse — their fabled year-end concerts at Winterland. As a young Deadhead who never got to see shows at the Fillmore, Fillmore West or Avalon Ballroom, Winterland represented the last of San Francisco’s legendary venues.

Armed with my new camera — a Minolta SRT-101 with a 50mm f1.8 lens — and a load of film, I left New York City on Christmas day, taking Amtrak to Chicago and switching to a Greyhound bus that took me to San Francisco.

After arriving late at night, I lost my wallet in the San Francisco Greyhound bus terminal. My wallet contained all of my money, plus a pair of tickets to each of the three sold-out shows. I freaked out! What was I going to do now?

A hippie I met on the bus let me stay at his place that night, and the next morning, December 29th, he drove me to the corner of Post and Steiner Streets, home of Winterland.

It was a rainy, dreary morning and here I was standing outside the venue with no tickets and no money. Not only did I lose my own tickets but my friend Joel’s as well. Fortunately I still had an ounce of Thai sticks that I had carried cross-country, and selling a few sticks gained me some cash.

winterland

When Joel arrived, I gave him the bad news about our predicament, and he wasn’t very happy about it, to say the least. We decided to take a cab to Winterland Productions’ offices downtown, since that was where the tickets had been mailed from. I remembered the name of the woman who had originally helped me get them — Gloria Pulido — and asked for her when we got to the offices. She helped out again by selling Joel and me new sets of tickets to the three sold-out shows.

The year 1977 was a great one for the band, and they closed it out in style with three fantastic shows at Winterland. The first night, December 29th, is one of my favorite shows, and it was released on CD as Dick’s Picks, Volume 10.

Sadly, Winterland is no more, and condos now occupy the corner of Post and Steiner Streets.

— From Live Dead: The Grateful Dead Photographed by Bob Minkin

Live-Dead-Book

Ladies only night at The Fillmore

MUSIC | BARBARA KATE REPA

The Fillmore Auditorium has existed as the neighborhood’s dance hall and rock emporium for more than a century. And in all that time, there has been one common characteristic among those performing and running the shows: All were men. That will change on January 31, with The First All Lady Show featuring four Bay Area bands — all comprised of female musicians.

“We’ve been dreaming of playing at The Fillmore for a long time,” says Erin Chapin, who sings and plays guitar and other instruments with The Rainbow Girls, one of the featured acts. “Even Janis Joplin never had a band of ladies playing with her.”

The idea for the show was born out of condescension and fueled by frustration. Chapin says it’s “clearly different” being in an all-female band and navigating through the music world, which is still very much dominated by men.

“On one hand, you have a leg up, so to speak,” she says. “But you still have to smile and nod when people talk down to you. And too often, we get called a ‘girl band.’ It’s unfortunate that term is degrading.”

She has many stories of being underestimated by those in the business, especially the venue technicians, who seem to expect “a few singers with guitars” rather than a full-blown band.

“One sound guy even said to us: ‘Can’t you little ladies just a share a microphone?’ ’’ she recalls. “I just wanted to kick him in his little man.”

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‘The city’s most charming theater’

Michael Blythe at his frequent post behind the Clay Theater concession stand.

Michael Blythe at his frequent post behind the Clay Theater concession stand.

Q & A | MICHAEL BLYTHE

Michael Blythe has worked at the venerable Clay Theater at 2261 Fillmore Street for nearly a decade. In that time he’s had the opportunity to lavish his love of old theaters on the Clay, which is now more than 100 years old.

On New Year’s Eve he helped launch a new venture as the Oasis nightclub on 11th Street began a new life. But he’s not entirely leaving the Clay behind.

What first attracted you to the Clay Theater?

I come from a lighting background. When I was a kid I was obsessed with lights, and still am. I was a nightclub lighting director in San Francisco before I moved to Minnesota, where I honed my craft running large moving rigs for a couple of clubs downtown, including shows I did at the legendary First Avenue nightclub.

When I returned to SF I got the job at the Clay that allowed me to have the freedom to work shows, but also get into one of my other longstanding obsessions: old theaters.

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