Kelly’s Corner

Kelly on Fillmore, a portrait of Kelly Johnson by Anne Ruth Isaacson

Kelly on Fillmore, a portrait of Kelly Johnson by Anne Ruth Isaacson

LOCALS | ANNE RUTH ISAACSON

After a long walk back home from the Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival, I stopped at Fillmore and Sacramento for coffee. Outside on the corner there were no free tables, but a gentleman signaled that I could join him and his friend.

That was the day I met Kelly Johnson. I found him instantly likable and engaging. Soon I would learn what many locals already knew: that he can usually be found on that corner, nursing a coffee, available for interesting conversation.

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From the Fillmore to the stratosphere

The artist Bruce Conner ran an unconventional campaign for city supervisor.

The artist Bruce Conner ran for supervisor in 1967.

ART | JEROME TARSHIS

During the early and middle ’60s, when I was thinking about moving from New York to San Francisco, one of the inducements was that Bruce Conner lived here. My avant-garde film friends thought his first film, A Movie (1958), was an instant classic, followed by one success after another.

The objects he made — assemblage sculptures — were being shown at major galleries in New York, London, Paris, Rome and Mexico City. He was in great collections on both sides of the Atlantic. Not bad for a 30ish artist born and brought up in Kansas.

A more complicated Bruce Conner is the subject of “It’s All True,” his fullest retrospective so far, almost worshipfully received earlier this year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and now at SFMOMA through January 22.

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TV for a desert island

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BOOKS | DAVID THOMSON

In writing my new book, Television: A Biography, I revisited a lot of shows that were old favorites. Some stood the test of time; some did not. What follows is a list of 10 shows I’d like to have on a desert island — not my top 10, you must understand, just an assortment of good stuff. I hope the island has a sofa.

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Mom and pop shop bucks the trends

Asmbly Hall’s Ron Benitez (center) offers Mayor Ed Lee fashion advice

Asmbly Hall’s Ron Benitez (center) offers Mayor Ed Lee some fashion advice.

By BARBARA KATE REPA

Five years ago, when many saw the neighborhood becoming inhospitable to mom-and-pop businesses as ever more corporate chains moved in, Tricia and Ron Benitez turned a deaf ear to the naysayers and opened their one-of-a-kind clothing boutique at 1850 Fillmore Street.

They stocked it with pieces for men and women by indie designers for the customer they described as a “sophisticated prepster” and named it Asmbly Hall, a moniker they said “describes a gathering place for the community that brings fashion, art and music together.”

Five years later, it’s all come true — even the mom and pop part, since the couple welcomed daughter Harlow 21 months ago. Mayor Ed Lee recently chose Asmbly Hall to kick off the “Shop and Dine in the 49” campaign, a holiday initiative to encourage spending in to the city’s neighborhoods. And Ron this year became president of the Fillmore Merchants Association.

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An artist on Cottage Row

Sutter Marin’s Sister, Dear Sister, There’s a Rabbit in Your Garden, painted on Cottage Row.

Sutter Marin’s Sister, Dear Sister, There’s a Rabbit in Your Garden.

By BUD JOHNS

The recent news of a possible Zen rock garden on Cottage Row brought back memories of the late Sutter Marin, the Beat era artist and poet who was a garden lover and the only Cottage Row resident I’ve known.

My wife and I live with one of Marin’s paintings, Sister, Dear Sister, There’s a Rabbit in Your Garden. After years of hearing little about him, we learned recently of “The Beat Went On: Late Works by Sutter Marin,” an exhibition featuring his work and others of his milieu at Santa Rosa’s Calabi Gallery, with a ruth weiss poetry reading and jazz accompaniment.

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Waiting for coffee

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Flowers for the Fillmore-Jackson coffee shop when it closed in 2014.

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA WYETH

Funny how habits form. They revolve around responsibilities and chores, but also the small pleasures that brighten our daily routines.

I have been working for several years at a beautiful flower shop in the neighborhood. In addition to spending time with a great team of co-workers and the lovely flowers every season and every day, it includes a relatively pleasant bus trip over from my Russian Hill apartment.

Florists start early, so it’s usually the coldest part of the day, and in the winter it’s dark. Very dark. But at the corner of Fillmore and Jackson was the welcome light of the coffee shop and the aroma of ground beans and steamed milk — and those friendly baristas who knew exactly what I wanted and just how I wanted it.

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Cocktails with artistic flair

Design by Michael Schwab

SALOONS | CHRIS BARNETT

Eternally preppy saloon impresario Perry Butler’s landmark joint at 1944 Union Street is a museum of all things newsworthy in San Francisco for the last 47 years, with nary a square inch of empty wall space. But he’s long felt something was missing. “I’ve always wanted a poster,” he says, “A simple, clean, classic illustration of our signature cocktail.”

Perhaps Butler was listening to his inner adman. After all, his dad was a Madison Avenue heavyweight whose newly minted Dartmouth grad son had a brief fling in the hard-drinking agency world of the 1960s. He didn’t like it.

Two years ago, Butler approached San Anselmo graphic designer Michael Schwab, possibly the Bay Area’s most prolific and passionate poster artist. Schwab turned him down, saying he was too busy. Schwab’s style — strong, simple, retro images in warm, bold colors reminiscent of the ’20s and ’30s — makes even Alcatraz look inviting. The Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, which runs The Rock, has enlisted Schwab to produce a series of posters capturing the various places in the national park the conservancy oversees.

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There’s a new Sherith in town

New cantor David Frommer and new senior rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf.

New cantor David Frommer and new senior rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf.

By JESSICA ZIMMERMAN GRAF

I grew up in this neighborhood. I used to go to Gino’s grocery store at Fillmore and Jackson after school to get gummy worms in the ’80s when they were all the rage. I’ve walked around this neighborhood for years — decades, in fact. And now, I’m delighted to be back here in a new capacity.

Last month, a new clergy team was installed at Congregation Sherith Israel, at the corner of California and Webster Streets. Friends and congregants gathered for a Sabbath service on September 16, followed by festivities and food that honored the different cultures of San Francisco. About 600 people participated.

Who would have thought, just shy of 30 years after I became bat mitzvah in this community, that I would stand in the same spot being installed as the 10th senior rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel?

• I am the first senior rabbi who proudly hangs a Sunday School diploma on the wall.

• I am the first senior rabbi who interned here as a rabbinical student.

• And I am the first senior rabbi to wear a dress for installation — at least as far as I know.

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A cobbler departs

Ed Nahigian, longtime owner of SF Boot & Shoe Repair at 2448 Fillmore.

SAD NEWS from one of Fillmore’s few remaining old-school shops: SF Boot & Shoe Repair at 2448 Fillmore has closed after 34 years. Owner Ed Nahigian died early on September 27 while walking his dog in Alta Plaza Park.

EARLIER: “Still Standing

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Letter to the editors

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