Finding ‘Lotte the Body’

“Lottie the Body” and T-Bone Walker on stage at Fillmore’s Champagne Supper Club.

“Lottie the Body” and T-Bone Walker on stage at Fillmore’s Champagne Supper Club.

LOTTIE CLAIBORNE studied dance as a teen in New York. While modeling, she was given the name “Lottie the Body” and quickly became known as an accomplished dancer, sharing the bill with well-known musicians and singers, including Carmen McRae, and entertainer Redd Foxx.

In the early 1950s, she relocated to the Bay Area and became one of the most popular dancers in the Fillmore clubs. She met Harlem Globetrotter Goose Tatum at the Champagne Supper Club and the two became a fixture in the neighborhood.

“The club was big and beautiful,” Lottie remembers. “Mixed. The show started at midnight. The last show was at 5 in the morning. You know, it was like that in San Francisco. Exciting.”

She now lives in Detroit, and her oral history and photographs from her collection have been added to the new edition of Harlem of the West.

Author Elizabeth Pepin Silva meets Lottie Claiborne in Detroit.

Author Elizabeth Pepin Silva meets Lottie Claiborne in Detroit.

An old world craftsman

Yury’s Lights & Beyond offers up a warm evening glow of light at 1849 Divisadero.

Yury’s Lights & Beyond offers up a warm evening glow of light at 1849 Divisadero.

LOCALS | FRANCINE BREVETTI

A customer walked in to the lighting shop on Divisadero with a vintage lamp from England shaped as a young boy flying. It had been crudely repaired. Each hand held a socket. The arms had been amputated to rewire the lamp, then glued back badly, with wiring pasted on the outside.

The Ukrainian impresario of Yury’s Lights & Beyond, Yury Budovlya, took on the miserable specimen, detaching the arms and removing the unsightly adhesive. He rewired the lamp, soldered the arms back to the body, leaving the surface seamless and with a seasoned patina.

When the customer returned, she was so astonished to see her prized lamp beautifully restored that she erupted in grateful dance and song. Not wanting to offend, Yury mirrored her with a song and a dance of his own, thinking perhaps it was the appropriate American response.

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A spiritual rebirth at the London Market

Maison Corbeaux offers a depth of collectible wines — especially older vintages.

Maison Corbeaux offers a depth of collectible wines — especially older vintages.

By MARK J. MITCHELL

The windows tell the tale at the corner of Sacramento and Divisadero these days: bright and beckoning, calling passersby into Maison Corbeaux, an Aladdin’s cave of wines, spirits and beers.

The hanging sign still says London Market, but partners Kyle Nadeau and Evan Krow — the store’s name is a French twist on Evan’s last name — have stripped the old corner store to its bones and reanimated it as a destination for those interested in small batch whiskies, collectible wines and the latest tastes in hand-crafted beers and ales.

The new logo has been splashed on the street level plate glass. And the once-hidden upper windows bathe an open sales floor in bright San Francisco light that shines down on artfully displayed bottles of wines and spirits from around the world.

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Finding a home with the S.F. Ballet

Photograph of Ellen Rose Hummel by Erik Tomasson

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

When Ellen Rose Hummel left Greenville, South Carolina, for San Francisco and a home in Pacific Heights in 2007, she couldn’t know that less than five years later, she would be selected to join the San Francisco Ballet. As a member of the corps de ballet, she’s danced in everything from Nutcracker and Swan Lake to works by George Balanchine and contemporary ballets by hot young choreographers including Christopher Wheeldon, who won a Tony last year for choreographing and directing a dance-centric American in Paris on Broadway.

In Wheeldon’s Cinderella, the final program in the S.F. Ballet season, Hummel steps out of the corps to portray Clementine, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.

When did you know you wanted to be a ballet dancer?

I have two older siblings, and my mom put all of us in ballet; I started taking lessons when I was about five. My brother went into sports, and my sister loved ballet but didn’t want to make a career out of it. I definitely knew I was interested, but I didn’t get serious until I was about 12 or 13 — that’s when I had to start adjusting my schedule for ballet and sacrificing certain things. I went from three or four days of ballet to six, and my mom had to drive pretty far for my lessons. Then when I was 16, I moved to San Francisco to take lessons with the San Francisco Ballet School.

At 16? — and by yourself?

Yes, the school has a dormitory on Jackson Street in Pacific Heights. I remember how wonderful the transition was at such a young age. It really helped to be with kids my age who loved ballet like me, even though we came from different parts of the world. Being in a new city can be lonely at first, but Jackson House felt like home, and my friends became family. We were so fortunate to be in such a beautiful neighborhood, surrounded by artists who share the same goal.

That’s how I got involved in the neighborhood. Then when I got accepted into the company I had to move out, and I was lucky enough to find an apartment here. I think [S.F. Ballet artistic director] Helgi Tomasson lives on the same street.

What about dancing as Clementine?

Clementine is a bit softer than her sister, Edwina. She’s the more geeky one. She has glasses and she’s a little clumsy. I see her more as the positive, helpful one. There’s a sweet side to her. Before Cinderella, Clementine was the one who had her place in the household. Where the stepmother and stepsisters are being mean or hitting Cinderella, she doesn’t really want to; you see a little seesaw process with her.

The dancers really have to be actors, too, don’t they?

You can get really absorbed in the steps, but once I paste those glasses on, I’m Clementine. I love being in character. You have to believe it as much as or more than the audience does. The costumes are amazing. The sets, too — like the table, and the way it rotates at the beginning as we’re eating the porridge. I love that part of the ballet, because it gives you a moment to get absorbed in it.

Neighborhood resident Ellen Rose Hummel (right) dances in the S.F. Ballet's production of Cinderella.

Ellen Rose Hummel (right) dances in the S.F. Ballet’s production of Cinderella.

And I’ll be dancing Spring, too. Spring has the green wig and green costume, green face paint, even glitter on the arch of the eyebrows, framing the green. It always feels like putting leaves on my face.

What is a typical day off like for you?

I’ll find time to take a walk down Fillmore or meet up with a friend. I love La Mediterranee; the people are always super nice in there. I love their salmon. I love the atmosphere — it’s very authentic and very cozy — and I like that it’s not super loud.

Palmer’s has very good drinks; sometimes I’ll meet with friends there. I love the atmosphere there, too, and I’ve always enjoyed whatever I’ve gotten. Fillmore Bakeshop — the food is always really fresh, and it’s very family oriented. And Peet’s Coffee, right next to the bookshop — it feels like it’s been there forever. It feels like community.

Ice cream is in, yogurt is out

A long line of bundled-up customers welcomed Salt * Straw on its opening day.

A long line of bundled-up customers welcomed Salt & Straw on its opening day.

FROZEN YOGURT IS DEAD on Fillmore Street. Long live artisan ice cream.

Today is the final day of business for Fraiche, the upscale frozen yogurt shop at 1910 Fillmore that brought Apple founder Steve Jobs’ favorite yogurt plus pour-over Blue Bottle coffee to the street for the past seven years. That follows by a few weeks the closure of Yoppi, another frozen yogurt shop, at 2208 Fillmore.

But the neighborhood will not long for frozen treats. Yesterday, just across the street from Yoppi’s now-papered windows, Salt & Straw opened its new shop on the corner of Fillmore and Sacramento — and was promptly greeted by a long line of customers waiting to try its unusual flavors: cinnamon ancho and cajeta, cascara shrub with candied hibiscus, and teranga baobab juice and coconut, among more than a dozen others.

“We’ve crafted a menu of seasonal delights to serve as an introduction to our scoop style and let us get to know and collaborate with local artisans,” says the company, promising to “shake up our flavors every month.” A single scoop is $5; a double $7.

Salt & Straw is a block north of Smitten Ice Cream, at 2404 California, which has been serving up its made-on-the-spot flavors over the past year.

Still the best value: Miyako Old-Fashioned Ice Cream, a few blocks south at 1470 Fillmore, where Tom Bennett has been scooping up Dreyer’s and Mitchell’s ice cream, and all sorts of other sweets, for decades.

Harlem of the West is back

David Johnson’s photograph of the Melrose Record Shop in 1947 — or is it?

David Johnson’s photograph of the Melrose Record Shop in 1947 — or is it?

AFTER BEING out of print for more than seven years, a new and expanded second edition of Harlem of the West — along with a companion website and exhibition — will be unveiled at the end of the month.

The photo and history book celebrating Fillmore’s jazz era in the 1940s and ’50s was originally published by Chronicle Books in 2006 and captured a pivotal moment in neighborhood history.  It has been out of print since 2010, despite continuing demand.

Eventually authors Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Lewis Watts decided to launch the Harlem of the West Project to update and expand the book. They added newly discovered photographs and memorabilia, as well as additional interviews with those who lived and played in the Fillmore during its glory days.

The new book has a larger format and contains nearly 100 more pages and 200 rare images, many of them previously unpublished. It includes new firsthand accounts from musicians, nightclub patrons and former residents of the Fillmore when it was the city’s premier black neighborhood.

Among the new discoveries: A widely published photograph of the Melrose Record Shop at 1226 Fillmore — where author Maya Angelou worked as a youngster when she was known as Marguerite Johnson — was instead a photograph of Rhythm Records at 1980 Sutter, also owned by David Rosenbaum, next door to the Homestead Ravioli Factory at 1970 Sutter and just down the block from Jack’s Tavern.

Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era will be released on April 29 at a celebration from 3 to 7 p.m. at the African American Art & Culture Complex at 762 Fulton. An exhibition continues there through June 1.

Women’s clinic facing budget cuts

The Women's Community Clinic at 1833 Fillmore Street.

The Women’s Community Clinic at 1833 Fillmore Street.

FEDERAL THREATS to cut funding for health care — particularly family planning services for women — have already hit a target close to home.

The Women’s Community Clinic, at 1833 Fillmore Street, recently lost a $250,000 federal grant it had depended on for years and is now facing the biggest budget shortfall in its 18-year history.

At the same time, the financial squeeze has increased the demand for services.

“Women are streaming into the clinic for birth control and other types of care because they genuinely fear they soon won’t be able to get it,” said Tara Medve, development and communications director of the clinic. “People are in the freakout stage. There’s been a huge rise in fear and anxiety.”

The clinic is scrambling to find alternative funding sources and has launched an intensive fundraising campaign that runs through the middle of the month.

“We are doing everything we can to reassure and support our clients during this scary and uncertain time,” said Carlina Hansen, the clinic’s executive director.

The Fillmore clinic provides primary medical care and mental health care to low-income women and girls 12 and older. It currently serves about 5,000 clients each year, 90 percent of whom earn $25,000 or less. In addition to providing medical services, the clinic also runs a number of community health programs.

The administration’s proposed targets — cuts to the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal and especially to Title X — pose additional threats to the clinic’s ability to function. If an initiative to eliminate Title X funds takes effect, the clinic stands to lose an additional $150,000 from its operating budget, Hansen said.

The Women’s Community Clinic has  launched an emergency campaign to raise $250,000 from individuals, foundations and corporate sponsors by April 14. For more information, visit the clinic’s website.

Shell station won’t have a garage

Construction continues on the new Shell station at California and Steiner.

Construction continues on the new Shell station at California and Steiner.

AS THE demolition, excavation and reconstruction of the Shell gas station on the corner of California and Steiner proceeds, it has become apparent it will no longer include a garage when the station reopens this summer with more gas pumps and a Loop convenience store.

Neighbors rallied to save the garage, which had been on the corner for decades, when new owners of the station proposed to replace it with twice as many gas pumps and a massive grab-and-go store offering soda, snacks and more food options, including a sushi bar.

Before giving its go-ahead, the Planning Commission reduced the number of additional gas pumps, limited the size of the store and directed the owners to rebuild the garage.

But soon after its renovation plans were approved in June 2015, Au Energy evicted the mechanics who leased the garage and shut it down. It remained empty until demolition began earlier this year.

As construction began, the general counsel for the company said “I don’t know” whether a garage would be included. He said the project “turned into a full rebuild” and was expected to take at least five months, with the station reopening “at the end of May at the earliest.”

EARLIER: “Shell gets go-ahead, garage gets the boot

Farewell to two of our finest

Carol and John Field

Carol and John Field, longtime neighborhood residents.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD lost two of its outstanding citizens and creative minds in recent weeks when architect John Field and author Carol Field died within a few days of each other.

John Field was noted for the homes he designed in Pacific Heights and especially for his enlightened approach to shopping centers, including the Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Santa Barbara. He was also a filmmaker and a photographer.

Carol Field was a prolific author who became an authority on Italian food, even though she acknowledged she was “the first Italian in my family tree.” After trips to Italy to make The Urban Preserve, John’s first architectural documentary, Carol made it her mission to learn everything about Italian baking. They later owned a home there, and many more books and a novel followed. Earlier she had been a co-owner of the beloved Minerva’s Owl bookstore on Union Street.

Shortly after John died of cancer, Carol suffered a stroke and never recovered.

“She couldn’t make it without him,” neighboring chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein told the Chronicle. ”They were a blessed couple.”

“She seemed to listen as much with her eyebrows as her eyes,” wrote Corby Kummer in The Atlantic. He told the Fields he enjoyed visiting them “to observe at close range your utter companionability. You were and will remain my models for the complete and caring civility with which two people can treat each other.”

EARLIER: “Fillmore to Italy and back again

A younger Carol and John Field.

A younger Carol and John Field: always utterly companionable.

MORE: “She tied tradition to captivating stories

The New York Times
The Washington Post

Carol Field tied tradition to captivating stories

Carol Field at home in her kitchen on Washington Street.

Carol Field at home in her kitchen on Washington Street.

By MARK FANTINO

My introduction to Carol Field came in the spring of 1997, in the weeks preceding the release party for her book In Nonna’s Kitchen. An informal dinner was planned with dishes from the book, which was at least one part investigative journalism into the secrets and traditions of Italian grandmothers.

The dinner was to be held at Vivande Ristorante in Opera Plaza, and all of us cooks were to page through the house copy of In Nonna’s Kitchen and select recipes that spoke to us. I chose Tuscan Chicken Liver Pâté (Crostini di Fegatini), which was a bewitching concoction of soft-cooked onions, capers, anchovies and chicken livers, all moistened with Vin Santo.

I remember testing a batch. My coworker peered into my pot, squinched up his face and declared: “That’s everything I hate all mixed together.” I disagreed. But livers, like anchovies, will forever fall firmly into two dividing camps: those who think it must be an acquired taste and those, like me, who insist it is instead a required taste. It remains one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken livers, though difficult to talk about without causing some kind of reaction.

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