are our specialty
by Roberto Friedman
This week's column is brought to you by a hot little bottle of Sriracha sauce, also known to hot-sauce-lovers as "rooster sauce" after the handsome cock-of-the-roost pictured on the bottle. This comely condiment was photographed by Steven Underhill at the recent Mister and Miss GAPA pageant in San Francisco. Great blues singer Nina Simone may have famously sang, "I want a little sugar in my bowl," but Out There is more likely to want a little hot sauce on our noodles.
Condiments and comestibles have been on our mind ever since we attended the launch party for restaurateur Peter Osborne 's remodel of the Mission Rock Resort & Oyster Bar, out in Mission Bay. We don't know if you were ever a habitue of the old Kelly's Mission Rock, but it was an old-fashioned dive in the best sense of that term, characterized by some grungy old picnic tables out on the deck with a fabulous view of the freight channel on the Bay. You'd order fish-and-chips and pitchers of Bloody Marys or Rolling Rock, and while away an afternoon with a nice buzz on.
Well, goodbye to all that. Now "The Rock" has seating for 300 on the outdoor deck, two indoor dining rooms, an oyster bar and other bars. An investor who chatted up Out There pointed to the vintage wood used for one of the bars, which was repurposed from the bleachers of the old Cal stadium. You could see the seat numbers carved into the wood. Even though OT is a Stanford man, we were duly impressed.
We were also impressed with the oysters, prawns and crabcakes coming out of the kitchen, and the libations coming from the open bars. We sat at a table on the deck and caught up with our dear friend J.J. , as a friendly waitron spared us trips to the bar by bringing us rounds, and we watched the dancing waters of the sunlit Bay. Good times.
The very next night we were invited by another dear friend, J.C. , to attend a reception for Bay Area-based alumni of his alma mater, Bowdoin College, held in the regal glory of the City Hall Rotunda. The reason the Bowdoin Club had access to such a spectacular venue is that, lo and behold, none other than San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is also a Bowdoin alum, class of 1974. So at the reception we heard Lee expound upon his collegiate years in Brunswick, Maine, and he seemed relaxed and happy to be in a friendly crowd of fellow "Polar Bears." When it came time for the Q&A, the first question shouted out was, "When will you announce that you're running for governor?" The mayor squelched any such speculation, insisting that he was a reluctant politician.
We also learned that the mayor, whose diminutive stature and down-home folksiness put us in mind of iconic New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, had been captain of the tennis team at Bowdoin, who knew?, and that when he went there, it was still an all-male student body. We'd say Lee has many fascinating layers.
Last week we enjoyed reading The Bay of Foxes, a new novel by author Sheila Kohler published by Penguin Books. The story, centering on the relationship between the young, handsome Ethiopian refugee Dawit and the famous French author M. (loosely based on Marguerite Duras ) that begins in 1970s Paris, is blurbed on the cover as "Patricia Highsmith meets Nadine Gordimer," and described as "an indelibly written hommage to the art of Miss Highsmith," and that's what drew us in, as we are big Highsmith fans. The comparison is made explicit in the novel, when Dawit's tennis buddy Enrico leaves behind "an Italian translation of a book by Patricia Highsmith." But in the book's appended "reader's guide," Kohler claims that she didn't intend for Dawit's path to echo that of PH's Tom Ripley, "not at the start, though I'm an admirer of her work, but once I realized there were echoes I wanted to acknowledge that. The problem of identity has always been one that has interested me. I remember as a teenager thinking, 'Who shall I be? Melanie or Scarlett O'Hara?'"
Assumed identity, posh settings like Sardinia and Rome, and the suspense of an undetected crime – we see why the comparisons to the Ripley novels are apt, but Highsmith wrote genre fiction, while Kohler aspires to literary fiction. Highsmith would never have written a line like, "He looks out at the scintillant sea in the moonlight." But we liked this thriller, and there's even a gay angle that we respect enough not to give away.
This week's issue includes coverage of the classic film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, playing a double feature at the Castro Theatre on Friday night. In the film, Jane, on the telephone, twice pretends to be Blanche. During shooting, however, Bette Davis was unable to mimic Joan Crawford 's voice. Crawford was delighted to dub her, confirming her own inimitable way of speaking.
Time magazine ran an article on the historic teaming of Crawford and Davis in Baby Jane . Among other things, it said they were the same age – both born in 1908. Crawford was actually born in 1906. After the story ran, Davis called the reporter and said, "She's years older than I am. She was in silents, you know," making Crawford seem positively antediluvian.
Room for a squib: The Oakland East Bay Gay Men's Chorus [OEBGMC ] presents its summer pops concert and gala Red, Hot and Fabulous on Sat., Aug. 25, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave. in Oakland. We're promised performances of upbeat music including favorites like "Too Darn Hot." In addition to OnQ , the chorus' outreach ensemble, there will be a mix of solos, duets and ensembles. The show also features the premiere of two new arrangements for men's chorus by Dr. Kathleen McGuire , who has arranged "If People Like Me Marry" by Paul James Frantz and "Potluck" by June Bonacich. Tickets ($40+) can be purchased at (800) 706-2389 or www.oebgmc.org.
Clarification: Last week Out There reported that the new musical Kinky Boots is Cyndi Lauper's theatrical debut. We should have made clear that we meant her debut as a songwriter. As an actress/singer, she portrayed Jenny Diver in an unsuccessful Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera (with Alan Cumming and Jim Dale) in 2006.
RIP Thurber Prize- and Lambda Literary Award-winning gay humorist David Rakoff . We met and interviewed Rakoff, so we know he was a true prince and will be greatly missed, by us and the world.