North Beach / Chinatown

A Fresh Round of Parody San Francisco Neighborhood Shirts and Posters!

A million years ago, the guys at Ape Do Good Printing put together a killer set of parody Michael Schwab shirts, featuring a truck full of dead pigs for Chinatown and a crusty gutter punk for The Haight.  We clamored for someone to design more of 'em, but it never happened.

Well, fortunately for us, designer Irina Blok came across our call and accepted the challenge over the weekend.  And, if I do say so myself, these make a fine addition to the originals (although maybe SOMA's cute lil' sidewalk poo should have a box over it?)

If you want to get one of these for yourself, they'll be up on Irina's CafePress in the next day or two.

After 60 Years, The Purple Onion to Close Oct. 1st

In what is shaping up to be a banner year for evicting landmark institutions, North Beach's Purple Onion has been evicted from the space it has occupied since 1952.  The building was recently sold for an assuredly ludicrous sum of cash and the new owner gave the comedy club and the terribly-named upstairs Caffe Macaroni the boot.

“We're out on the 1st [of October],” Purple Onion owner Mario Ascione confirmed to Uptown Almanac earlier today.  “The new owners are coming in on the 28th.”

Along with Cobb's and The Punchline, The Purple Onion has been one of San Francisco's three pillar comedy venues.  Maya Angelou and Phyllis Diller, who also died last week, had their first gigs there.  Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, and Robin Williams have all performed on its stage.  Zach Galifianakis's 2007 DVD special was recorded there—real historical shit like that.

To get some perspective on what this means to local comedy, we asked Sean Keane to tell us a bit about the significance of the place: “There was a point where you could tell how long a new comic had been in the comedy world by when their Facebook profile photo changed to them at the Onion.”

However, the general reaction amongst local comedians on Facebook has been decidedly mixed, ranging from the I-don't-give-a-fuck snark (“The Purple Onion as we knew it is dead and gone”) to more pragmatic assessment (“there goes 60% of my shows”).  But most seem to think this void might foster a more DIY spirit within the comedy scene, forcing comics out of North Beach into more casual venues not typically home to stand-up.

As for the future? The Onion's owner doesn't have any plans to reopen the venue at a different location, but intends to look into it.  He also refused to talk to us about the future of the space and who bought the building, but one source* told us that Michigan-based strip club magnate Roger Forbes bought the building and plans to turn it into a tawdry tittie bar.

*I should note that this source is a comedian, and I don't particularly trust comedians. 

[Photo via Courting Comedy]

Hilarious Brooklyn Wiseass Visits 1956 San Francisco

In 1956, some dead dude named Phil Foster (not to be confused with Vince Foster, also a dead dude) packed up his Brooklyn snark and nauseating accent and traveled to San Francisco, taking in the sights a breaking down our history.  He makes some choice observations, some of which may-or-may-not ring true today:

  1. “San Franciscans won't be satisfied until they're a part of Brooklyn. And after seeing San Francisco, I can understand why.”
  2. “[San Francisco owes] it all to the '49 Gold Rush. When they found they couldn't get rich any other way, they went and discovered gold.  While the gold lasted, everybody was busy diggin' and diggin'.  When there was no gold left, they found they were stuck with 14 hills of dirt.”
  3. “Say what you will about San Francisco, but you have to admit one thing: it has everything any visitor could want, especially transportation back home.”

Between all these nuggets of wisdom, Phil marvels at people struggling to climb hills, demonstrates how San Francisco men are forced to chase after fallen groceries rolling down hills, makes some vaguely racist comments about the residents of Chinatown, and notes how Chinese women are like Brooklyn women (they eat and talk on the phone a lot).  Oh dear.

Conan O'Brien-Approved Chinatown Mainstay Sam Wo Closing

Inside Scoop has the Scoop:

Owner David Ho — who has owned the restaurant for the last 30 years — confirms the closure with Scoop. Sam Wo will be open today and tomorrow, and then close the doors forever.

Too old. Everything’s too old,” says the 56-year-old Ho. “The building is too old. It’s very sad.”

He adds that the three-story restaurant has been having problems with the fire department and the kitchen is too old, too. He says that he won’t reopen, at 813 Washington or elsewhere.

The bummer article goes on to discuss the joint's link to SF history, but let's not forget about its contribution to sketch comedy:

[Inside Scoop]

Stereotypes are fun and easy

After living in San Francisco for two years now, I have realized that a) I am an expert regarding all things San Francisco and b) it is a 7x7 amusement park for adults (look no further than this blog for evidence).

Since I am an expert I have compiled this list of amusement park rides and their corresponding neighborhoods, but it is incomplete. Which theme park ride is YOUR neighborhood?

The Marina

this one is easy

Nob Hill

also obvious


bicycle through THIS

The Sunset

who invented this ride anyway?

The Richmond

you know…the windmill…work with me here…

The Tenderloin

couldn't find a good haunted house picture so I just uploaded this picture of the TL

The Mission

stuck in the same place and likely to vomit

North Beach

Coit Tower of Terror

Not sure about these, please help:

Pac Heights: one with no line to get in?

The Castro: ball pit? they are both made of rainbows, that's all

FiDi: house of mirrors?

The Haight: carney quarters? I think this is offensive (to carneys!!)

Bayview: one of those games with water pistols or something

Other neighborhoods: can't think of any!

pictures from:

Original Formula Four Loko Spotted Aging in North Beach Basement Next to a Trash Can

According to tastr, Church Key “[takes] beer so seriously that they’ve been ‘cellar aging’ four loko circa 2010, waiting for just the right moment to unleash a tasting party for the ages.”  Considering some internet random with a cellphone was able to get access to their basement, I'm guessing “the right moment” will be whenever “someone” liberates the case from its neglectful owners. [link]

60's SF Depicted in Pinball Form with Questionable Accuracy

Last time I was at Alameda's Pacific Pinball Museum, I failed to notice this 1964 William's pinball machine themed around our prime city.  Certainly the machine was fun to play, but the artwork by then Chicago-based game manufacture was real highlight.  Ignoring the fact that they depicted the Golden Gate Bridge as having four towers, the city is essentially represented as Chinatown with a harbor, cable cars and white women dancing in the streets.

From what I understand, this sort of racist and misogynist imagery wasn't uncommon in older pinball machines.  After all, these machines were made to be played in the back of seedy, smoke-filled bars by all sorts of disreputable badasses.  And, you know, what kind of self-respecting badass wouldn't want to look at a caricature of Chinese person while smacking a ball around with flippers.  Even so, this machine exemplifies how SF was marketed in the 50's and early 60's: experience the exotic wonders of 'the Orient' while riding the cable cars and scoring 10 points when lit.