For months it was hard to tell what the incremental signs of activity meant for the old Metro Underworld Operahouse on Broadway and Second. Then the sign “Duke’s R&B” went up in the summer. But not much else happened while the dust gathered on the windows of the 200-person, two-floor “dinner club.” Finally, the new operators filed a cabaret permit today. Actually, they applied again. The original owner, Sam Conti, passed away in November after the first application was filed in May. The new operators are listed as Pacific Brokerage Inc., which is Mohammed, Nazem and Nader Ahmadi as well as Clinton Motta, all of Walnut Creek. Their hearing is Feb. 18.
Speaking of cabaret permits, you might have noticed the article today in the East Bay Express. I have been writing about this (cabaret laws, ordinances, entertainment commission) for at least a year but it appears to have taken a cockeyed Wall Street Journal article to get the buzz going even though there isn’t really a lot of buzz to buzz about — yet. There will be though, knowing Oakland.
Contrary to the Journal’s article, the changes to the way Oakland does entertainment business has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with the fact that we have enough entertainment to regulate for the first time in decades. So I’ll toast to that while City Hall and the party police tinker. It’s about time.
Considering the address — Old Oakland — Chris Klein could have picked a better name than Oaksterdam Tattoo. If he had put the tattoo parlor in Oaksterdam territory there might not have been much fuss. But putting it on Washington Street next to Ratto’s guaranteed neighbors would raise an eyebrow. And they did, according to Klein. That is to be expected when you slap the name Oaksterdam on anything, especially on a tattoo parlor. He said he still gets stray calls by people looking for the green stuff, and I don’t mean ink. But the critics have eased off.
Klein opened Dec. 18, a couple weeks after the bitchy chatter on Internet sites (“First a tattoo parlor. What’s next? A brothel?” and “Are we that desperate for businesses?”) died down. You could easily mistake the parlor for a gallery except for the sign on the window written in the A’s signature green and white swish, which does not really reflect what is behind the storefront. A Victorian-era ceiling soars above tattoo stations where “Priest” sat steadily transforming a man’s back into a riot of multicolored flora and fauna. Paintings by the tattoo artists hang on the startk white walls. There are no drunken sailors or brazen hussies, at least not this afternoon. The sidewalk was filled instead Caffe 817 patrons soaking up the wan winter sun.
Klein, a musician and artist, has kept the front area open for people waiting to turn their skin into a human canvas, as well as for entertainment on Frist Fridays. Nothing big. At least nothing like in New Orleans, which is where he moved from. Further on but not far are two more new (and evidently less controversial ) additions to the neighborhood. The white-walled Collect gallery on Broadway opened Jan. 2 with a screening of film shorts (Oh thank you great culture muse in the sky). Next up is Jan. 12.
Collect is the second storefront being filled by Leila Banijamali and Lauren Geremia. The duo’s other gallery around the corner on Ninth bears the latter’s name, Geremia Design. Together with pioneer FIVEten Studio (oh please don’t go!) the galleries and parlor create a sort of four-cornered Old Oakland art scene. Banijamali and Geremia call themselves San Francisco designers and entrepreneurs. Perhaps. But even if that is their pedigree why do they named the Web site CollectArtSF if both of their “well-appointed galleries” are in Oakland. Was CollectArtOakland taken? You might say I’m being unfair because it is the URL we’re talking about. But: Oaksterdam might be a poor choice of names for the neighborhood but at least the name reflects the city it’s in.
I returned to Berkeley later Saturday night to see Where the Wild Things Are (a tear jerker of the highest magnitude in my opinion) and noticed a little sliver of an art house tucked away between two storefronts on Bancroft. Turned out to be the Subterranean Art House, which is hard to spot because there is no permament sign affixed to the 2179 Bancroft Way address. I did not have time to go in (it was cold and my daughters were with us — thus the movie) for “night of music in honor of Hafiz.” Not that I knew what was going on inside anyway from a distance. I could only see paintings on the walls but online they describe the gallery as a place for visual and performance art – including songwriting and dance salons and the 50th anniversary celebration of Butoh dance, which is something that doesn’t happen too often around here. It’s not your average dance style.
A video illustrating the Cal Bears garage tailgaiting tradition taken Saturday on the north side of campus during the last game of the season.
It’s hard to see but the garage on the north side was full of Bears fans with their indoor tailgate parties set up . It was close to kickoff which might be why this guy decided he had enough of his mimosa and turned his champagne glass upside down over the bushes. CheersThe guy dressed head to toe in blue and gold stripes passing by that morning was the tip off that I had unsuspectedly wandered into Cal game territory on the wrong day. Not that game day would normally concern me but I happened to be looking for parking that morning and the garages were off limits to non-football fans. The video explains why.
I thought I was just going to watch a funny movie Saturday night: “Big Fan,” by Robert Siegel of “The Wrestler” fame. It was neither a funny movie nor just film, as I found out. But in neither case was I disappointed. For one, “Big Fan” is poignant, disturbing and funny in a “Taxi Driver” meets “Mall Cop” kind of way. Paul “from Staten Island” Aufiero, played by comedian Patton Oswald, is a fanatical 35-year-old NY Giants fan whose loyalty is limitless — and creepy. ”Big Fan” is, in the words of associate director Nick Gallo (of The Onion), a dark, dark, dark comedy, which I heard hits pretty close to home with some sports fans who recognize the absurdity and pathos in the story. And that brings me to the second surprise of the evening: an unannounced appearance by Gallo and actor Gino Cafarelli, who manages to combine in the character of Paul’s brother a New York knuckle head with the scruples of a personal-injury lawyer and heart of a big brother. The duo showed up at the Shattuck Cinema’s small chamber Saturday night to promote the film. So much for a relaxing flick. Anyway, rumor has it, several Raiders are expected to be part of an audience on Monday. I am really curious to hear what they will have to say about it.
Lately I have been enjoying the dissonance at Jack London Square between watching tanned boaters aboard their crafts at the water’s edge and pop music from the temporary ice rink under the palms at the end of Broadway. Most Sundays I walk from near downtown to the square and back again, a return journey that deflates my mood because the highway overpass at Fifth Street, which pedestrians and motorists can’t avoid (in most directions). The walkway is ugly, dirty and noisy. It doesn’t really do anything to lure people to the waterfront, either. I have often thought how great it would be to at least have a shuttle, especially at night. I even thought about launching a Mexican Bus style of transportation. Now comes good news that Oakland is launching a free shuttle that will run about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays between the Uptown District and Jack London Square. The route: Amtrak station along Broadway to West Grand loop around the Uptown via Telegraph Avenue. The days and hours might expand later if there is more money. The shuttle is geared toward getting downtown workers to other neighborhoods and encouraging people to use the ferry. I guess that’s how they got the $1 million grant to fund it. But restaurants and bars are going to be disappointed to hear that it’s not a nighttime service. I know I am even though I am glad for even limited service. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. But Read the rest of this entry »
The Tragic Kingdom of Gwen Stafani lasted until her death in the mid-21st Century, according to Kathy Aoki, who walked an audience through the reign of the pop pharaoh at SWARM gallery Thursday night. Pharaoh Gwen took the reigns of pop power after the death of Michael Jackson, Cher and “The King.” (Cher, Aoki tells us, never actually conceded power.)
You can see the show, Museum of Historical Makeovers,” for yourself. Aoki went to pains to create a future universe in which cute culture consumerism triumphed and ultimately led to Pharaoh Stefani’s demise. Maybe the universe is not so distant future. Aoki makes her point about gender, beauty and our own worship of pop through consumerism in several ways besides the Stefani “burial artifacts” (stellae, burial objects etc.). She also tweaks 19th century medical illustrations and art to comment on our pursuit of beauty. But my favorite, the one piece that stopped me in my tracks, was her picture of data painstakingly “recovered” by historians of the future from a USB pin drive: a picture of a cutsie doll figure with some insipid inscription. I will let you draw the conclusions and read better accounts than I can provide about Aoki’s show that is subtle and funny but packs a punch. The show runs until Oct. 25.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a stroll or biked or walked your pooch on the Mandela Parkway/Bay Trail in West Oakland, there are three people, Stefanie Parrott, Ellen Wyrick Parkinson and Bruce Beasley (and more) to thank. Today’s Tribune has a story about the parkway so check it out.
Check out this amazing story of how a group of West Oakland residents successfully resisted the state’s attempts to rebuild the Cypress Freeway through the heart of their neighborhood after the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Dellums’ office just announced Oakland is the fourth greenest city in the nation when this blog post from Civil Eats popped up: “In Oakland, California last week, the political momentum seemed to clearly and perhaps irrevocably shift to formation of a sustainable food system for the nation. Hailing from three western states and Washington DC, 120 leading activists (from farms, ranches, philanthropy, businesses and NGOs), 15 USDA officials, and two important northern California mayors focused on the issues of food security, foodsheds, and public-private partnerships to accelerate change.” Read on for more…