Noe Valley Voice September 2005

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

AN OUNCE OF BOUNCE: Sanchez Hill residents have become accustomed to X-treme skateboarders careening down Sanchez Street from Hill to 23rd Street. Often they're rolling in the X-tremely wee hours of the morning. Over the years, residents also have become accustomed to seeing Sanchez Hill pictured in movies and TV or print advertising shots.

The hill became a location for an extreme television commercial at July's end when a local film crew was hired to film a national television commercial for Sony. The concept was to release 140,000 little soft rubber bouncy balls that would cascade down the steep incline from Hill Street, across 22nd Street, and into a 20-foot-high net that was draped across Sanchez just above Alvarado Street.

"We were attracted to the site because of the view into the valley below. Director Nicolai Fuglsig particularly liked the row of houses just below the crest on the east side of Sanchez at the top of the Hill Street intersection," says MJZ Productions location manager Michael Raziano, who lives in Mill Valley. (Mill Valley is sort of like Noe Valley's sister city in Marin County.)

"The Sanchez Hill was our last location and we came in a day late because of weather delays at our two previous shoots, on Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth [the steepest hill in San Francisco], and in North Beach looking down Kearny above Broadway. We are sorry to have inconvenienced the neighbors with our no-parking zones, and thank them for their patience," apologizes Raziano, also speaking for co-location manager Patrick Ranahan.

Speaking on behalf of the neighbors, yours truly included, and for all the kids who showed up to see the ball-bouncing spectacle and walked away with a bounty of balls: No problemo, Mike and Pat.

MJZ Productions brought in kids from Edison Charter Academy and other local teens to assist when the slew of multicolored missiles were let loose from a crane at the top of the hill or shot out of cannons at various lower locations. Not surprisingly, some of the bouncing critters made it as far down as Jersey Street, and kids were discovering them in every nook and cranny of Sanchez Hill for days after the event.

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VOTED MOST POPULAR BLOCK: To the surprise of Raziano and Ranahan, the very same row of houses on Sanchez was also being featured in a national TV ad for Cingular--the so-called "Raising the Bar" ad.

"Another crew was out here last fall filming the Cingular ad," says Tom Duggan, a resident of 861 Sanchez for 36 years. "Actually, over the past several years, we have seen dozens of photo shoots for advertisements which show modeling shots of clothing or cars on and over the hill," reports Duggan. "In the early '80s, they did a Streets of San Francisco episode with a lot of scenes of the hill and this row of houses. They used the inside of my house as part of filming some scenes, which was a lot of fun."

The city hasn't shown as much appreciation, however. "We are like the forgotten block," Duggan says. "Several years ago when the city repaved Sanchez Street, they came all the way up the hill but for some reason stopped at 22nd Street. What really gets me, though, is that PG&E is currently putting the whole hill's wiring underground but has left out the second half of the 800 block of Sanchez." (Street numbers 800 to 849 are on top between 21st and Hill, and addresses 850 to 899 go from Hill down to 22nd.)

Duggan, who is 60 and who grew up in a house a block down the hill at 938 Sanchez, says the completed underground wiring "would provide the first unobstructed view of Noe Valley from Hill Street in my lifetime."

He and his neighbors are meeting with Bevan Dufty on Sept. 7 to ask the supe's help in lighting a fire under PG&E.

Liberate the 800 block of Sanchez! I say.

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HOLD YOUR HORSES: Noe Valley filmmaker John Corey is "in progress" on a feature-length documentary about our resident icon, 85-year-old Harry Aleo. Proprietor of Twin Peaks Properties, lifetime board member of the Noe Valley Merchants Association, avowed conservative Republican in this valley where there are few, Aleo is also owner of the horseracing world's current rage: Lost in the Fog. The 3-year-old colt has won all eight of his starts, many in record-breaking fashion.

Corey, who is an Emmy Award­winning producer for TV Channel 5's Evening Magazine, says he is trying to finish the documentary in time for the film festivals next spring, but "every month the story becomes more interesting and the plot thickens.... I'm on my way to Saratoga racecourse in upstate New York for the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes [on Aug. 27]. I'll have to go to the Belmont racetrack in late October for the Grade 1 Breeders Cup races, with the big purses. These fall races could be very interesting, so hopefully the film will be done by the end of this year."

Aleo's thoroughbred has quite a following, he says. "In the beginning of August, I was up at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, where Lost in the Fog was making an appearance--not to race, but for a workout only. He was being ridden between the races by jockey Russell Baze, and people told me that the crowd was almost double what it normally would have been--and this was for a workout!"

But the plot is thickening. Whilst Corey was filming in Sonoma, there was another horse owned by Aleo named Frisco Star (renamed from Monster on the Loose), making his first career start in a 5-1/2-furlong race. "It was kinda incredible," Corey says, "because Frisco Star set a track record of just over one minute and one second, and he finished more than eight lengths ahead of the second-place horse."

Perhaps someday we'll see Lost in the Fog matched against Frisco Star. Stay tuned.

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CANADIAN HAM: The publishers of the Voice have confirmed that a film company located in Vancouver, B.C., is producing a detective television series for Fox TV to be called "The Gate." It's set in San Francisco but filmed entirely way up there in Vancouver with actors from way down there in Hollywood. But, in search of local color, Feight Productions Ltd. has contacted the Noe Valley Voice to use our logo and newsrack design, along with that of other local rags.

The film company wants to reconstruct city newspaper boxes and use them as props in the street scenes, which presumably are set in Downtown Noe Valley.

According to set decorator Karen Brooks, "The thing that is striking about the streets in San Francisco is the rows of racks that hold all the different newspapers, so the street scenes will show these rows with as many local papers as we can assemble." While the filming will be in Canada, Brooks anticipates that there will be a crew down here briefly to film cutaway shots of various parts of the city. Sanchez Street hill just might warrant a visit.

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CHANGING, REARRANGING: Big news in Downtown Noe Valley is the Sept. 1 closing of Graystone Wine & Liquor. One of our oldest spirit shops, Graystone opened in 1937, on the northwest corner of 24th and Castro. That was the year the site's original occupant, Bank of America, moved across to the northeast corner of the intersection.

Graystone's most recent owners, Hugh Stone and manager Gary Speer, decided to close the doors after 27 years in the business because "the lease ran out and the landlord wants a lot of money, and it was time for us to retire," says Speer. "Once we lock the door on the last day, we aren't looking back. But we will have fond memories of all our regular customers." (At press time, a rumor was floating through the vale that Guys and Dolls vintage clothing shop would fill Graystone's vacated spot.)

There will be a farewell party on Sept. 4, 6 to 9 p.m., at the Peaks bar on Castro Street. Friends and customers will celebrate Graystone's "10,000 days" of operation in Noe Valley.

One casualty of the closing is the Muni Fast Pass. The discount ticket once sold at Graystone is not sold anywhere else in the neighborhood. Will another shop please come forward?

In other news, Jeweler Rudy Paul has retired and closed his shop in the Noe Valley Mall, after more than 20 years at that location.

Vivon Chan is relocating Vivon's, her women's clothing store on Castro near 24th, as of Sept. 1. "I am moving to Hayes Valley, because the next-door real estate office is going to be expanding into this space."

The doors were locked for the last time on or about Aug. 1 at Rose Nails next to Martha's Coffee on 24th Street. There were no goodbyes posted on the window, which is now covered with plain brown paper.

Diane Barrett, owner of the Indigo V gift and florist shop on 24th Street, is now focusing her attention on the flower-arranging side of the business. Barrett primarily works with corporate clients, but is happy to accept phone orders from local residents.

Sterling Bank was to open by July, on the corner of 24th and Church, but it's still closed, due to bureaucratic problems. According to bank president Steve Adams, City Hall somehow "lost" Sterling's permit applications to put windows in the side of the building. Adams says the permits have finally been issued, and the bank will be opening early this fall.

Venerable Video Wave on Castro has been taken over by two Noe Valleons, Gwen Anderson and Colin Hutton. After many illustrious years, previous owners Alexander and Gardenia Gardener gave up the store because they were facing too arduous a commute from their home in Grass Valley.

The Diamond Corner Café has a new owner, Noe Valley resident Bruce Ponte, and a new name, fittingly Café Ponte. It also will have a new menu. "I am expanding the dinner menu, expanding the hours, and creating a kids menu," says Ponte, adding, "I'm also applying for a beer and wine license, as well as a wine-making license, so I can serve my own label." That's ambitious.

At the beginning of July, Dr. John Pierce moved his offices from the Noe Valley Practice Clinic on the corner of 24th Street and Dolores down to 2480 Mission at 21st Street, where he plans to expand his practice. In his Noe Valley place is neurologist Dr. Garry Belaga, who, like Pierce, is affiliated with the Sutter Health Group and Ralph K. Davies and St. Luke's Hospital.

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TAG BALL: Word from anti-graffiti enforcement officer Andrew Putz is that the infamous graffiti vandal ROC failed to appear at his last court date. He has been out on bail after finally being nabbed last spring, and now a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Meanwhile, N.V. Merchants Association president Carol Yenne is alerting members to look out for two new vandals, with the monikers "KERBS" and "ZERBAC." There have been over 40 sightings of graffiti by those two, and Yenne hopes they can be identified and arrested with the help of watchful neighbors.

It might interest you to know the association has a volunteer who goes around painting out the obnoxious tags wherever they appear.

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SAVED FROM THE WRECKING BALL: The watchful eyes of neighbors around the 840-square-foot cottage at 39 Chattanooga Street have prevented a new owner from turning it into two units totaling 3,994 square feet. The Planning Department originally approved the alterations, but the Board of Supes overturned that decision at an Aug. 9 hearing. The supervisors voted unanimously to preserve the house after more than 40 people showed up, at the urging of an ad hoc group called "Save 39 Chattanooga."

According to Upper Noe Neighbors President Vicki Rosen, who was urging members to support the preservation, 39 Chattanooga may be one of the oldest houses in Noe Valley.

One of the newest structures in Noe Valley, the condo/commercial building across from Bell Market, is just about ready to start leasing. According to one of the owners, Brian Maloney, there's been a lot of interest in both the residential and commercial units, but they're still awaiting the final condo permits before anything is actually sold.

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STRESS TEST: There was a well-attended book-signing party at Cover to Cover on Aug. 12 to celebrate the release of Say Yes to College: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Raising College-Bound Students by Noe Valley writer Elizabeth Crane and co-author Sharon Chandler.

"This is my first major book," Crane noted. "I became interested in the subject because of my two boys, and my co-author has years of experience in teaching parents how to prepare their kids for college." Crane is also the manager of the Noe Valley Farmers' Market.

Another local author, LeUyen Pham, celebrated the release of her new book, Big Sister, Little Sister, at Cover to Cover on July 31. It's a cleverly illustrated children's book that Pham originally wrote as a birthday present for her sister. An established book illustrator, Pham stuck it in her portfolio and took it with her on a trip to New York. "The first editor who saw it just grabbed it." The next thing Pham knew, her book was featured in the New York Times, and sisters of all ages were lining up for signings.

All you parents of college-bound kids might want to know that Noe Valley tutor Norman Prince is teaching students of all ages how to take standardized tests, including the PSAT, SAT, SSAT, GRE, MSAT, and LSAT. Prince, who tutors in his 28th Street home and also leads workshops, has been tutoring for over 10 years and has taught speed-reading for more than 20 years. "These tests are highly coachable," says Prince. "If strategies are developed, scores can be significantly raised."

In addition to good study habits, Prince advises strategies that range from anxiety reduction to better nutrition, so that "the student is calm, has confidence, and is well-fed."

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MEAT BALLS: Kudos go out to Noe Valley recipients of this year's Bay Guardian "Best of the Bay" awards. The best "Mini-Mall Services Behind a Single Storefront" award went to Drewes Brothers Meats, which "simultaneously serves as a butcher, fishmonger, grocer, postal and fax, notary, and FedEx/UPS site."

The "Best Place to Run Like a Girl" is See Jane Run, where the staff was applauded for its great customer service. Socially responsible Global Exchange won for stocking the "Best Sweatshop-free Sneakers." Miss Millie's topped the list in the "Best Comfort Food" category, especially the weekend brunch. And finally, the 65-foot-long double slide in Seward Street Park was the "Best Adult Slide."

Well, folks, that's 30 for this month. I'll be sliding out of here until next issue. Ciao.

At press time, we learned that the fleet Lost in the Fog triumphed at Saratoga, beating the next-best horse by 4-3/4 lengths.