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TRAVEL: Cruise ship passengers evacuated by lifeboat

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154 Flee Sinking Cruise Ship In The Antarctic

A small cruise ship with an imperfect security record was listing dangerously after it struck ice in Antarctic waters today, with 154 passengers and crew members evacuated by lifeboat, said the cruise operator and coast guard.

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Pictures from a Web cam on a rescue ship showed the small red and white ship – named the Explorer but known affectionately as “the little red ship” – listing dangerously to starboard in steely gray waters below a low sky, with clumps of ice looming in the distant background. Another photograph taken by a passenger on the rescue ship showed a flotilla of small lifeboats floating on the vast sea.

The vessel – which was taking tourist passengers on the route of the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton – sent out a distress signal at 5:24 a.m. GMT after it began to take in water through “a fist-sized hole,” said Dan Brown, a spokesman for G.A.P. Adventures, the Toronto-based tour operator that owns and operates the ship. He said the “running assumption” is that it hit an iceberg. Water began to trickle into a cabin and eventually flooded the engine room, causing the ship to lose power.

The accident occurred well north of the Antarctic Circle in an island chain that is part of the Antarctic peninsula, which juts close to South America and has seen sharp warming of temperatures in recent years.

As nearby vessels were alerted, the ship’s 100 passengers – 14 of them American, 24 British, 17 Dutch, 12 Canadian and a smattering of other nationalities – were awakened and told to don warm clothes and life preservers, said Mark Clark, a spokesman for Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which was one of the first authorities to receive the distress signal. They clambered down ladders on the ship’s side to board lifeboats.

Clark said they were taken aboard a small research vessel, the National Geographic Endeavour, that was nearby, before they were transferred to a Norwegian cruise liner, the Nordnorge. Brown said open lifeboats bobbed in the frigid waters for four hours before the Nordnorge could help them.

Jon Bowermaster, a travel writer and filmmaker who was lecturing on the National Geographic Endeavour, said: “We arrived just exactly alongside the Nordnorge. There was a long line of black rubber Zodiac boats and a handful of orange lifeboats strung out and it was very surreal because it was a very beautiful morning with the sun glistening off the relatively calm sea, and all you could think was how relieved these people must have been when they saw these two big ships coming over the horizon. They’d been in the lifeboats around four hours, but cold. the water temperature is not quite freezing and wind chills in the 20s, Fahrenheit.”

Passengers on the Endeavour prepared hot tea and gathered blankets, and a section of the ship was designated as a hospital but there were no emergency cases.

The Explorer, then called the Lindblad explorer, ran aground in similar circumstances in Antarctic waters in February 1972, close to where it foundered today, in heaving seas, and all her passengers then – mostly Americans – had to be rescued by the Chile Navy.

It was not immediately possible to reach the passengers, who had paid somewhere between $8,700 and $16,700 for the 18-day adventure expedition. Brown said they were being taken to King George Island in Antarctica. He said there was confusion about where exactly they would be taken from there.

“The Chileans think they are taking them to Chile, the Argentinians think they are taking them to Argentina and the Brits are talking about taking the British passengers to the Falklands,” he said.

Brown said the company had not yet been able to speak to anyone on board, but some radio stations had managed to speak to the captain of the Nordnorge, and he had reported that “everyone is healthy, uninjured and comfortable,” said Brown. The families are in the process of being notified about the accident, he said.

According to the BBC, First Officer Peter Svensson told Reuters: “We were passing through ice as usual. But this time something hit the hold and we got a little leakage downstairs.

“No one was hysterical, they were just sitting there nice and quiet, because we knew there were ships coming.”

The Chilean authorities said the passengers were being taken to the Chilean Air Force base on King George Island, the President Eduardo FreiMontalva Base, and later the commander of the base was quoted as saying that the Norwegian ship had arrived at the shore of the base around midday, but the passengers had not been able to disembark due to bad weather conditions.

The Explorer – which Brown emphasized was not a luxury cruise liner but an expedition vessel – is registered in Liberia. It embarked from Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Argentina, on Nov. 11, and was due to return on Nov. 29. According to G.A.P.’s website, the ship has swimming pool, sauna, fitness center, and lounge.

The Explorer was built in Finland in 1969 and specially designed to operate in Antarctic and Arctic waters, he said, and has operated for most of its life in the Antarctic.

The Explorer had a double bottom, a second sheath of steel to protect it if the ship runs aground, but the vessel did not have a double hull, a complete second complete sheathing of steel – developed after the Titanic, with a double bottom, sank. Built in 1969, the Explorer was small, to move swiftly through dangerous waters.

Brown said “some deficiencies” in the Explorer were discovered during safety tests in March in Chile and in May in Scotland. On its Web site, Lloyd’s List said the British authorities reported deficiencies including missing search-and-rescue plans, and lifeboat maintenance problems, while watertight doors were described as “not as required,” and fire safety measures were also criticized. The ship later passed a safety test with “flying colors,” the company said, and Brown said the earlier problems “were not serious enough for the boat to be taken out of use.” Argentine, American and British Coast Guard vessels are watching the Explorer, determining whether and how, to try to stop the ship from going down. As last reported by the Argentine Coast Guard, said Brown, it was listing at 40 degrees. “That’s not a good sign,” he said.

A spokesman for the Chilean Navy, Jorge Bastías, said about 50 cruise ships passed through the Antarctic every season from November to February, when weather conditions are reasonable. Most cruise ships come from Ushuaia.

“There are occasional accidents in this route, but very minor ones,” he said. “Conditions in the Antarctic are the most difficult in the world, and accidents occur like everywhere else; here, it is usually running into a rock, or ice. But I have seen many ships in the Antarctic, and sailed on a few, and they are very well equipped and prepared.”

The ship’s operator is part of a growing niche industry of adventure cruises. G.A.P. Adventures. based in Toronto, was founded in 1990 by Bruce Poon Tip, who immigrated to Canada from Trinidad as a child, to specialize in adventure travel, and offers cruises to the Antarctic, Greenland, Scotland and the Amazon. It sends 30 cruises a year into the Antarctic, all on the Explorer. The companies typical customer is a 36 year old woman, he said. G.A.P. said it had never had an accident with one of its ships before, but in March, two Canadian women and an Australian man died after a safari van chartered by the company collided with a truck in Kenya. The two Canadian victims were in their early 20s.

On the Antarctic tour, the passengers stop at the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, disembarking at both locations before finally heading for the tip of Antarctica. Scientists on board give briefings and lectures on wildlife, geology and climate change. They stopped at points including the grave where Shackleton was buried following his death by a heart attack in 1922.If the Explorer had not hit the ice, the passengers would have disembarked on small zodiac inflatable lifeboats, said Brown, which were used along with lifeboats in the evacuation today.

Coast guard stations in Britain; Norfolk, Virginia; and in Ushuaia, Argentina, received the satellite distress signal and worked closely on the rescue, said Fred Caygill, a spokesman for Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Southampton, England.

“There are a lot of countries working together on this incident,” said Caygill. Five ships within the area responded to the signal, he said, including Argentine and American vessels as well as a Chilean warship, before the passengers were rescued by the Nordnorge.

The Explorer was the first passenger vessel to navigate the Northwest Passage, and has operated in Antarctica since 1970.

Stefan Lundgren, a member of the Endeavor staff who had also worked on the Explorer, said he was saddened by the sight of the listing vessel: “For me she was a beautiful lady – boats are ladies – and I have been part of touching her year after year. For every new owner, she gets a new facelift. As an old woman, she’s a tough lady. She doesn’t want to give up, I can tell you. I still believe that perhaps it is not the last time that we see her.”

In addition to the Explorer, the company owns five yachts which are based in the Galapagos Islands and three tour ships in Greece.

While it is privately held and does not disclose financial information, G.A.P. says on its Web site that it handles about 60,000 travelers a year and has about 500 employees.

Regulatory responsibility for the ship is split among different countries and organizations.

G.A.P. is one of 38 full members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, a voluntary group based in Basalt, Colorado.

That organization has hundreds of rules largely devoted to environmental concerns that, among other things, limit ship operators to landing no more than 100 tourists on shore at any time.

Denise Landau, the group’s executive director, said that the rescue was based on an emergency response system that requires all ships belonging to member companies to track each other’s status at all times.

While the Explorer is not leaking any fluids, Landau said that under the association’s rules it uses marine gas oil which generally dissipates rather than coating wildlife and shorelines.

Because Canada is a signatory to Antarctic treaties, G.A.P. must obtain a permit from its home country to bring tours to the region.

All issues relating to the vessel’s design, condition and crew, said Landau, fall under the control of Liberia, where the Explorer is registered.

A page on the company’s Web site offers potential customers “what to expect from a G.A.P. Adventures Trip.”

“Whatever happens,” the site warns, “it’s best to remember that it’s all part of the experience.”

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THE REAL MEANING OF THANKSGIVING

TRAVEL WELL


VIRGIN AMERICA AIRLINES

thanksgiving.jpg

BY JOSEPH FARAH

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the people responsible for the American Thanksgiving tradition. Contrary to popular opinion, the Pilgrims didn’t wear buckles on their shoes or hats. They weren’t teetotalers, either. They smoked tobacco and drank beer. And, most importantly, their first harvest festival and subsequent “thanksgivings” weren’t held to thank the local natives for saving their lives.

Do you know there are public schools in America today actually teaching that? Some textbooks, in their discomfort with open discussions of Christianity, say as much. I dare suggest most parents today know little more about this history than their children.

Yet, there is no way to divorce the spiritual from the celebration of Thanksgiving – at least not the way the Pilgrims envisioned it, a tradition dating back to the ancient Hebrews and their feasts of Succoth and Passover.

The Pilgrims came to America for one reason – to form a separate community in which they could worship God as they saw fit. They had fled England because King James I was persecuting those who did not recognize the Church of England’s absolute civil and spiritual authority.

On the two-month journey of 1620, William Bradford and the other elders wrote an extraordinary charter – the Mayflower Compact. Why was it extraordinary? Because it established just and equal laws for all members of their new community – believers and non-believers alike. Where did they get such revolutionary ideas? From the Bible, of course.

When the Pilgrims landed in the New World, they found a cold, rocky, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, Bradford wrote. No houses to shelter them. No inns where they could refresh themselves. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims died of sickness or exposure – including Bradford’s wife. Though life improved for the Pilgrims when spring came, they did not really prosper. Why? Once again, the textbooks don’t tell the story, but Bradford’s own journal does. The reason they didn’t succeed initially is because they were practicing an early form of socialism.

The original contract the Pilgrims had with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store. Each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community. Bradford, as governor, recognized the inherent problem with this collectivist system.

“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years … that by taking away property, and bringing community into common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,” Bradford wrote. “For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense … that was thought injustice.”

What a surprise! Even back then people did not want to work without incentive. Bradford decided to assign a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of free enterprise. What was the result?

“This had very good success,” wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

As a result, the Pilgrims soon found they had more food than they could eat themselves. They set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London much faster than expected. The success of the Plymouth colony thus attracted more Europeans and set off what we call the “Great Puritan Migration.”

But it wasn’t just an economic system that allowed the Pilgrims to prosper. It was their devotion to God and His laws. And that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about. The Pilgrims recognized that everything we have is a gift from God – even our sorrows. Their Thanksgiving tradition was established to honor God and thank Him for His blessings and His grace.

Today we continue that tradition in my home – and I hope in yours. God bless you, God bless America, and Happy Thanksgiving.

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BITS AND MORSELS: Urban Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving display made of chocolate at The Regency New York.

Thanksgiving in the city. If spending all day in the kitchen is not your idea of fun this thanksgiving, don’t fret as there are many restaurants that offer special thanksgiving menus in addition to their regular fare.

For an Italian twist on thanksgiving head to Sant Ambroeus at 78th and Madison for turkey as well as homemade ravioli with walnut sauce and chestnut desserts. If you just want a classic thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, The Regency Hotel is the spot for you.

Corn free choices. The effect that our food choices have on the environment and on our health are more salient now than ever.

Many people believe the high obesity rate in this country is due to high fructose corn syrup gooping its way into everything we eat.

If you’re at all curious, go see “King Corn” which follows two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation.

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Pecan Pie at William Greenberg Jr. Desserts.

Anyway … Pecan pie is a fixture on many Thanksgiving tables, but if you plan on baking your own this year, why not try using maple or brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup.

Turkey two ways. If you are the type of person who really wants to understand the turkey’s journey from farm to table, check out The Slow Cook.

People sometimes forget that the turkey on your Thanksgiving table had a life before … uhuh … it ended up in your stomachs. It’s not for the squeamish but you will definitely appreciate your thanksgiving meal more.

If you have no interest in the origins of your turkey dinner, check out this brand new Turkey in a bag by Jenni-O. This is a home-cooked turkey for people who don’t want to deal with the details of cooking.

The turkey is revolutionary in that it goes directly from the freezer to the oven. Just cut some slits in the bag, pop it in the oven, and you will have a perfectly done bird in about four hours.

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Lobel’s Prime Meats on Madison Avenue and 82nd Street.

Thanksgiving central. The busiest Avenue in New York this week is Madison between 82nd and 83rd Streets. Both Lobel’s Prime Meats and William Greenberg Jr. Desserts reside on that block.

If you’re going to roast (or fry) your own bird, the place to get it is Lobel’s. They offer fresh organic free-range turkeys, which are a nice change from the typical frozen supermarket bird. I walked in just as the turkeys were arriving and they looked good enough to eat raw.

For the perfect pie, go to William Greenberg. The aroma in the store alone is enough to make one pine for pie. They offer pumpkin and apple as well as other traditional pies, but I like the pecan pie which is made from Georgia pecans and all natural ingredients.

After leaving the bakery I popped into Sant Ambroeus for a cappuccino to warm up. While I was taking in the always-bustling atmosphere I began to reflect on the holiday itself.

My favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving. I love that it is a true blue American holiday. If you are living in America, you will most likely be gathering around a turkey today regardless of your religious background. And what better way to connect with friends and family than by sharing a hearty meal with them?

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Mark Lobel shows off his Free-Range Young Organic Turkey.

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A Cappuccino at Sant Ambroeus.

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Be sure to call before you go out. Some restaurants, like Gino, are closed for Thanksgiving.

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The Regency’s Thanksgiving Menu.

We all have a lot to be thankful for this thanksgiving. I am thankful that I live in New York, the greatest city in the world, aside from the offensive traffic, which is bad bad bad this time of year. I am thankful for my friends, family and my dog Zabar. This year I am especially thankful for my New York Social Diary Family. I could not ask for better mentors and editors than DPC and JH. I am thankful to the readers whom I love getting e-mails and feedback from. I wish everyone a happy and healthy thanksgiving filled with good food, friends, and family.

Till we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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LEARNING GRATITUDE

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Walking the Bridle Path in Central Park. 1:15 PM.
Photo: JH.

BY DAVID PATRICK COLUMBIA

It got warmer, yesterday afternoon in New York, the day before Thanksgiving. I went over to Zabars to buy among other things a pumpkin pie. I’m going to my annual Thanksgiving dinner – this is the sixth or seventh year – with my friends the Browns to the Four Seasons Restaurant. The one thing I will miss from not having dinner at home is the pumpkin pie. Furthermore I want the whole pie. I could eat it all at one sitting although I won’t.

Because I’m a good boy.

I read somewhere today that we consume enough calories on the Thanksgiving holiday to energize a runner in the New York Marathon, something which almost none of us is. So, the writer suggested, at least exercise.

However, it is important to not forget that there are also a lot of us out there across the world who will not be having that problem because they will not be having much, if anything, to eat. In the meantime, we can give, and we can be thankful. Which reminds me:

On Another Early Wednesday Evening Late Last Month. Down at Michael’s, Karl Wellner, Hilary and Wilbur Ross and Lauren and John Veronis hosted a party to celebrate the publications of “Thank You Power; Making the Science of Gratitude Work For You” written by Mr. Wellner’s wife, Deborah Norville. Ever heard of her? As it happens, I know the author too, and even more specifically, I am featured within her pages, as an example of what the book is about. No, it is not about me. It’s about the enhancement of gratitude in our daily lives.

I got involved quite accidentally through a conversation Deborah and I had at Joan Rivers’ dinner table one night about a year ago. She told me she was writing a book on Gratitude. I was intrigued because I’m not aware of a book on the subject and it is a subject that runs through my consciousness, especially when something is troubling me to the point where I’m having a hard time dealing. I happened to tell her of a personal experience related to the application of Gratitude. She asked if she could use it. I agreed.

I learned about Gratitude and Gratitude Lists in a 12 Step program (Al-Anon) years ago. Someone advised that it was a helpful tool in getting through harsh moments when emotions are in the driver’s seat and pressing the accelerator. Make a list of things you’re grateful for, is the simple instruction. This can be more difficult than it sounds because when the emotions are driving, the noise they create in your head is often a deafening sound.

The incident I related to Deborah had to do with a moment in my life about 15 years ago when I was first living here in New York, and in quite uneasy circumstances trying to jump-start myself as a professional writer in need of making a living. One winter morning I happened to have a conversation with a woman friend on the phone, and although I can’t recall what it was that set me off, my friend responded with some sarcastic and cutting words that sliced back to my childhood feelings of vulnerability; the feelings the often burden since children are more vulnerable and dependent. It was quite clearly a historical reaction to those times long ago. It disturbed me that I was still feeling that vulnerable.

I was crushed. It was exacerbated by the fact that I really love this woman and her words were quite insensitive, or at least thoughtless. I fell into a depression instantly – one of those moments when you’re overwhelmed and feel you can’t control your feelings.

Some might take a tranquilizer at that moment. My instinctive solution was to take a nap (anything to turn off my mind). But it so happened that morning I had a “grown-up” responsibility to take care of first: I had to go over to someone’s apartment to pick up a photo I was using for a piece I was writing for Quest. I had to deliver the photo that day for the printer. Reality. The writer’s fee.

So whatwith my Sturm und Drang whirling inside my mind, I decided that maybe a nice long walk to retrieve the photo would help. I couldn’t do anything about my friend’s words but I could possibly clean out my own head.

It also happened to be one of those ugly, cold and frigid grey mid-winter days in New York where very little on the exterior of the city looks good or inviting, and you’re conjuring up other climates (or seasons) for inner relief. A perfect day to hide your head under the covers.

It was an eight block crosstown walk; a long one for the bitter cold. Frustrated by my state of mind, I recalled the advice about a Gratitude List as something to focus on when you’re down (and feeling out).

So there I was on this grey pavement under cold grey skies in search of gratitude. I decided to take whatever came along. The first thing was a young woman wheeling a stroller toward me. Inside was a cute little one with a smiling face, far far away from my state of mind. I love children. That was my first entry to the Gratitude List.

And then, when I was looking up, streaking high across the sky was a shiny grey 747, heading off to other places and other lives. I have always been amazed by the miracle of these enormous machines lifting off the earth and flying around the globe. Second entry.

Then there were the 19th century doorways, and the people – people I don’t know – on the street going about their lives. I put them on all my List because it soon occurred to me that I was glad and grateful to be here, to be able to walk there, to have that assignment, to earn that fee, and to have so many other wonderful people in my life. I realized by the time I reached my destination that this previously overwhelming state of depression had virtually disappeared.

When I realized it, I was amazed at the effectiveness of Gratitude as a zen-like device. Furthermore, this same aforementioned friend who can be loose-lipped and unthinking with her words at times, went down that road again at other times afterwards. But her words no longer had the same effect. In fact, they provoke laughter in me. I love her. I’m grateful.

This is what Deborah Norville’s book is about. This is an excellent time of the year to embrace these thoughts and ideas.

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THE REAL MEANING OF THANKSGIVING

TRAVEL WELL


VIRGIN AMERICA AIRLINES

thanksgiving.jpg

BY JOSEPH FARAH

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the people responsible for the American Thanksgiving tradition. Contrary to popular opinion, the Pilgrims didn’t wear buckles on their shoes or hats. They weren’t teetotalers, either. They smoked tobacco and drank beer. And, most importantly, their first harvest festival and subsequent “thanksgivings” weren’t held to thank the local natives for saving their lives.

Do you know there are public schools in America today actually teaching that? Some textbooks, in their discomfort with open discussions of Christianity, say as much. I dare suggest most parents today know little more about this history than their children.

Yet, there is no way to divorce the spiritual from the celebration of Thanksgiving – at least not the way the Pilgrims envisioned it, a tradition dating back to the ancient Hebrews and their feasts of Succoth and Passover.

The Pilgrims came to America for one reason – to form a separate community in which they could worship God as they saw fit. They had fled England because King James I was persecuting those who did not recognize the Church of England’s absolute civil and spiritual authority.

On the two-month journey of 1620, William Bradford and the other elders wrote an extraordinary charter – the Mayflower Compact. Why was it extraordinary? Because it established just and equal laws for all members of their new community – believers and non-believers alike. Where did they get such revolutionary ideas? From the Bible, of course.

When the Pilgrims landed in the New World, they found a cold, rocky, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, Bradford wrote. No houses to shelter them. No inns where they could refresh themselves. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims died of sickness or exposure – including Bradford’s wife. Though life improved for the Pilgrims when spring came, they did not really prosper. Why? Once again, the textbooks don’t tell the story, but Bradford’s own journal does. The reason they didn’t succeed initially is because they were practicing an early form of socialism.

The original contract the Pilgrims had with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store. Each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community. Bradford, as governor, recognized the inherent problem with this collectivist system.

“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years … that by taking away property, and bringing community into common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,” Bradford wrote. “For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense … that was thought injustice.”

What a surprise! Even back then people did not want to work without incentive. Bradford decided to assign a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of free enterprise. What was the result?

“This had very good success,” wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

As a result, the Pilgrims soon found they had more food than they could eat themselves. They set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London much faster than expected. The success of the Plymouth colony thus attracted more Europeans and set off what we call the “Great Puritan Migration.”

But it wasn’t just an economic system that allowed the Pilgrims to prosper. It was their devotion to God and His laws. And that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about. The Pilgrims recognized that everything we have is a gift from God – even our sorrows. Their Thanksgiving tradition was established to honor God and thank Him for His blessings and His grace.

Today we continue that tradition in my home – and I hope in yours. God bless you, God bless America, and Happy Thanksgiving.

rockwell-thanksgiving.jpg

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SAN FRANCISCO BALLET AT 75: San Francisco International Airport celebrates 75th Anniversary of America’s Oldest Ballet Company

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Lynda Meyer and Vane Vest in Lew Christensen/Michael Smuin’s Cinderella
Photo by Arne Folkedal, 1973

San Francisco International Airport is pleased to present San Francisco Ballet at 75.

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Cynthia Gregory and Robert Gladstein in Lew Christensen’s Beauty and the Beast
Photo Courtesy of the San Francisco Ballet Archives/San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, 1964

This new exhibition celebrates the seventy-fifth anniversary of America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet, by presenting lavish costumes, historical photos and artifacts from the company’s diverse repertory.

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Gonzalo Garcia in Lar Lubovitch’s Elemental Brubeck
Photo © Erik Tomasson, 2005

The eighteen ballets showcased in the exhibition – ranging from classical works such as Lew Christensen and Michael Smuin’s Cinderella (1973), to more contemporary choreography such as Lar Lubovitch’s Elemental Brubeck (2005) – reflect both SF Ballet’s deeply rooted classical foundation and its ability to take chances with innovative programming and commissioned work.

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Lew Christensen in Filling Station
Photo © The Estate of George Platt Lynes, 1938

The exhibition also includes objects and photographs from many of SF Ballet’s artistic “firsts,” including the first American productions of Swan Lake (1940) and Nutcracker (1944).

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Lorena Feijoo and Maureen Choi in Yuri Possokhov’s Reflections Photo © Chris Hardy, 2005

San Francisco Ballet at 75 is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall.

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Kristin Long and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba in William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
Photo © Erik Tomasson, 2006

The exhibition is on view 24 hours a day, free of charge, through May 11, 2008.

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Yuan Yuan Tan in Mark Morris’ Sylvia
Photo © Erik Tomasson, 2006

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JOESEPH D’ALESSANDRO APPOINTED to California Travel and Tourism Commission

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Joseph D’Alessandro

Joseph D’Alessandro, 51, of San Francisco, has been appointed to the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

Since 2006, he has served as president and chief executive officer for the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

From 1996 to 2006, D’Alessandro was president and chief executive officer for the Portland Oregon Visitors Association.

He was executive director of the Oregon Tourism Commission from 1991 to 1996 and director of international marketing for the California Office of Tourism from 1985 to 1991.

D’Alessandro is a board member of the Destination Marketing Association International and the California Travel Industry Association.

This position does not require California Senate confirmation and there is no salary. D’Alessandro is a Democrat.

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LOUISE BOURGEOIS CROUCHING SPIDER WEAVES a mother’s nurture to San Francisco

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‘The Crouching Spider,’ a concept meant to honor the delicate tapestry of spinners, was dedicated Thursday on the San Francisco Embaracdero at the foot of Mission Street. World renowned sculptor Louise Bourgeois, now 96-years-old, developed the concept over a thirteen year period. This two and one-half ton bronze sculpture is on loan to San Francisco for at least eight months as part of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Sculpture in the City Program.
Photo by Bill Wison

BY PAT MURPHY
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

Her mother was a spinner, a weaver, when as a child Louise Bourgeois learned the repair of intricate tapestry.

Fragile threads of emotive color became the child’s first introduction to the world of the Art, a world where the tools to marvel at life, to capture a moment’s understanding, and to imprimatur her own ‘let this be believed’ rested in Bourgeois crafting.

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Louise Bourgeois
Mapplethorpe Gallery Photo

A Parisian who moved to New York in 1938, her recognition as one the world’s leading contemporary artists spanned seven decades brining Bourgeois the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1997.

Her creative foundation stayed with her — the weaving of expansive perception.

The spider as weaver defined the woman’s root cause and mothering as prime action.

Indeed, another child grown woman, Susan Leal, recalled her own mother’s admonition to Susan that she never kill a spider.

Leal, director of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) which funds the Crouching Spider San Francisco public exhibition, explained her mother’s reasoning during the November 15 morning dedication.

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Susan Leal
Photo by Bill Wison

“When I was a child she would never let me kill spiders,” Leal recalled her mother’s instruction.

“Because, she said, ‘Never kill them — they’re one of the most important parts of nature.’

“So it’s come full circle for me. We’re very happy as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to be participants in helping make San Francisco more beautiful.”

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SFPUC public information director Laura Spanjian, at left, with Susan Christian.
Photo by Bill Wison

Leal explained SFPUC funding of City public art.

“As you know, we are doing a number of major infrastructure programs, basically seismicly upgrading our water system so that when the next one hits we will not be, our piplines, our tunnels will not be severed in a major earthquake,” related Leal.

“One of the benefits of the infrastructure program we have is that money we are able to set aside for public art.

“When we heard about the possibility of getting this sculpture we thought it was very apropos.

“You know, in the Hetch Hetchy system and those who benefit from the wonderful Hetch Hetchy system, we are also stewards of nature.

“We get the bounty of nature.

“One of the ways to express our gratitude for that is to display public art which also has a connection to nature.”

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Photo by Bill Wison

San Francisco is now more Arts oriented than at any time in its history, reported emcee PJ Johnston, who serves as president of the San Francisco Arts Commission and as film critic of the San Francisco Sentinel.

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San Francisco Arts Commission President PJ Johnston
Photo by Bill Wison

“Things don’t happen in San Francisco, particularly audacious things, unless you have the full support, the full commitment, of City Hall Room 200,” Johnston noted, “and the energy and the enthusiasm for the Arts as of our Mayor, Gavin Newsom, who is very much an Arts person.

“We really enjoy at the San Francisco Arts Commission perhaps the greatest commitment to focus on Arts in San Francisco — whether it’s public art or support for non-profit arts organizations or performing arts, visual arts, you name it — because Gavin Newsom is the most Arts focused mayor in the City’s history.”

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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom

Newsom confirmed his love for the Arts and public art in particular.

“I love this type of art,” Newsom began, “I don’t like it — I love it.”

“I think the vast majority of San Franciscans love this type of public art.

“We can do so much more.

“We have done in the last few years as much or more than in previous years, and I’m pleased with that, but I know that the best is yet to come.

“I know what’s in the queue in terms of temporary art and I also know what’s in the queue for permanent art.

“Not just the 85 pieces which were just completed on that 5.1 mile new light rail system but all these new public projects that are underway like transbay permanent artists who will have permanent art.

“So there is really an exciting energy in San Francisco right now for public arts.

“There’s more money now for the Arts, grants for the Arts… I’m commited that we’re really going to step up the funding and we’re really going to challenge people to think differently and to act differently.

“I say act diffrerently because what public art does, like great architecture and design, is not just physical.

“It changes your perspective. It changes the way you walk, the way you talk.

“If you think that’s just gobbledegook, I challenge you to walk into any magnificent building with an extraordinary atrium and tell me that doesn’t change your physiology, that doesn’t create a pattern where you stop and say, ‘Migosh, look how beautiful this is, look how magnificent this is, look how challening this is and enter a diffferent kind of conversation.’

“That’s what Ms. Bourgeois will represent to people. They will be casually driving down the block and see it, they’ll be casually walking down the street or jogging and they’ll stop.

“Ninety-six years-old she’s still with us. What a gift it is to this City to have a world class, internationally renowned artist… to have San Francisco finally lay claim to one of those pieces of Art.”

Arts Commissioner Larry Rinder, who authored Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations with Bourgeois and serves as Dean of the California College of the Arts, spoke to the significance to women of Bourgeois work.

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Larry Rinder
Photo by Bill Wison

“She persisted, and she persisted even as her male colleagues excelled around the world, and she continued without bitterness, without giving up,” stated Rinder.

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Bourgeous continued “to work in an incredible variety of media, not just sculpture, but painting and drawing, installation art — she even recorded a rap CD,” Rinder stressed.

“She also to this day continues to welcome and encourage younger artists to come visit her home with the offer of feedback on her work.”

Louise Bourgeous now weaves nurture to San Francisco across the generations.

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and Bay Area media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past five years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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PAT MURPHY
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
In his youth, Pat Murphy worked as a General Assignment reporter for the Richmond Independent, the Berkeley Daily Gazette, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He served as Managing Editor of the St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger at age 21. Murphy also launched ValPak couponing in San Francisco, as the company’s first San Francisco franchise owner. He walked the bricks, developing ad strategy for a broad range of restaurants and merchants. Pat knows what works and what doesn’t work. His writing skill has been employed by marketing agencies, including Don Solem & Associates. He has covered San Francisco governance for the past twelve years. Pat scribes an offbeat opinion column of the human family. Email Pat Murphy at SanFranciscoSentinel@yahoo.com.

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VIRGIN AIRLINES wins San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Award 2007

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This year’s Ebby — the annual Excellence in Business Award — will go to Virgin Airlines for San Francisco economic development, to be awarded Thursday by the Chamber of Commerce.

“The Ebbies were created 16 years ago to recognize businesses for what they do well – create jobs, contribute to the local economy and give back to the community,” Steve Falk, Chamber president and chief executive, said in a statement.

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“Our Ebbies winners and finalists are great examples of the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship that are the hallmarks of San Francisco businesses.”

The event begins October 1 2007, at the Hilton San Francisco, with a reception at 6 p.m., with

This year’s winner of the Excellence in Business Award is Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., after a year of rebuilding and solid growth.

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OCTOBER 28 Videos of The Day – BE COOL WHEN IN IRELAND – BOOK AER LINGUS AS YOUR ONLY CARRIER TO IRELAND OH, THAT DANNY BOY – Babies born today will gain the trust of others – Live radar and video weather forecast

VIDEO BAY AREA FORECAST OCTOBER 28

October 28 Videos of The Day

BE COOL WHEN IN IRELAND

BOOK AER LINGUS AS YOUR ONLY CARRIER TO IRELAND

OH, THAT DANNY BOY

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WORD OF THE DAY OCTOBER 28 2007

Keelhaul.

Definition: To haul under the keel of a ship, by ropes attached to the yardarms on each side. It was formerly practiced as a punishment in the Dutch and English navies.

BIRTHDAY LORE FOR OCTOBER 28 2007

You are generous, lighthearted, and optimistic, fond of entertainment and amusement. You are artistic and musical and take a prominent part in the social life of your circle. Although not confiding yourself, others confide in you. You are dependable, trustworthy, and sweet-tempered. You will have a happy and quiet life.

ADVICE FOR THE DAY OCTOBER 28 2007

Neither fear to die nor venture South of San Francisco Market Street.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY OCTOBER 28

Born: Lauren Holly (actress), 1963. Lander, Wyoming, received 27 inches of snow, 1971.

Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 70. West wind between 5 and 7 mph.

Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 54. West wind at 7 mph becoming south.

Monday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 63. West southwest wind between 3 and 8 mph.

Monday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 54. West northwest wind between 6 and 10 mph.

Tuesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 64.

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 52.

Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 64.

Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 51.

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 65.

Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 51.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 68.

Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 52.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 71.

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NON-STOP SAN FRANCISCO TO DUBLIN Aer Lingus flights begin


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CEAD MILE FAILTE

Aer Lingus begins non-stop flights between Dublin, Ireland and San Francisco International Airport Sunday, with the official inaugural flights arriving on Monday, October 29.

“The Bay Area market potential for Ireland is extraordinary,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

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San Francisco Mayor and County Cork descendant Gavin Newsom waves from St. Patricks Day Parade 2007.

“In addition to the Irish heritage of many San Franciscans, we are one of the nation’s top tourist destinations, and home to an especially well-traveled, internationally-minded community.

“In finance, services and high tech, our commercial links with Irish industry are strong and growing.”

The service will launch with four round-trip flights per week and introductory fares as low as $288 each way. Those one-way economy class fares drop to $199 each way during a special online sale – from 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, October 30 until 3:59 p.m. on Wednesday, October 31 — for weekday flights (Monday and Wednesday) in January and February 2008.

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Friday and Sunday flights are $20 more each way. Tickets must be purchased online at aerlingus.com during the sale period. Phone or airport bookings are $36 more each way.

A dedicated website, sfo2ireland.com, provides travelers details on service, fares, inaugural events, contests and other information specific to this new route.

Aer Lingus’ low-cost, low-fare model is based on one-way fares, freeing travelers from traditional minimum and maximum stays.

More than 70% of the Irish carrier’s tickets are sold online via its website and the resulting cost savings allow the airline to offer lower fares in both business and economy class without lowering service standards or crowding passengers onboard.

On transatlantic flights, seating in Classic Economy Class is a comfortable 2x4x2 configuration and in Premier Business Class the 2×2 seating gives everyone either a window or an aisle.

“We are very pleased to welcome San Francisco to the Aer Lingus network,” said Jack Foley, executive vice president for Aer Lingus in North America. “We know there are strong cultural and business bonds between Ireland and the Bay Area, and we look forward to a very popular and successful service.”

Business travelers also benefit from lower-than-usual fares and Premier Class service that rivals higher-priced carriers’. Premier seats, 20-inch wide at a pitch of 52 inches, feature universal laptop power ports and personal video on demand. “Lie-flat” versions are being introduced on the entire long-haul fleet via new aircraft and retrofits. Gourmet meals and complimentary beverages, served in Waterford crystal and on Wedgwood china, further enhance the inflight experience for Premier passengers.

The tech-savvy Aer Lingus website provides users everything needed to make travel planning easy, including special e-fares, easy flight booking with flexible search calendar, interactive seat selection, online check-in and flight changes, real time flight information and status, online frequent flyer account management and award redemption, destination guide and vacation services.

For flight schedules and reservations, visit www.aerlingus.com. Reservations may also be made for an additional fee by calling toll-free, (800) IRISH AIR (800-474-7424).

About Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus serves nearly 70 destinations across Ireland, the UK, Continental Europe, the United States and the Middle East. The airline’s transatlantic service includes non-stop service between Dublin and Boston, Chicago, New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Washington Dulles and Orlando.

Aer Lingus operates an all-Airbus fleet of technologically advanced jet aircraft. The short-haul fleet consists of Airbus A321s and Airbus A320s; the long-haul transatlantic fleet features Airbus A330 aircraft.

Aer Lingus was founded by the Irish Government in April 1936 to provide air services from Ireland. The first flight, from Dublin to Bristol, England, took place on May 27, 1936. On October 2, 2006, Aer Lingus entered a new phase in its history when it became a publicly-traded company on the Irish and London Stock Exchanges.

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BITS AND MORSELS: Tres latest from the world of foodies

“Bits and Morsels” by Jordana Z, is an ongoing collection of information from the world of the foodies and foodblogs.

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Spigolo’s Burrata with radicchio salad.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something about Spigolo that sets it apart from every other neighborhood restaurant. Located on 82nd and Second Avenue, Spigolo is genuinely warm and refreshingly small in that you can actually have a conversation with your dinner partner without having to yell.

Obviously, there’s a lot of good food in New York, but it’s hard to find restaurants that really make you feel welcome. Every dish on the menu is solid but my favorite is the melt-in-your-mouth ricotta gnocchi. And for dessert, the chocolate soufflé tart is a happy sendoff, and a nice take on the boringly overdone melted chocolate cake.

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Spigolo’s earthy-toned canopy.

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Romaine Caesar with parmagiano crostini and a quail egg.

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Wild Striped Bass topped with Olive caponata and served over
vegetables.

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Chocolate Souffle tart with pistachio semifreddo.

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Warm donuts with caramel ice cream.

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Ricotta Gnocchi

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Chef Scott Fratangelo.

The original Rachael Ray. We are all going to dearly miss Peg Bracken, author of The I Hate to Cook Book. She died last Saturday at age 89 in Portland, Oregon. The book was first published in 1960 and emphasized speed and convenience in the kitchen. She utilized canned and frozen foods in a way that was revolutionary.

Spanish food at Blimpie? More than most fast food franchises, Blimpie permits franchise owners to really customize their shops and menus. One Blimpie sub shop in midtown has attracted quite a following for their authentic Spanish food. Along with the typical grinders, you can also munch on roast chicken with plantains and yellow rice. The Midtown Lunch blog, which has tough standards, really enjoyed the food.

Looking forward. In less than two weeks Brio 89 restaurant and wine bar will be opening at 1725 Second Avenue at 89th street, which will be the sister restaurant of Brio, located on Lexington and 61st which has been open for 17 years.

The new restaurant will serve Mediterranean food with an emphasis on Southern Italy and it will be open late. The space is unique in that it is a corner spot, which usually would be reserved for a bank. This is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Check it out. I was pleasantly surprised this weekend to discover the Greenmarket at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The market runs through November and is set up on Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays. It’s apple season so when you go to the market, buy some Honeycrisp apples, which are at its peak. The market also sells produce, honey, pies, and maple syrup.

Vietnamese food is popping up on menus all over the world. On Monday October 29th, the Asia Society will host a panel to discuss the evolution of Vietnamese cuisine. The Panelists will be: Bobby Chinn, chef and restaurateur, Bobby Chinn Restaurant, Hanoi, Vietnam; Andrea Nguyen, writer, teacher, and Author, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen; KT Tran, chef and restaurateur, Saigon R; and Corinne Trang, food consultant and author, Essentials of Asian Cuisine. If you have any interest in the food of Vietnam, this event is not to be missed. [The Asia Society]

Till we eat again,
Jordana

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SAN FRANCISCO SOCIAL DIARY: Opening Night Grand Foyer of the War Memorial Opera House

SAN FRANCISCO OPERA’S 85th OPENING NIGHT 2007

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Grand foyer of the War Memorial Opera House.
Photos by Drew Altizer

BY JEANNE LAWRENCE

Each September, the divas of San Francisco society flock to the San Francisco Opera opening night to launch the social season.

Over 3,000 devotees sold-out the black-tie event! SFer’s take the dress code seriously – even some top hats came out of hiding – while ladies raided local designers for gowns and safe deposit boxes for jewels.

The gala ushered in a new era with General Director David Gockley’s first full season.

He personally welcomed each patron to the pre-performance cocktail reception in the Delilah Courtyard next to War Memorial Opera House.

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Parading through the sycamore tree-lined path
to Delilah’

While opening night’s Samson and Delilah – Camille Saint-Saëns’ biblical epic – was inherited from the previous Opera manager Pamela Rosenberg, now Managing Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, innovative Gockley plans six new productions at SFO including a Tannhäuser, and the world premiere of Philip Glass’Appomattox in October.

Still boyish-looking, Gockley joined the SFO after 35 years with the Houston Grand Opera, where at age 29 he became the youngest person to ever lead an American opera company.

Before that there was a stopover in Manhattan to teach at the prestigious Buckley School and then earn his MBA at Columbia University.

Opening night began with the traditional singing of The Star Spangled Banner, followed by on onstage welcome from Opera Association President George Hume and Opera Board Chairman Pitch Johnson.

Then Gockley asked for a moment of silence for the opera legends that we lost this year: Joe Harris, Beverly Sills and Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

He announced that the next day’s annual Opera in the Park concert (over 17,000 people attended) would be dedicated to Pavarotti, who had just died the day before. A moment of silence honoring the legendary Italian tenor ended with a recording of Pavarotti’s signature rendition of Puccini’s “Nessun dorma.”

Italian-born opera lover, Maria Manetti Farrow commented, “The world has lost one of the most beautiful voices of this century and a great human being. He made opera accessible to the public through innovations like The Three Tenors, with Placido Domingo and José Carreras.”

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Opera Gala co-chairs Marybeth
LaMotte and Cheryl Baxter

The Nicolas Joel production of Samson and Delilah was in French and starred the Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina as the temptress Delilah, tenor Clifton Forbis as Sampson, Juha Uusitalo as The High Priest of Dagon, and Oren Gradus as The Old Hebrew. Directed by Sandra Bernhard, the performance was conducted by Patrick Summers, with original lighting design by Thomas Munn.

New Yorker Francis Barlow was in town, and introduced me to her friends, Carrie Robbins and Douglas Schmidt. Schmidt designed the set with its dramatic temples and massive columns – Schmidt quipped, “But it all comes down in the end anyway.” Robbins’ was responsible for the opulent costumes.

Observing the crowd, fashion lover Sally Debenham (longtime friend of Bill Blass) noted, “Astounding! It’s a whole new group of young people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s: enthusiastic, having a wonderful time…that bodes well for the future of opera.” Her friend, John Capizzi, General Manager of Neiman Marcus agreed.

This can be partly attributed to the young chairs, Cheryl Baxter and Marybeth La Motte. Also, the city has a young mayor, Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for re-election, and escorted aspiring actress Jennifer Siebel.

And David Gockley deserves credit too. He is committed to attracting a wider following for opera and in Houston he pioneered opera’s public simulcast on giant outdoor video screens, which has been copied by others.

Here, he’s utilizing SFO’s new Koret-Taube Media Suite on the fifth floor of the opera house. Said to be the first in America, the high-definition video production facility broadcasts to AT&T Park and other location.

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Mayor Gavin Newsom and David Gockley,
Opera general director

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Jeannik Littlefield and daughter Denise Sobel with
husband Norman Keller

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George and Charlotte Shultz

During intermission the $10,000 + donors head to the Intermezzo Lounge – among the paparazzi – to mingle, chat and sip champagne. Seen in the lounge was sponsor and honorary chair, Jeannik Littlefield with her son, Jacques Littlefield and his wife Sandy, and her daughter, Denise Sobel and her husband Norman Keller.

Other production sponsors were Bernard and Barbara Osher and Joan and David Traitel, honorary chair, Cynthia Fry Gunn with her husband, SFO board member John Gunn and their son Matt Gunn with Kate Larsen, daughter of board member Tom Larsen and wife Shelia.

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Dr. Robert Harvey and Patricia Pope

Another grouping included board member, honorary chair, and grand sponsor DeDe Wilsey with her son Trevor Traina and his wife Alexis; beautiful Patsy Pope in a blue ball gown from Paris; and other Board members Doreen Woo Ho andher husband James Ho; Carol Franc Buck; and Athena Troxel Blackburn with her husband, Timothy Blackburn.

Delia Ehrlich told me that her parents, Janet and Mortimer Fleishhacker, always took her to the opera as a child. “We sat in Box M every opening night,” she reminisced. “Tonight, I’m even wearing my mother’s vintage gown, earrings and necklace. She shopped in Paris at Balmain and Madame Gres and was always on the best-dressed list.”

After two more acts and another intermission – hey, at least it wasn’t Wagner – it was on to the Opera Balls!

After the performance opera devotee Jock McBaine said, “David Gockley and a newly reenergized board of directors are slowly but markedly improving musical standards at San Francisco Opera. And with the arrival of new Musical Director Nicola Luisotti in 2009, as well as an upcoming endowment drive, the future at SFO now looks bright indeed.”

THE OPERA BALLS

After the performance, guests were ravenous for the succulent dinner and swarmed the Opera Ball Pavilion. Cheryl Baxter and Marybeth La Motte, 2007 Opera Guild Ball co-chairs, looked spectacular wearing Emanuel Ungaro gownsin brilliant shades of indigo and amethyst, and jewels by Boucheron, both sponsors of the evening with Wells Fargo.

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Ken Monnens and Maria Manetti
Farrow in Valentino

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John Gunn and Cynthia Fry Gunn

Event sponsors Dr. Isha and Asim Abdullah now own the House of Ungaro so naturally, Isha was wearing a strapless, flowing violet and teal mousseline gown by Ungaro – who else?

The dinner sponsor was the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe law firm, headed by Cheryl’s husband, Ralph Baxter. Apparently, pillow talk can be charitable! “We sold out months in advance and raised over $1 million – the highest ever!” Cheryl said.

Co-sponsors of the production, Barbra and Bernard Osher, celebrated Bernard’s80th birthday with 75 of his closest friends. Joan Snitzer and her husband Irwin Levy came all the way from Texas to honor the man who once owned the prestigious Butterfield & Butterfield auction house. Acquired by eBay in 1999, and by Bonhams in 2002, the old San Francisco firm is now known as Bonhams & Butterfields.

Robert Fountain created opulent Indian-inspired décor with tablecloths, chairs covers and custom made tapestries in rich, warm hues of red, maroon, and gold. Each table setting for a lavish feast, catered by Paula Leduc, was set with gold-rimmed glasses.

Centerpieces of purple and green artichokes, quince, grapes, plums, figs, and pomegranates nestled enticingly among aromatic mango and crimson calla lilies, burgundy sweet William and black dahlias.

Katie Jarman, co-chair of the 2005 Opera Ball, said, “A balmy night in San Francisco always puts opening night opera goers in a wonderful mood. The opulence of the tent with its columns, lush fabrics, low lighting and scantily-clad guards just added to an already high energy evening.”

Seen dancing to Bill Hopkins Rock’n Orchestra was Cheryl and Ralph’s daughter Ashley Baxter, who was celebrating her 10th birthday. How will her parents ever top this one?

Opera patrons attending included Cathie Johnson, Robert Mailer Anderson with Nicola Miner in Balenciaga, Leslie Hume, Mr. and Mrs. Bandel Carano, Molly and James Crownover, Lynne Edminster and Brian Atwood, Barlow Ferguson, Ann and Gordon Getty, and Susie and Pat McBaine.

Also there to support were Gretchen Kimball, Bob and Maura Morey, Lonna Wais, Shariq Yosufzai, Claude and Katie Jarman, Judith and John Renard, Nion Tucker McEvoy, Jim and Penny Coulter, Barbara Brown, Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and Markos Kounalakis, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and his wife Ruth, Marshall and Deborah Wais, and Steven McClellan and Elizabeth Barlow.

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Shell and Craig Cardon, and Charlot and Gregory Malin

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Donna and Chuck Huggins

Along with Joy Venturini Bianchi, Brandt Hooker, Dr. Barry Barron and Connie Goodrich Barron, Chuck and Donna Huggins, Chandra and Robert Friese, LindaKempner and Vera Carpeneti and New Yorkers Adelina Wong Ettelson, Christine Cachot Williams, and William Ettelson.

As well as former SF mayor Willie Brown, Robin Collins in Valentino, Phoebe Cowles, Chal de Guigne, Christine de Limur, Gail De Martini, Tom Kravis, Bernie Hagan, Lois Lehrman, Charlot and Gregory Malin, Dr. Alan Malouf, Susan and Bill Oberndorf, Robyn Paret, Paul Pelosi, Jennifer and Richard Smith, and Lisa Stevens-Gallo.

Rounding out the SRO crowd: philanthropists Diana and Tad Taube (heads of the Koret foundation), Jim Schneider and Barbara Brookins-Schneider in a Chinese-inspired Yves St. Laurent, Afsaneh Akhtari in Ungaro, Victor Thomas, whose father was opera singer Jess Thomas, Dr. Melina Jampolis, Kimberly Bakker in vintage McFadden, Craig Cardon with his wife Shell,in vintage Bill Blass, Nicolo and Kimberly Bini in from their new home in LA, and stunning Amber Marie Bently in a lime green Ungaro.

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Jim Schneider and Barbara
Brookins-Schneider

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Elizabeth and Kip Thieriot

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Pitch Johnson, Linda Kemper, and David
Gockley

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Serge Sorokko watches wife Tatiana,
a former model in Ralph Rucci

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Lucy and John Buchanan,
de Young Museum director

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Nicole Miner and Robert Mailer Anderson
(on right) with friends

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Joy Venturini Bianchi and Brandt Hooker

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Sally Debenham in Oscar de la Renta
and John Capizzi

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Former Mayor Willie Brown and
Sonya Molodetskaya

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Amber Marie Bently
in Ungaro

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Gretchen and Howard Leach,
former Ambassador to France

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Vera Carpeneti and Edgar Stone

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Robert Shwarts and Joni Binder
in Carolina Herrera

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Claude and Katie Jarman

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Mayor Gavin Newsom and
Jennifer Siebel in Maggie Norris

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Adrianna Pope Sullivan and
Bobby Sullivan

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Strike a pose

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Jennifer Siebel, Kimberly Bini, and
Kimberly Bakker

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Exotic dancers

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Francis Barlow, Joan Traitel, and
Genelle Relfe

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Sobia Shaikh

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Lonna Weiss and
Dennis Modrich

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Bobo Fredricki
and Toni Wolfson

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Dennis Flynn and Afasneh Akhtari

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Andreas Rippel, Fariba Rezvani,
Adelina Ettelman, and Jorge Maumer

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Lizette Bruckstein and Jason Sloan

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Heide Betz and Scotty Morris

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Ed and Rosemary Baker

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David Gockley, Jeannik Littlefield, and Sandy and Jacques
Littlefield

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Enjoying the terrace with the view of City Hall

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Amber Marie and Christopher Bently

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Michael and Susan Kulick admire
the Lexus, a sponsor

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Karen Caldwell

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Dr. Alan Malouf

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Maria Quiros, Vaughn Mulder, and
Dr. Melina Jampolis

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Dolly Chammas and Isha Abdullah

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Costume designer Carrie Robbins and
Douglas Schmidt, set designer

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Marybeth LaMotte and Cheryl Baxter

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Birthday boy Bernard Osher with Texan
Joan Shnitzer

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Clara Shayevich

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Decor by Robert Fountain

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Dr. Gunther Haller and Lyhn, in Oscar

BRAVO! CLUB Opening Night Gala

Meanwhile, across the street under the gilded dome of City Hall, another sold-out event rocked the house. Co-chairs Michelle Marie Robertson and Sean Cullen presented Bravo! Club’s 16th annual black-tie gala for over 450 people.

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Bravo’s after party at City Hall

To bring to life the Golden Hollywood Ball theme, Hartmann Studios masterfully re-created Cecil B. DeMille’s version of Samson and Delilah. I stopped by after my party finished, only to find this party still going strong. The dance floor was packed and pulsing with the music of The Fundamentals.

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Bravo Party – Roberta Economidis

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Thomas Banks and Kristen Weiers

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Enjoying the Bravo Party

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Christina and Isabela Robinson

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Chris Bergers, Kelly Grimes, and Travis Rogers

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Bravo’s younger set dance the night away

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Heading home after a long night

Late Late Nighters

A lucky few continued the festivities with a fabulous after party-party at Isha and Asim Abdullah’s penthouse where we sipped champagne into the wees. Such scenery and all that understated Euro-charm – it would have made Delilah jealous all over again.

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Midnight at the Abdullah’s, Lonna Weiss and Dennis Modrich

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Dr. Gunther and Lyhn Haller in Ocsar

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Ken Monnens, Maria Manetti Farrow, Marybeth LaMotte, and Kimberly Bakker

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Jorge Maumer with Dolly and George Chammas

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Joel Goodrich and Christina de Limur

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Justin Fichelson and Fariba Rezvani

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Bringin’ sexy back

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Yes, he wore it to the opera – John Ocker,
Marybeth LaMotte, and Diane Wynne

The Giants and SF Opera Partner

Several weeks later, the San Francisco Giants’ COO Larry Baer and Gockley in partnership presented to the community the Opera in the Ballpark combining high art with hot dogs, peanuts, and crackerjacks.

More than 5,000 fans flocked to the free HD broadcast of Samson and Delilah on the 103ft. wide Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision video scoreboard at the AT&T Park. Could this be a new era for Opera?

See Related: SAMSON AND DELILAH – L’Amour et Glamour On the Re-Bound at SAN FRANCISCO OPERA

See Related: STAGE
ELEPHONE wins the “Build Your Own Ball” Contest

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY rolled out an innovative community campaign, BUILD YOUR OWN BALL, inviting the public to play a role in selecting entertainment, fashion and the official cocktail for the upcoming 2008 Black & White Ball, Saturday, May 31st, at the Civic Center’s War Memorial Performing Arts Center. ELEPHONE, the catchy four-piece band from San Francisco’s Mission District has won the battle of the bands and will be the opening act at the Van Ness Avenue Stage at 9:00 PM. The members of elephone are a cross between Frank Lloyd Wright and Charlie Chaplin, a mighty gorrilla in a man suit. They don’t believe in the story of Santa Claus, keeping it real or the two drink minimum. Listening to elephone is shivering, moving, cinematic, dynamic, dark and literary. By making honest music for dishonest times, elephone will change everything about everything, everywhere, all the time. General Admission Party Pass tickets ($200 per person) are now on sale. AT&T is the Presenting Sponsor of the 2008 Black & White Ball.

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ELEPHONE

The 2008 Black & White Ball will begin at 5 p.m. with three different VIP receptions and dinners prior to a special performance by three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Seal in Davies Symphony Hall at 8:00 PM. Beginning at 9:00 PM, there will be “dancing in the streets” when the Ball takes flight with 12 different bands on multiple stages throughout the War Memorial Performing Arts Center before giving way to the big “Midnight Surprise.” The Ball will conclude at 1:00 AM. Build Your Own Ball encourages the public to play a role in selecting several elements of the 2008 Black and White Ball. The public will have an opportunity to vote for one of three Bay Area indie rock bands, with the winning band scheduled to perform at the Ball. The three finalists are Elephone, Minipop, and the all-girl quartet, The Hot Toddies. The selected band will perform a 75-minute set on the prominent Van Ness Avenue Main Stage beginning at 9:00 PM.

Also voted into the winners’s circle is a couture gown by Bay Area designer Sara Shepherd (to be worn by Event Chair Patricia Sprincin) and as the “official cocktail of the Ball” – a Grey Goose Vodka concoction, “The Orchard Martini”. [See recipe below.]

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Gown, by Sara Shepherd & The Orchard Martini – with Grey Goose Vodka

The entertainment roster for the 2008 Black & White Ball features an impressive array of nationally renowned musical groups spanning the sounds of Latin and Brazilian beats, American roots country and rockabilly, and traditional big band styles to a Beatles-inspired cover band, smooth jazz, classic rock, and edgy hip hop sound: Marianne Kent and Bay Society Dance Band, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Boca Do Rio, Pete Escovedo Latin/Jazz Orchestra, Big Bang Beat!, Larry Vuckovich Jazz/Latin Quintet, Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra featuring Faye Carol, The Sun Kings, DJ Afrika Bambaataa, Dick Bright’s SRO, and Blues Traveler.

The auction continues now through May 29th, with a live event taking place on May 31, 2008 at the Black & White Ball Patrons’ Dinner. Items purchased here through “Buy Now” will be awarded immediately. Items not purchased at the guaranteed bid price will be awarded at the close of the online portion of the auction provided the reserve price has been met. Proceeds will benefit Adventures In Music. The auction items include exotic vacation getaways to exclusive event tickets you cannot get any where but here! So, tell your friends, family, community. Let the bidding begin! BID NOW!

Meet the performing artists of this year’s Black and White Ball:

SEAL – This spectacular Pop vocalist and songwriter has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide since his emergence from Britain’s house music/rave scene. He catapulted to fame with his 1991 U.S. Top Ten single “Crazy” from his eponymous album, a genre-defying fusion of soul, pop, rock, R&B, and propulsive grooves that announced the arrival of an innovative new talent. His second album featured the single “Prayer for the Dying,” receiving a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. A second single, “KISS FROM A ROSE” won multiple Grammy Awards for “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year” in 1996. In 2007, Seal returned with his latest album, the up-tempo “System” which features the Grammy-nominated single “AMAZING” .

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SEAL – and CD cover of SYSTEM

BLUES TRAVELER, best known for their 1994 hit “RUN-AROUND”, Blues Traveler plays thumping blues-rock with ease. Balancing renowned musicianship with accessible song craft that blends pop hooks with blues- and rock-influenced grooves, the band plays explosive live performances. The band is revered for its epic sets, and for transforming the jam scene in the early ’90s via its beloved H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) festivals.

DJ AFRIKA BAMBAATAA is a legendary pioneer of hip-hop music. As the “Godfather of Hip-Hop,” he is known for his ground-breaking use of samples from all genres of music, as represented by his formidable hit Planet Rock. His influence continues to be felt in many styles of electronic, techno and dance music today. He has collaborated with a variety of musicians including James Brown, Little Steven Van Zandt, Boy George, George Clinton, Nona Hendryx, and Lou Reed.

DICK BRIGHT’S SRO is a 19-member group and one of the best party bands around. The band, led by emcee Dick Bright, features string, horn and rhythm sections as well as vocalists and dancers that are dedicated to making every performance unforgettable fun. They constantly update their repertoire of dance hits from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s making sure there is something to please everyone and get them on the dance floor.

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PETE ESCOVEDO

PETE ESCOVEDO LATIN/JAZZ ORCHESTRA – Legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo is an artist who broke down the barriers between smooth jazz, salsa, Latin jazz and contemporary music. Escovedo has played with legendary musicians including Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Bobbie McFerrin, Boz Scaggs and many others. Today Escovedo leads one of the top Latin jazz orchestras in the country performing his own unique sound.

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BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS

BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS specialize in American roots music – western swing, rockabilly and traditional country. They create original dance music that is influenced by some of their musical heroes including Chuck Berry, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Etta James and Junior Parker. The band has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry and on the “Late Show with Conan O’Brien”.

MARIANNE KENT AND BAY SOCIETY bring you back to the days of the big bands. This ten-member group performs standards, show tunes and swing. Bandleader Kent sings songs made popular by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee and many others.

MARCUS SHELBY Jazz Orchestra plays acoustic bass with his 15 piece jazz orchestra. Featuring Faye, the MSJO is comprised of some of the Bay Areas most respected and sought after young musicians including Rob Barics, Gabe Eaton, Darren Johnston and Danny Grewen. Shelby and his bandmates perform original compositions as well as a broad survey of arrangements from great jazz big band composers Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.

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MARCUS SHELBY & FAYE CAROL

THE SUN KINGS – a Bay Area-based tribute band, plays the Beatles vast songbook brilliantly. Accomplished musicians and life long Beatles fans, they recreate the trademark harmonies and orchestrations with precise attention to detail. They perform with a rock ‘n’ roll energy and passion that recalls the Beatles earliest gigs in Hamburg and Liverpool. This five-member band does not strive to look like the Fab Four, they simply play the Beatles music as it should be heard.

BIG BANG BEAT is one of the Bay Area’s favorite party bands and they will keep audiences moving on the dance floor. Their music ranges from ’60s Motown, ’70s funk to dance hits from the ’80s and ’90s. Critics have called them a “surrealistic soul sensation.”

BOCA DO RIO – this Brazilian soul music is a blend of jazz improvisation and Brazilian roots music—samba, reggae and music of the African diaspora. Kevin Welch—Boca’s leader, composer, guitarist, and vocalist—has assembled a superb team of Brazilian and American musicians to perform “soulful samba and funk-laden grooves to get the whole room shaking.”

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BOCA DO RIO

LARRY VUCKOVICH Jazz/Latin Quintet. Pianist Vuckovich has been a mainstay of the San Francisco jazz scene since he arrived in 1951. This group performs original songs, film noir classics, swinging bebop, post-bop, Latin/Brazilian, flamenco, blues, and more. The only piano student of Vince Guaraldi, Vuckovich is also known for his 25-year association with vocalist Jon Hendrix. His Jazz/Latin Quintet features Akira Tana on drums and Hector Lugo on Latin percussion, among other musicians.

To order tickets on-line: BLACK AND WHITE BALL, 2008
To view auction item on line: BID NOW!

RECIPE – THE ORCHARD MARTINI:
1 ½ parts GREY GOOSE® Vodka
1 part Apple Cider
½ parts maple syrup
Cinnamon sugar for rimming the glass
1 lemon wedge for rimming the glass
Lemon twist for garnish
Place the cinnamon sugar on a plate, rub the juicy side of the lemon wedge on the outside lip of the glass, then roll in the sugar. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice squeeze the leftover lemon wedge and drop in shaker, add GREY GOOSE® Vodka, Apple Cider, maple syrup. Shake vigorously. Strain into seasoned martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Seán recommends these CDs for your Popular Library:
SYSTEM. Seal’s fifth studio album includes Eric Schermerhorn (guitars); Chris Bruce (acoustic guitar); Bill Bottrell (Mellotron).
FOUR. Featuring Blues Traveler band members Tad Kinchla, Chan Kinchla, John Popper, Ben Wilson, Brendan Hill and the hit “Run-Around”.
FLYING SOUTH – with Pete Escovedo. Selections include All This Love, Esta Noche, Canto Para Chango, El Alma de Carnival, etc.
BOCA DO RIO. Featuring Kevin Welch (guitar), Jon Evans (bass guitar), Dan Foltz (drums), Alex Calatayud (pandeiro), and Larry De La Cruz (percussion).

Visit Seán on YouTube
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield

For related articles and interviews:
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S 2009 SEASON – Includes World Premiere of All-New Swan Lake by Helgi Tomasson
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – Now at The Curran Theatre
A CONVERSATION WITH MAESTRO HELMUTH RILLING
BLUE BEAR LIVE III – Friday, May 9th at Great American Music Hall
RICHARD C. BARKER – Named Chair of San Francisco Ballet’s Board of Trustees
SAN FRANCISCO CONCERT CHORALE PRESENTS – THE BACH EXPERIENCE
7 SINS – EXTENDED AT THEATRE RHINO THROUGH MAY 17th
ANTIQUE ROADSTERS RACE FROM NOB HILL – THE 2008 SAN FRANCISCO MILLE
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN – Restored Film Noir Classic at SF International Film Festival
BERNARD LABADIE & HAYDN – This Week At the San Francisco Symphony
VETERAN SERVICE PROVIDER PATTI CARLISE WED AT EPICENTER OF SAN FRANCISCO’S HEART
TANGO EVOLUTION – At the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, April 19th – 22nd
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL – At the Orpheum, San Francisco
CHERYL BURKE DANCE – Dancing with Gavin and Jennifer
DALE CHIHULY – Lighting-Up At The de Young
At the Asian Art Museum – DRAMA AND DESIRE
LORENA FEIJÓO – A Conversation with Seán Martinfield
ANNIE LEIBOVITZ – On her show at the Legion of Honor
JENNIFER SIEBEL – A Conversation with Seán Martinfield
SWEENEY TODD – PRIME CUTS FROM DIRECTOR TIM BURTON
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY – 14th Season with Michael Tilson Thomas
ANITA COCKTAIL and LEANNE BORGHESI – A 3-Way Dialogue
GILBERT & GEORGE – A Debut, at the de Young February 16th – May 18th
SAN FRANCISCO OPERA Announces 86th Season – 11 Operas, 78 Performances

sean-martinfield-250-pixels-new-sentinel-mug.jpg
Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com.

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AMERICAN’S FAVORITE CITY THIS YEAR? – San Francisco

Conde Nast Traveler 20th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards ranks San Francisco as the “Best-of-the-Best”. San Francisco has earned the number one spot among US Cities for the 18th consecutive year.

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Mayor Newsom announced today that San Francisco has again taken top honors asthe country’s number one city.

Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, considered as one of the world’s top travel and destination guides, has ranked the city of San Francisco as the top travel destination among US Cities for the 18th consecutive year.

San Francisco has garnered the number one spot 18 out of the 19 years the magazine has conducted its reader’s poll. In its 20th annual Readers’ Choice Awards to be featured in next month’s edition, approximately 28,000 readers choose San Francisco as their top travel destination.

“This is an exceptional honor that speaks volumes to the genuine hospitality visitors experience while visiting our City,” noted the Mayor.

“San Francisco is proud of its diversity that keeps visitors comingback year after year.”

San Francisco was followed by New York City and Charleston, SC in the Top Cities – United StateS category.

Each city was judged according to specific criteria such as ambiance, friendliness, culture/sites, and restaurants, lodging and shopping.

Full details will be published in the November issue of Conde Nast Traveler available on newsstands on October 25th.

Conde Nast Traveler Magazine is known for its insider travel tips, well-respected writers, and beautiful pictorials featuring some of the most scenic and inviting places in the world to visit.

The magazine does not accept free travel and accommodations, and its correspondents, as far as possible, travel anonymously.

The annual Reader’s Choice Awards are voted on by readers who rank what they consider to be the best-of-the-best in the world of travel including islands, cities, resorts, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and rental car companies.

See Related: NEWSOM CAMPAIGN

See Related: TRAVEL

See Related: LOCAL POLITICS

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FAMED ORIGINAL JOE’S RESTAURANT not operational following morning fire

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Customers enjoying lunch at Original Joe’s in San Francisco today were rushed from the restaurant mid-meal when a fire broke out, according to the San Francisco Fire Department.

The Italian restaurant famous for its leather booths closed after a fire in the building burned for more than an hour today and caused significant damage, Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

The flames were reported at 11:42 a.m. at Original Joe’s, located
at 144 Taylor St., according to Talmadge.

The blaze appeared to have ignited in a flue at the restaurant and forced firefighters to attack the structure, including the hotel above, to access the burning areas, said Talmadge.

Approximately 100 firefighters battled the blaze.

They tore open the walls and roof to access the flames, according to Talmadge.

The fire was controlled by 12:50 p.m., Talmadge said.

About 10 of the 30 units in the hotel above the restaurant are uninhabitable, Talmadge said.

“The building definitely needs to be repaired and boarded up,” she added.

Talmadge said the Red Cross is assisting with at least two residents who were displaced.

No injuries were reported in the fire, Talmadge said.

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SIR RICHARD BRANSON black robed as Father Richard for zany party inaugurating Virgin American flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas

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Sir Richard Branson
File Photo

BY ARI BURACK

Upstart airline Virgin America eased back the throttle on its inaugural flight today between San Francisco and Las Vegas with a lavish, zany bash featuring billionaire Sir Richard Branson, a bevy of minor celebrities, showgirls, champagne, a wedding couple and a lounge singer.

The San Francisco-based airline announced three daily flights between San Francisco International Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, offering $44 one-way regular fares and $149 first-class fares.

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Photo by Bill Wilson

The elaborate and often comical event, befitting the two offbeat cities, played out this morning in SFO’s International Terminal as a beaming Branson descended from an escalator dressed in blue jeans and a black priest’s cassock, a large bejeweled silver cross dangling from his neck.

“Father” Richard, as airline CEO Fred Reid introduced him, was ordained as a Universal Life Church minister in order to perform a mid-air wedding ceremony for one of the airline’s employees on today’s first flight.

The 57-year-old founder of Virgin Group, and a minority investor in Virgin America, smiled and greeted onlookers warmly as San Francisco lounge singer Mr. Lucky crooned, “It’s Branson’s way!” to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” and Las Vegas showgirls in red posed in the background.

Other attendees included Carmen Electra and Kyla Ebbert, a young woman recently removed from a Southwest Airlines flight for an outfit the airline reportedly found too revealing.
“We promise you can come dressed like that anytime,” Branson told Ebbert. “By the way,” he added, resuming his priestly duties, “you are forgiven for it.”

“We do a lot of airline events, but none of them are like this,” SFO marketing manager Jane Sullivan laughed.

Still only about two months in the air, “Virgin is still a very young baby,” Branson said, “but I think it’s done fantastically well.”

The airline plans to add two more daily roundtrip flights beginning Nov. 4.

Of his visionary Virgin Galactic program to offer suborbital spacecraft flights to the public for $200,000 per person, Branson said today the project remains on track.

The program suffered a setback during a testing accident at its Mojave facility in July in which three employees died.

“It’s still just about 18 months from launch,” Branson said.

He added that the first flight will likely take off from the Mojave desert, carried up into the atmosphere from a mother ship he plans on naming “The Spirit of Steve Fossett,” after the explorer who went missing a month ago during a flight in Nevada.

“I’ll be going up on the first flight with my parents and my children,” an exuberant Branson said. “For some reason, my wife doesn’t want to go,” he grinned.

See Related: TRAVEL

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photographer
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and East Bay media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past three years.

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SAN FRANCISCO ITALIAN NEIGHBORHOOD RUNS THE SHOW, Angels fly, and the Castro struts its stuff

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BY PAT MURPHY
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

Phil Stefani, a well manicured rock hard Chicago Italian American, knows neighborhood when he sees it.

Living, defending, celebrating neighborhood as only Italian descendants can exult, Stefani left Chicago behind again this year.

It is in San Francisco, Stefani told the Sentinel, where true neighborhood celebration of Italian Heritage Day is found.

Stefani joined his bloodline San Francisco neighborhood, spread half-way out onto Stockton Street, emanating from patriarch North Beach Restauraunt, tables set with best linens, full silverware complement, with white shirt and black tie waiters attending proper, towel neatly folded over shoulder, as restauraunt owner son Marco Pedroni stood parade duty making sure each passing float participant received white wine with napkin.

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And Poppa Lorenzo Pedroni, oh Poppa, graced commentary for the exultant, the senior Pedroni frocked in white religious alb, portable michrophone used timely, properly in Poppa Pedroni’s broad hand.

Visiting Stefani succinted his hometown.

“We’re from Chicago,” Stefani deep baritoned it and stared back.

“We come to this parade every year for the past six years,” reflected Stefani.

“San Francisco does a great Heritage Parade — it’s a community parade.

“I mean, we have a big parade in Chicago which is televised, and it’s a big deal, but this is about bringing the people to the parade instead of the parade to the people.”

More than any year previous, this year’s celebration had the feel of genuine neighborhood, came the most common observation, with tables also spread onto Columbus Avenue.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, now master of not just Italian phrases but Italian accent too, sat near Poppa Pedroni’s wing, accompanied by Jennifer Siebel, in the company of Matriarch Pedroni, Newsom hopping tables to sing Happy Birthday with Poppa Pedroni to gigling October Seventhers.

And — for hours — all passing stopped to salute neighborhood heartland, as tables were abandoned for spontaneous in-the-street Mambo Italiano, children swarmed to latest float the young mayor climbed atop to toss Hersey kisses and beaded Italian Colors which don’t run, either.

Overhead, above a magical City, the Blue Angels flew angelically.

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Photo by Tom De Stefani

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Photo by Tom De Stefani

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Secretary of State George Bush and United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) welcome the military.
Photo by Tom De Stefani

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California and San Francisco Chief of Protocol Charlotte Schultz and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom bid the Navy stay awhile.
Photo by Tom De Stefani

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Photo by Tom De Stefani

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Photo by David Toerge

Poppa Pedroni took the microphone on his own behalf only once.

“We live in the greatest country in the world,” intoned Lorenzo Pedtroni.

“We want to keep it this way, and please we have to work all together to keep it this way.

“This is the greatest country in the world — believe me — I’m 70-years-old and I know a little bit about it!

Newsom dismissed as irrelevant those who suggested San Francisco is anti-military.

“And that somehow this City didn’t care about the men and women in uniform — again that couldn’t be further from the truth, represented by someone like that supervisor.

“The majority of the Board of Supervisors and the majority of San Franciscans rejected that.

“I think what makes this City a great city is that we allow that speech, we allow people to have a different point of view, and that’s the ultimate expression of libery, that’s the ultimate promise of the Constitution that we can celebrate that diversity.

“But still maintain a majority position that says, ‘We value the men and women in uniform. We value Fleet Week and what it does for this City and our Naval hisjtory and heritage. We honor those who sacrificed so much, our veterans, for all of us.’

“You know, words matter and I’ve heard from the Navy and the Marines that it’s affected them — some of the rhetoric coming out of San Francisco this year.

“We’re doing our best to try to establish some foundation of support that’s been here for decades, and let them know that just because some politcal people say some things doesn’t mean that the majority of us feel that way.”

That message, too, got out to visiting sailors interspersed in the crowd.

“It’s awesome,” Ray Williams told the Sentinel.

Williams is stationed on the USS Vandergriff, rank E5-IC2.

“Everybody here has been super friendly.

“Everybody has been really receptive of the Navy.

“It’s been a great impression of your City so far — everybody’s been super friendly.”

Shipmate Arthur Neumann, rank E4-ET3, echoed Williams.

“It’s been wonderful, as he said, everybody’s been really receptive,” Neumann stated.

“Everybody’s been really friendly — it’s always nice to come to a new port, see all the people.”

Across town, the Castro Street Fair showed the world nice.

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Castro Street Fair showcased art and artists.
Photo by Bill Wilson

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Stained glass and art work part of booth at Castro Street Fair.
Photo by Bill Wilson

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Chris Honeysett, photographer, named Best of Show.
Photo by Bill Wilson

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Betty’s List founder, Dr. Betty Sullivan enjoys sitting a spell with friends during the Castro Street Fair.
Photo by Bill Wilson

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During the afternoon, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence sainted three police officers, Officer Jane “Saint Patroller of Privates” Warner, Sergeant Mark “Saint SWAT their Asses” Solomon, and Officer Lisa “Saint Guardian of the Hood” Frazier.
Photo by Bill Wilson

With San Francisco Police Officers right proper sainted, the San Francisco holiday weekend closed, routine in grandeur.

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DAVID TOERGE
Sentinel Photographer
When David Toerge left a career in photojournalism that had spanned over twelve years and started in a new direction of commercial photography he blended the editorial style with a more corporate look. David led the way in that new style garnering many awards for his work. Communications Arts has honored him over six times. Based in San Francisco, David shoots projects on location all over the US for various corporations and a multitude of magazines and always brings back great images. He has a keen sense of light, color, and composition and delivers to his clients assignments done with passion. He has climbed bridges hundreds of feet in the air, shot in caves hundreds of feet below, dived with sharks and driven the track with Indy drivers. He has shot earthquakes and firestorms but loves walking the streets with his camera just photographing the everyday life of his city.

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photographer
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and East Bay media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past three years.

PAT MURPHY
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
In his youth, Pat Murphy worked as a General Assignment reporter for the Richmond Independent, the Berkeley Daily Gazette, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He served as Managing Editor of the St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger at age 21. Murphy also launched ValPak couponing in San Francisco, as the company’s first San Francisco franchise owner. He walked the bricks, developing ad strategy for a broad range of restaurants and merchants. Pat knows what works and what doesn’t work. His writing skill has been employed by marketing agencies, including Don Solem & Associates. He has covered San Francisco governance for the past ten years. Pat scribes an offbeat view of the human family through Believe It or What.

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GAY FRIENDLY FLIGHTS TO SAN FRANCISCO sponsored by Southwest Airlines and San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau

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A new ad campaign launched by the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau in coordination with Southwest Airlines will attempt to increase the number of gay and lesbian travelers visiting the city, officials announced Wednesday.

The $180,000 tourism campaign will focus on advertising and marketing tactics, including ticket giveaways and informational mailers, officials said.

The Visitors Bureau will partner with Southwest, termed “the airline of gay and lesbian San Francisco,” for at least one year.

The bureau previously launched a tourism campaign for gay and lesbian couples in May, when a part of its website was dedicated to gay travel.

The website features a Gay Travel section that delineates gay-friendly neighborhoods and events for couples to explore while visiting the Bay Area. Southwest also launched a gay-friendly travel website.

“We are thrilled to partner with Southwest Airlines to welcome more gay and lesbian visitors to San Francisco,” San Francisco Visitors Bureau President Joe D-Alessandro said in a prepared statement.

See Related: TRAVEL, DINING, and STAGE

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TRAVELING TO MOSCOW – A boomtown at the beginning of the 21st century

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Moscow night from the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski along the Moscow River. 1:30 AM. Photo: JH.

Moscow is a boomtown at the beginning of the 21st century. A boomtown amidst the ancient fortresses and centuries old buildings. There are tall cranes and construction all over this far-flung city. The lobby of the Baltschug Kempinski where we are staying is pulsating with the entreprenurial feeling. And the feeling, not so incidentally to this Westerner is easily identifiable. We call it freedom.

In the hotel lobby at four o’clock in the afternoon (high tea), it is mainly men in suits, although there are many more casually dressed in jeans and pullover sweaters that reveal their rich diets. Jeans are everywhere, on all ages, types and sizes. Jeans, as some may have forgotten, are an American invention, invented for other boomtowns in other boom times.

The men in the hotel lobby sit around in groups of two or four or six, someone occasionally smoking a cigar, and discussing. In Russian. Discussing what I cannot say. I can’t understand one word of the language. But it appears to be serious. The intent is serious. With the occasional laughter interspersed.

Cars pull up to the hotel door, just ten yards from the lobby — Mercedes, BMWs, Japanese models (no American so far), dropping off, picking up more businessmen. Occasionally there is a woman present (besides the women on the hotel staff). She often has shopping bags with her. Luxury shopping bags, that is. And she is wearing jeans too, and maybe a form fitting sweater and some jewelry, and always high heels. Her hair is often blonde or deeply hennaed or both. Women’s hair color is a big thing in Moscow, and often a combination with pink or mauvish highlights — all of it a bid for keeping up with the fashion.

The fashion for the men is more traditional. The Russians’ suits are usually boxier. And their shoes are usually black and longer in the toe, and frequently unshined and scruffy looking (although there is a bootblack often languishing just around the corner from the lobby). The very prosperous also have beautiful shoes which are shined. The cut of the Westerners’ suits are often more shaped to the form of the body, although not necessarily bespoke. The exceptionally well-dressed have no nationality, just a need to express their prosperity in style. They are the cut above.

In one corner of the lobby is a maquette of the Kempinski that is a-building in Dubai. It is fabulous and makes you daydream about living your life in luxury hotels without a care in the world. Wherever that world is. Not far from the maquette display is a grand piano where a blonde woman with an upswept hairdo plays cocktail piano and I find myself singing the words under my breath:

You must remember this,
A kiss is still a kiss;
A sigh is still a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As Time Goes By.

Yesterday was a busy one for us visitors. At eleven o’clock we were transported by van to the Kremlin for a tour. I would call it the “demystifying tour” for the Kremlin of my lifelong imagination was transformed by this tour. First of all, it is a huge tourist attraction as are our national monuments and buildings. There are also lots and lots of small children in groups. We were part of a group organized by a public relations executive Marilyn White, brought here ostensibly to report on the 3rd annual Moscow World Art Fair. The tour of the Kremlin was a perk.

A guide met us outside. A Russian woman with highly accented but excellent English; full-figured with short blond hair with mauve-ish/pinkish highlights, dressed in a trencchcoat (it has been raining a lot off and on), white blouse and small square ceramic earrings, she had a shopping bag with her also, and looked as if she might be going shopping (for some luxury items) after she finished with us.

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We begin our tour walking towards the Troitskaya (Trinity) Tower, the Kremlin’s tallest tower.

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Built in 1495 by Antonio Bono and Pietro Antonio Solari, the Trinity Tower was crowned with a spire similar to that of the Spasskaya Tower at the end of the 17th century and serves as the main entrance into the Kremlin complex. Chimes were added to the tower in 1686, but were destroyed in 1812 in the fires that raged around Moscow during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.

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Looking towards the buildings which face the walls of the Kremlin, while walking across the stone bridge into the Kremlin.

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A street inside the Kremlin; The Arsenal, just inside the Troitskaya Tower, was commissioned by Peter the Great in 1701 to store weapons and military equipment. Several canons that were captured during the Napoleonic Wars are arranged in front of the building.

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The Senate building, opposite the Arsenal, built between 1776 and 1788 by architect Matvei Kazakov, commissioned by Empress Catherine the Great to house meetings of the Moscow branch of the Senate. The cupola sits above the building’s grand hall, which was formerly used for meetings of the USSR Council of Ministers and the awarding of Lenin Prizes.

The building also used to contain the former quarters of Lenin and Stalin’s study, under which a secret passage was discovered that may have enabled the Director of the Secret Police, Beria, to overhear the dictator’s conversations. In 1991 it became the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation, although Putin does not actually live there.

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The Tsar Cannon cast in 1586 was originally created with the purpose of defending the Kremlin’s Savior Gate, which leads to Red Square, but the canon was never actually fired.

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The State Kremlin Palace was built between 1959 and 1961 to host Party congresses. Its 6,000-seat auditorium now plays hosts to the Kremlin Ballet Company and various Russian pop and rock artists.

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Patriarch’s Palace and Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles. In 1589 the estate was turned into the Patriarch’s Court when Patriarch Iov, the first Patriarch of Moscow and the newly formed Russian state, took up residence there. Subsequent residents included Patriarch Filaret, the father of Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov.

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A group of schoolchildren on the steps of The Cathedral of the Assumption.

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The Cathedral of the Assumption was the place of the coronation of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, in 1547, and all the Emperors from 1721 onwards. Napoleon’s cavalry stabled their horses there. Legend has it that in the winter of 1941, when Nazi troops had already reached the outskirts of Moscow, Stalin gave the secret order for a service to be held in the Cathedral of the Assumption to pray for the country’s salvation; The spacious and light interior covered entirely with glowing frescoes.

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Looking around Cathedral Square with the imposing turrets behind Church of the Deposition of the Robe.

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After going through the brief security check we walked over a bridge that once spanned the Moscow River, through one of the main towers (the oldest of the fortress) onto the Kremlin grounds. The grounds are enormous and parklike, similar to a college campus with lawns, groves of trees, flowerbeds, double-laned roadways, and what the Russians call “squares” but what most Americans would regard as would-be parking lots.

Most buildings are from the 18th century or older with the exception of a very large concrete and glass building which reminded me of Lincoln Center in New York. Not surprisingly it was built around the same time as Lincoln Center. It was originally built for all the Soviet Congresses with an auditorium with a capacity for 6000 people. Today is serves many purposes and most especially as a concert hall. The concerts for children often run as often as three times a day.

Across the way is an enormous yellow building which houses government offices and a great armory originally constructed for Peter the Great. Napoleon came along and lived in the Kremlin for about a month and during that time, or soon thereafter, had the armory blown up in 1812. It was reconstructed a century later. Interestingly, at the Moscow World Art Fair, there is one dealer who sells almost exclusively Napoleonic memorabilia and works of art including busts of the French emperor.

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Two views of Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Napoleon took a great interest in it when he captured Moscow during the campaign of 1812. On hearing that the cross on the central dome of the Cathedral of the Annunciation was made of solid gold, he immediately gave the order for it to be taken down. Unfortunately, the French leader confused the cathedral with the Bell Tower and its gilded iron cross. All attempts by Napoleon to remove the cross failed, and it was only when a Russian peasant volunteered to climb the tower that they were finally able to lower the cross on ropes to the ground. When the peasant approached Napoleon looking for a reward, Napoleon had him shot as a traitor to his own country.

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Tsar Bell, the largest bell in the world, weighing in at 200 tons. Cast in 1655, but not hoisted for another 19 years, it fell to the ground and immediately shattered in the fire of 1701.

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The Cathedral of the Annunciation, Patriarch’s Palace and Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, and Ivan the Great Bell Tower.

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The choristers at The Cathedral of St. Michael.

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The Great Kremlin Palace was commissioned in 1837 by Emperor Nicholas I. The western wing of the palace features the Imperial family’s private apartments and five grandiose state reception rooms, each dedicated to one of the chivalric orders of the Empire. The ground floor of the Grand Kremlin Palace features the Imperial family’s private apartments, which have been carefully preserved as a museum to the Russian Tsarist dynasty.

Our guide led us to the square of churches just beyond this modern building, where the czars were consecrated, crowned and buried. Fifty-six Russian rulers, including Ivan the Terrible are buried there. The czars’ Moscow palace is also on this Square, great yellow and white edifice of five stories. It is there that the Russian presidents now entertain foreign dignitaries and hold receptions, but the palace is no longer permanently occupied. President Putin, for example, does not live in the Kremlin. He has several residences as president but lives mainly in a house outside of Moscow that was once occupied by Vladimir Ulanov Lenin, from which he commutes daily.

On the tour we were taken inside two of the churches — the one where the czars were crowned (and which Napoleon used for a stable and later tried to destroy) and the other where the czars were buried up to Alexander II. The last czar, as we know, was buried very unceremoniously, his body thrown, along with his family and entourage down an abandoned mineshaft in Ekaterinburg. The leadership succeeding Nicholas II, however, preserved the relics and symbols of the previous forms of leadership and religious traditions, despite the finality of its closure in the public consciousness, so that the history remains intact for all to consider.

The tragedy of Nicholas and Alexandra, like the tragedy of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, is personal but not national in the scheme of political changes. However, Mr. Gorbachev’s Perestroika reflects another course in political transformation less violent, and is a tribute to the ability of man to find other solutions for old problems. Reviewing the lives of the czars, one can see easily what a long road it’s been and how much better off the Russian people are today than their forebears were. Touring the grounds of the once foreboding Kremlin, able to see its beauty, its architecture, its religious history, one can also feel a very strong sense of the transformation that has come about just since the ending of the Soviet rule but even moreso since the fall of the autocratic system.

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The grounds of the Kremlin.

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Our tour was concluded after about two hours. We were told that there were several exhibitions in the Kremlin which we were free to view although it was time for us to visit the building just outside the Kremlin wall where the Art Fair was setting up for its Vernissage opening last night. The building is called The Menage. It is very old but completely restored for purposes such as last night.

It was a hub of last minute activity, putting things in place, putting down the final carpeting, adjusting the lighting. Everywhere you turned people were on cellphones or chatting with colleagues, in a rush for the big night.

We toured the place and JH photographed many of the booths. We’ve seen a number of art fairs at this stage of the game and so are able to quickly assess the differences and the styles. There were approximately 70 dealers participating in this Moscow World Fine Art Fair from Paris and Geneva and Moscow, along with jewelers from all over the world. There was a difference, however, in that this one was designed most specifically for the Russian clientele many of whom are possessors of new (and often large) fortunes. Americans are familiar with their forebears who settled the American West and California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Their tastes run the gamut between the classic and the contemporary and there is a strong inclination for mixing both as freely as entrepreneurs mix their business interests. The whole fair reflects that freshness and newness.

After our tour and photo op, it was time to return to the hotel and deal with the lingering jet lag, which brings me to the matter of transportation around the great city of Moscow.

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Construction abounds outside the Manege, the location of the Moscow World Fine Art Fair.

One of the problems confronting a tourist in a new city anywhere is how to get around. In Moscow, the solution for some might be a van (if you’re in a group) or a hired limousine (if you can afford it). For us it has been a taxi. Now taxis are not so plentiful in this boomtown, compared to New York where yellow cabs are everywhere all the time. Furthermore addresses in this foreign language can be almost as difficult to master as the language itself. The Kremlin, the Kempinski, the Cafe Pushkin are easy for both parties to understand. After that it’s the world of the unknown for the tourist.

The taxi is obtained in one of two ways: you can order one at the restaurant or hotel you are visiting. Or you can go out on the street and hail one down. However, unlike New York, or many American cities, there are very few cars that are marked as taxis. So you stand on the roadside and just raise your hand to hail, hoping that one of the unmarked cars passing by is an available taxi and will stop. Fortunately there are lots of them once you begin this proceess. They see you and pull over.

Then you must negotiate a price — 200 rubles, 300 rubles. The driver might say 800 rubles and you say, 500 rubles, and he may motion you to get in or turn you down. The cars we’ve ridden in are personal cars, often not in very good shape but comfortable enough for the purpose.

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Stuck in traffic, looking through the rain-splattered window at St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square.

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Shots of the opening night crowd at the Moscow World Fine Art Fair

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Benjamin Steinitz and brother Steinitz

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Jenie Dellos

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Stanislas de Quercize

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Moscow models take a break below Salvador Dali.

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The Chanel pearls.

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Exiting the Moscow World Fine Art Fair.

Last night after leaving the fair, we hailed a cab to go to an Italian restaurant called Mario’s which had a very good rating from Zagat’s. (Yes, Zagat is in Moscow too!) The first taxi that stopped didn’t know what we were talking about (“we want to go to Mario’s restaurant”). JH had written down an address but when he repeated it the taxi driver still didn’t know what he was talking about. When JH showed him the address, written in English, he couldn’t read it. So he turned us down. The second driver also couldn’t help. There was a moment (and it has occurred several times on this trip) when you realize that you are completely at the mercy of an individual who does not understand one word of your language and you do not understand one word of his. He could take you anywhere and too bad for you if he does. This did not happen, of course. Taxi drivers are interested in the same thing they are interested in in New York: get the customer to the destination, get the money and move on.

Finally a taxi came along with a driver who did not understand what we were talking about, had never heard of Mario’s restaurant or where it was located. However, he pulled out a map and a magnifying glass and started to look. Finally he said in his Russian: “ahh, Mah-ee-oo.” Yes Yes. “Ressa-awnt.” Yes yes. “Ahh,” he nodded. Then JH said: 400 rubles. He nodded again, and we were off.

It was a bit of a ride to Mario’s, moving quickly through main thoroughfares, down neighborhood streets, around corners, down some more neighborhood streets until the driver began to slow down, as if looking for it. Finally, there it was: a one-story white building with a yellow sign: Mario’s. Now, we were also told that the taxi drivers will accept rubles, or euros or dollars, and that they especially like dollars. The current exchange rate is approximately 27 rubles to a dollar. So I pulled out fifteen bucks American and asked if that would do. He was very pleased.

We were very late for our reservation (9:15 — we arrived at 10) but the staff at Mario’s was very accommodating. The place looks not unlike an Italian restaurant in Greenwich or Westchester. The menu is in Russian and Italian. I’m proficient in neither also pomodoro and tagliatelle may as well be English at this point. The waitstaff (mainly younger men) looked very American to these eyes. It was busy but not crowded. At a big round table next to us, three couples were celebrating one man’s birthday.

We both ordered a tomato, mozzarella and basil starter followed by a dish of pasta and two glasses of Vodka in chilled glasses along with some Pellegrino. At first the waiter didn’t understand when I ordered vodka. Vahd-ka. Hmmm? Finally, Woid-ka, and he smiled acknowledgement and was off.

The dinner was excellent. About fifteen minutes before finishing we asked the hostess if she could get us a taxi. Fifteen minutes later, a young man named Sergei who manages the restaurant, informed us that the taxi had arrived.

This taxi was marked: yellow with a light on top. One of the few. But when we got in, there was no meter working. So it was “the Kempinski” and “400 rubles.” Okay. Returning to the hotel, I kept looking for milestones that were familiar but it wasn’t until we passed through Red Square and the GUM that I began to feel at home once again. It had been raining briefly while we were eating dinner. On arrival at the hotel, we strolled over by the riverside where JH got that great shot of the Moscow night.

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Mario’s manager, Sergei, in front of the restaurant.

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Serving the birthday cake and mixing the pasta at Mario’s.

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THE MOSCOW METRO

New York Social Diary

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ISRAEL RESTAURANTS among world’s best eateries

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BY JORDANA Z

Come fly with me. For the past two weeks I’ve been traveling around Israel seeing the sights and exploring its flavors. For the next two Bits and Morsels I will focus on my Israeli adventure.

I spent four days in Tel Aviv and got a small but very intense taste of the local restaurant scene. One of the things that makes Tel Aviv unique is that there are very old neighborhoods, such as Jaffo, neighboring modern cosmopolitan areas.

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Top to bottom: The outdoor lobby lounge overlooking the Mediterranean, the perfect place for breakfast; My comfy room at the Hilton; Old Jaffa at night.

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I stayed at the Tel Aviv Hilton. The Hilton is on the beach and walking distance to almost everything. One of the highlights of my day was having breakfast in the outdoor lobby lounge overlooking the Mediterranean.

For dinner, I discovered two restaurants in Tel Aviv which quickly became my favorites, Café Noir and Kai.

If you are craving chicken schnitzel then definitely head to Café Noir. The atmosphere there is as relaxed and cozy as the food is good. The best way to start a meal is with a fig martini and the chicken liver pate. Then move onto the chicken schnitzel which is served with a chilled Israeli salad. For dessert, have the crème brulee, which is meant for sharing and served in an elongated olive dish.

Kai Sushi turned out to be one of the more unique sushi experiences I’ve had. The sushi is served on a conveyor belt, so no waiters to contend with, plus you have the added bonus of seeing what your food looks like before you decide what to order. The bar at Kai is a tight fit so you can see the sushi chefs preparing everything as it goes onto the belt. Each plate is a different color representing a different price point. At the end of your dinner you simply count each colored plate and that’s the sum of your meal.

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Above: Kai and its conveyer belt

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My favorite roll was the tuna mango roll. Simple but delicious!

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From Top: Café Noir; Fig martini with fresh figs; Chicken schnitzel; Café Noir’s crème brulee, served in an elongated olive dish; The bar scene.

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New York Social Diary – “Bits and Morsels” by Jordana Z, is an ongoing collection of information from the world of the foodies and foodblogs.

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TOUR DE FORKS – What could be better than dining in Italy

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BY DAVID PATRICK COLUMBIA

What could be better than traveling to Italy with three in-the-know food hounds? Lisa Goldman, Melissa Joachim, and Giuseppe Ricotta don’t think anything beats that! … Which is why, for 5 years now, they’ve been leading culinary tours through Puglia, Sicily, and soon Emilia Romano. The team focuses on uncovering hard-to-find restaurants and specialty ingredients.

One such hidden treasure is a certain squid ink pasta found in Palermo. I’ve been sworn to starchy secrecy about the exact where-abouts of the primo pasta, but it’s tid-bits like that that makes Tour de Forks the number one way to travel to Italy.

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Tour de Forks favorite hotel, Grand Hotel Villea Igiea, Palermo.

The tours usually last about a week and are between $5000 and $8000: a price that includes fantastic food, wine, cooking classes, accommodations, special events, and transportation within the country.

This is the ideal trip for those who want to eat well but don’t want to worry about doing the research to get the inside scoop. The best Italian restaurants are family-run, off-the-beaten path spots that often have no sign, no phone, and no way of getting in unless you know the mama.

Lisa, Melissa, and Giuseppe know many mamas and love to share the big Italian love. Besides surreptitious squid ink, they’ll feed you other Italian delicacies in the sumptuous home of a Baron and Baroness. You’ll dine at a table with a centerpiece that hails directly from Versailles. Goldman says that a successful food tour is about, “finding a balance,” so in addition to gracing the homes of royalty, you’ll head to down-home markets where farmers will wow you with fresh produce, cheese, and the likes.

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Blood oranges, Capo Market, Palermo.

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Fish stall, Capo Market, Palermo.

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Greek Temple, Segesta.

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Cloisters, Monreale.

Tour de Forks caps their tours at twelve people so whether you are at a dinner party or getting a private tour of the markets, it will always be an intimate ordeal. It’s easy to “keep people enthusiastic” with activities like visiting salt marshes, tasting artisanal salame makers, and checking out an olive oil museum. The tours are organized in such a way that no one will get too full to enjoy a single bite, by mixing adventure with relaxation, and light bites with decadent dinners.

Tour de Forks has been featured in New York Magazine, Bon Appétit, and Oggi Magazine. And famed New York City chef, Anita Lo, is a huge fan. She makes a good point about visiting a country as diverse and delicious as Italy: “You could do it on your own, but chances are, even if you have several good guide books, you’re going to be disappointed with more than just a couple of meals, and you won’t get the personalized VIP treatment you get by having a few famous, local food professionals showing you around as you do on Tour de Forks.” It’s true. Who else could show you “elite experiences customarily reserved for restaurant royalty, including jet setting to the island of Pantelleria for a Passito wine tasting or nibbling on sea urchin and bottarga – tuna caviar- while listening to the secrets of Sicily’s star chefs are all standard fare?” I’m sold!

To find out how you can sign up for the quickly filling fall 2007 trips, visit tourdeforks.com.

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See Related: DINING

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TRAVELING TO VENICE – A City in its Glory

Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia

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Disembarking at dock of the Giardini for the Venice Biennale. 6.7.07. Photo: JH.

BY DAVID PATRICK COLUMBIA

We were in Venice a couple of weeks ago, as regular NYSD readers know; ostensibly to cover the Venetian Heritage’s biennale. In its eight years of activity, Venetian Heritage has funded a number of restoration projects both in Venice and in Croatia — which was once part of the Serenissima as Venice was known when it was The Most Serene Republic of Venice (Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia).

The biennale is an opportunity for VH supporters to see, to consider and to appreciate the organization’s work. It is also another opportunity to experience the pleasure of being present in Venice. It is an extraordinary trip and we were very fortunate to be invited along to see and to learn and to enjoy (a tiny word for such an enormous experience).

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Hotel Europa

That week was also the time of the 52nd Venice Biennale, considered by some to be the most venerable of all the international art shows. This event drew thousands of people from from all over the globe – dealers, collectors, art historians, artists, fans, art lovers, people in the art business and art groupies. And so there was an ongoing excitement in the air. For a moment there it seemed as if all of Venice was enveloped in the Biennale We were staying in the Europa, just across the Grand Canal from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum where there were mobs of visitors attending dinners and cocktail receptions every night.

Farther down the Canal, at the Palazzo Grassi, the last great palace built at the end of the 18th century before Napoleon invaded, there was featuring an exhibition of works from the collection of French business tycoon Francois Pinault and it was a hub of social activity every night also.

The Grassi family sold the palazzo in 1840 after financial reversals. Today it is a cultural center, art gallery and museum. The interior courtyard has a 600 seat theater. Two years ago M. Pinault acquired controlling interest in the palazzo from FIAT, and now displays numerous works from his extensive art collection. On the landing on the canal was Subodh Gupta’s gigantic sulpture Very Hungry God (2006), reminding this traveler of the now famous Damien Hirst $100 million head.

The art world is not dissimilar to the world of Hollywood (in the universal sense), from my vantage point; or the business world, in that it traffics in Ego which often substitutes for a lot of other attributes that may not be readily available. It is a world about money, maybe now more than ever, and all kinds of notions of stardom — from the collector, to the curator, to the museum head, to the critic and to, last, but not least of course, the artist. It is a world of swiftly changing tastes coming together with venality and occasionally genius. You can sometimes get the impression that the artist is only there to provide fodder (and methods of exchange) for the aforementioned players whose own self-importance is never far from view.

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Thomas Krens arrives at the Guggenheim.

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Anyway, all of that energy was present in Venice on this particular week and it made for a lot of excitement, not unlike, ironically, the kind of excitement people get from the energy of New York. One night we were at the Peggy Guggenheim when Thomas Krens, the director of the Guggenheim in New York arrived, solo, by boat. The deck was briefly cleared for His Directorship and just off the dock, on the steps, the crowd was watching. Mr. Krens is one of a cadre of Ivy League educated art historians who have risen to top directorships of museums in America. Importance disembarking. These boys (mainly boys, not girls) have had a very influential hand in making museums (and contemporary art) the hot ticket that it is today.

One late morning we went over to the Giardini, a part of the island where the Biennale was set up. The director of the Biennale is Robert Storr, an American curator, critic, teacher and current dean of the Yale School of Art. The Giardini is a neighborhood in Venice that has some parkland to it. The exhibitions were divided between the Giardini (park/garden) and the Arsenale which once upon a time was the facility of the Venetian navy.

We went first to the Arsenale which is a quarter mile long brick warehouse-like structure with ceilings more than 20 feet high. The exhibitions included sculpture, videos, paintings, drawings and scenes. There was a video of a little boy in a desolate bombed-out looking neighborhood playing kickball with a human skull. The exhibition space of the Arsenale allowed a great many pieces to be displayed with very little limitation. The boy kicking the skull around stayed with me for the entire visit (and thereafter). It seemed to articulate much of what I saw and felt.

I am not an art historian or curator. My knowledge of art and art history is: lacking. So my approach is entirely based on my reaction, often emotional, to what I am seeing. Being there at this most beautifully strange planet called Venice, on the dancing greenish-turquoise Adriatic waters, amidst the trove ancient riches and luxuries, art and architecture, amidst its 21st century inhabitants and armies of tourists, and seeing a grainy video (in color) of a little boy kicking a dirtied skull around as if it were a soccer ball, was very provocative. As well as portentous. I liked being at the Biennale and in Venice. Now, and Then; it was all there for the seeing.

Afterwards in the Giardini, in the British pavilion there was an exhibition of works by a highly popular artist named Tracey Emin. Ms. Emin’s pictures are almost entirely of bodies, limbs, positioned in such a way as to focus on genitalia. “It’s all about private parts,” I said to JH. “Yes,” he replied, “and they’re not private anymore.”

Yes. They are not.

At the waterfront entrance to the Biennale, there was a sign: ‘the biennale has no position on conflict and no part in it’

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The walk through town to the Arsenale.

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Approaching the Arsenale…

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…and entering.

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Above: Mother Nature’s creations.

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Performance art, outdoors.

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Tracey Emin at the British pavilion.

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DPC interacts with Felix Gonzalez-Torres at the U.S. pavilion

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Passing by the U.S. pavilion.

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Mary Hilliard

Leaving the exhibition we caught a waterbus back to St. Mark’s Square where the day had begun. Footsteps, laughter, voices, cathedral bells clanging out at every half hour. The musicians on the piazza beginning to warm up. And the pigeons, very aggressive, unconcerned about our presence which is often in their way.

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St. Mark’s Square.

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A true Venetian.

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A water taxi driver in the rear view mirror.

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An evening ride.

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The new Church of San Zaccaria, facade restored by Venetian Heritage and Stichting Nederlands Venetië Comite; the square across from the church.

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Later we took a ride on the gondola. I had no real desire except someone said “you must!” And so we did. Down along the narrow canals. We learned from our cell-toting gondolier that the real estate prices had been driven up so high that most Venice natives can afford to live there anymore. A floor of a house can cost a million euros and of course are occupied for only a small part of the year by their owners.

The gondolier also told us that the speedboats own the canals now and are shown special privilege by the carbinieri who tend to be overly strict with the gondoliers.

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Street performers and our gondolier at work.

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A rare look up.

New York Social Diary

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See Related: DINING

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SAN FRANCISCO HAS ITS DAINTY NEIMAN MARCUS BUT WHY NOT SLIP OFF TO SAG HARBOR

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BY JAMEE GREGORY

Why is the end of August always dull and rainy? Everyone waits to take vacations at the beach, but it’s better for shopping than sunning. Monday dawned, grey and damp but drizzle free, perfect for a trip to Sag Harbor.

No traffic on Noyac Road, as my friend Lisa drives us past some popular summer restaurants off the beaten track, like The Coast Grill, Thyme and Again and Armand’s. We arrive, ready to explore the wonders of Sag Harbor, the Un-Hampton, as it likes to be known.

THE ALL AMERICAN WORKING TOWN

Main Street is a charming mix of old-fashioned emporiums like the hardware store and grocery shop, now threatened by the arrival of a large CVS. Sag Harbor, with its beloved, if dingy, movie theater, which always shows wonderful foreign films, resists change. The engaging American Hotel with its flower-filled porch and Sen will always draw serious food fans.

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Straw-covered console with woven baskets at Beach Bungalow.

Main Street still looks like a stage set for the early American whaling village that is still Sag Harbor. Gingerbread house still line the streets and boats dock all along the wharf. A day spent here is truly a pleasure!

THE RED AND GOLD

EVA CASSIDY

We begin at the aptly named Beach Bungalow, filled with tasteful furnishings all appropriate for seaside living. Sea horses, shells and sand dollars are the motifs of choice. Next we look for slim-fitting rash guards, worn by surfers under their suits as well as by ladies who aerobic walk and want sun protection. Multi-colored surf boards, wraparound sunglasses and wildly printed surfer shorts capture our attention. We stroll past antique shops and admire windows filled with memorabilia. A small courtyard holds a book store, The Black Cat, Privet Cove, frustratingly filled with treasure but closed, and a tea shop.

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Clockwise from top left: Beach Bungalow’s umbrellas with thatch: Just the thing for your turning your pool into a Polynesian paradise; Terrific prints, beautifully framed sand dollars, just thing for your beach house; Need a knick-knack? Everything from hands, heads and sailboats can be found at Our Gig Two; Emporium Hardware for all your home needs; Flying Point famous for surfers needs. Everything from boards to rash guards.

Our next stop is Australian Femininity; we’re not sure what that means but adore the mix of costume jewelry and hats, leaving with some of each. I’m seduced by a coral heart ring for twelve dollars that goes straight on my finger. Who could resist? Next we visit In.Home, a stylish shop offering French guest soaps in Green Tea, perfect for male houseguests and miniature white colanders, just right for rinsing breakfast berries.

In Fishers Lisa finds a pink and white striped rug for her daughters’ room and a turquoise cotton throw for an afternoon nap at the pool. We’re captivated by the street side display at Annyx, matched by the treasures inside. We stock up on clear boxes of pastel chocolates and sunflower seeds, meant for hostess gifts but too pretty to give away.

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Clockwise from top left: Stop at Black Cat Books to browse or Privet Cove for great gifts, but not on Monday when it’s closed!; Try Australian Femininity for bracelets that look like Dior and multicolored heart and flower rings. I found a pink cowboy hat!; Striped rugs, cotton, in all sizes can be found at Fishers Home Furnishings along with unusual sheets; Annyx, filled to the brim with great gifts. Stop and admire the charming outside display (Inset); .Inside you’ll be torn by heart-shaped porcelain dishes, big enough for rings, to pastel candies and raffia-wrapped candle holders; In.Home a great stop for sleek, modern gifts and French soaps, fluffy white mats.

Starving, we head for Bay Street, unable to resist a visit to Sag harbor Florist, known for its extraordinary orchids. Stopping next door, at Bella Casa, for a quick peek at its ceramic planters then parking ourselves at an outside table at Tutto IL Giorno, this summer’s new hotspot. The bread, pea soup, pasta and grilled shrimp sustain us.

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Calypso Home’s brightly patterned Indian table cloths, cushions and square wax candle holders inlaid with gold coins will keep you shopping.

Heading back to Main Street we pop in Candy and Flowers and the ever-chic emporium, Sylvester & Company before hitting Blooming Shells and admiring twisted corals and rows of shimmering shells.

Calypso Home hits a home run with metallic pillows, Indian print table cloths, and silk cushions, not to mention a pink leather pouf.

Bloom, a sophisticated and well-edited store is filled with everything in navy and cream from espadrilles to jackets.

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Clockwise from top left: Sag Harbor Florist sits in a charming gingerbread house covered with unusual planting (Inset). Inside you’ll find hundreds of orchids of all varieties and a grand selection of cut flowers from pink Snapdragons to rare yellow Hydrangeas, ready to be arranged; Satisfy your sweet tooth at Candy and Flowers, try Hampton’s Popcorn; Sylvester & Co. has gifts galore along with boxers in blue and white. This general store is very sophisticated; Blooming shells, tucked on Washington Street, stuffed with nature’s bounty from butterflies to starfish and in between.

Heading home, I suggest we try Scuttlehole Road and we miss the turn, taking us to Bridgehampton by mistake. But what a detour! We fall in love with multicolored bowls and French polka-dotted cutlery at Loaves and Fishes cook store and adore A Mano, the chicest new store in town. Trays, hand painted with coral motifs, hand bags with your choice of grosgrain ribbon and monogram, napkins in rainbow-hued linen and straw placemats embroidered with bright red lobsters capture our fancy. I leave with pink and yellow patterned placemats and napkins to match. I can’t wait to set the table for breakfast with my new finds!

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Clockwise from top left: Check out the display in front of Sag Harbor Antiques: flags, antlers, quilts, jockeys: an all-American mix; Try Bloom for austerely elegant selections in navy and cream, from espadrilles to shirts and jackets; Lisa and I stop to admire A Mano’s garden, filled with glazed pots; Lisa and I stop to admire A Mano’s garden, filled with glazed pots; A Mano’s was dynamite! Great placemats with lobsters and crabs, shell-encrusted candles, linen napkins in all colors; The shop’s windows filled with hand painted platters.

New York Social Diary

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THE ORIGINS OF COFFEE BEAN SALES IN SAN FRANCISCO

TASTE TEST FLASH

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Man on a mission for nearest Peet’s
PHOTO BY BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photographer
Copyright © 2008

BY PAT MURPHY
Sentinel Founder
The San Francisco Sentinel © 2007-2010

Starbucks has lost this town’s best known fan.

Our nice Gavin Newsom basks only in par excellence aroma of Peet’s Coffee at his home and hearth, the Sentinel reveals.

Freshest Peet’s beans, full throttle grinder, superior French Press purchased at Peet’s on Polk, 2139 C Polk Street at Broadway, deliver the very best.

“Third shelf on the left,” Newsom nods location.

“Grind them, and then use a French Press,” mayoral lips moisten.

“I’m telling you there’s no other way to do it when you get coffee at home.”

Starbucks, one is told, remains a grunt work substitute.

Work-a-day morning coffee is Starbucks, Newsom does confide.

“My weekday morning coffee is Starbucks, I admit.

“Everyone can criticize me for that. I’m ready.”

However, in a special realm with uniquely exquisite neighborhoods, local brews are the afternoon great seducer.

“My afternoon coffee is any coffee shop besides Starbucks, so it’s neighborhood coffee,” the chin rises.

“That’s my one o’clock, two o’clock coffee.”

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Even so, during weekdays, it’s half-decaf for this people’s mayor.

On weekends it’s chuck the decaf, full-bodied Peet’s on Russian Hill lair.

Habitate visitors approve, it’s told, including habitue Jen Siebel, who “always drinks nothing but Peet’s.”

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Jen Siebel

Indeed, in the annals of San Francisco savoir faire, Al Peet rode into town wearing the white hat while it was Starbucks which chose the dark side.

First to tap Shining City thirst for the very best was Capricorn Coffees.

Capricorn was founded in his struggling youth by 1950s gay rights bedrocker Herb Donaldson, busted by San Francisco Police at a 1960s Saturday afternoon charity drag show fundraiser (then an illegal gathering of homosexuals), and later appointed Judge Herbert M. Donaldson by California Governor Jerry Brown…

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California State Judge Herbert M. Donaldson. Donaldson initially resisted appointment
to the State bench by Governor Jerry Brown. Herb insisted Municipal Court would keep
him closer to street youth providing them a possible model. Brown prevailed,
convincing Donaldson State Court would deliver fuller statewide impact
.

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Young Herb Donaldson in SFPD paddywagon (apologies to all Paddies, Padraig – Irish language for Patrick)
PHOTO COURTESY LOUISE SWIG

Fresh Capricorn roasting swirled to success, and success brought imitation.

Al Peet called Donaldson to say Peet was jumping into the business, too. Noting Peet’s new company would not compete with Capricorn.

Peet always honored that pledge, Donaldson tells the Sentinel.

Next came Starbucks with obligatory call to Donaldson purporting the same pledge.

A pledge as hollow as cardbord cup holders.

See Related: ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON ARCHIVE

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past six years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.


ABOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO SENTINEL

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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Sensual San Francisco intertwines exotic Tuscany in local novel like upgraded Sex and The City

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THE ITALIAN CONNECTION — Author Jill St. Anne, left, surrendered to the seduction of Italian food, fashion, and handsome men twenty years ago and brings the throb to heart in release of spy thriller The Italian Connection, set in San Francisco and Tuscany. St. Anne seen last night with San Francisco book signing fans. Judy Fairchild, right, celebrated her own birthday at the event, recalling daughter St. Anne’s early years when St. Anne devoured Nancy Drew mysteries and promptly rewrote them… for improvement, at eight years of age

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By Pat Murphy
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

The bold, the beautiful, and the deadliest of bad guys, wage a modern day spy thriller between exotic Tuscany and sensual San Francisco now luxuriating off the pages of Jill St. Anne’s second novel — The Italian Connection.

Italians, more beautiful than they have any right to be, and San Franciscans more sensuous than the world dare utter, come to world-saving life from St. Anne’s memory of her first trip to Italy with friend Susan Jarolim who blends into leading character Christina. “Everybody thinks Christina is me, she’s not, she’s my friend Susan,” St. Anne confided to the Sentinel.

Jill St. Anne is the pen name for Jill Zajicek Wickersham, who received award for investigative journalism while in college.

San Francisco misty intrique combines with lush beaches of Tuscany to read like today’s version of Sex and The City, with Christina the modern day Nancy Drew.

“The thriller part is that the main character comes into possession with this microchip that is used to activate an arsenal of anti-ballistic missles,” continued St. Anne.

“So it’s very timely actually because this is what’s going on in North Korea, this is what’s going on in China.

“What happens is that the bad guys chase down Christina, because they know she has the microchip, knowing that if they were able to get ahold of the microchip they would be able to disarm our military.”

The seduction of both cities, and their people, intertwine with the caper.

“It is a romance but it’s very serious as well. With the cars, the food, the fashion, and the handsome men.”

St. Anne, of course, arrived in lastest model Italian Ferrari.

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Event host Claudia Ross, left, emceed the gathering with fashion connoisseur Sophie Azouaou also welcoming St. Anne’s mother Judy Fairchild, right.

Leading San Francisco Italiana were represented by Alioto clan frontliner Joe Alioto Veronese and wife Laura Veronese.

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San Francisco Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese and wife Laura ushered a path by Claudia Ross, at left

Exacting bon vivants attended nodding approval.

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From left, Claude Hubert, Chip Zecher, Michael Mulcahy, and Holly Baxter

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Mark Calvano, right, makes the party in between launching men’s fashion wear for gentlemen born to center stage

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The Italian Connection is available online, cover designed by discerning mother Judy Fairchild

In the end, Christina takes a gamble that puts her own life on the line. She discovers her inner strength and learns that in love, a woman’s intuition is seldom wrong.

Last night, St. Anne captured intuition of locals who sense winners.

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Pat Murphy and Sophie Azouaou with Judy Fairchild

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