Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ tag
Lusty Lady Theater closes its doors at 3am September 2, 2013 after 40 years in business in San Francisco, California USA
I photograph people.
My favorite subjects are young women.
When I was a young photography student as a teenager at Brooks Institute of Photography, there was no Craigslist or Model Mayhem. I photographed my classmates and friends outside of school, but I frankly didn’t know many beautiful women that would allow me to photograph them.
I was painfully shy back then, so I would not ask strangers.
I never thought to advertise in the newspaper classified ads, and I probably couldn’t have afforded their rates had I thought of it. What did occur to me was to drop off a mini portfolio of my work at the front desk of The Lusty Lady Theater at 1033 Kearny Street in San Francisco, California USA.
This theater was less than a block away from the music venues I went to back then, when I was an enthusiastic fan of punk rock music. The famed Mabuhay Gardens and the club named ‘On Broadway’ on the second floor over Mabuhay Gardens were on the street named Broadway, which intersects with Kearny. I suspect it was the punk rock that brought me to this North Beach neighborhood and put The Lusty Lady on my radar.
I lived in Santa Barbara, California USA at the time since that’s where Brooks was located. But my parents lived in San Francisco, and I returned home periodically. I loved to shoot outdoors in the industrial sections of the City. I couldn’t photograph my Santa Barbara friends, because they weren’t in San Francisco, which is a six hour drive from Santa Barbara.
Amazingly, the nude dancers who worked at The Lusty Lady Theater seemed to like my portfolio because they telephoned me and volunteered to be photographed by me. I never paid any of the women I photographed — remember, I was a student and supplies were very costly. My large format view camera used sheet film that came to USD $.40 a shot for black and white and $3.00 a shot for color.
Two of the dancers I photographed were in their own bands, so I got to photograph these bands. Some of the images I created back then hold up well, and as soon as I get a scanner than can accommodate 4×5″ large format negatives, I’ll scan some of them and post them to this blog.
I used to get invited to parties the theater put together.
These parties were not at the theater.
One party I vividly recall was at a large private home about an hour outside of San Francisco. I took my then college roommate Tom Lounsbury there. There were topless women all over the place — dozens of them. It was like nothing I had seen before. Lounsbury, who has since changed his first name to Ishmeil, pushed me into the swimming pool with all my clothes on. I hadn’t brought swim trunks, and I certainly was not going to go skinny dipping like some of the women were doing. I remember being upset at Lounsbury because my wallet got soaked. But it was all in good fun, and it made the day even more memorable. Of course, there were no mobile phones back then, so I didn’t ruin a phone.
Another memorable party was at a nightclub at the Northwest corner of 11th Street and Folsom Streets in San Francisco. I could not find the current name of the property on Google Maps. At the time, there was a swimming pool in the club — a full size pool like you would find in a hotel. The pool would have a plastic translucent floor placed over it for dancing. But for special events, the flooring was put in storage and the pool was open for swimming. It was at such a private special event that I met Teanna Keller, a dancer at The Lusty Lady. Her stage name was Barbarella. I believe the year was 1986, the year I graduated college and moved back to San Francisco.
Keller mesmerized me by taking off all her clothes in the middle of the afternoon and diving into the swimming pool, while everyone else remained clothed. I had never seen someone do that, before or since. There were over 100 people at this private party.
We met for the first time later that afternoon, when she was again fully clothed. She and one of her girlfriends invited me to head across the street to The Holy Cow, a popular dance club that’s still there today. Eventually her friend just disappeared without saying goodbye, and I was alone with Keller. We dated for perhaps a month, maybe two… I can’t remember.
I ended the relationship, and I remember Keller being upset and crying. She had only recently given me the most impressive bouquet of flowers that any woman has ever given me. It was huge — around three feet high. I was shocked, since we weren’t ever that serious. She gave me these flowers during my lunch break from Newell Color Laboratory, where I worked for less than a year right after graduation from photography school. My work friends were impressed with those flowers. Yes, I got a bit of teasing.
I suspect Keller felt such a bond so quickly with me because I insisted we visit a clinic for the morning after pill. Condoms were new to me in 1986, and Keller was the first person that I had used a condom with. The condom broke because we were not using it correctly, out of mutual ignorance. I was panicked because my friend Lounsbury had just had an unexpected baby with his girlfriend, and at the time that seemed like a bad thing. I didn’t want this supposed bad thing to happen to me, so even though I had discovered the breakage within moments of it happening, I still wanted to play it safe. I took the morning off from Newell and took Keller to a clinic that specialized in female reproductive health. She was prescribed birth control pills with special instruction on how to take some of the pills more quickly than normal. If you use the pills this way, those pills mimic the functionality of today’s ‘morning after pill’ sequence. I don’t think one could buy a morning after pill advertised for that purpose at the time. Of course, Keller didn’t get pregnant, and probably wouldn’t have even without the pills. But she was super appreciative of my being so careful. She told her girlfriend — the one that had invited me to the party where I met Keller, and that friend of mine said how impressed Keller was with me for taking care of her as I did.
In retrospect, I sometimes wish Keller had gotten pregnant and that we had stayed together, because I would have a family now. I soon lost touch with Keller, and haven’t seen her for a quarter century.
I never photographed Teanna Keller, and I don’t even have a picture of her. She was thin with short blond hair, and stood about five feet five inches. I was certainly attracted to her, but I broke up with her because her work was too much for me to handle.
I never went to watch Teanna Keller perform at The Lusty Lady, so I was never her customer. I was poor, but I would have considered it to be poor form to show up at her work to see her without clothes when I could see her in my own home.
I once walked Keller to work from my work and said ‘have a nice day at work.’ She immediately asked me never to say that again when she was heading to her job.
She told me emphatically that she didn’t like the work.
Keller had a nice apartment in Fremont, California. The last time I saw her was at her apartment. We had already split up by then, but she had asked me for help fixing her record player. The phono cartridge was wobbling on the tone arm, and she wanted me to tighten the screws. Sadly, the plastic threads in the tone arm stripped and the cartridge fell off entirely. When I got there she could play records, though not optimally. When I left, her record player was fully broken and useless. I felt awful. Nonetheless, she gave me such a sweet big hug… I think she still wanted me to be her boyfriend. Sadly, I never saw her or heard from her again.
Keller was 19 years old and I was 24 years old.
When I read in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that The Lusty Lady Theater would be closing September 2nd, I decided to visit as a blogger. It turns out I was a day late.
The venue closed to customers at 3am this morning, September 2, 2013, with what sounded like an epic party. I probably would not have attended this party even had I known about it, since I don’t like strip clubs or peep shows, and I don’t know anybody at The Lusty Lady. But I am really glad I went this afternoon around 3:30pm as a blogger.
The doors were still open. They can’t be locked because there is no lock that I could see. The place has been open continuously 24 hours a day since 1973, so there was no reason to lock the doors. I suspect the theater stayed open even on September 11, 2001 when most San Francisco businesses closed down after four airplanes crashed on the other side of the United States.
When I arrived and introduced myself this afternoon, there were still half a dozen now ex-employees hanging out drinking mimosas. Andi Baker, second from the right in the group picture above, graciously allowed me to photograph the interior of the peep show, including the famous nude dancing stage, a mirror lined room about ten by twenty feet in size.
The Lusty Lady was a peep show. I understand from interviewing the staff today that this theater was the last live peep show in the United States. The theater charged no admission fee to step inside. Instead they made money by offering phone booth sized private rooms that had a motorized panel at eye level. When paper money was inserted into the bill receptor on the wall, the panel would slide out of the way, revealing a glitzy room mirrored on all surfaces other than the floor. Even the back sides of the panels were mirrored. These bill receptors used to be quarter dollar coin receptors a quarter century ago, and the theater used to distribute their own coinage, like many game arcades used to do, to thwart thieves that wanted to profit from breaking into the coin boxes in the private booths.
I forgot to ask how long the window is open for a dollar.
There were two other money making parts to the theater.
The first was a private pair of rooms called ‘Private Pleasures.’ In this set of rooms, a nude woman would sit in one room, and a customer would sit in the other. There was a glass divider between the rooms.
The second was a lap dancing area, something new from twenty five years ago. I suspect the theater was trying to compete with the many nearby traditional strip clubs that feature lap dances. One such club, the Hustler Club, is in the basement of the building The Lusty Lady is housed in, and the entrance door is adjacent to the entrance door to the Lusty Lady, as can be seen in the exterior picture of both clubs that accompanies this post. I was told that Hustler Club will be moving into Lusty Lady’s former space. The landlord for Hustler Club also owns the space The Lusty Lady rented, I was told.
The Lusty Lady was forced to close because the rent of approximately USD $16,000 was too much for the employee owners to afford. Yes, this club was employee owned and unionized. A feature length movie — Live Nude Girls Unite — was made about the long path the dancers took to achieve this apparently unique in the world ownership structure for a strip club. The movie is available in the US over the streaming service of the movie website Netflix.
The six staff I spoke with were shaken over the closing. They were heartbroken from what I gathered.
Courtney Crimson — I’m not sure if this is her real name or her ‘stage’ name — said she was the Theater Madame, which I presume meant she was the general manager. She used to be a dancer at the club, and started work there seven years ago. Her boyfriend Andi Baker also works at the club. They were a couple before they moved to San Francisco, and they both took jobs at the club, though not at the same time. I am impressed a romantic couple could work together at an adult entertainment club for years. Baker and Crimson were very welcoming to me today, and I sensed they were really pleased that I had come there to seriously and respectfully cover the demise of ‘their club’ on my blog.
I don’t know what the current dancers think of their work as dancers. I suspect most of them liked the work and that some, like my girlfriend Keller, disliked it.
My view is that most sex work should be legal.
I think the United States military should set up brothels near or inside its facilities the world over, perhaps even subsidizing the sex workers to encourage their participation. I suspect that sexual assaults that are apparently out of control in the military would drastically drop if there were affordable prostitutes conveniently available all the time. The Japanese reportedly forced women to service its solders during World War II. How much better it would have been for women to be allowed to set up business nearby or even inside military installations. Sex work is legal in advanced countries like Switzerland and Germany. The US should change its laws at the Federal level to override any state law.
I also believe all drugs should be legal, including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and Oxycontin.
But even though I think sex work and drugs should be legal, I don’t want anyone I am close to be a sex worker or a drug user. I don’t use drugs, strippers or prostitutes. With the exception of the reporting for this blog post and my years ago visits, I do not go to any adult entertainment establishments, and I never plan to in the future. I think sex work is bad for the workers, and I have seen it destroy and harm lives to shocking degrees. But in spite of this, I think such work should be legal. I also think the social stigma should be lifted, since the stigma itself contributes in my mind to the harm caused by the work.
I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, even though both are legal. Even if sex work were legal and without stigma, I would still not be a customer.
One reason I can take this resolute position is that I have lost my shyness nearly completely. Thus, it is now relatively easy for me to meet women, both to socialize with them and to photograph them. I photograph far more young women now than I did 25 years ago, and I still photograph volunteers most of the time. I may hire perhaps one model a year, but that’s not to photograph them but to hear their stories about traveling the world as a model. Such models that really do travel the world while supporting themselves exclusively by modeling don’t volunteer, so to hear their stories and interview them, I have to hire them. I met glamor model Jessi June this way.
I met and photographed many self described Lusties decades ago. Maybe one day I will post their pictures. Right now those pictures are locked away on film negatives, and I don’t have a film scanner.
Many dancers will likely find this post in the coming days. It would be a lot of fun to do a large group picture of as many former Lusty Lady dancers as can be gathered at one time. If a dancer or other theater employee would like to help me organize such a shoot, please contact me via Facebook here. We could do the shoot outside, perhaps in North Beach, South of Market or even in front of the theater before its recognizable facade is replaced. I also have a studio we could use. I can’t pay anyone, but I can promise hundreds of quality photographs, and I will give everyone that models the pictures on DVD before they leave. This is a project that should get done, by me or by someone, before the dancers scatter across the land and can’t be gathered together easily, like they can right now. The male employees should be in the photographs as well, because the theater employed many men. They are part of the family I am certain.
The other dancers I photographed were just friends of mine. I stayed in touch with one for years. I can still find references to her music online. She settled down on a farm, got married and had children. Her name was much more unique than Keller’s name, so out of respect for her privacy, I will not name her on this blog.
The too easy accessibility of pornography will probably see to it that no business like The Lusty Lady will ever start again. In 1973 when this theater opened, people didn’t even have video cassette players, and adult movies were shown only at public movie houses like the California Pussycat chain, where I saw my first adult movie while I was going to UCLA, before Brooks.
The dancers I met were always very nice to me. I liked them. The two dancers I met today were nice to me. Saddie Massoch introduced herself to me before I had a chance to introduce myself. None of these half dozen people I met had any idea what my blog is about, yet they all treated me as if I were writing for The New York Times. Their enthusiasm for The Lusty Lady was genuine, and I suspect their hearts will be heavy for months to come, if not forever.
I hesitated a bit before writing this post. Admitting I once briefly dated a stripper is not something I thought I would do — ever. But Teanna Keller was sweet and we didn’t meet at her work. Everyone likes sex, and the story of The Lusty Lady, with its employee ownership and union representation, is one of the most interesting stories I have encountered. That I have a personal connection to this theater through my hobby of photography makes the story worthy of a blog post. And, look, even The Atlantic Magazine wrote about The Lusty Lady Theater closing!
Here’s a screen shot from The Atlantic website. Be warned, there’s a bit of nudity in the accompanying photograph. Again, this story is in The Atlantic.
I took the photographs that accompany this post, except for the shots inside the screen captures. I uploaded my pictures at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. To see the full size versions, which are much larger, click on the pictures. I used a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera with a Canon 16-35mm L zoom lens. Most of the interior photographs are long time exposures. I may have the subject names in incorrect order in the caption for the team shot at the top. I had the subjects write their names down for me, but I forgot to have them put them in left to right order for the caption.
If the large group photograph I propose can’t be organized, I am willing to photograph smaller groups or individual dancers. Just message me via Facebook.
In other news, the replacement span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge opened to public vehicle traffic today for the first time.
This evening, January 21, 2013, I had the great pleasure to tour the brand new SFJAZZ Center, at 201 Franklin Street in San Francisco, California USA.
The SFJAZZ Center is an ambitious center to advance jazz music.
I think the corner of Franklin Street and Fell Street is an outstanding location for the Center — it’s in the trendy and safe Hayes Valley neighborhood, and it’s just two blocks from the Van Ness MUNI station and Market Street.
There was a ribbon cutting ceremony in the morning, which I missed.
I went to one of the official tours, in the evening. Attendees got to roam around the facility and admire the building, constructed in 2011 and 2012 to be the new dedicated home for SFJAZZ.
The formal part of the evening featured prepared remarks by Randall Kline, the Executive Artistic Director and Founder of SFJAZZ.
Rebeca Mauleón, the Director of Education, also spoke.
The SFJAZZ High School All-Stars performed in the large music hall, named the Robert N. Miner Auditorium, which features steeply set seats designed to allow the musicians to see the faces of the audience members. This Auditorium also features a glass wall that looks out onto the busy street, which will drum up interest in the performances because passersby will be able to catch a glimpse for free as they walk or drive past. I’ve always thought it is good marketing for martial arts studios and dance studios to have large glass windows at street level. SFJAZZ Center is taking a page out of their public relations book, and I predict good things will happen as a result of doing so.
I was exceptionally impressed with the High School All-Stars. I introduced myself to the members and invited them to read my blog.
I was given a lushly produced magazine/program for SFJAZZ during the tour this evening. SFJAZZ Founder Randall Kline had this to say, on page 7:
Welcome to the first season
After 30 years of presenting music in a variety of rented venues throughout the Bay, it is with great joy we begin our first season in our new home, the SFJAZZ Center. It is the first freestanding building for jazz in the country — designed, from concept to concert hall, to create an enhanced setting for experiencing what the esteemed jazz write Whitney Balliett calls “the sound of surprise.”
The SFJAZZ Center is home for all that we do: concerts, education programs for adults and youth, our award-winning SFJAZZ High School All-Star Ensembles, the world-renowned SFJAZZ Collective, and the new SFJAZZ Monday Night Community Band.
Over our three decades, SFJAZZ has grown to become a vital part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco. And in the broader context of the jazz, we have been recognized as one of the top presenters in the world — helping to place San Francisco, with its rich jazz history, among the vanguard of cities where this American-born art form can be best heard.
Kline continued his remarks — I have not typed all of them here — and concluded with:
Jazz has a home in San Francisco. The first season begins. See you at the Center!
Executive Artistic Director and Founder
The new Center shows a lot of promise. I am intrigued, so I plan to return soon to the Center to see a show.
I took the pictures that accompany this post with my Canon 5D Mark II camera. I uploaded these images at full resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see the full size versions.
Today was a busy day in the United States of America.
- The country celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a federal holiday.
- It was inauguration day for US President Barack Obama, who began his second term yesterday.
- The SFJAZZ Center officially opened its doors.
[Edit on January 23, 2013 -- I added two names to the caption of the group photo of the All-Stars, above, once I got the correct spellings.]
Video January 2, 2013 of the final minutes of The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA
Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 2, 2013, I captured high definition video of the official public closing of The Exploratorium science museum at 3601 Lyon Street at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA. Today I present that video, without editing other than concatenating the files together in the order I shot them.
This blog post complements the post I wrote yesterday, The final day at The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California – January 2, 2013, where I presented 24 of the still photographs I took at the closing, including the image above of the Palace of Fine Arts after magic hour but before dark. It takes time to compress and upload video, and the video I present today was not done yesterday, thus this second post.
The final day at The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California – January 2, 2013
Earlier today I took an emotional trip down memory lane by photographing the world famous Exploratorium science museum during its final hour at its building at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA. On Friday, April 12, 2013, the Exploratorium opens at its new location at Pier 15, on the historic waterfront north of Market Street and near the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Pier 15 is served by historic restored street cars that stop in front, so I predict that many more people will visit, since the original location is rather difficult to access, and parking in particular is a nightmare.
If invited by the Exploratorium staff, for example after they discover this post, I will cover the opening event on this blog, and I will photograph it with the same quality technique I used for the photographs that accompany this post. If not invited, I will wait for a free admission day to visit.
I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera for these pictures. I uploaded the pictures at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see them at full size. I used a tripod for many of the shots, and since it’s so dark inside the Exploratorium, many of the pictures were made with time exposures of up to 8 seconds. That accounts for the blurred people in some of the shots. I like that the blurring suggests lots of busy activity at the museum, which is definitely true. The tripod shots were taken at ISO 100, so the image quality is outstanding. The handheld shots were taken at ISO settings as high as 6,400, and the quality suffers. I should have brought a flash so that I could have taken more photographs of visitors experiencing the exhibits.
I love and admire The Exploratorium museum above all others. The Exploratorium teaches visitors about the world we all live in, and it does it in such an engaging and fun way that visitors keep coming back, over decades. The exterior wall of the large gift shop was covered with sweet notes from visitors, and these note cards were grouped by decade. Even the 1970s section had over 100 cards on it.
The Exploratorium opened in 1969.
The Exploratorium has exhibits that seed the imagination, so this museum helps human kind progress. I think The Exploratorium is more effective at seeding the imagination than even the traditional great museums of the world such as The Louvre.
I almost missed this special day, and had it not been for the website Funcheap San Francisco which lists free or inexpensive ways to have fun in my favorite city. I subscribe to the site’s Facebook page, and a status update to that page alerted me to the final day I am covering here.
Here below is a sequence of photographs that give you a tour of this large museum space, starting and the front, then moving to the upper deck level, and finally showing the back of the museum from the deck.
Now I will show you some of the exhibits. Note that no admission was charged today, so there were more visitors than normal. I only had one hour to take still pictures and video, so I was rushed.
As I was leaving, I picked up a free poster advertising the new location for the museum, which will be Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront, downtown, near the Ferry Building.
After the gates were closed, there was a private party, with speakers thanking those assembled.
I set up my tripod outside the front door and posed for a self portrait to memorialize this memorable day.
On my way back to my car, which I parked many blocks away, I set up my tripod one last time to take this ‘magic hour’ photograph of The Palace of Fine Arts.
Note that the Exploratorium posted a sign at the entrance warning visitors that pictures and video would be captured by many people today, and that some of the material would be published.
I will miss this original location. It’s industrial and gritty and feels authentic. Outside by the adjoining Palace of Fine Arts, the location is truly beautiful. I fear that the new location will be too new, sparkly and flashy, and that the glitz will remove the charm that permeates the original.
Interviews with 10 entrepreneurs at the Lower Haight Urban Air Market, October 20, 2012, San Francisco, California USA
On Saturday, October 20, 2012, I attended the Lower Haight Urban Air Market. The two most commercially significant blocks, from 400 to 600, of the hip lower Haight street neighborhood of San Francisco, California USA were cleared of cars and closed for this interesting small street fair.
Here’s a photograph of the poster advertising the Lower Haight Urban Air Market. The window is that of Memphis Minnies Barbeque Joint and Smokehose at 576 Haight Street. I took this picture after the sun went down but before it was completely dark. I haven’t eaten at Memphis Minnies, but I suspect it has quite a following given I see it has 1,127 reviews on Yelp today.
This project must have taken some real effort to plan and execute, because San Francisco’s Municipal Railway, MUNI, runs electric trolley buses on all of Haight Street. This street fair required that non-tethered buses be used instead for the day.
I don’t hang out in the lower Haight much, but Devon Chulick, one of the co-owners of the clothing store and art gallery D-Structure, alerted me to this fair via his store’s Facebook page. Since I’ve met some interesting people though Chulick in the past, I thought it would be smart to attend as a blogger to interview the most interesting entrepreneurs I could find, including the following ten entrepreneurs:
The first entrepreneur I met was Joey Mucha. He buys used Skee Ball arcade machines, fixes them up, and places them at interesting non-arcade locations. He has a shipping container full of Skee Ball machines, and he knows how to fix them, even to the point of being able to diagnose and replace a bad computer chip on the machine’s scoring computer.
Mucha has one of his machines in Chulick’s D-Structure, and Mucha opened the machine up while I was there, so I could see how the score calculation system works. You can see Mucha playing the D-Structure Skee Ball machine in the photo above.
Amazingly, you can now play Skee Ball on your smart phone.
The second entrepreneur I met was Jasmin Baros. Baros introduced me to the concept of a clothing boutique being located in a converted delivery truck. I had never seen such a boutique, or even heard of them, until Saturday.
Baros is an accountant by profession. Her first experiment ten years ago with switching to retail didn’t pan out a after six month run.
Her refurbished truck, just six weeks new, is her second attempt at retail, and I think her chances are better than 50/50 for a success. She bought the truck already freshly painted from a photographer for just USD $6,000, and only had to spend $2,000 having her logo painted on the side. It would have likely cost her $6,000 just for the fresh paint if she didn’t find an already freshly painted used truck.
Baros’ total cost to get into business she told me came to $25,000 — likely a fraction what it would cost to open a traditional retail boutique in leased store front space.
The truck — officially named the Jasy B Truck — is cute and inviting. The ceiling is pressed tin like you’d see in a vintage building. There is wainscoting on the walls. There is directional spot lighting. The colors are right. There’s a dedicated staircase with rails at the rear, where the door rolls up like a garage door. When the truck is parked at a 45% angle relative to the sidewalk, customers can just climb on board, in a way that feels natural and welcoming.
The Jasy B boutique on wheels had a wall mirror next to its jewelry display. I caught a glimpse of myself in this mirror, and since the mirror was small, it neatly framed my head. I snapped a picture with my Canon 5D Mark II digital camera I used to take all the photographs that illustrate this post. Note that I uploaded the pictures at full camera resolution. Click on them twice in delayed succession to see the full size versions, which are 21 megapixels.
The third entrepreneur I met was Sandra Bowling, owner of Sandra Kathleen Jewelry. Bowling makes the jewelry. I asked permission to take the above photograph. Bowling gave permission and thanked me for asking permission. She said one woman particularly irritated her by taking pictures without asking, and when confronted, the photographer said she was going to send the pictures to a friend or relative (I can’t recall which) that also made jewelry for profit — to copy and then sell! I presume these designs are not patented, but still, I can see it being annoying having people taking pictures with the express intent of taking your work to profit from it.
Bowling had her jewelry nicely displayed, and I loved the light as shown in my picture above. The brighter spot of light in the lower right was from light bouncing off the hand mirror she had on the table.
Sadly, I forgot to photograph Sandra Bowling.
The fourth entrepreneur I met was Angel Cantu, above, founder of Halo Bender Design.
Halo Bender Design makes wallets for men from the leather swatches furniture stores have on hand to help buyers decide what leather to buy for custom ordered chairs and sofas. Cantu discovered that stores replace their swatch books from time to time, and when they do, they discard the old books. Cantu has learned that he can rescue the leather from landfill by giving the proprietor a few wallets he made from earlier swatch books. Since his materials cost is so low — thread and his time, this is a great exchange. The swatches he showed me looked brand new, and the wallets looked fresh and brand new as well, with no hint that their leather was perhaps already years old.
Cantu cut the first wallets by hand with scissors. Then, he joined TechShop, a well equipped workshop that rents access to tools like a health club rents access to exercise machines. TechShop has a laser cutter to replace scissors, and industrial sewing machines capable of stitching leather. TechShop has spawned many small businesses, including DoDo Case, which makes an Apple iPad case that looks like a leather hard cover book. Current United States President Barack Obama carries his iPad in a DoDo Case brand case.
The fifth entrepreneur I met was Laura Bruland, founder of Yes & Yes Designs.
Yes & Yes is another TechShop success story, and she’s featured on their website.
Yes & Yes makes jewelry from old hard cover book covers. Bruland uses TechShop’s laser cutter to slice through the canvas and cardboard book covers in a way that would be nearly impossible with a jig saw or a Xacto knife.
In the picture above of Bruland with her boyfriend Julien Shields you can see Shields holding a book cover that has had over two dozen pieces of jewelry cut from it. The row of trapezoids on top became earrings, in the style you see Bruland wearing in the same picture.
Many of Bruland’s designs feature the silhouettes of stylish women — Bruland confided that the designs themselves are vintage, derived from old dress making patterns. The pins above are examples of these designs. Look at how typography plays a part of her designs.
Like the upcycled wallets made by Angel Cantu, Bruland’s cost of materials is extremely low. She laser cuts out of date and falling apart books of nominal value as books. I suspect she pays little or nothing for most of the books.
I saw customers buying Bruland’s products, and saying nice things about them while doing so, something I didn’t happen to catch with any of the other artists at Saturday’s fair.
The sixth entrepreneur I met was Chris Steinrueck, co-founder of Wood Thumb, a maker of men’s ties and bow ties, among other products.
Wood Thumb recycles redwood it receives for free from Recology, the company that picks up the trash from homes and businesses in San Francisco. Recology sifts through the trash it picks up and hands the redwood planks it finds to Wood Thumb, which then planes and mills the ties into shape. The ties are cut on a ShopBot CNC router.
I love the upcycling and recycling demonstrated at this fair.
Wood Thumb started out at and still does some work at TechShop, like Yes & Yes Designs and Halo Bender Design, also profiled in this post.
The ties are made from redwood because redwood is attractive and particularly because it is light in weight. Chris, who runs the company with his co-founder brother David Steinrueck, said people can feel the difference in weight between redwood and other attractive wood, and prefer the light weight redwood. Conveniently, Wood Thumb ties are rot resistant, in case you forget your tie in the woods, unlike silk or wool ties.
Wood Thumb appears to be doing well, selling thousands of ties per month as of the end of 2011.
I photographed Chris with his girlfriend Rebecca Carrillo at their booth, also made from reclaimed wood.
The seventh entrepreneur I met was Sarah Boll, who was the most interestingly dressed, with exceptionally red hair, vivid glittery blue eye shadow, a magenta jacket and wild black and white stretch pants she personally sewed. It was a look that is completely consistent with her product — glittery purses, clutches and related accessories. This was Boll’s first time selling at a street fair.
Her company name is Glitter Disaster — a name I really like.
The glitter you see in the clear vinyl is sandwiched between two layers, where it’s free to slide around like snow in a snow globe. The glitter never touches what you put into her clutches and purses. The random and ever changing glitter display catches your eye, and I think these products were the most inspired and unusual of everything I saw on Saturday.
The vinyl sheets are sewn not with a sewing machine but with a serger, called overlock machines outside of North America for the overlock stitches they create. If you look inside some of your clothes, you will see overlock seams. A serger is a fascinating machine. The overlock seam is not one thread but multiple threads, from separate spools. This means each thread can be a different color, a feature you can see Boll used to create interest with her pieces, since she uses the overlock seams as a visible design element.
I learned about the serger several weeks ago when I was looking into what I would need to sew my own clothes. I took sewing class at Lab School, and I made quilts when I was 12 years old. I want to make some really crazy outfits I can’t find in stores. That’s when I learned I would need a sewing machine and a serger machine. I have since decided to just wait until my next trip to Shanghai and have my clothes made in the world famous Bund fabric market, which will be more productive and more fascinating, because that stupendous fabric market has so many more fabrics than you can buy in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The eighth and ninth entrepreneurs I met were Misty Briglia and Sarah LaShelle, co-founders of Pretty Parlor beauty boutique on wheels. The Pretty Parlor is also built inside a retired delivery truck, like the Jasy B Truck. The beauty business is tightly regulated, unlike the retail clothing business. Thus, the Pretty Parlor truck has a bathroom complete with running water in a charming old world porcelain sink. There’s is room for a wheelchair to move around on board. A wheelchair ramp to board is in the works. I wonder if they can find a suitable aluminum ramp at a salvage yard that dismantles U-Haul trucks — those ramps are really well made.
In the photograph above, the woman in the gray sweater seated had just have her fingernails painted with intricate designs — a different design on each finger. I introduced myself to her and she let me see the results, which she really liked. She gave me permission to include her on this blog. The manicurist Mia Rubie, on the left, had her manicurist license out for display, just like you would see in a fixed location shop. I loved the antique furniture throughout the truck.
In the photograph above the founders Briglia and LaShelleare are sitting on the rear step of the truck. In the background, from let to right, are:
- Marie Rubie — Nail Artist
- Marla Kay — Esthetician
- Katie Stosic — Stylist and Receptionist
All of the trucks had generators chained outside sitting on the pavement. But I saw no heavy electrical requirement in any of the trucks. Since the trucks are only parked for the day, I think they all could switch to LED lighting and power themselves from a dedicated ‘house’ battery bank like those in recreational vehicles and bus conversions that charges from the vehicle alternator while driving. The generators are noisy and unnecessary. From what I could tell, none of the trucks contemplate air conditioning the sales floor while parked, but that’s the only reason for a large generator like the ones I saw.
I recommend adding a solar panel to the roof to keep the batteries charged while the vehicles are in storage, and also to be able to boast that the stores are in part ‘powered by the sun.’ Solar panels are very affordable these days.
The tenth and last entrepreneur I met was Aaron Bray, owner of Push Pull Art Design. Bray was at the fair selling his brand new but vintage appearing earrings and pendants.
He cuts the designs from steel with tin snips, and then flattens the cut edges with weights. He then treats the metal to give it a rich aged patina, rust I believe, that makes it resemble copper. I don’t know how Bray paints the pieces, and I could find no description on his website about how they are made. In fact, I could find almost no information about Bray online, and in particular, I could not find any pictures of him. I had Bray’s full cooperation to take the picture you see of him here.
I love Bray’s work, but I don’t understand why he is keeping such a low, low profile online. He should examine how Sarah Boll is using the Internet to promote her art. Bray’s online store is one example of how his low profile is hurting his finances. He sells only his discontinued work on his online store, but there are no ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ buttons to be found. The price is a hyperlink, and if you click that you are taken to PayPal where you can buy that item. But that’s is expecting far too much from people to start clicking links looking for a way to buy. There needs to be a buy button on every item for sale, without exception.
The site is so sparse that it’s off putting. I can’t read Bray’s biography or see what he looks like. I can’t learn his phone number. I can’t determine what city, state or country he lives in, except by inferring based on the shows he notes he will attend. Even then, the list is heavy on abbreviations like SF for San Francisco, California. Buyers from other parts of the world may not know what SF means. I can’t learn what stores carry his products. I can’t see his products worn by people. I can’t even learn what the products are made from or how big they are, as there is no reliable size reference in any of the pictures.
Bray has the most subtle, artistic and lovely product of any that I have reviewed here, and I offer the above criticism in the hope that he will make simple changes that I predict will measurably increase his revenues and profits. Here’s one final piece of advice: Add your products to your Etsy store, which currently has zero products for sale. From what I have heard, Etsy really works.
The last person I met was Matt Hettich. He’s not technically an entrepreneur because he is not a founder of the company whose product he was pitching. But his product is interesting, and his approach to promoting it is also interesting, so I have included him in this post.
Hettich’s title is Product Specialist/Artist Relations. The company he works for is Keith McMillen Instruments. This company didn’t have a booth at the fair. I met Hettich as the fair was winding down, when I walked into the legendary bar Noc Noc that’s been in the same spot on lower Haight Street for decades. The decor hasn’t changed in decades — still the crazy handmade furniture and bar, which is holding up quite well considering the flow of hard living hipsters over the decades.
I met Hettich almost immediately because he was showing off the eye catching and colorful QuNeo 3D Pad Controller seen in the pictures above and below. This is MIDI controller for digital musicians and disc jockeys. The buttons on this controller are not labeled because they are mappable by software to whatever you want them to control. The buttons sense where you touch them and how hard you press, which for sounds like drum machines can be very valuable and can help musicians be more expressive.
I am not a musician, but Hettich did a great job explaining the device and why I would want one if I were a musician.
Company founder Keith McMillen is a legend in the instrument business. One of the company’s customers was sitting with Hettich, and the customer compared McMillen to Robert Moog and Tom Oberheim, and said McMillen is in the same league. This stature probably explains why when his company ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise USD $15,000 he raised over ten times that amount.
The QuNeo costs just USD $249 — less than I guessed.
Here’s a pretty picture of some colorful silicone rubber wrist watches from Modify Watches, a brand of Modify Industries, Inc. I took this picture outside of D-Structure, where Chulick had a table of wares for sale. D-Structure carries Modify Watches at their store and online.
My friend Aaron Schwartz founded and runs Modify, and I’ve written about his products on this blog before. Schwartz has allowed me to borrow some of his products to photograph being worn by some of the models I photograph.
Schwartz’s company is a on a roll — his products were featured on the very popular United States television show The Today Show on October 3, 2012.
After the fair ended, I took this picture of Devon Chulick’s D-Structure art gallery and boutique, just as the sun was going down. I thought the ‘magic hour’ light was flattering.
Finally, Staghound Belts had a booth where they sold new belts for men. They also had a collection of vintage belt buckles, including this buckle showing a Class C motorhome on a Ford van chassis. This made me think of George Lehrer, a blogger I’ve read for years. Lehrer for a decade now has lived full time in his Class-C motorhome he has named Ms. Tioga, after the brand name given by its manufacturer. He writes several times a day, and makes about USD $1,000 a month in revenue from Google Ad Words, which supplements his US Social Security retirement checks. I suspect Lehrer would like to have this buckle, and I further suspect that Staghound Belts will have it for sale for some time, as I doubt there is much demand for such a unique item.
It’s likely that Staghound made the belts they were selling, and I should have asked more questions so that I could have written about the founder as an entrepreneur. Next time I will.
[November 27, 2012 -- I updated this post to name Julien Shields. The original version of this post referred to him as Laura Bruland's boyfriend.]
Tonight, September 2, 2012, I learned why in 1978 I moved to San Francisco, California USA. I never knew why until today, because I never thought to ask the right questions.
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, at the University of Chicago, where my mother worked as a Pathologist.
My parents had married soon after she graduated from Harvard Medical School, where she was one of five women in a class with 145 men.
My father and my mother got married in The Memorial Church on the Harvard University campus, a church I visited in 2000 when I was in Boston, Massachusetts, USA meeting with storage vendor EMC to discuss an investment by their venture capital division in my startup Hotpaper.
When I visited The Memorial Church, it was just another church. When I told my father about my tour of the Harvard campus, courtesy of my EMC provided limousine with two eager salesman trying to sell me an unnecessary USD $1,000,000 dollar storage array for my startup, my father said ‘your mother and I got married in that church!’
After they wed, my father decided to move with my mother to Chicago so that he could work at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
My mother was doing research at the University of Chicago, discovering that asbestos is even deadlier than was known at the time. Amazingly, the University of Chicago did not have a spectroscopy attachment for its electron microscope, and my mother needed this device for her research. IIT did have the needed equipment, but they charged money to use it, and IIT was a lengthy drive from our house at 5138 South Dorchester in Hyde Park, on the South side of Chicago. My mother rode her bicycle to University of Chicago, and it would have not have appealed to her to have had to drive to IIT on a frequent and regular basis.
My mother’s research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. I would think that a grant could have been won to order a spectroscopy attachment, but for whatever reason, that was not the path my mother took. Instead, she wrote to a friend she had worked with for a year some twenty years earlier in Seattle, Washington, USA. During that two decade span, that friend had become Chair of the Pathology Department at the University of California at San Francisco.
My mother explained her research and that she had heard that UCSF had a spectroscopy attachment for its electron microscope. My mother asked her friend if she could move to San Francisco and work at UCSF so she could use the required hardware. Her friend said ‘yes,’ and my mother started at UCSF as a full professor.
I learned tonight that my mother was promoted to full professor at University of Chicago just one month before she left for San Francisco. She had been an Associate Professor before that, and I remember as a kid the day my mother was granted tenure. Since I was young, I hadn’t heard that word before, so I thought she said ‘ten year.’ I assumed it was her tenth anniversary of employment. I told my mother that story tonight — perhaps for the first time.
I have a suspicion that University of Chicago panicked when they found out she was leaving for UCSF and rushed through the promotion to full professor, because the timing is so unlikely to have happened naturally. Even if that’s the case, I am sure my mother was pleased that she got to be a full professor at University of Chicago and University of California at San Francisco. My mother retired from UCSF years ago, so is now Professor Emeritus. She still has a website on the UCSF web server.
My mother decided to move our family to San Francisco, since my father had made the decision to move to Chicago. I did not know this until today.
I had always thought we moved to San Francisco because of its reputation as a great cosmopolitan city with superb weather. I had sometimes considered that perhaps UCSF had recruited my mother, but she dispelled that notion today. She did not have to interview for the job at UCSF. She did not have to compete with dozens of candidates. She asked her friend if she could work at UCSF and he said ‘yes.’
I am so thankful my mother needed a piece of equipment that University of Chicago didn’t have. She moved us to the center of the Internet world, and had we stayed in Chicago, I probably would not have become an Internet entrepreneur, which has allowed me to build a richly rewarding life that I cherish.
Thanks Mom! I love you.
McAvoy used to work with the co-founder of Five Star Organics, William Scott Kucirek, at his first startup, Zip Realty. Zip Realty competed in 1999 with my Internet company Hotpaper in the Berkeley Business Plan Competition. That competition is now named the Berkeley Startup Competition, a name change I proposed October 5, 2011 to Andre Marquis, who leads The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which provides support to the student run competition at the University of California at Berkeley, in Berkeley, California. My friends Melissa Daniels and Keval Desai were the student founders of the competition. Daniels and Desai are now venture capitalists — Daniels at Morgan Stanley Ventures Partners and Desai at InterWest Ventures. I don’t know if the competition was renamed at my suggestion alone. Kucirek’s Zip Realty to date is the most successful company to pass through the Berkeley Startup Competition, which is why I bring up the competition and its origins here. Zip Realty is the only company from the competition that has gone public, which makes Kucirek royalty at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, where Kucirek earned his Masters of Business Administration degree. This background should help OCHO become a candy brand you will be hearing much more from in the future.
After that build up, I am happy to report that OCHO candy bars taste really good.
I sampled all four flavors — Peanut, Coconut, Mocha and OCHO Bar.
Each is more sophisticated than your standard Snickers, Reese’s or Almond Joy, but not so sophisticated as to require an education to appreciate and prefer. The Mocha candy bar doesn’t have a similar major label counterpart, to my knowledge.
I think the OCHO product line will be a hit because it’s not trying to be Scharffen Berger, a decidedly more luxurious chocolate brand that has not and probably never will hit the mainstream, even though it is owned now by the same giant Hershey that makes Reese’s and Almond Joy.
I toured the Sharffen Berger plant with my friend Kelly Yu before Hershey’s acquired the company and brand. I was not a blogger back then, sadly, as the tour was fascinating and worth writing about. That tour gave me a deeper appreciation for chocolate, which of course was the point.
Denis Ring co-founded Five Star Organics with Kucirek. According to McAvoy, Ring created the 365 Everyday Value line of products at Whole Foods Markets and the O Organics line of organic products sold at Safeway.
I took the photographs that accompany this post. Click on them twice in delayed succession to see them at full size.
[Note: On May 1, 2014 Christy McAvoy sent me a Facebook message asking me to 'untag' her name from the picture above. I removed her last name and replaced it with a comment saying the last name was deleted.]
Yesterday, June 10, 2012 I took a drive to Point Reyes National Seashore, California USA from my home in San Francisco. Even though I moved to San Francisco from Chicago, Illinois after 9th grade in high school, I had never been to Point Reyes before. It’s not far from San Francisco, so I feel silly for waiting so long.
Sadly, I arrived at 5pm, but the walkway to the famous Point Reyes lighthouse closes at 4:30pm, so I didn’t get to touch the lighthouse. I did get to stand on the very windy peak above the lighthouse to take the photograph above. I estimate the wind was a constant 40 miles per hour while I was up there. According the the sign, winds have exceeded 100 miles per hour up there.
The lighthouse is not at the peak height because that would place it in the fog more frequently. The lower perch makes it more visible to passing boats and ships.
Amazingly, there are cattle ranches at Point Reyes, and the cattle at one ranch are not separated from the road by fences or even space. I was able to park and take this picture of a female cow.
Her name is 834.
I used the same Canon 135mm lens I use when I photograph female people. I asked my subject if she had any more flattering ear rings to wear other than the gaudy yellow pair she’s sporting here, but she ignored my remarks. I took dozens of pictures, just like I do on a photo shoot.
I drove home on California State Route 1, which for the most part follows the coast of California and is thus very twisty and is demanding of drivers. Just after the sun went down I took the shot above. The sun isn’t directly showing in this shot, which I enhanced in Adobe Photoshop to make it more dramatic. I don’t often photograph sunsets, but this one just presented itself.
Before I went to the lighthouse, I stopped at a charming grocery store and delicatessen in Inverness, California named simply The Inverness Store. This store is simple, but it is a treasure on the inside because it houses the most diverse collection of gourmet soda pop that I have ever seen in person. The photograph above shows about half of the selection offered, but this photograph shows dozens of flavors, such as Rhubarb soda and Huckleberry soda. I had one of each, and they were delicious. I don’t drink much soda anymore — only a few per week at the most. But when I do drink soda, I love these artisan products, which I have written about before on this blog.
In keeping with my new persona as a blogger, I introduced myself to the wife and husband team that own The Inverness Store — Nav and Raj Singh. I was so charmed with the soda selection that I came back around 7pm and asked if I could take some photographs. I asked if I could set up a still life, and Raj said that I may. I set up in the evening sunlight on a table just inside the front door. The low angle of the sun in the shot above bounced off the yellow label of the bottle on the right and penetrated the brown bottle of Hank’s Gourmet Vanilla Cream Soda in front, setting its contents aglow. The still life is arranged on a poster of a vintage school bus conversion from the 1960s, which the store had on sale for just USD $5.00 each. Since I love buses, this setting just felt right.
After I completed my photographs, I chose a bottle of Huckleberry soda to drink on my drive home, and when I went to pay for it, Nav gave it to me. That’s the first gift I’ve received as a blogger, and it made my day. Thank you Nav and Raj!
As usual, I uploaded these pictures at full resolution. Click on the pictures to see the full size versions, which are larger than your screen, even if you have a new Apple MacBook Pro with a Retina super high resolution display (over five million pixels), which was announced to the world today in San Francisco at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. I upload my pictures at 21 million pixel resolution.
New Avenue brings two of its homes to Moscone Center for the Pacific Coast Builders Conference June 22-24, 2011
My friend Kevin Casey is on a roll with his New Avenue, Inc. startup.
New Avenue designs, finances, builds and installs quality ADUs, which stands for Accessory Dwelling Units. ADUs are commonly known in the US as inlaw units or granny units. An ADU is a smaller house destined to be a second home on a single family residential lot. It’s public policy and official law in California that cities allow ADUs.
The two New Avenue products rolling up 101 are houses ready for decades of full time living. These are not cheap mobile homes destined for the scrap heap in 15 or 20 years. These are quality homes built with high quality materials and appliances. New Avenue homes are luxurious enough that they make sense in even the backyards of wealthy Californians.
I’ve a big fan of what Casey is doing, and I’ve written here about New Avenue four times before. I have even toyed with the idea of ‘competing’ with Casey by making ADUs from recycled ocean shipping containers. I’ve shelved those plans to focus my efforts on gOffice and its companion blog. But the concept of living in a smartly designed smaller home that consumes fewer resources is profoundly appealing to me, which is why I follow Casey’s progress with such fascination.
As I wrote about here last month, Kevin Casey invited me to build an aquaponics system for one of his homes. That home has been on public display in front of the new City Hall in San Jose, CA for the last six weeks or so. San Jose was gracious enough to allow Casey to reposition the house for a week so it could be shown publically at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC), happening at the Moscone [Convention] Center in San Francisco June 22-24, 2011, next week.
San Jose paid Casey to build the house as part of a green technology exhibit called the San Jose Green Vision Clean Energy Showcase funded by the United States Department of Energy with Recovery Act money. It was via the San Jose exhbit that New Avenue came to the attention of the PCBC conference, which paid Casey to design and build the larger ~750 square foot house you see disassembled on the three semi trucks in the picture at the top of this article. This green home which is also green in color, will be a centerpiece of the PCBC convention, and it is literally in the center of Moscone North. The houses were delivered at 5:50 this morning, just as the sun was rising, so that’s why the picture is dark… note the reflection of the headlights on the pavement. I was extremely lucky that the Moscone parking garage opened 15 minutes early at 5:45am. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been six stories up with a windowless view of 3rd street to take the picture above. Thank you to the garage staff!
The San Jose exhibit house, painted brown, is now in the driveway in front of Moscone North, at street level. This means thousands of cars will pass this house for the next week or so, and thousands of people will walk past it. As far as I know, no admission will be charged for members of the public to tour this house, so you don’t need to be a paid attendee of the PCBC conference to pay a visit.
The aquaponics system I built for Casey is on the front deck, just as it is when the house in in San Jose. The plants in the grow bed survived the windy truck ride North without cover, to my amazement. I didn’t want to risk the fish splashing out of the aquarium onto the roadway, so I removed them yesterday and brought them home with me in my car. I cleaned up the tank, filled it with declorinated fresh water and reintroduced the fish to their home this afternoon, once the New Avenue house was safely parked in San Francisco.
I will be on hand during the PCBC conference to explain aquaponics to visitors. I already told a dozen people about aquaponics today — mostly Moscone Center staff, including Lorenzo, a journeyman painter who engaged me in 20 minutes of conversation about small home living and gardening. He was extremely enthusiastic about aquaponics and the New Avenue house… he really wanted the house for his vacation property where he goes hunting and fishing.
I shot video of the house moves, and it’s being encoded for upload as I write this post. I will add a companion post tomorrow to show that video. These houses are so large they needed multiple escort vehicles to get to San Francisco safely. It was quite a spectacle watching the 750 square foot home be delivered by three trucks into the convention center. Be sure to have a look at that video on June 18, 2011.