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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Jan 6 1999
The Continuing Clubs-in-Crisis Report "I feel like E.T.," jokes Jeanie Patterson, the now-former owner of the recently shuttered Mill Valley club Sweetwater. "I just want to go home." Patterson announced about a month ago that she would quit her job of 20 years running the club, which has hosted bands from John Fahey to Taj Mahal to the Flying Burrito Brothers to local groove-rockers Vinyl, who played what was believed to be the venue's final show on New Year's Eve. But a group called Friends of Sweetwater has been lobbying the landlords, the Aversa family, to allow the club to keep operating, and has negotiated an agreement with entrepreneur Thomas J. Steere that may allow Sweetwater to reopen as early as February. "I've been working diligently to find someone to come in and take over," Patterson says. "[I've been looking for] somebody who knows the bar business, works well with musicians, and has ties in Mill Valley." And Patterson's own plans? "I would like to just take some time and not do anything. I may want to write about part of the life [at Sweetwater]. I'm looking forward to doing simple things again: painting the kitchen, walking the dog. It's been one terrific life."

Meanwhile, the Mission District cafe and cabaret space Bearded Lady Coffeehouse, founded by Lori Hartmann, Harriet Dodge, and Lynn Flipper and operated for six years as a lesbian-oriented performance stage and community center, also announced plans to close its doors. The incipient closure -- six months from now, says Flipper -- stems from difficulties with the landlord over lease agreements, and the co-owners' interest in moving on to other projects, although Flipper is hopeful that the Bearded Lady will remain a gay-oriented space under new owners. Dodge and Flipper intend to devote their newfound spare time to a feature-length "buddy film" they plan to shoot in the city. (M.A.)

Sabbath Bloody Multimarketed Sabbath Black Sabbath is joining the ranks of Kiss in finding new ways to shock its already nerve-damaged fans. It's not just a matter of Ozzy and company heaving their bulbous masses onstage for what could be called the "Iron Supplement Man" reunion tour (they come to the San Jose Arena on Jan. 8). No, we're talking about something even more sinister -- official action figures, perfect for filing next to your genuine bottle of Elvis sweat.

The line of toys, designed by comic book artist Todd McFarlane (creator of Spawn and its own line of action figures), is just one of many new cash avenues planned by Sony Signatures, a San Francisco-based merchandising group headed by Joe Bongiovi (brother of hair-metal icon-cum-actor Jon Bon Jovi). Answering questions via cell phone 10 minutes before his 11 a.m. tee time, Bongiovi said the merchandising is perfect for a band like Black Sabbath. "McFarlane is the key because he makes toys that are dark and sinister," he said. "Ozzy nostalgia is big right now and fans are looking for unique collectibles."

The idea of using toys to pull heartstrings -- as well as cash -- from fans is not new to Sony Signatures. The group has developed toys for Kiss, Hank Williams Jr., and LeAnn Rimes, and recently landed a deal with Madonna for a line of dolls. Bongiovi says the deal with Ozzy will include skateboards, drum kits, and signed lithographs, but notes that the dolls are the main thrust for the future image of Ozzy. "I pitched the idea to Ozzy about doing a retrospective line of dolls of Black Sabbath, with all of his different looks, and he loved it." In true collectible style, the figures won't be available all at once, but rather doled out one by one throughout the tour.

Bongiovi says the first doll will hit shelves in February, but it won't be a part of the retrospective series. "We're going to use the toy to showcase what Ozzy will do in the future," says Bongiovi. "It will be a new character that he'll assume as part of an animated series, comic book, and possibly a concept album." Riff Raff was unable to procure any samples of the Ozzy doll, nor pry any descriptions of the cartoon from the tight-lipped Bongiovi, but we're already envisioning what the pilot episode will look like. Imagine Ozzy, finished with his woman because she couldn't help him with his mind, heads off to fight the evil War Pigs until he gets trapped in the Great Magnetic Field and turns to steel; newly empowered, he begins his five-afternoons-a-week crusade to rescue Ronnie James Dio's career. We can't wait. (R.A.)

Gone Oscar Scaggs, the son of blues-pop star (and Slim's co-owner) Boz Scaggs, died on New Year's Eve. A release from Scaggs' management says the cause of death was a drug overdose. He was 21. He's survived by Boz, his mother, Carmella, and his brother, Austin. The memorial service will be private, and the Scaggs family asks that donations be made in his name to the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics. (J.D.P.)

Stringers The Kronos Quartet, the long-standing interpreters of just about any modern classical composer you care to name, have announced that cellist Joan Jeanrenaud will be spending 1999 on sabbatical from the group. Jeanrenaud joined the quartet in 1978, and has also performed with like-minded post-classical folks such as Bob Ostertag, John Zorn, and Steve Reich, as well as appearing on the last Dave Matthews Band album, Before These Crowded Streets; we've also caught wind of her work on a 1987 album featuring Cher reading "The Ugly Duckling," complete with cello and harp accompaniment. The Kronos announcement says Jeanrenaud will be pursuing "personal and professional interests" for a year, which is also about the time it'll take to fully digest their 10-CD box set, Kronos Quartet -- 25 Years, which was released last October. Taking Jeanrenaud's place at cello is Jennifer Culp, who has performed with Linda Ronstadt, a number of national chamber orchestras, and also teaches at Mills College and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. (J.D.P.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Mark Athitakis (M.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Heather Wisner (H.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.


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