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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Apr 14 1999
The 3M Corp. Is Breathing a Huge Sigh of Relief For a while there, we were worried that tape -- you know, the stuff you put up fliers with -- was not just potentially illegal, but in truth ... dangerous.

At last week's meeting of the Housing and Social Policy Committee, Supervisor Barbara Kaufman appeared before a packed committee room and put forth her notorious plan to police the posting of fliers: have the Department of Public Works (DPW) establish a registration fee for people who want to post more than 25 fliers on poles, and ban the use of tape to hold them up. Instead of "pieces of tape flapping in the breeze," which Kaufman said she found unsightly, she proposed using plastic wrap.

Two DPW representatives demonstrated just how this might work, clumsily wrapping a flier around a wastebasket, resulting in 1) an unreadable flier, and 2) a whole lot of plastic wrap being used. DPW representatives also mentioned two cases in which city workers had filed workers' compensation claims due to injuries resulting from particulates from dried tape adhesive entering their eyes (Aleeta VanRunkle of the City Attorney's Office says she hasn't heard of any such claims, though that doesn't mean such a claim wasn't made. She also finds the claim "highly unusual." So do we.)

But with protesters lining up to complain and city officials noting that maybe, just maybe, using plastic wrap wastes a whole lot of non-biodegradable material, Kaufman amended her proposal at the end of the meeting, increasing the number of fliers one can post without having to pay registration fees to 50 or more, and allowing the use of tape.

"She could have saved herself a lot of grief if she did that earlier," says Peter Doty of the Ad-Hoc Committee to Defend Free Speech in San Francisco. Kaufman's amended plan goes back to the Housing and Social Policy Committee on April 20, though much of what the Ad-Hoc Committee wanted has been given to it. While he's still displeased with Rick Thurber's routine removal of fliers around town, Doty says, "I'm surprised that I'm getting into the position of almost supporting this." Call off the dogs -- you need only use plastic wrap to preserve last night's casserole. (Mark Athitakis)

Life Is Sweet's For 55 years, from 1924 to 1979, the building at 1933 Broadway in downtown Oakland was a regular haven for ballroom dancing. Founded by William Sweet, a professor of agriculture at UC Berkeley, for the first six years of its existence the second-floor space above the J.J. Newberry's five-and-dime store lived a vibrant life as Sweet's Ballroom, where big band orchestras would perform for audiences both black and white. But not at the same time; Duke Ellington played a "whites-only" show there in 1931.

Times change, and over the years the Sweet's Ballroom name moved to different locations throughout Oakland before finally being laid to rest in 1965 -- but not before it played host to an amazing cast of musicians: Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Les Brown among others, including a 1939 appearance by Frank Sinatra.

Now, however, the Sweet's Ballroom name -- and its original Broadway location -- is getting a refurbishing job. The 1,000-person-capacity venue is currently being remodeled, brought up to code, and slated to host name-act live shows, potentially providing the East Bay with a contender to compete with San Francisco midsize venues.

Thank God. No, really. The building is owned and operated by the University of Creation Spirituality, which is headed by the Rev. Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest. "Creation Spirituality is about bringing science, mysticism and art together to allow the spirit to flow and humans to recover their deep and spiritual selves," Fox wrote in the UCS prospectus upon the church's founding in 1996. To that end, the UCS has been holding monthly "Techno-Cosmic Masses" in the abandoned ballroom, melanges of techno rave and religious rapture with lots of lights and New Age-y theorizing.

"It's under way," says a tight-lipped Mel Bricker, assistant to Fox, regarding the current renovations and plans for shows unrelated to UCS. Much of the cleanup job is being done by volunteers, and Linda Lowrance of Oakland-based Lowrance Productions is handling the booking for upcoming shows. Lowrance did not return phone calls for comment, but according to Laurie Murray, who is assisting with promotions and booking, shows at Sweet's Ballroom will be "open format for the first year or so," to test out what works and what doesn't. (M.A.)

There're JoJo Wannabes? In response to last week's column about Brain Wash's permit problems and its weekly music showcase's move to the Paradise Lounge, angry Riff Raff reader Martha Hughes writes:

I can't believe you used an entire page on an Ian Brennan show [we used an entire half page]. Not only are those shows mediocre ... they don't represent half of the music out there!

To your probably total surprise, there is a growing metal scene in San Francisco! I know this must be a shock, but let me clue you in......the Saturday before last, the polish [sic] death metal powerhouse, Vader, cruised into town and packed (I said, packed!) Club Cocodrie on a Saturday afternoon... May I dare say that each member of Vader has more talent in his little pinky than an entire group that usually plays at the Paradise.

Perhaps you don't care for metal, that's your choice. I hate pop and hip hop. But please note in the back of your brain that we are here, and we're gaining numbers. We are a force to be reckoned with, and I'm sure your readers would love to know that there's more out there than JoJo wanna-bes and drug dealers-turned rappers.

Hughes was kind enough to provide a list of "kick-ass local bands to check out," to wit: Vile, Exhumed, Sangre Amado, Old Grandad, Lost Goat, Abscess, Weakling, Ebola, Impaled, and so forth.

The letter knocked us for a loop -- we were busy listening to Britney Spears when it came in over the transom. But let us be clear: While Cradle of Filth and similar black metal acts usually just make us giggle, we'll proudly defend any band's right to play 5,000bpm rhythms and offer us lyrics like "In a tongue hilted in invective rectums/ Over signs and seals the sorceress prayed." We've always wondered how the seals felt about that. (M.A.)

Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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