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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eddie Rickenbacker's Tiffany Lamps May Fetch $2 Million

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge Henry Africa had an eye for lamps - BART MADSON, MOTORCYCLEUSA.COM

You could be forgiven for not noticing the lamps adorning SOMA watering hole Eddie Rickenbacker's. One's attention might have been more naturally drawn to the scores of vintage motorcycles dangling from the ceiling. Or since-departed bar owner Henry Africa (né Norman Jay Hobday) in a bathrobe with oxygen tubes protruding from his nose, resting on a tattered couch and watching television in the corner.

In retrospect, however, we should have paid more attention to the lamps. Because they may be worth $2 million. That's the price six table lamps and one chandelier may fetch at auction per Christie's.

While the lamps may have been the most valuable items in Eddie Rickenbacker's, they may not have been the most interesting. We'll hand that title to the bar's mascot/maître d' Mr. Higgins -- and the skeletal remains of "Custer's squaw."

Mr. Higgins was an alarmingly obese and remarkably sociable orange Hurricane Katrina rescue cat who used to draw people into the bar with the efficacy of a two-for-one beer deal. Even though Africa was fined at least once by the health department for allowing his cat free run of the bar, it was easily a cost benefit to have Higgins around -- "Hey, I love him, too" added Africa.

Higgins died in 2010. Africa died last year at age 77.

"Custer's squaw" died long, long before. Back in 2005, Africa found himself the focus of undesired rancor when Indian groups protested his display of the teeth knocked out of the unnamed woman's mouth "in a jealous pique by the 'General' for slipping into the tent of the handsome Lt. James Sturgis on a frosty 'Kansas morn.'"

Africa was even visited by the city's Human Rights Commission -- and while the bar owner was far from the most sympathetic character, the notion of the municipal government imposing itself into what one may or may not display on a tavern wall is a curious concept.

That said, Africa used interesting language when describing the situation to SF Weekly alum Matt Smith. The activists who complained to him in his bar were "A bunch of dirty Indians ... that didn't have jobs. They're bums. They're worthless, shiftless people making a mountain out of a molehill." He eventually tossed the teeth into the garbage, so "Now they're buried in San Francisco city dump, and the Indians will be happier, and they can pray over the debris in the city dump out there right now."

Considering the selling price of the bar's lighting system, perhaps they'll be doing more than just praying at the dump. Perhaps they'll be digging.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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