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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Martuni's: San Francisco's Last Piano Bar (Video)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 9:20 AM

click to enlarge martuni_s_cover.jpg

This week's cover story takes readers inside the dimly lit chambers of Martuni's, the last true piano bar in San Francisco. This vestige from another era is a piano bar taking on a karaoke world and a place that delicately balances the act of appearing to never change while, in fact, changing constantly.

Naturally, we couldn't get everything into the story. Below are some of the gems from my notebook that couldn't find their way into the final draft. Also below is a beautiful video shot within Martuni's in which several singers and pianist Joe Wicht do their best to explain what piano bars are all about -- and sing!

Saturday night:
A drunk woman in an animal print dress wants to stand up from her stool and dance and finds she cannot do both. She resorts to dancing in her seat. An impeccably dressed older gentleman is dissatisfied by a gorgeous young man's awful rendition of a Beyoncé song, which he sings while reading from his smart phone.

Older man: "Being cute is not enough." He shakes his head. "Too bad he's singing to his iPhone, and not the room." He takes a drink of his martini. "Or, maybe not."

Diplomatic pianist Dee Spencer later tells an equally unimpressive singer, "You look so good, it don't even matter."

Monday night:

Pianist Joe Wicht introduces a song by saying "let's go back to the days of Sal Mineo," inducing a wave of nostalgia among patrons of a certain age.

Other Wicht callouts include "Our first Disney song of the night!" "Our first Jesus song of the night!" "Our first lesbian song of the night!" and "Who wants to sing? You! You with the wonderful jazz hands."

Wednesday night:
An older man watches a good-looking young regular singing -- and dancing to -- "Cruella DeVille." He shouts up, "This song needs more shoulders."

Later, this happens:

Incredibly drunk girl: Let's go to The Mint. (She steps on his foot with her stiletto heel)
Incredibly drunk guy: Aaaah! You crushed my toe!
Incredibly drunk girl: Your toe is fine. (She drags him from the premises)  

Monday night:
Overheard in the crowd:

-- What's that smell?
-- It's the oil in the lamps being blown out.
-- They're blowing lamps here, now?
-- You need to get out of here and go home and stay in your room for seven years until all of your body cells turn over and you'll be a new person.


-- You put the F in lascivious.

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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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