As I walked in to Summerfield Cinemas’ grand opening party last night, a friend—on his way out—stopped me. “It’s like the Sonoma County glitterati in there,” he said. “Even Sal Rosano is here. I almost touched his hair to finally see if it was real.”
He was right. In the packed lobby, after new owner Dan Tocchini’s speech, county supervisor Shirlee Zane got up and talked about the films that have inspired her, including My Dog Skip and Gosford Park. Former Supervisor Tim Smith—standing among friends who made fun of Zane while she spoke—kept his cool while exchanging glances with Supervisor Paul Kelley. Councilman Ernesto Olivares, poised to be the next mayor of Santa Rosa, characteristically said a few encouraging words and not much more.
SR Entertainment Group partner and developer Richard Coombs raised a toast to all those who’ve made the Summerfield Cinemas happen, including fellow partner Larry Wasem and property owner Lynn Duggan. Local boy-made-good Rider Strong got up and introduced his new movie, and walking around the perimeter of the crowd was former Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini, who ten years ago successfully pushed for the Roxy Stadium 14’s monopoly on movie theaters in downtown Santa Rosa.
Jan Klingelhofer, the film buyer from the Rafael Film Center who’s been hired as booker for the Summerfield, spoke about the importance of independent films, yet in the entire evening’s speeches, not a word was mentioned of the Rialto Cinemas or of Ky Boyd, who pioneered the format in Sonoma County. One conspicuous employee of the building’s former tenant was present, however: former Rialto manager Mary Ann Wade, in the lobby she once reported to every day, scoping the packed house and no doubt feeling completely bewildered at the crazy scene.
Movies at Summerfield Cinemas start today—and in a move that no one can find any reason to be upset about, movies at Tocchini's Third Street Cinemas are now just $3.00, day or night, all the time, starting now, making it the first true second-run theater in Sonoma County with discounted prices since Empire Cinemas in Rohnert Park closed over ten years ago.
Today, while walking to pick up a sandwich, I was thrilled to see a man in a fedora with a microphone and cassette deck around his shoulder, interviewing people on Fourth Street. I approached. "Are you a Man on the Street?!" I asked. "Sure," he said. "I'm talking about validation. Do you have any thoughts on being validated by others? Have you thought about that much?""Not really at all!" I replied."Well, this'll be good, then," he said.
The next thing I knew, the tape was rolling, and the man began asking me about my upbringing, and about being validated—by my parents, peers and friends."Do you think you could be validated by an inanimate object, like this flower pot?" he asked."I can honestly say I have never considered the possibility before," I replied. Validated by a flower pot?
And then in all seriousness, the man said, "Why haven't you?"
Right then and there I figured the guy to be a total crank, and started wondering how I'd ever get out of his loopy clutches. But then he started talking about local businesses, and downtown parking, and it all became clear: he was conducting interviews about Santa Rosa's downtown parking validation program.
Things opened up from there. I told him what I knew about downtown parking, and we bantered, and then I said I had to get back to work. "You've been fired," he told me.
I saw a nametag on his microphone. "Wait, what'd you say your name was again?" I asked."Mal," he said. "Mal Sharpe."
I couldn't believe it. The Mal Sharpe. Of course. The surreal wit, the post-beatnik banter, the zany humor. Mal Sharpe, the definitive Man on the Street. Mal Sharpe, who with Jim Coyle revolutionized the art with a series of albums on Warner Bros. records in the early 1960s. What in the world was Mal Sharpe doing in Santa Rosa?"City hired me," he said.
I don't know how much longer Mal's going to be on Fourth Street talking to people, but I do know this: you should get down there and be interviewed by him while you can. It's a validating feeling, I tell you.
Good News for Street Food: Beginning Nov. 22, the Wells Fargo Center will join the rising trend of mobile food purveyors by hosting the Street-Eatz food truck outside the venue at concerts and events.“I’m delighted with the opportunity,” Street-Eatz owner Jilly Dorman says.
The partnership aims to alleviate stress for event-goers by providing food on the grounds. “A lot of people come straight from work or other places and haven’t had an opportunity to grab food,” explains WFC's Kristi Buffo. “People need something before the show other than cookies and juice, and they want something healthy. In general, the idea is to provide something convenient that is healthy as well.”
As one of the most popular mobile food trucks in the area, Street-Eatz operates on a rotating-location basis on weekdays and sets up in Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa on weekend nights after 9pm.
While Street-Eatz will offer their trademark dishes before shows–pulled pork sandwiches, coconut curry vegetables, chicken flautas, vegetarian fried tofu and more— it won't serve beverages. “We have a strong beverage service here,” Buffo explains. It's undetermined whether or not Street-Eatz will serve food during intermissions.
The Street-Eatz truck will be found near the fountain structure on the west side of the building, adjacent to the lobby. “We’ll put out chairs and tables and make it enjoyable for guests,” Buffo says.
Street-Eatz makes its debut at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday, Nov. 22, at the Daniel Tosh comedy show. (And speaking of comedy, they've also got Kathy Griffin coming back on Jan. 29.)—Haley Sansom
As announced at last night's Festa del Fondo fundraiser at St. Francis Winery, race organizers at AEG are planning to make Santa Rosa the starting city for the 2012 Tour of California.
This comes directly on the heels of yesterday's announcement of the 2011 ToC route, which bypasses Santa Rosa entirely. Concurrently, local cycling star Levi Leipheimer immediately took to Twitter to promise Santa Rosa that the ToC was "planning big" for 2012.
At last night's function, an AEG representative gave an equally vague promise, leaving the crowd hanging, sources say. Goaded on by Leipheimer to finally break the news, the AEG rep confirmed Santa Rosa as 2012's start city.
Though his comments were intended as "off the record" to the large crowd, bike blogger and Leipheimer nemesis Fat Cyclist immediately went online with the news before receiving a good-natured noogie from Levi himself.
I first heard about the Heirloom Tomato Festival at Kendall-Jackson sometime after it started, in the '90s. "That sounds neat and all," I thought, as much a fan of heirloom tomatoes as the next guy, "but a whole festival?"
Yet each year I kept hearing about it, and seeing billboards, and dodging cars backed up on Fulton Road. I'd talk with people about my own tomatoes, and they'd invariably ask if I'd been to the festival. It became a hot ticket, always selling out. I just couldn't understand it.
Well, I finally went for the first time, and now I understand.
The Heirloom Tomato Festival isn't just bunch of people sitting around eating tomatoes, as I'd imagined. Although a large tent with myriad varieties ready for the toothpicking is a nice centerpiece (see above), mostly, the festival consists of 55 of the area's best restaurants crafting bite-size foodstuffs using heirloom tomatoes grown in Kendall-Jackson's gardens, and you, the patron, get to vote on who creates the tastiest thing to stuff in your mouth.
I chatted with a few of the chefs. Here's what they came up with.
Brandon Guenther from Rocker Oysterfeller's won my vote for the day. Although Nectar Restaurant's booth was also doing waffles, I loved the way the cornmeal in Guenther's waffles paired with his choice of tomatoes—Cherokees for the relish, and Sungolds for the syrup. I literally chuckled when I popped one in my mouth, it had such a unique taste, and that was even after Guenther had run out of the bacon he'd been using as well. I asked him why he chose waffles. "'Cause they're fun!" he said. "I mean, why not?"
Of course I had to check out The Girl and the Fig's booth, where Chris Jones had mini quiches with gruyère cheese, marmalade and Early Girls grown in the restaurant's own gardens. They were outstanding. "The tomatoes are kind of a disappointment this year," Jones told me, echoing the sentiments of every local grower who dealt with this year's unusually cold summer. "It seems late to be using the Early Girls, but actually they're happening now. I also wanted to use them because they're high in sugar, which goes well with the marmalade.""I don't even like tomatoes," Trishia Davis, from CutieCakes Bakeshop, told me. And yet she made my favorite dessert-style item of the day: a vanilla butter cake with pineapple- and cardamom-scented caramel and brown sugar heirlooms. The presence of the tomatoes didn't overwhelm, and the treats called "Sticky Fingers" were quaint and delicious—especially coming from someone who never uses tomatoes, other than each year at the festival. "I intended for it to taste like dessert," Davis said, plainly, "and not dinner." CutieCakes, in Sebastopol, is currently looking for a retail location; it'll no doubt be busy when it opens.
Let's face it—some booths phoned it in, like the sausage purveyor who slopped some scalding hot boiled tomatoes on a plate next to their regular sausage and called it good. But Adam Mali, from Nick's Cove, faced a slight dilemma when using heirlooms to top Nick's famous oysters: "I didn't have to think too hard," he told me of the simple concept, "but the tricky part was using the tomatoes without overpowering the oysters. I used purple, red and yellow varieties; I stayed away from the green ones." It worked out well.
By far, the longest line of the day, especially as the temperature climbed, was for Fiorello's Gelato. Owner Anthony Bonviso has been making the best gelato around for 29 years, but he can't take credit for the idea behind the Watermelon Tomato Mint Gelato he was serving. "Paul Schroeder, at Monti's," Bonviso told me. "He's the one who gave me the idea." As the 42 people waiting in line found out, it proved to be a good one, and was a cool way to cap off a nice, hot day. I've always bought Fiorello's at Traverso's in Santa Rosa, but this past year they've expanded into Whole Foods. Look for the plain, white-labeled pints!More Photos Below.
It was 8:45am at Rialto Cinemas, and Ky Boyd, who hadn’t gotten much sleep, couldn’t remember how many hundreds of people he’d hugged the night before. In the lobby, a vase of flowers still sat on a table, next to an overturned table, next to another jumble of tables and chairs all set for the moving truck. In the main auditorium, a five-man crew with ratchet tools were removing theater seats, and outside, pylon cones on Summerfield Road steered traffic around a giant orange crane tractor, the arm of which extended to the Rialto’s large marquee sign. Today, the sign would come down.“Last night was overwhelming,” said Boyd of the Rialto’s final night of operation, the 'Last Night at the Rialto,' which over 800 people attended. “So many people have embraced this dream of mine, to operate an art house. What has happened, it didn’t just happen to us, it happened to the audience. That’s why they’re so passionate about it, and so upset. They have ownership of this. They helped make the Rialto. They are an essential part of who and what we are, and so it’s personal to them. It’s not just about me. It’s personal to them, and that’s huge.”
Boyd added that he is in talks about an existing building—he wouldn’t say where—that may prove suitable for a relocated Rialto Cinemas, rather than building from the ground up as previously hinted. But one thing was certain, and that’s the city where he wants to reopen. “For it to really, truly be successful,” he said, “it needs to be in Santa Rosa.” (“There are a lot of sophisticated transplants here,” mentioned Padi Selwyn, who since March has worked public relations for the Rialto’s closing. “Not all of us grew up growing prunes and hops.”)
Surrounded by handwritten testimonials in the lobby from patrons, and knowing this day would come for six months, Boyd’s was the face of emotional exhaustion. Last night he’d personally addressed all five auditoriums, thanking his loyal clientele for their support. In introducing the screening of To Catch a Thief, he reached the part where he thanked his staff and his partner, Michael O'Rand, “and I kind of started to cry," he said, visibly holding back emotion simply in the retelling.
Just then, Michael Burch, a principal at ScottAG who designed the marquee sign, approached. “So when you’re ready, we’re ready,” he said, with delicate avoidance of the task.
Boyd joined a small group on the sidewalk. On the roof, a worker removed the last bolt, and in the tractor, another turned the key and pulled a lever. The Rialto Cinemas sign levitated from the mansard roof, hanging on the crane arm, and then gently descended from the building. Cars slowed. A jogger ran past. A young girl across the street waved. The sign came to the ground. The theater officially no longer belonged to the Rialto, and Burch put his arm around Boyd, who turned and buried his head in his shoulders.
Those old eyes don’t deceive you, downtown Santa Rosans: after several years of stalled silence, the clock on the façade of Mark Allen Jewelers is up and running again.
Mark Allen himself, who estimates that a clock face has adorned the building since the '20s or '30s, was as dismayed as anyone that the hands had been stuck at 4:54 for the past few years. After spending "$500 here, $500 there" to make temporary fixes over the last 20 years, he's completely replaced the old motor—which still had a five-digit telephone number printed on it—with a state-of-the-art clock motor connected to GPS to always tell the exact correct time.
Installed by a company from Missouri who's also done similar projects at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., "it should hopefully last," says Allen, literally knocking on wood, "another 10 or 15 years."
Though the new clock doesn't have a second hand ("It was almost $3,000 just for a second hand," Allen laments), it's got a heck of a lot of admirers in downtown Santa Rosa. What with the U.S. Bank building clock being fixed and now this, all three clocks in Courthouse Square are running! So stop by and say thanks to Mark if you get a chance—especially since he paid for it out of his own pocket without any help from the landlord.
(In other clock news, there's a new post clock in Railroad Square that was installed two weeks ago but has yet to work. Waiting for an electrical hookup? Meanwhile, a similar clock that used to be in front of the Old Clock Shop on Santa Rosa Avenue continues to tick away in front of the Union Hotel in Occidental. Did you notice that Traverso's brought that old green clock to their new location? Yes, I like clocks.)
Fourth of July. Pedaling down the creekside. "On your left." Couples out for a stroll. People drinking at 10am. Stony Point undercrossing. Another ride out on the Joe Rodota Trail. Beautiful day. Fulton Road, swing a U-turn to cross over to Hall and WAIT A SECOND WHAT IN THE WORLD?!!?! Can it be?! YES!
Ladies and gentlemen, the creek trail between Fulton and Willowside is now paved.
[Three cheers to Sonoma County Regional Parks.]
Well, that was quick! Due to a constant flood of listener complaints to the station over his untimely layoff, local radio veteran Steve Jaxon will return to host The Drive on KSRO starting next week.Laid off three weeks ago by the East Cost owners of Maverick Media, KSRO's parent company, Jaxon said today that he and station management have agreed to a win-win model to keep Jaxon's timely variety of daily interviews on the air. "I'm bringing my own sponsors, the same way we do our Swingin' With Sinatra show with KJZY," he told me today. "It's not costing KSRO anything."
The show's format will stay exactly the same, in the same time slot, from 3-6pm. Right-hand man Mike DeWald will stay on as producer. The Drive's focus might occasionally expand to the greater Bay Area and state, but Jaxon says there's no way he'll ignore "all the major Sonoma County stuff."
Mostly he's excited to be back behind the microphone, humbled by the community support he's received. "The main story here," Jaxon says, "is that Sonoma County speaks, and management listens."
We previously expressed our own disappointment with the situation here, and offered a ridiculous Muffin Street commercial from 1989 to cheer everyone up. We're glad it worked, and wish Steve the best.
And so Steve Jaxon has been let go from KSRO. My colleague Daedalus Howell writes an excellent overview in this week’s Bohemian about the circumstances surrounding his departure, which in a nutshell, is this: Some suits from Maverick Media’s parent company in Connecticut came out to Santa Rosa, took a look at the station’s finances and said, “This guy makes too much money. Get rid of him.”
It’s a sad story about local media that’s not locally owned. Out on the East Coast, KSRO’s new owners simply had no idea how he’s completely transformed that little station into a vibrant central hub of up-to-date information and community discussion. They just let him go.
I’d like to say KSRO will weather the media landscape without Steve Jaxon. After all, it’s Santa Rosa’s longest-running radio station. Old-timers will remember when KSRO’s studios sat at the corner of Humboldt and College, a building that’s now George Peterson Insurance. Open up copies of the Press Democrat from 1938, and you’ll see daily program guides for 1350 AM. KSRO even made a cameo in The Birds—one of those inimitable moments of Hitchcock’s attention to local detail.
But without Jaxon, the birds will be circling at KSRO. When he came on The Drive, everyone tuned in—it was like hearing the pulse of the county each afternoon. You'd hear candidates in the supervisors’ race. You'd hear movie theater owners, authors, local schoolteachers. You'd hear a band playing on the air, or a four-star chef talking recipes. Anything that happened in town, Jaxon would seize the moment and get key people in the studio to tell their stories with the personality and imagination only the radio can supply.
How did he do it? Jaxon just has a certain magnetism, a cool detachment which inspires guests to loosen up and talk freely. Case in point: Once, while I sat in, he remarked to the listening audience that he had ice in his pants. I thought it was a joke, but then he cut to commercial and pulled a bag of ice out of his pants. How can you be uncomfortable around a guy who’s totally comfortable having a bag of ice in his pants?
I often brought in weird reminders of history the few times I came on Jaxon’s show. "Jaxon and Wells" were the first radio DJs I ever heard growing up in Santa Rosa on the Top 40 station of the ’80s, 93-KREO, and a few years ago, I actually unearthed a 93-KREO bumper sticker. I promptly stuck it on my car. One of my proudest moments was leading Jaxon and Wells out to the station parking lot, to my car, to show that someone actually still cared about KREO.
Another time, I whipped out a KSRO letter-opener from the 1950s, seen above; later, I brought in a vinyl rip of Jaxon’s old band, The Mix, and secretly gave it to his producer Mike DeWald to play as surprise bumper music. I was looking forward to the next time I sat in so I could play a KREO commercial I recently discovered on a cassette tape, but oh, what the heck, I’ll just embarrass him now. Here’s Steve Jaxon starring in a weird-ass commercial for Muffin Street . . . in 1989!
Anyway, best of luck, Steve. Hope you land on your feet.