Death Dealer looks for the living

Not sure if it’s a reference to the Underworld series, but hell fuckin’ yes. If that doesn’t make mothers shield you from their children, nothing will.

A brush with the Tenderloin

We’re big fans of Mona Caron’s mural “Windows into the Tenderloin” which, like everyone else in the neighborhood, we excitedly watched her painting at the corner of Jones and Golden Gate during nearly a year in 2009. If you still haven’t stopped by to admire it, we urge you to do it asap as it beautifully captures the spirit of the neighborhood in a unique and inspiring way.

Also, the mural depicts a lot of the well-known characters of the streets of the Tenderloin, and recognizing each one of them can be a fun game to play. Last Friday, right before the Art in Storefronts launch, we caught the screening that documents not only the making of the mural but also a lot of those characters so familiar to all. The film, directed by Paige Bierma and aptly titled A brush with the Tenderloin, is only 22 minutes unfortunately and not available online (only the trailer). So you’ll have to catch it in some festival or maybe at the public library at some point.

After the screening there was a Q&A with both the film director and with Mona Caron, who mainly received praised by all the local residents for including them in the mural and making them feel part of the community. One such person, whom we had often seen in the area but had never talked to at length, is Indian Joe — pictured here with Caron on the left and Bierma on the right. As you can see, he’s a big fan of Alice Cooper and thanks to the film we learned that he recently had the chance to hear his idol play in San Francisco, after his Tenderloin friends collected money for his ticket. He loves talking, so if you ever see him around, make sure to say hi.

The Tender Tonight: Disposable Film Fest

For Bike Week, the good folks of the Disposable Film Fest are hosting a bike-in screening tonight by the legendary pool of the Phoenix Hotel (601 Eddy Street at Larkin Street).

The program will include the best disposable shorts of 2011, which are films made on everyday equipment like cell phones, pocket cameras, and other inexpensive video capture devices. There will also be food trucks, including (among others) Magic Curry Kart, Halal Halal, Sasonao Nicaraguan Cooking, Sidesaddle Kitchen, BiBimBop Bowl, Better than Sex Cake (seriously!), and Nosh This (if you haven’t tried their famous bacon crack, now it’s your chance!).

There will even be an awesome raffle including gift certificates from Box Dog Bikes, Sports Basement, classy camping equipment from Alite Designs, and the new bar at the Phoenix (Chambers), and limited edition DFF messenger bags from Tender friends Rickshaw Bags.

Free valet parking sponsored by Mission Bikes, just bring a blanket or something else to sit on. And if you don’t have a bike, you can just take Muni walk, of course.

Oh, and if you’re worried about cold weather, the courtyard is enclosed and there will also be some heat lamps on hand, so you should survive. Just in case, bring warm clothes, though!

And did we mention the event is FREE? So see you all there at 7:30pm!

PS: And tomorrow is Bike to Work Day!

‘The TL was a lady of the night, wrapped in Stilettos and Steel’

Browsing through Amazon (don’t judge) we found a novel published last year that caught our attention. “Stilettos and Steel” by Jeri Estes is a noir-esque crime novel based on her personal experiences living in the Tenderloin in the mid-1960s as a runaway teen from the Southern California suburbs. With nowhere to go, she lands in “a seedy neighborhood run by dirty cops and ruthless gangsters”. She briefly tries her hand at prostitution, but quickly promotes herself to management and becomes a pimp. That doesn’t sit so well with the men who rule the Tenderloin. They are determined to run the new pretender off the block and out of the city entirely. The only problem is, they didn’t count on facing off with a whole gang of gorgeous hookers who won’t be ordered around anymore. The new stud on the block is a lot nicer, and she pays a lot better.

“Stilettos and Steel” also chronicles a first in LGBT history that took place in the Tenderloin in 1966: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, where the gay community fought police harassment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin three years before the more famous riot at the Stonewall Inn bar in NYC. This is how Jeri Estes describes it in the book:

The cafeteria was on Turk and Taylor Street was my favorite place to rendezvous. It was a convenient meeting spot in the heart of the Tenderloin. Any time was a good time, since it was open twenty-four, seven. The corner was a mecca for every variety of street people, including the young runaways who panhandled in front of the restaurant.

Compton’s had large windows that ran the full length of the cafeteria, which made it an ideal location to check out the street action. The cooks and servers were were immune to the hard drag butches, to the dolled-up femmes, flamboyant queens and army of hippies and bikers that lingered inside over cups of coffee.

To give you a better idea of ho the Tenderloin was perceived in the 1960s, here’s a TV report in which it gets called “a marketplace of vice, degradation and human misery”:

The book has stellar reviews on Amazon, so we’ll have to check it out. Here’s an excerpt from the opening chapter, titled “Welcome to the Tenderloin”:

Turned the corner on Ellis and Powell Streets with a red rose in my hand. The chilly night air stole through my silk shirt as I made my way to the Why Not Lounge. Sporting a new leather jacket and polished wing tips, I rehearsed my best clean-up lines. Carmen knew me too well for just anything to work.
At this hour, the heart of San Francisco came alive with romance and glamor. Antique fog lamps softly illuminated the sidewalks. Other suitors walked arm in arm with their girls through Union Square. Shiny black limos dropped off well-heeled travelers draped in minks, diamonds and tailored overcoats. Glowing candles on white linen peeked through the windows of the five-star restaurants. Grand facades of elegant shops and historic hotels lent the streets a Parisian grandeur.

As I neared the Tenderloin, the neighborhood lost its civility. Flower-crowned hippies, restless soldiers and glossy ladies of the night emerged from the mist. Strip joints, beer bars and panhandlers announced the opening of San Francisco’s red light district. It welcomed runaways from all over, people like me who didn’t fit in at home.

Planet of the animals

Do you remember that awesome band we met back in October named Cambo & The Life? A couple of days ago we got word that they just released a new music video, “Planet of the animals”, which gives a little taste of the TL:

As soon as we saw it we wanted to find out more about it, so we contacted the people behind it: Finktoons. It turns out Finktoons is a sketch comedy troupe who does live action and animated skits (who knew). It was co-founded by Brandon Fink, who directed and animated this video for friends Cambo & The Life. Brandon says it’s supposed to be set in the Tenderloin, although it is a pretty loose interpretation of it. It takes place on Turk and Leavenworth, nearby where Cambo’s studio is located and the bulk of their music is created.

I didn’t really illustrate it based on any specific landmarks or actual sites in the neighborhood. The primary inspiration for the video came from the song itself, it’s a pretty rad hip-hop song, and I wanted to make a video that kind of kept that flavor, but at the same time did a good job of poking fun at what are usually inherent values in that particular type of music-the gold chains, the bitches, the money, fancy cars, looking smooth etc. So I opted to try to convey what I viewed as the opposite of that: making the rap-superstar a big green down-syndrome monster with warts and a tiny little penis (sorry Cambo), stripping down the baller surroundings and putting him in some janky situations surrounded by crackheads and hookers and thieves, and just trying to make the whole thing pretty goofy and light hearted.

Thinking that maybe we got offended by the depiction of the neighborhood in the video (we didn’t), Brandon wants to clarify that he was not trying to knock the TL in any way in this video. And he adds, “it is a very colorful and culturally rich environment, but you can’t deny the fact that there’s a pretty hefty amount of crackheads and hookers and thieves running around. And that can sometimes be funny”. Indeed.

Harrison Montgomery

With the start of San Francisco’s Independent Film Festival tonight, a friend reminded us of a film shot in the Tenderloin that won an audience award there two years ago called, “Harrison Montgomery“. It seems the film was released last October, but screened only at the 4 Star Theater for about five minutes, and since we never go to the Richmond, we missed it. We’re still waiting for it to be available on Netflix, where it’s been coming soon for the last few months. In the meantime, here’s a little info about the film in case any of you hardcore Tenderloin lovers decide to shell out a few bucks and get the DVD on iTunes or on Amazon (or have connections and can get a copy for yourselves). And if you’ve already seen it, please leave your comment below.

“Harrison Montgomery” is a typical indie film in that it’s low-budget, filmed on location (in the Tenderloin), it’s the first feature by director Daniel Dávila and the main characters are played by unknown actors. However, one of the film’s appeal is seeing Martin Landau, who plays the character Harrison Montgomery. Even though he appears in very few scenes and “could hardly even be considered a backup singer on this song”, as put by a film critic. Here’s the plot, from the film’s website:

In San Francisco’s poverty-stricken Tenderloin district, would-be artist Ricardo Papa is trying to make ends meet as a petty drug dealer. On the run from his boss and on the outs with his girlfriend, he takes up residence in the dilapidated Hotel Boyd. There he crosses paths with thirteen-year-old Lattie Flemming who charms Ricardo with her fearless and beguiling attitude. As they grow closer, Ricardo learns that Lattie’s mother, Margo, is trapped in an abusive relationship that puts mother and child in jeopardy. When Ricardo desperately presses to make good on a deal gone bad, he encounters another of the Boyd’s residents, Harrison Montgomery. Ricardo discovers that this aging recluse has a secret – a secret that could solve all of Ricardo’s problems. With his boss closing in, and Margo and Lattie on the ropes, Ricardo is forced to choose between saving himself, and saving his only friends.

One last interesting bit about this film: in an interview for SF360, director Daniel Dávila, now based in LA but formerly a San Franciscan, says that the Tenderloin has “a pallet, rich tones, many of them earthy, all yellowed by age—a forgotten opulence that typifies the late 19th-early 20th century architecture of the neighborhood”. In case you didn’t know.

Same old Tenderloin, minus 112 birthdays

Via Bluoz (our favorite blog to find weird stuff about the neighborhood), we find this gem of a movie titled ‘The Tenderloin at Night’, produced by the Thomas Edison studios in 1899. (Note that it’s not called the “Uptown Tenderloin” as Shaw & Co. keep insisting.) As Bluoz points out, it is probably the first exploitation movie of all time, showing alcohol, prostitution, crime, police, it’s all there in barely two minutes.

The film was actually made in West orange, New jersey, but according to the Library of Congress, it depicts the Tenderloin district in San Francisco 112 years ago. Still looks exactly the same, doesn’t it?

In case it was too confusing, here’s the plot as described by YouTube poster TigerRocket (who thinks it’s New York City’s Tenderloin, but we’ll go with the Library of Congress on this one):

This bawdy crime vignette has all of the seedy charm of the ‘Tenderloin’ at night as a stranger enters a drinking house, let’s call him ”Mark.” He’s heartily greeted by the other patrons, so he pulls out a gloating wad of cash and buys the house an impressive round. He quickly finds himself and his presidential pals the center of flirtatious attention. By way of diversion the flirty gal’s man / beau / pimp, slips the guy a ‘Mickey.’ He drinks himself into a convenient stupor with each woman cleaning his pockets. One woman gives the audience a blue moment when she slips the cash in her shapely silk safe. The mark wakes up to find his gains gotten. Out numbered by the crooked locals, he finds himself ejected by the knowing proprietor and a conveniently available cop, leaving the house full of ‘low lives’ to celebrate their ill gotten gains. The babes burst into a brief can-can. More leg show! The victim returns with the law but the film ends as abruptly as the marks good time.

The Tender Tonight: Koi fishes and animated shorts

Don’t forget to check out our Tender Calendar for more cool events this week

  • Remember the koi fishes that popped up all over the sidewalks of the neighborhood back in November? We were all really excited, and in spite of the layer of grime that tends to cover our sidewalks, many of them are still enjoyable to look at and often make our day. Well, tonight at farm:table you’ll be able to meet the artist responsible for filling up our lives with black, orange and white fishes. Yes, as part of their bi-monthly One Night Shows (now called f:art, please let the jokes begin), Jeremy Novy himself will tell you all the secrets about the koi, painting in the Tenderloin and maybe even share a beer with you. farm:table, 754 Post (at Leavenworth). 7-9pm
  • Once you’ve shown your admiration for Jeremy Novy’s fishes, head down one block to Geary. As part of the closing of Sara Christian‘s “Shy Peacocks” show, Kokoro Studio will host a screening of selected animated short films. The two hour program explores the blurring lines between film, art and animation. The program, curated by our Tender author Sun and an animator himself, will include shorts from all over the world including Italy, UK, Holland, Russia and South Korea. Some of the highlights are Michaël Dudok De Wit’s “Father and Daughter“, Joanna Quinn’s “Dreams and Desire: Family Ties“, Simone Massi’s “La Memoria Dei Cani” and Svetlana Filippova’s “Three Love Stories“. Kokoro Studio, 682 Geary (at Leavenworth). 8-10pm

LowLifes in the Tenderloin

The San Francisco Film Noir Festival is this weekend, so it only seems appropriate to write about Lowlifes, a crime mystery set in the Tenderloin that we recently discovered. Written by Simon Wood and described as a a new kind of entertainment experience that uses what they call ‘transmedia storytelling’ (don’t know if it’s post-op or pre), Lowlifes tells the story of Larry Hayes, a a drug-addicted San Francisco homicide detective with a dead informant, an ex-wife fighting for custody of their daughter and a private eye hired to find dirt on him. The story is told over a novella, video series, game and blog, which can all be found on the website.

While I’m always excited to see a story set in the Tenderloin (although Dashiell Hammett might be releasing another) and I appreciate the originality of the narrative techniques used, I can’t say I’m thrilled by the stereotypically negative way our neighborhood is portrayed. Here’s from the first episode of the video series (which you can watch below):

The Tenderloin is San Francisco’s ugly side.
Its home to an underclass living lives nobody would want to live.
[…]
There amongst the hookers and the homeless I struggled to comprehend what it must be like living on the streets. The noise, the filth, the disease – having to take each day as it comes; always moving on – always going nowhere.

Scott Hammel’s Life in a Day

After we wrote about City One Minutes last week, a collaborative art project depicting cities around the world in 24 one-minute videos (one for each hour), a friend sent me this video by photographer Scott Hammel. It’s a beautiful time lapse of a random day in his life in San Francisco in about two minutes, in which the Tenderloin is featured prominently since that’s where he lives (bonus points for those who guess the exact location of his apartment, shown a couple of times). Would your day look any similar?