A multimedia-enhanced photoblog about San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood

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Tim Santry, wigmaster and artist, talks about loving the work you do [NOW IN HD]


Many of the photos in this video can be seen here individually: Elijah Nouvelage Photojournalism on Facebook.

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Javier Garcia waxes philosophical about life, death, and the business of being a mortician

Here’s a bit of an interview with Javier Garcia, who is the supervising embalmer at Green Street Mortuary in North Beach. I find what he has to say fascinating, so I mostly let him do the talking. Enjoy.


The Famous Green Street Mortuary Band, and my problems with video

The Green Street Mortuary Band is kind of a big deal. The band has been around in some form or another since 1911, but bandleader Lisa Pollard has been in charge for the last 20, during which time the band has tripled or quadrupled the number of funerals they’re hired for, according to Pollard. She credits this increase in business to the quality and professionalism of the band’s musicians as well as the positive word-of-mouth they’ve had over the years. Currently the band is one of only a handful left in the country, but far surpasses the others in terms of business and fame.

On Saturday I headed to North Beach to capture this legendary band on video for one of my SFSU journalism classes. I am by no means a videographer- stills have always been my thing- but I thought, “how hard can it be?” I figured I’d get some close-ups of the instruments, some footage of the band marching, some footage of spectators reacting, a few sit-down interviews and voila! Sure, I knew that DSLR video has no stabilization and is super sensitive, that the autofocus is terrible and that the audio leaves a lot to be desired.

But I told myself that my hands were steadier than most, that my movements would be mimicking the band members’ themselves, and that it would be a nightmare to sync up audio recorded with another recorder with video of the band playing. And that last one is probably true, but anything would have been better than the built-in mic on my 5D Mark II.

I abandoned, (too late in my opinion), the built-in autofocus and went full manual with my focusing. I don’t trust my eyes for focusing, especially with the small screen, but I quickly learned that it was the most attractive option for recording video. While that lesson came late, it came in time to get some decently focused footage.

I was not so lucky with audio, or with motion. A monopod or tripod may not be essential when standing still, (it turns out my hands ARE pretty steady—when I’m not moving), but for panning, even from a fixed location, would benefit IMMENSELY from a ball-headed monopod or tripod. Uggghhhh. I am SO not doing that again.

The 5D II is a fantastic camera for video, and with some tweaks to my methods and toolkit I should be able to maneuver the medium with only minor problems. However, without way more expensive gear, it simply is not a camera you can walk around with while videoing.

My negative experiences boiled down to three lessons learned. Use an external mic OR use your own audio recorder, bring a tripod/monopod, and always, always, use manual focusing.

I hope yo’ve learned something from my video and my experiences.

Until next time, leave the flying to me.


Kitty McMuffin, the lustiest lady, turns 30!

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Kitty McMuffin, who loyal readers may remember from my previous post about The Lusty Lady, turned 30 on Saturday, and celebrated it with a big birthday bash and burlesque show (say THAT three times fast) at Mojito in North Beach on Sunday. Feeling a sense of obligation to cover the event, your loyal blogger grudgingly headed to SF to get the low-down.

I’m kidding, of course. I had been promised burlesque, live music, lots of spankings, (not on my tush thankyouverymuch), and a bacon skirt in the vein of Josephine Baker, so I was primed and excited for the night.

It started at 7, and built up steam as Kitty’s coworkers slowly trickled in over the next few hours. The liquor was flowing, served up with a smile by Stuart, the friendly fauxhawk-styled bartender.

As the night wore on, the birthday fun began. First came the live music, which featured Kitty on background vocals, (while she just meowed over and over again, it was her energy and enthusiasm that made her performance memorable), before the “birthday presents” were administered- in the form of many, many spankings. (Followed by kisses on all the places where she had boo-boos, naturally.)

A birthday strip-tease by the Lusty’s own Princess, (followed by more spankings, of course, this time with a leather riding crop), was the culmination of the first round of entertainment, but Kitty still had that bacon skirt waiting upstairs for the most loyal of attendees.

She put it on and came sashaying down the stairs to resounding cheers and catcalls from the audience. She did a bit of a strip-tease herself, (pasties made her show, as with Princess’, PG-13- alcohol was, after all, being served), before tearing off the skirt and feeding her fans and friends pieces, one at a time, until everyone’s appetites were sated.

Or were they…..if yours wasn’t you can always find her at the Lusty Lady, in a more intimate setting. ; )

Until next time, leave the flying to me.


The Lusty Lady- Advancing feminism & equality one naked woman at a time

Peep shows, unionization and feminism. They’re words not commonly used in the same breath, but The Lusty Lady (follow them on twitter!) in San Francisco’s North Beach has been prompting such word combinations since 1997, when the girls who worked there formed a union following a long battle with management.

Because it’s a peep show, The Lusty Lady attracts a different clientele than the other strip clubs along Broadway. The Lusty, a long-time North Beach staple, is the only place where clients can do whatever they want in the (semi) privacy that exists on their side of the glass partition that separates them from the naked girls in on the other side. While the girls certainly see more than they might want to under such circumstances, Bruno, who works at the front desk, said that “many of the girls prefer it to the other clubs, because here they don’t have to touch the clients.”

Girls can make more money at the other strip clubs, Bruno said, where private dances can be had for a lot of money, but they also have to pay fees to the clubs out of their earnings.

Kitty McMuffin, a stripper at The Lusty Lady, explained why she chose to work for less.

“I definitely made more money at other strip clubs when I danced on the East Coast, but I couldn’t call out sick, I couldn’t have any disputes about my treatment with my management, I had to pay out a house fee to this person and that person…I was working pretty hard for my pay and not being appreciated and supported. [Here at The Lusty Lady] we have a union rep, and she’ll definitely help us out.”

She said that she moved to the West Coast specifically to work at The Lusty Lady after seeing a documentary about the unionization fight  called Live Nude Girls Unite! (which is also available for instant streaming through Netflix).

Contrary to the established public record, The Lusty Lady was not the first strip club in the world to become unionized, but it is the only currently unionized strip club. But The Lusty Lady does have one first they can call their own- the first worker-owned strip club.

And now you know.

Until next time, leave the flying to me!


A Tale of “Twin Peaks,” aka Making Sure This Blog Includes Strippers

Image from http://wapedia.mobi/en/Carol_Doda

My blog title references strippers, and yet, until now, I haven’t delivered on the promise of naked women (or men) (Not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s not too surprising, really, since strip clubs really aren’t my thing, and besides, cameras are verboten inside- which makes them as realistic a port of call for me as Siberia in the dead of winter.

You see, I live in Oakland,  and when I come to North Beach I do so carrying 40lbs of camera gear on my back, even if I’m only passing through. What if an earthquake happened, or a police chase went down right in front of me? I would hardly have time to drive back to Oakland, (if I even could), just to get my gear. No, I come prepared, ALL the time. Which brings me back to strippers. If I can’t bring my cameras inside, well why bother…… But hey, maybe they’re your thing, that’s fine.

What does interest me though, is history, and North Beach’s history is inextricably intertwined with the stripping profession, thanks to Carol Doda. Doda was a waitress at The Condor Club, (which still stands at the corner of Broadway and Columbus), and is widely regarded as one of the first topless dancers in the country. In 1965 this behavior brought her international fame and notoriety, but also some unwanted legal attention- she was arrested along with the then-owner of the Condor Club for lewd and indecent behavior. After winning her legal case she returned to stripping, becoming one of the first all-nude dancers in the country.



Images from: vintageconcertposters.com and chrystelle.blogg.se

Although famous for her stripping, she made headlines again when she went from a 34 bust size to 44 through the then-new process of silicone implants, a process which secured her place in the history books, along with North Beach’s, and The Condor Club’s. Doda’s implants were so famous they had their own nicknames. Doda’s “twin 44’s” and “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco.”

It is pointless to recount her entire life story here, so rather than regurgitate ancient history, I recommend that readers visit her wikipedia page, which goes into more detail about her life.

Doda still lives in San Francisco, and is a fixture in some North Beach bars, including Gino and Carlo’s and Mr. Bing’s. She and her manager Dick Winn perform at Amante’s the last Sunday of every month (although the April performance is actually on May 1st this cycle).

And, to save you the time of a google search, one more photo for the road:

Image from: chrystelle.blogg.se

Until next time, leave the flying to me!

Saint Patrick’s Day at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in North Beach

Sara Dobra and Mike Chen kiss at the annual O'Reilly's Irish Pub St. Patrick's Day block party in North Beach.

O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in North beach takes Saint Patrick’s Day seriously. Well, not THAT seriously. Judging by the band lineup, the size of the crowd, the general level of intoxication, and all the smiles I saw, it sure seemed like people were having fun at the 16th Annual OReilly’s Irish Pub St. Patrick’s Day Block Party. Genuinely Irish and Irish-for-a-day attendees intermingled along a fenced-off portion of Green Street in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, where O’Reilly’s Irish Pub has been an alcohol-slinging staple since it opened 16 years ago.

The party began at 2pm on St. Patrick’s Day, and early comers are rewarded with free entrance—but drag your feet and arrive after 3pm and you’ll have to pony up $10 to get in on the Irish action. This year’s musical performers included The Hooks, who make “Super catchy Irish-influenced rock,” according to Funcheap SF, Irish fiddler Colm O’Riain, SCream (a Clapton/Cream cover band, get it?), and Lunar Groove.

Deirdre Black, who’s actually Irish (as in, from-Ireland-with-the-full-on-accent-Irish, not just by-ancestry-Irish) has worked at O’Reilly’s (and the block party) since the pub opened. Asked to describe the strangest thing she’d seen, she noted that “there’s nothing that shocking on St. Patrick’s Day.” Mostly all she sees are “people putting on beards and painting them orange, and shamrock tattoos, and flag of Ireland tattoos, and some people painting their bodies green.” Black says it’s just about having fun and dancing.

Black estimated that “a few thousand” people attended the block party this year.

Out of consideration for the neighborhood and the neighbors, (especially since St. Paddy’s Day didn’t fall on a weekend this year), the music stopped at midnight. But until then, it was all the drinking, dancing, and merriment the revelers could handle. “According to the police, O’Reilly’s was the example other bars should take [in terms of] the security, the safety, everything,” said Black.

As noted above, the block party is an annual event, so if you’re Irish and/or love public intoxication/Irish music/the color green/bagpipes/leprechauns, be sure to show up early next year (and put that $10 towards your alcohol tab).

Until next time, leave the flying to me!