“When you’re being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like you’re leading the parade.”
The pilasters in my lobby are replicas of the Rod of Asclepius, the symbol for medicine. Which would support stories I’ve heard that there was once a pharmacy in the building. Probably in 1915 when it was first built. I’m guessing it would have been in the unit off the lobby which is now an (unoccupied) in-law apartment.
It wouldn’t have been the only drug store on the block because three doors up at the southeast corner of Pine and Jones was the Fairmont Pharmacy. By the time I moved here that building housed Betty Wong’s laundry service. But the door stoop still had “Fairmont” spelled out in chicken wire tiles. It then became a gay bar, The Gate.
Today The Gate has been torn down and replaced with nondescript condos in the Ed Lee/Willie Brown Developer Kickback style of architecture that is sweeping the City.
Half a block west on Pine Street was Sally Stanford’s old brothel where Herb Caen said “the United Nations was really born.” Prominent on her guest list were many mid-20th Century politicians. She herself would later be elected Mayor of Sausalito.
Miss Stanford’s johns would often call her from the Fairmont Pharmacy to gain entrance. It was rumored that long after it ceased being a profitable business the drug store remained open solely to preserve Sally’s entry system.
In the more modern mobile phone era, my upstairs neighbor Jim used to sit at the bar at The Gate and chat up chauffeurs waiting to be called by their clients. Most of whom were frequenting prostitutes down on Bush Street. Unlike the Stanford White designed digs of Sally’s, the Bush Street sex workers were a little more discreet. I have no idea which building(s) they were in.
It seems my block has never been lacking for drugs or licentious behavior. I’ve done my best to fit in.
Ben and Rags were part of the 70’s Polk Street/Chicken Little’s/Matinee social scene until they moved to New York around 1977. Ben went to work for Andy Warhol. Rags did something too, though I can’t remember exactly what other than laughing a lot and having a good time.
Rags and Ben were close with Halston and his partner Victor Hugo. They partied with them at their Lenox Hill home and vacationed with them out in Montauk. When Victor gave him the Jackie note, Rags immediately thought of my collection. The next time he was in San Francisco he presented it to me.
Jackie’s note writing was mentioned by Senator Kennedy when he eulogized her. “At the end, she worried more about us than herself. She let her family and friends know she was thinking of them. How cherished were those wonderful notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationary.”
We’ll find out just how cherished when the hammer comes down at Bonhams.
The wedding invitation, 1953
The place setting menu for the State Dinner where Pablo Casals played. He’d previously performed at the White House in 1904 but vowed never again after the US recognized the Franco regime. Jackie coaxed him back. There’s a coffee stain on the back which leads me to believe this was Ethel’s.
In his diaries, Warhol mentions being at one of Jackie’s annual Christmas parties and how Warren Beatty cornered her to whisper raunchy nothings into her ear. Jackie dismissed him with a cool, “Oh Warren.”
The Sexiest Man Alive of 1988’s birth announcement
Reading between the lines one can almost hear her huge sigh of relief
Herb Caen ran a piece on Mrs. O being unhappy with her manicurist selling her Christmas note to a Manhattan book shop. The next time I was in New York I visited the store and, amazingly, it was still available.