Tearing Up the Tearing Up the Town
The bartender mixes a martini beneath the tiny waterfall atop a tower of booze bottles. She takes her time because she has the time. Sitting at the semicircular bar are three guys in white tennis shoes and a girl with the waistband of her Calvin Klein underpants peeking out. Other than two women at a table, and a few skinny young men with Heaven's Gate haircuts in the lounge area, the place is deserted. This is Backflip, the latest incarnation of the old Miss Pearl's Jam House bar attached to the Phoenix Hotel.
According to the breathless Tearing Up the Town nightlife column that just began running in the San Francisco Examiner, Backflip is "a '60s-inspired aquatic utopia," a "discriminating school of freshwater fish," teeming with starlets, dashing guys, and "sassy S.F. celebrities."
Do they ever see sassy celebrities here?
"Nobody you'd really recognize," shrugs the bartender. "Some rock bands."
Tearing Up the Town is written by a 27-year-old Examiner staffer who signs his column Lord Martine. (That's not his real name, but co-workers insist on protecting his identity.) The column marked its debut two weeks ago in the back of the paper's Weekend section, tucked behind the outdoor column.
"Do I want to blend in or stand out?" Martine begins his first effort at town-tearing. "I lean toward the freakish and adjust the faux fur collar on my Dolce & Gabanna, slip on my Diesel shades and with one last, 'damn, I look good'...the cab honks."
Lord Martine and his Gucci-wearing "glamour posse" go on to roam the city inside a delusional bubble of tired, mid-'80s Manhattan glitz, furiously dropping names of DJs and club promoters -- as if Examiner readers represented exactly the target demographic for dancing until dawn, and the paper were the sole source in the tri-state area for such information.
That Lord Martine is in San Francisco, rather than a silly and outdated version of Manhattan, doesn't stop or even slow him down. In one club, he pauses to admire a guy twirling scarves:
"This, my friends, was AmaZing...with a capital A and an extra Zing!"
At another club, he offers these personal insights:
"I actually witnessed someone sporting a pair of acid-wash Guess jeans...ouch...this was a very painful experience for me."
Acid-wash bashing is as obvious now as it was when Michael Musto and Stephen Saban were doing it 15 years ago in New York City. But if Martine's style is a pathetic retread of things past, substance is another matter, and one daily newspapers are said to value.
So just how accurate is Lord Martine?
This column set out to see, retracing the Examiner columnist's fiery initial path through the city. Our glamour posse consisted of me and my friend Tom, both of us looking damn good in Gap and Eddie Bauer. We refuse the Diesel shades. We want to see it all. Is San Francisco nightlife as fabulous as Martine says? Will we also find ourselves running through the streets tossing confetti, hyperventilating with excitement?
After Backflip, Martine went to the Pasha restaurant and club on Broadway, next to Johnny Love's. According to Tearing Up the Town, Pasha was home to "cigar smokin', martini drinkin' supermodel look-alikes." Tonight the front room of Pasha is vacant except for one table where several people are sitting with the hostess. She leaves her conversation and ushers us into the back dining area. Two musicians are playing Indian music to a handful of people who are eating dinner. Nobody looks remotely like a supermodel. A man glides up to us and mentions there is a $15 minimum charge, even if we are just having drinks. As Martine would say, ouch.
We walk out and head across the street to the Shanghai Kelly's sports bar, for a couple of beers to clear our heads. This place is obviously off the Lord Martine radar. Customers who show a ticket stub from any sports event or rock concert get their first drink for a buck. If any members of the "glamour posse" did venture into the noisy world of ESPN, they would get their little Gucci asses kicked just on principle.
The Holy Grail of the evening is a club South of Market called 1015 Folsom. This spot is obviously high on Martine's list; he visits it twice during his column. (Either the town doesn't have squat going on in the club scene, or Martine wants to look like he's on the take.) We chant to ourselves, "1015 Folsom," over and over. But it's still too early to go there.
We stop into the Buccaneer around the corner on Polk. No DJs or promoters in sight, just drunks shooting pool. The only glamorous, sassy, juicy tidbit here is that the bartender Michelle is leaving; her last night is tomorrow. Hardly an extra Zing!
We roar down to South of Market, near the vaunted 1015 Folsom, licking our chops in anticipation of the "no-attitude club with a positive vibe," to observe "the inner city new school generation of underground club go-ers," whatever that means.