Riff Raff

Yeah, Well We're Tired of Hearing About Bar Closings Too The doors at the Chameleon have been shut on and off for several months now. Recently owner Karen Carney assured Riff Raff that the narrow Valencia Street beer bar and live music venue was on but a short hiatus after a personal-injury insurance claim. Now the doors are locked again and Carney's proffering the same line, saying she'll reopen soon. But the club's problems appear bigger than she allows. SFPD Permit Officer Jim Ludlow is already talking about the Chameleon in past tense. "She might have run a fun place, but she didn't run a very good business," he says. A look through the files at the city Recorder's Office doesn't say much about the way Carney ran her club, but it does suggest that she hasn't met many bills that she likes. In the past three years she's been hit with liens by the IRS, the City and County of San Francisco, and the State of California. Some of those have been paid, but the Board of Equalization -- one of the state's tax tentacles -- still isn't happy. The board has revoked her seller's permit and asked the Alcoholic Beverage Control to suspend the Chameleon's liquor license; on March 17 the ABC complied. "There is a lot of stuff that I should have taken care of that I didn't," says Carney. A "tax technician" at the Board of Equalization says he couldn't divulge how much Carney owes, but he did explain the seriousness of the situation. "If we asked ABC to suspend [the license], that means [the club] owes us money," says Edwin Perez. "The action that we took tells you what transpired. We try not to use drastic means like liens and suspensions until last resort." Rumors are flying in the Mission -- some say they've seen radiator water from the gas station across the street used to flush the toilets when the water was shut off; others say that Carney spends a lot of time in the basement. But there's at least one other documented problem as well. Fresno resident Juliette Couly, who owns the Chameleon building, says Carney has been delinquent with rent checks. Carney says that she can get out from underneath all of the problems. "I always make everything work," she says. But that's not exactly true either. In 1996 Carney was at the helm when the Heartbreak (formerly the Nightbreak) sank in the Haight. And she was also a partner in the failed 16th Note record store at 16th Street and Valencia, which died in 1995, morphed into a kitsch and clothing shop called Snapper Ticker, and died again. One more time, Carney insists that won't be the case. "There are people who go behind my back and say, 'She's crazy,' and, 'She's living in the basement.' I say that they should say something to my face. People are talking about me. I say, 'Whatever, let them talk -- they'll just see.' " (J.S.)

Ice Ice Baby Like any lecture hall, the stage contained nothing more than a microphone, a wooden barstool, and a bottle of mineral water resting squarely on top of the stool. Students weighted with books and questions quickly filled the 200 seats of S.F. State's Jack Adams Hall Wednesday, April 22, eagerly awaiting rapper, actor (New Jack City, the television show Players), and now-author Ice-T, a man who's garnered admiration from rap fans and First Amendment lovers and hatred from law enforcement agencies around the country (because of his infamous song "Cop Killer") and the stockholders in Warner Bros., his old label. Ice-T (ne Tracy Marrow) was there to talk about his first book, Ice Opinion, and the topics therein: racism, the government, human relationships, and music. Riff Raff didn't know exactly what to expect from a man who's been called a thug, a sexist pig, and a criminal, but Ice-T proved himself funny, occasionally wise, and always brutally honest. Dressed simply in slacks, a black leather waistcoat, and bookish wire-rim specs, he began the discussion with a warning: "Anyone who's offended by the constant use of words like 'bitch,' 'fuck,' and 'pussy' should leave immediately," he said. No one left. The spiel quickly turned to his own roots: He ran with the Crips, he found crime fun, he thought money was the key to life. He wasn't a gangster, he would often say, he was a hustler, a criminal, and very lucky. The difference? A gangster uses force to get money and a hustler makes people wonder where their money went after he's gone. Either way, from the beginning he was always about money. "I was in a beauty shop rapping to impress some girls and get some pussy when an A&R rep overheard me and asked if I wanted to cut a record," he said. "I figured, 'Hey this might pay off.' " That salon gig eventually earned him an audience with the president of Sire Records, Seymour Stein. "I walked into his office and there he was dancing in his socks to 'Six in the Mornin' ' and the first thing he says to me was, 'Ice, you have beautiful eyes.' I was like, 'Whoa.' " (The somewhat unreconstructed rapper left us hanging on what happened next at that particular meeting, but went on to allow a half-assed blessing of private homosexuality.) Ice-T slowly filled in the gaps on his rise through the music industry, tossing out what seemed like unrehearsed anecdotes and finally getting to the issues in his book. "I don't promote violence," he said. "I depict reality and violence is part of the life I've led." Later, on the subject of sexism: "The tables have turned and women today do the same thing, like go out, get laid, and don't call us back. I've been waiting for girls to page me thinking, 'Damn, she was screaming last night -- is this thing [his pager] broken?' " And then, on police: "I don't think cops are the problem at all -- it's the laws that govern us," he said. "People in power ignore the Constitution through amendments. The Constitution is worthless." (Nobody in the audience mentioned that constitutional amendments gave women, blacks, and people younger than 21 the right to vote.) Finally, a voice telling him he had 20 minutes left came in over the intercom. "See -- another law," Ice-T said. "Well, we'll just see about that. They're going to have to drag my ass off." He continued for another hour-and-a-half, for a total of 3 1/2 hours. During the Q&A period, Ice-T demonstrated what has always put him at the center of controversy -- telling the truth, harshly. When asked by one audience member what he does to help change the state of government today, Ice-T said that he supports kids registering to vote and that he's performed at Rock the Vote benefits. A second later he paused, cocked his head to one side, and informed the crowd that he is not registered to vote. That's Ice-T's world in a nutshell: part hustler, part actor, and very real, contradictions and all. (R.A.)

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