Punk Family Values

Meet the Rosenthals: two generations of art stars in one six-story warehouse.

As the set goes on, Lou Lou loses some of her spunk; she seems increasingly uncomfortable. She's still grinning, but her eyes dart over to her mom for comfort. "Every time she flats, she looks at me, and I nod that it's okay," Carola explains.

Tonight, though, flats and sharps merge in a muddled middle on the club's miserable PA system. As her kids step off the stage, Carola winces, whispering, "Well, that sound system was less than ideal." The finale offers a small consolation: The soundman actually walks over and apologizes to Lou Lou.

But the festival's aftermath offers more serious challenges in the days to come. On the flight home, Carola catches a severe case of the flu, which Lou Lou also contracts a couple days later. "I'm trying to take care of her and myself without infecting the rest of the family," Carola e-mails upon her return to San Francisco, "especially Henry, since this flu in conjunction with his cystic fibrosis would surely put him in the hospital."

A few weeks after Austin, Henry takes the kids to play pinball across the bay in Alameda. Lucky Ju Ju offers three decades' worth of free amusement for a flat door fee. The place mysteriously smells like french fries the night they arrive, and handwritten signs warn patrons that there is "No farting" here — unless you're in the bathroom, in which case "Farting is permitted here."

Henry discovered Lucky Ju Ju while looking for a repairman for his bicentennial pinball machine. Tonight he's excited about Gogar, a talking demon game. "When it shakes, it's like Satan's breathing," he tells Lou Lou's friend Ava.

What's remarkable is that on a Saturday night — prime time for teenage socializing — Henry's two kids are hanging out with him without protest. But then again, he has better stories to tell than most fathers.

After an hour of switching among Ju Ju's amusements, the oldies blaring from the jukeboxes start provoking Henry's memories. A Ventures tune reminds him of a riff from the Marilyn Manson "Antichrist Superstar" video he produced (how many parents can say that?). When "My Sharona" by the Knack comes through the speakers later, Henry turns to George and shakes his head, saying, "This song was the end of punk rock."

While the kids are having a good time, though, the defeat at SXSW isn't far from Henry's mind. When the subject of the festival comes up, he jokes, "It's better than a sharp stick in the eye."

"The hardest moment for me has been to watch them play a difficult gig," he says later, "and to see them suffer under that."

Since returning from SXSW, though, things have returned to their regularly scheduled insanity in the Rosenthal household. Henry seems especially busy: He's working on a movie about conceptual artist Jeff Koons, and last month he played a gig with the reformed Crime lineup at Annie's; a box set is in the works. When asked what would signal the end of his time in the punk band, Henry doesn't miss a beat. "I'll keep playing until the Guitarfish get bigger than Crime," he says, "which shouldn't be long now."

In fact, the family just learned the Guitarfish's self-titled debut CD comes out June 24. SXSW hasn't diminished the staying power of the band — or Henry's health for that matter. He never caught Carola and Lou Lou's flu.

Still, Henry is vigilant. Widespread scarring of his bronchial passages has reduced his lung capacity by half. If his cystic fibrosis is left unchecked, he says his degenerative infection "would choke me to death in relatively short order." For now, though, his maintenance routine seems to be working: He is known around his pulmonary rehab clinic at St. Francis Hospital as "High-Functioning Henry."

One recent evening, Henry and Carola are going through Henry's father's art collection. Much of the art needs to be moved from Henry's mother's place in Beverly Hills, as she's moving back to Cincinnati. The top floor is overflowing with everything from stone Inuit sculptures to a vintage paper Warhol soupcan dress hanging from a bookshelf.

Taking a break, Henry and Carola sit at the kitchen table to discuss what they've passed down to their children. "The exciting thing for me is to see [our interests] coming around again, and to see it coming around again in their music," Carola says.

Henry adds, "The big moment for me was when the kids started telling me about stuff. I did that for years and years, and now they're telling me about bands I'd never heard of."

When he reflects on the legacy he'll leave, Henry says his greatest achievement is his children. He wants to make clear "how incredibly proud I am of them, and how they embody those qualities I admire most in myself. Talk about a legacy."

In American culture, lineage is too often weighed on scales of money and celebrity. San Francisco has its royal families, such as the Gettys. The Rosenthals are a different kind of regal brood, one that embodies the city's famous counterculture spirit. Henry Rosenthal and Carola Anderson are true Renaissance parents, instilling their vision directly in the next generation, a generation that starts just two stories below their bedroom, in houses shaped like an ocean liner and a little Palladian villa.

Click here for a slideshow of the Rosenthal kids at band practice.
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