By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Luckily, he keeps a stash in his wheelchair to remedy that situation as he goes for rides through town on the days he isn't busy constructing bongos and copper sculptures in his room. "I'm a dirty old man. I chase women, but I don't catch 'em."
The San Francisco Twins,Marian and Vivian Brown
Territory: Union Square, Nob Hill
Costume: Outfits matched down to the faux-leopard fur coats, orthopedic sandals, and gaudy earrings
We caught up with the nomadic Brown twins at the Nob Hill Cafe, figuring that surely a duo adorning a million tourist photo albums and singing on YouTube would be jazzed to talk to the press.
The little old matched ladies blazed in the door and back to a bench a couple minutes past 7 p.m., where they sat sipping red wine in their faux-leopard coats and hairspray-cemented curls as if they were waiting for their cabaret curtain call rather than a window table. They were pleasant enough as they shot the breeze about the various commercials they'd appeared in, but the duo had an ultimatum for an official interview: "Either we get paid, or we don't do it," one said. The Browns referred us to their agent, adding they hoped the interview would work out "if the price is right."
Turns out the twins ain't cheap: Look Talent owner Joan Spangler said magazines had paid $2,000 to $5,000 for a day-long interview, and transportation and meals must be arranged. "The twins have a very distinctive thing going on, and they don't have a whole lot to capitalize on. But they do capitalize on what they do have."
But newspapers don't pay for interviews, so we tried a last-ditch effort. An interview with just one? "They're a matched set," Spangler said. "What's the point?"
The Conspiracy Theorist
aka 12 Galaxies
Territory: Any major event in the city, along Market Street on weekdays, at the bar named for him in the Mission on weekend nights
Costume: Button-down shirt, sunglasses, protest sign
Look up. If you see Frank Chu's very confusing sign hovering above the masses, you're officially at the marquee event in town: a fire in the Mission, the steps of City Hall on the first full day of gay marriage — anywhere there's a TV camera where Chu can plug his protest and name-drop politicians he's met and other channels he's appeared on.
We caught up with our city's closest living equivalent to Emperor Norton at the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair while he observed a drunk man roll on the pavement outside the Porta Pottis. Frank explained his protest for possibly the 1,089,012th time with fresh conviction: While he was the prince of China, several former U.S. presidents in cahoots with the CIA and 12 galaxies used mind-controlling drugs to film a movie of him and his family and broadcast it to the 12 galaxies and never paid Frank a cent for being its star.
Not only are Frank's conspiracies the catalyst for his fame, they also serve as the justification for anything that doesn't go his way: He says he no longer frequents former favorites like Lefty O'Doul's or the Gold Dust Lounge because the galaxies and the White House "forced the drowsiness and tried to blame me for sleeping in a restaurant." He says the 1985 incident when he held his family hostage in his Oakland home was because the Oakland police used telepathic interventions to control his movements.
His brother, Jack, said Frank was a straight-A student in high school, and was studying at UC Berkeley "when he snapped." Frank's version: The "CIA was embezzling my reading comprehension." However it went down, the seed for a San Francisco star was born.
The Success Story
aka the Dogfather
Territory: North Beach
Costume: "The Dogfather" insignia T-shirt, 13 keys to various neighborhood homes around his neck
The ladies who lunch at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store were not amused as Vince Depasque — who, with his doleful blue eyes, Barbra Streisand nose, bushy mustache, and shag haircut looks a bit like a schnauzer himself — allowed two terriers to sniff their way into the Columbus Street joint. "Don't go in the bar," he gently chided. "I do that. You don't."
On New Year's Eve 2000, recently fired from his 20-year waiter job for showing up drunk at the Yosemite Lodge, Vince came to San Francisco with $1,000 and a simple plan: Eat a good meal, get drunk, get laid, and jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead, while walking to the bridge, he met another man with the same plan, they talked each other out of it, and Vince became another homeless guy in Washington Square.
Eight years and some intervention by a neighborhood homeless organization later, Vince is known as the Dogfather, regular walker of five dogs to supplement his income as painter, caterer, mover, and carpet steam-cleaner. He now lives in an SRO by the Hungry I Club on Broadway, boasts a running tab at a dozen neighborhood restaurants, and is on a first-name basis with most folks holding leashes.
Now 49, Vince says a "12-year alcohol binge" caught up with his liver in a grim disease diagnosis earlier this year, but he took the news in stride. He signed up as an organ donor, splurged on satellite TV, and still steals swigs of DeKuyper peppermint schnapps from his fanny pack when the kids on the playground aren't looking. "It's like, why stop? Let's have fun," he says. Vince shows photos of him climbing Half Dome, skiing across the Sierra Nevada, and freefalling off a cliff attached to life by a mere 200 feet of elastic rope during his years at Yosemite. In short, he's tested mortality before. "Does it look like I'm afraid of it?"