I half expected the people lining Stockton Street last Sunday afternoon to be protesters from the local chapter of the Cultural Integrity Preservation Society, but, alas, they weren't. The opening of Planet Hollywood proved as large an event here as it had in Phoenix and Miami. Reducing themselves to a tangle of frothing, squealing stargazers, fans aged 8 to 60 lined up seven hours before the restaurant's grand opening to take a gander at their favorite action heroes. Residents of the city were hugely outnumbered by those from the 'burbs, but they were easier to spot: They stood in pairs, looking sheepish and cagey, afraid to make eye contact.
“We were down here already — shopping — and, well, we kind of just got sucked in,” one Castro District couple said, defending their “guilty pleasure.”
“Hey, we're here to see cute guys!” chimed an unabashed clutch of 18-year-olds from Orinda. “So far, the firemen win!”
For over an hour, the event's slick MC skillfully maneuvered a crowd 6,000 strong into a well-planned frenzy. Spectators fell over themselves to compete for Planet Hollywood T-shirts, grapple for hats, and applaud the very mention of a star's moniker.
“If you shout and make a lot of noise for our Planet Hollywood cameras,” the MC coaxed gently as though speaking to a kindergarten class, “your face could end up on the videos that will be viewed at future Planet Hollywood openings!” Section by section, the throng obliged, waving and grinning like lunatics as soon as a camera came within range. Shouting a litany of coached greetings (warnings?) — “Hellllo Paris, Planet Hollywood is coming to you!”; “Salaam, Jakarta! Heeeere comes Planet Hollywood!” — the audience was only too pleased to turn themselves into living, breathing product endorsements.
The expectations mounted as buzzing spotlights illuminated the street and stage. Inch by inch, an unfortunate lackey painstakingly swept the red carpet, which ran down the middle of Stockton for an entire city block, stuffing stray cigarette butts and bottle caps into his pocket. “And soon — the stars!” the MC crooned. Where's that drumroll?!
A strangely out-of-place Alice Cooper was among the first luminaries to saunter down the runway. Various 49ers and San Francisco's mayoral candidates followed (excepting Roberta Achtenberg — it wasn't really “her crowd,” according to her press secretary). While Mayor Frank Jordan received resounding boos, Angela Alioto and Willie Brown collected sprinkled applause. Steven Seagal shook hands and smiled stiffly, only challenging his rep as “the man with one expression” when he showed mild disgust for a woman who kissed and pawed him. “Man of the people” Bruce Willis maintained his distance: Skillfully avoiding clutching hands and flailing lips, he kept to the exact center of the road, his hands shoved in pockets, his baseball cap pulled firmly down. Of course, Willis was a man with a mission: He was there to sing. But Arnold Schwarzenegger practically beamed, send-ing fans to orgiastic heights with three words: “I'll be back.”
As if we needed further reminders that Hollywood really is another planet, along came deeply tanned Don Johnson with his heartfelt, “Hello, all you beautiful people!”
It's no surprise that Planet Hollywood is destined to become like that earlier project from theme-restaurant mastermind Keith Barish: the Hard Rock Cafe, a haven for tourists and bridge-and-tunnelers who don't really like the city but feel compelled to trek in now and then. Will it succeed? There was already a line around the block at 8 o'clock the next morning.
A supermodel may have been in the house, but the record-release party at the Up & down Club last Thursday night was decidedly less pretentious than the Stockton Street extravaganza.
The presence of co-owner Christy Turlington aside, the real star of the evening was fellow owner J.J. Morgan, who is almost single-handedly responsible for the completion of Up & down Club Sessions Vol. 2 (Prawn Song/Mammoth), a compilation featuring live performances by hot acid/new jazz acts like Hueman Flavor, Josh Jones Latin Jazz Ensemble, and the Up & down All-stars (Charlie Hunter, Josh Jones, Dred Scott, Kenny Brooks, and Jeoff Brennan). “These bands are getting bigger all the time, and, one day, they may get too big for the club,” Morgan said. “It's fantastic to be a part of it and have this whole thing come into fruition. As strange as it is for a group of musicians and a club owner to get along as well as we do, we're friends.”
With a large, open smile, he left to attend to his bands and the crowd. Bruce Willis, take note.
By Silke Tudor