Bucks for Bettie
Former San Francisco resident Janet Monaghan, now working for Single Spark Pictures in Santa Monica, says the deal is pretty much on for the first-ever authorized documentary on 1950s bondage pinup queen Bettie Page, due out sometime next year.
After the flurry a few years back of look-alike contests, film festivals, coffee-table books, comics, posters, and songs devoted to the model — who mysteriously had disappeared off the face of the Earth — Bettie was found. Now a sweet old lady living in a Southern California retirement center, she has graciously agreed to help with the project, and is apparently best friends with Rocketeer comic artist Dave Stevens — one of the first to cast attention upon her — who occasionally takes her out to the movies.
The sultry model and nemesis of do-gooder U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver has reportedly put on some pounds, but hey, who hasn't? Page still has the same hairstyle done in her distinctive bangs, still speaks in a soft Southern drawl, and, according to Monaghan, “is finally starting to get some money after all these years.”
During the exciting series of Election Night parties throughout the city, supervisorial candidate Margo St. James docked her rowboat at Pier 23, climbed a ladder up to the bar's back veranda, and began speaking to eager media hounds. Sausalito psychiatrist (and Live 105's ex-“Modern Rock Doc”) Eugene Schoenfeld waited for a lull, then suddenly hollered out: “Show us your tits!”
As the crowd strained to see who yelled the comment, KTVU Channel 2 reporter Leslie Griffith turned her head away in visible distaste. Without missing a beat, St. James replied, “They're not real,” and continued her speech.
Home of Chinese Abuse and Blowup Dolls
Comedian Margaret Cho may be best-known for her recent sitcom All-American Girl, but to the administration of S.F.'s Lowell High School, she is remembered for getting expelled because of her GPA — a fashionable 0.6. On her new CD, Drunk With Power, recorded live at the Financial District Punch Line, Cho gleefully recalls her clove-cigarette delinquency, adding that the Lowell school paper recently called her for an interview. When Cho asked why, the student replied because she's “the most famous and successful alumni” to date.
Cho's best material is also her most recent, eschewing pop culture in favor of an eerie, real-life richness — from lines such as “Why do all drug dealers' houses smell like cat pee?” to dead-on impersonations of Chinese waitresses, black teen-age girls, gynecologist assistants, and her own Korean mother, speaking in the heavy accent of the old country, who “accuses” her of being gay: “Maybe you grow up to be a PE teacher, or a tennis player.” Cho also raises a flag for Asian pride by claiming that the ultimate S.F. experience is not riding a cable car or eating sourdough bread — it's being the recipient of “Chinese abuse.”
Margaret Cho is not alone in the pantheon of S.F. comedians currently popping up on the horizon beyond the clubs. Former resident Tom Rhodes now stars in his own network sitcom, Mr. Rhodes. After years of stage time locally, comics Brian Posehn and Tom Kenny are regular cast members of HBO's sketch program Mr. Show, hosted by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. Will Durst celebrated the defeat of Bob Dole last week by shaving his head live on KQED's The Durst Amendment, as fellow comics Johnny Steele, Barry Weintraub, and Durst's wife, Debi, shook their heads in disbelief. And many other residents and alumni are making frequent TV appearances on Letterman, Conan, or Friday Night Videos.
But the most shocking product to emerge from the local scene is the CD Robert Schimmel “Comes Clean,” taped live at Cobb's in the Cannery. Produced by William McEuen, the same man who brought America Steve Martin and Steven Wright, the CD boasts cover art that says it all — the tuxedoed comedian at a Vegas altar with an O-mouthed inflatable doll in virgin white, getting married by an Elvis impersonator preacher.
Joke for joke, this is surely some of the filthiest comedy material recorded since Redd Foxx. It is also some of the funniest. Schimmel can get away with bits about “stunt cum,” “animal necrophilia,” and “blowing the body shop guy” because, well, at heart he's just an old-school comic doing shtick for the rim-shot Vegas audience. (One is reminded of the classic Don Rickles entrance years ago, when the master insulter took the stage, pointed at a woman in the audience, and uttered perhaps the rudest opening line in show business: “Lady, you call those tits?”)
But unlike some of his borscht belt predecessors, Schimmel's deli-flavored setup/punch-line patter is nonpartisan and unisex, and he lets everyone know these are just jokes, folks, even if you've never considered laughing at something called “Pina Colada Dick Mist” before. Oh, and yes, he's married with three kids. The CD, which is video-enhanced for CD-ROM play, closes with a full-band, sexy samba tribute to an inflatable love.
Schimmel originally taped his act at Cobb's four or five years ago, says club owner Tom Sawyer, but something was missing, and he came back to tape another show in 1994, the material that eventually made it to CD. “Basically he's the brunt of his jokes,” says Sawyer, who books Schimmel two or three times a year. “That's what's so funny about Robert. Most comics, their punch lines are dirty, their setups are clean. With him it's the other way around.” Check out the Schimmel river of blue for yourself when he returns to Cobb's for four nights beginning Nov. 21.
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By Jack Boulware