Thursday, June 23, 2016

Me and My Honey! Faded Memories of Piedmont in 1980

It's National Pink Day. And so I thought, what better way to celebrate than to showcase this random pair of glossy, faded-pink 5x7's.

Marie Rhea Thomson on the deck at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in 1980

They were taken in 1980, at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California. I'm the little boy-child. But funny enough, I have absolutely no idea who took them. I feel like it may have been my Uncle David "Scotty" Thomson.

Me and my Honey — 1980

Awww! I'm pictured with my cousin, Marie Thomson aka Rhea Thomson of Pacifica, California.

Marie Rhea Thomson on the deck at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in 1980

These are two of maybe half-dozen or so 5x7's in the whole collection, and the only red-hued ones. As far as I know, they've always been pink. What made some 35mm prints turn out this way? Small aperture and a low-speed film?

Which Twin Has the Toni?

"Which twin does not have the Toni?" I think this is in reference to an old ad campaign for the Toni Home Permanent.

Toni Home Permanent

The "Which Twin has the Toni?" slogan jumped the shark in the early 1950's. Probably when CBS presented a live variety show called "Toni Twin Time" hosted by a then-unknown Jack Lemmon. To put a reference on the back of a photo dated 1980—it'd be like hash-tagging an Instagram #WheresTheBeef. Whoever scribbled this caption was old. Like, at least 40.

Which Twin has the Toni?

Happy National Pink Day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Will Little Brainy Bobby be the Stockbroker Man? 1960's Graduations in San Francisco

It's Graduation season! That special time every June when incredibly smart, infinitely younger people than you grab a piece of paper and transition effortlessly into middle class. I moonlight as a server in a brewery, so—for me—graduation season means parties of 10-20 who get wasted, pay on a single credit card, and hopefully overtip beyond the mandatory 18% gratuity.

San Francisco State University Russian Department Graduation 1969

I'd like to showcase this smart series of vintage graduation snapshots I found in my mystery box of photographs.

Lena Vasilev graduates from Lowell High School in San Francisco in 1960

This was Lena Vasilev—one of the Seoul Sisters—graduating outside the Opera House in San Francisco's Civic Center district in 1960. Apparently, back in the olden days when Lowell High School was located in the Panhandle, they held their commencement ceremonies in style. Is it just me, or is there a huge argument happening behind her?

Graduation Photo taken in Ingleside San Francisco in 1968
Graduation Photo taken in Ingleside San Francisco in 1968

I love these rooftop graduation pics. That's a Mayfair Market sign in the background. Judging by the geography, I think it belonged to their former location at 355 Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. If anyone can pin-point this rooftop, I'll PayPal ya ten bucks.

San Francisco State University Russian Department Graduation 1969

If you're interested in the boozy side of graduation—and, let's face it, who isn't—check out this vintage snapshot collection of what these kids did afterward.

Friday, June 10, 2016

They Say It's Your Birthday: A Party in Piedmont in 1980

I turn 40 this year. But 36 years ago, I turned four. For a slightly belated celebration of Best Friend Day, I thought I'd post this 4th birthday snapshot collection featuring a party with my BFFs. At least, I think they were my BFFs. I can't really remember. They may have just been in it for the cake.

Natalie Pavloff Powell at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August, 1980.

This epic party happened in August of 1980, at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California. I can't believe this was a full year before I started kindergarten. Which, of course, begat 15 more years of school, followed by a lifetime of full-time work. This was probably the last time I had no responsibility at all. What did I do with my life? That's right, I remember—I drew pictures and watched Jaws II over and over. Those were salad days, my friend.

John Gayton, Natalie Pavloff Powell, and Tanya Pavloff Rockwell at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August 1980

That's my friend, Johnny, in the blue shirt. Not sure why he's wearing a name tag. And yes, I miss wicker furniture and wood panelling. The house was eventually stripped of its more dated aspects and re-painted a charming, timeless white. You can see its present incarnation here.

Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya Sarsfield, and Dennis Skellenger at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August 1980.

This was Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya Sarsfield—one of the legendary Seoul Sisters—posing with Dennis Skellenger. Dennis Allen Skellenger was born on December 29, 1942 and died on March 8, 1991 at the age of 48. Dennis introduced me to the wonders of Quiche Lorraine—as well as the Ken Russell film The Devils (1971). When I had trouble wrapping my pre-pubescent brain around all that debauchery, Dennis said, "Well, Michael, you just have to remember one thing: the King was an idiot."

Tanya Sarsfield, Fred J. Blatt, and Edie chilling at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August 1980.

This double-fisting gentleman flanked by babes was none other than our next-door neighbor, Fred Blatt, who lived at 23 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont. According to this rather interesting biography printed in the AC Transit Times (Vol. 3, Number 11) in March 1961, Fred John Blatt was born in San Francisco in 1899, in the "last house on Larkin Street," near the shore of the bay, while his father was building Mile Rocks Lighthouse. He worked for AC Transit, the Oakland-based public transportation agency, for 30+ years, overseeing first ferry boats, then trains, and finally buses. He passed away on November 12, 1991.

Alexis and Fred Blatt having fun on the deck at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August 1980

This was Alexis, who lived two doors up at 25 Ramona Avenue. All I can remember about her is, she was from Johannesburg, South Africa, and had a pair of matching Standard Poodles named "Max" and "Flavia." I remember Max knocked me down once. I know what you're thinking: "You got your ass kicked by a poodle?" But seriously—that thing was huge!

Max and Flavia, two Standard poodles, play with their owner, John, in Piedmont in the 1980's.
Fred J. Blatt and David Scotty Thomson Jr talk about trains at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August 1980

The guy on the right was my uncle, David "Scotty" Thomson. David was born on April 11, 1929 in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. He died on January 18, 2006, in Elk Grove, California, at the age of 76. David worked on the railroad, so he and Fred Blatt were most likely chit-chatting about trains.

Laju Lee looks on with envy at all my fabulous birthday presents at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August of 1980.

And here we are, opening presents. The boy in red was my BFF, Laju Lee. We used to terrorize the neighborhood. A lot.

Natalie Pavloff Powell, Tanya Pavloff Rockwell, and a bunch of other kids who I can't remember hanging out at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont in August of 1980.

There's that damn Herculon couch again. I swear, that thing shows up in every other photograph from the era. We eventually replaced it with a pastel-y, Southwestern-y Golden Girls-style couch in the 90's.

Happy belated Best Friend Day to you and yours!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Easy Rider, Raging Bull: The Incredibly True Adventures of Amber the 70's Cat

Amber the Cat (and Lena Vasilev) on Beverly Street in Merced Heights in the early 1970's

If there's one thing this bottomless pit of family photographs isn't lacking, it's vintage cat pics. I inherited so many damn snapshots of people holding cats, hugging cats, kissing cats, and loving cats, that I think this family was part feline.

I considered showcasing them all in a grand exhibit to honor this special day—but then I said to myself, "Nah." Better to spread the love over an entire year. Also, I already used up a few on previous posts. Also, it would be too ambitious as it requires an attention to detail.

So, anyway, to commemorate this holiest of holidays, I present this small collection of Technicolor prints spotlighting the legendary Amber!

Amber the cat chillaxing in the backyard on Beverly Street in Merced Heights in the early 1970's.

Amber was the Steve McQueen of cats; I'm too young to remember him, but growing up, I heard a lot about him. Amber was the best cat. Amber was the smartest cat. Amber slept with Ali MacGraw. I believe these candids were taken sometime in the early 1970's, somewhere on Beverly Street in the Merced Heights (formerly known as Lakeview) district of San Francisco.

Amber the Cat relaxing in the backyard on Beverly Street in Merced Heights in the early 1970's.

One interesting technical aspect to these photos—aside from Amber—is the Technicolor logo in the edging. I think, perhaps, these snapshots were taken with a Tecknipak camera. Tecknipak was, like, the grandfather of disposable cameras. You can read a lot about them here. The prints looked similar to Kodak Instamatic pics of the era, but Technicolor used a proprietary development process that, I believe, resulted in this little logo-stamp thing on the bottom-left of the picture. They also strangely—or not-so-strangely, considering it's Technicolor—retain their, er, color better than Instamatic prints.

Anyway, back to the cat. Did you know Carly Simon wrote "You're So Vain" about Amber? In a 1977 interview with Cat Fancy, Amber said, "Let's be honest. That song was about me." A few years later, Simon said Amber "certainly thought it was about him — he called me and said thanks for the song.... Then he coughed up a fur ball and shredded my couch."

Amber the cat in the living room on Beverly Street in Merced Heights in the early 1970's.

Amber was a good friend of author William Peter Blatty, who based the "Chris MacNeil" character in The Exorcist on him. Unfortunately, Amber was unable to option the book as a potential starring vehicle—but he did go on to star in another interesting, albeit far-less-successful occult film, The Purr-ssession of Catnip McTuna.

Amber the Cat attacks a foot on Beverly Street in Merced Heights in the early 1970's

Amber's death has always been something of a mystery. Some say—like William Holden—he got drunk and hit his head on a coffee table. Others say he he jumped off a boat and drowned after he caught Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken in bed together. But who knows? Maybe he just died of lung cancer like Steve McQueen.

You can check out more vintage cats—including some more pics of Amber—here and here.