David Katznelson is one of the founding members of the San Francisco Appreciation Society, a group of San Franciscans who have made it their mission to discover and celebrate the people and events that make San Francisco one of the greatest and most unique cities in the world. David took some time out from his adventures at Glastonbury to talk to 7x7 about the Society's origins, its mission, and its heroes.
7x7: How did the San Francisco Appreciation Society come to exist?
David Katznelson: The San Francisco Appreciation Society was founded by native Circe Sher and myself about five years ago. I had just moved back to San Francisco and had really been missing it. Eleven years in Los Angeles is enough for anyone to ponder ad nauseum the micro details of what makes my city of San Francisco so great. When I returned, I was so wanting to dig in to the city, that I thought of running for office (no joke) of some kind. But then I thought about celebrating my love in a different way, and longtime friend and Mayor’s Office of Protocol staffer Circe Sher was on the same page.
Our first event was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista. It was also a celebration of the return of native Susan Brown to our city. It was that event that the core of what would be our committee formed. Susan, Lowell High School chum Matt Hollis, and friend and another Protocol staffer Ruth Anne Gonzales were all there and wanted to dig into the idea. Since then, Norm Gilbert and Marc Capelle have completed the core of our committee. We were brought together because of our love of the city and the idea to throw events that celebrated aspects that might be overlooked or just not framed in a way that creates excitement and city pride.
7x7: Why does San Francisco deserve an entire society to appreciate it?
DK: San Francisco deserves a hell of a lot more than just a society to appreciate it! We are talking about the greatest place to live and dream in the union! We do our part for sure, but there is so much out there—so much history, so many people doing amazing things, so much art and ideas and literature and music. San Francisco is one of the great walking cities, whose stories can easily be kneaded out with every thoughtful step—many of which go very much under told.
7x7: How does the Society show its appreciation for our fair city?
DK: We show our appreciation mostly by throwing carefully planned out events. We meet as a committee regularly discussing our research regarding interesting anniversaries that need to be highlighted, San Franciscans (past and present) who deserve Appreciation (and might not be getting it), and more abstract ideas about San Francisco’s DNA. We figure out how to have events around the research that will be compelling and fun enough to get people to come, get the crowd involved and to raise excitement and good tiding. It is our form of prayer—to make sure we pay attention to the wonderful details of this city and celebrate them. Every event we have done culminates with folks coming up to us thanking us for the new understanding about our given subject matter and appreciating the good time. We also started a twitter platform where everyday, if you follow us—@AppreciateSF—you get a factoid about that day in San Francisco history.
7x7: What are some of the most interesting bits of San Francisco trivia you've come across?
DK:There are so many. It was amazing to learn that Analog Television was created here and that the Hotel Utah was once part of what was called “The Wilderness” section of town. Duke Ellington played in the downstairs part of the Great American Music Hall during prohibition and there is a butter manufacturer in Bernal Heights that celebrated 100 years of existence last year. John McLaren, the designer of Golden Gate Park, was so modest that he hid the statue made of himself for years, which is now displayed in the park’s hearts. The tunnels under Market Street that once connected all the bigger buildings in the early 1900s are in many cases still intact and accessible to SOMEONE (help us get to them, SOMEONE!) and Green Street was named after someone PRETENDING his name was Green who, after his farce was discovered, ran out of town. We could do this all night.
7x7: Who are some of San Francisco's greatest but lesser known geniuses?
DK: Besides the people on our committee, there are folks like George Sterling, poet laureate during the turn of the last century (who killed himself the day that HL Mencken spoke at the Bohemian club), writer Bret Harte, and Bob Kaufman, one of the true great beat poets. Earl Cummings who was on the Arts Commission in SF after the earthquake and was responsible for creating many of Golden Gate Park’s wonderful sculptures. if we are mentioning sculptures, there is also Bennie Buffano and Diego Rivera who have added such beauty to the San Francisco urban landscape. There is John Coppola of the Green Street Mortuary Band, who worked with Sly Stone in radio as well as in the early days of television. Pianist Graham Connah followed Sun Ra around for years and still plays his compositions frequently around town while Ara Andersen continues to score wonderfully weird orchestral pieces that bring to life the ghosts of this city. Nikolas Weinstein creates some of the most epic glass sculptures known to mankind in this town, and we need to find a public venue to display one of them! And you could not complete a list like this one without including Mark Pauline and his Survival Research Lab. He is one of our city's true geniuses.
7x7: If you could resurrect one venue or place in the city that no longer exists, what would it be and why?
DK: I think many of the committee members would say the John Barlycorn and the Press Club, as it was, hands down. It would be great to have Playland By The Beach back and the original Cliff House and Sutro Baths. For us music fans, BRING BACK WINTERLAND! BRING BACK THE I-BEAM!!!!
7x7: What does SF Appreciation have planned for the future?
DK: This is the 100-year anniversary of the naming of many of our city streets, and we have some good ideas how to celebrate that. It is also the 100 year anniversary of the San Francisco Seals winning their first pennant as well as the 100th anniversary of the publication of Jack London’s classic Martin Eden and Maxfield Parish’s painting hanging at the Palace Hotel. And then there are the more abstract ideas that we will keep to ourselves for now…
7x7: When you are not expressing your profound appreciation for the city of San Francisco, what are you doing?
DK: Living the appreciation.