The Bright Lights of Oakland

There’s nothing like a celebrity sighting to get the old blood flowing. Especially if that celebrity rocks the hunk-o-meter like Richard Gere. Yes, he’s been working in our town, Oaktown. And he’s been spending time in Montclair.

Just ask reader Nina Johnson, who spotted the Golden Globe winner in Montclair Park with his wife Carrie, her daughter and their son. “It was a low-key sighting,” Johnson reports.

“Mr. Gere was in jeans, leather jacket and a baseball cap. Carrie was in jeans and a tee shirt. He was heard talking on his cell phone (we can only speculate with what important person) and later seen pushing his son on the swings.”

Johnson says Gere was so “under the radar” that no one approached him and most of the nearby moms missed him completely.

Turns out Gere is filming “Bee Season,” adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Myla Goldberg, originally set in Philadelphia. His “base camp” has been the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension on Lincoln Avenue. Filming may take place at Piedmont High School next week.

If you’ve ever wanted to be in the movies, this could be your chance. Just throw on something flashy and try to worm your way into a scene.

E-mail bag

Speaking of limelight, local Realtor Keith Sjööholm had this reaction to my article on seeing Oakland through the eyes of a travel writer: “You are right that Oakland should be written up in travel sections & magazines.”

He adds that there’s a good article in last April’s edition of Travel and Leisure by Anya Von Bremzen called “The Other City by the Bay.” In it, she describes the culinary treats in our town, from the farmer’s markets to the Dim Sum in Chinatown. And, of course, the day ends with a gondola ride on Lake Merritt.

Good seeds

Thank goodness for the green thumbs at the Hillside Garden Club. You may not realize it, but this group has buds and blooms springing up all over our neighborhoods.

Not only do they keep the Montclair Library and the Joaquin Miller Community Center grounds beautiful, they have something called horticultural therapy for seniors. Once a month volunteers go to the Water’s Edge Nursing Home in Alameda to help the residents make flower arrangements.

Reader Irene Olson says this is a bright spot in the day of these patients and the club has received a regional award for their efforts. If you’d like to help the Garden Club “grow,” call Paula Stetler at 510-339-8720.

The group is hosting a talk on carnivorous plants at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 24 in the Joaquin Miller Community Center, 3594 Sanborn Drive.

Music scene

A hip new CD has hit the East Bay music scene. It’s the first release for the group Implied Five, made up of three Oakland musicians and a fourth from Berkeley. Therese “TC” Brewitz pulls off a triple threat for the band, playing keyboards, bass and pulling down the lead vocals.

But alternative rock isn’t the only thing in this young woman’s repertoire. She’s a ballet teacher and does Pilates and yoga on the side. Along with bandmates Mike Sprague, Dave Cherry and Chuck Butler, this is the best local band to emerge in a while. Find them on the Web at

Karaoke, anyone?

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the piano bar again, karaoke has made a comeback in Berkeley. Justice Baxter (of Wheels of Justice in Montclair) admits he’s a karaoke crooner at the Shattuck Down Low Lounge. The bar, in the basement of the popular Indian restaurant Pasand, has open mike competitions on Tuesday nights. They even post their song list on the Internet at

(Baxter and company plan a little karaoke of their own to celebrate the bike shop’s move from “down under” the Bank of America building to the former Parasol shop in central Montclair Village on the evening of Feb. 28.)

Trail talk

Beware of brown twigs carrying itchy oils. Reader Lois A. says just because you can’t see the telltale leaves, doesn’t mean the poison oak’s not potent this time of year. And you don’t have to touch it yourself to get the red rash. She thinks her cat brought it home in his fur coat.


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