When I moved to the Bay Area in 1983, I’d never heard of the Oakland hills. It was San Francisco that called — and I left everything to answer. Now I barely hear her seductive cries. Montclair is my mistress and it’s hard to see beyond her tree-studded hills to the towering city beyond.
But when I do cross the bridge, I want the full San Francisco experience. I want the music, the arts, the food and the humor — all in a wildly-wrapped package. Teatro Zinzanni delivers.
When this cirque-style cabaret first opened, I thought it a bit bizarre — even for San Francisco. But the mayhem that takes place under the European traveling tent is irresistible. It’s the essence of this city to combine seductive humor and unworldly talent and dress it with a memorable five-course meal. And the food is part of the show. It’s woven into the storyline and celebrated with outrageous acts by the waiters and waitresses, who send salads flying and desserts levitating. And as you eat, you’re in awe of the aerial artists and jugglers and opera singers and mimes. Your senses are bombarded but you’re left craving more.
Thelma Houston is starring at Teatro right now, and she brings down the house when she sings her 1977 hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” It’s the only time I’ve ever gotten up during dinner to dance by my table. But that’s the allure of this place. You never know what’s going to happen. And you can’t be held responsible for the madness that may overcome you.
COMIC RELIEF: Laughter is not only good medicine, it can loosen the purse strings. That’s what the volunteers at the Oakland Elizabeth House hope will happen when my friend and comedian Bob Sarlatte emcees their annual auction and party on Oct. 8. The money they raise will help one of the most successful transitional homes in the country for women and their children. If you’d like to join dozens of other hills volunteers in helping with this event, call Laura Bennett at 510-652-1835.
E-MAIL BAG: It’s touching to see the different ways we respond to disaster. Reader Tina Lowden says her fellow parishioners at St. Columbia Catholic Church are making quilts for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
“Our community has deep roots in New Orleans and Louisiana”, she writes, “and this quilt project is just a small way of giving a caring smile to those who have lost everything.” Tina says one of the quilts will go to two grandparents who lost their newly remodeled home in the flood. She wants to use Mardi Gras material she bought in New Orleans years ago. The colors are green, purple and gold.
Regarding last week’s column item on Moss Landing, reader Elaine Geffen says she’s familiar with this little fishing village and has enjoyed birdwatching on the Elkhorn Slough Safari. But she especially loves the food at Phil’s Fish Market.
“It is the restaurant over the bridge across the little harbor with the best crab cioppino anywhere.” She adds that Phil, the owner, is great — and I have to agree!
CALLING BIRDS: Hills fitness instructor Muriel Reiley didn’t raise her daughter to make funny noises. But for the second year in a row, she’s going on national television with her bird calls. You see, Claire Neumann has won the Leonard Waxdeck bird calling contest two years in a row at Piedmont High and will be imitating the European starling on Oct. 24 on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Needless to say, her family is making quite a squawk over her newfound fame.