Holiday Haunts and Hangover Cures

For thousands of children each year, the holiday season would not be complete without a visit to the famed Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, which creates a magical gingerbread house in the lobby for Santa to greet his guests.


Published: December, 2018


For thousands of children each year, the holiday season would not be complete without a visit to the famed Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, which creates a magical gingerbread house in the lobby for Santa to greet his guests.


But there’s also a decidedly different attraction in the hotel’s legendary Venetian Room for discerning adults seeking sophisticated entertainment. There, the world’s greatest entertainers perform under the auspices of Bay Area Cabaret.


The Venetian is one of the most elegant showrooms in the world—where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” and artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Tina Turner and the Supremes performed on a regular basis. Today, it plays host to masters of the Great American Songbook, jazz, Broadway, blues and pop.


Bay Area Cabaret recently staged the Bay Area debut of soprano Kate Baldwin (Finian’s Rainbow, Big Fish). She was recently nominated for a Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle award for her role as Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly. By all accounts, the recent performance was a critical and popular success.


Next comes the renowned singer, actress and recording artist Christine Andreas on Sunday, December 2 at 5 p.m. with the West Coast debut of her acclaimed show PIAF—No Regrets, following two successful runs in New York and one in London. Christine brings to life the triumphs and heartbreaks of the famed French chanteuse, in her own words and those of her friends and—of course—her music.


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Old-School Pool on Christmas


Barry Humphries, creator of Dame Edna Everage, was fond of saying that when it comes to holiday gatherings it should always be “family last.”


He makes a good point. As the year comes to a close, many of us are made weary by declarations from retiring corporate executives and professional sports figures who say they want to “spend more time with family.”


This not only rings false, but is often blatantly transparent. No, they want to keep their jobs or find better ones—but they’ve been given the sack and they’re now damaged goods. Their families may endure them, but will hardly be willing to embrace them for too long.


That’s when it’s time to consider spending more time at Family Billiards in San Francisco. This is one of the last remaining old-school pool halls in the nation. There’s a juke box and a lunch counter, but the place is really all about pool. Their 17 tables are kept in good shape, and most of the cues racked on the walls are okay, too.


And hey, it’s open on Christmas.


Despite its moniker, this is not about family. That is unless everyone in your family is 18 years or older. You won’t find baby strollers clogging the entrance or children running amok among the tables. Your sulking teenage progeny is not likely to find a refuge here either. No, this is one of the rare venues designed for adults seeking quiet adult pleasures and companionship.


Fast Eddy Felsom, as played by Paul Newman in the film classic The Hustler, had it right when he noted that pool halls should be “quiet, like a church.”


A couple of ancient TVs mounted above the beer station provide the gentle hush of sports programs as background ambience, but for the most part, Family Billiards is serene during the day. At nightfall the juke box is sometimes played until the wee hours of 4 a.m., but most are long gone by then anyway. As a next destination, consider the Occidental Cigar Club.


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Nursing a Holiday Hangover at Café Trieste


He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning . . . His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and been expertly beaten up by the secret police. He felt bad.”


This is a hangover as described by Kingsley Amis in his literary masterpiece, Lucky Jim. We picked up a copy at City Lights and headed over to Café Trieste to nurse our own throbbing head with a cold bottle of mineral water and a tall glass. As usual on Tuesday mornings, Rene Sevieri was holding forth with his massive accordion and even more massive memory to gently entertain the regulars and newly discovered patrons from the tourist class.


Rene is also an accomplished vocalist and can strum the ukulele, too. Thankfully, he spared us that this morning, as we most appreciate his “hangover music” entirely reliant on the plaintive strains of his magical musical box.


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