News & Notes

Gymnasts, Gypsies, Sideshows, and skin sightings.

Managerial gymnastics: KQED has found a new CEO and president to fill the spot left vacant by Mary Bitterman, who quit two months ago. They found Jeff Clarke in Texas wearing the hats of CEO and general manager at KUHT, the Houston Public Broadcasting Service station. It’s a great move for Clarke, but is it for KQED? Clarke will be coming from a ho-hum station with scant local programming to one of the most-watched public television stations in the nation. Since its launch in 1953, Channel 8 in Houston has been criticized on and off for doing little more than retransmitting staple shows of PBS while avoiding the controversial. No in-depth reporting. No provocative documentaries.

“So much of that job is fund-raising,” says Rich Connelly, a media columnist for the Houston Press. “Maybe he’s great at that. In terms of putting any local programming, he’s not great at that at all. Whatever they do is soft, you’re safe to say. And they don’t even attempt to do a whole lot of that.”

Okay, okay, so they’ve got one unique show. It’s called Mary Lou’s Flip Flop Shop, a Christian children’s program that features none other than 1984 Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton. In case you were wondering, Retton, who seems to suffer from a debilitating disease that leaves a chronic giant grin on one’s face, bounces around with some kids and ends each episode with a message about God.Clarke’s biggest accomplishment since he came on board at KUHT in 1990 was leading a drive to complete a brand-spanking-new $12 million studio for digital- and high-definition broadcasting. KQED probably wouldn’t mind having one of those. Clarke starts June 10.

Police work can be taxing: Berkeley’s venerable massage brothel, the Golden Gypsy, is boarded up and out of business nowadays. A few months ago, the Zoning Adjustments Board revoked the Gypsy’s use permit after a police raid allegedly uncovered a prostitution ring — a contention backed up by dozens of secret videotapes found by the cops of johns having sex with the masseuses. But guess what? After the zoning board closed the place down for engaging in criminal activity, local prosecutors abandoned their pimping case against sixty-year-old Gypsy owner Tommy Robinson. According to Deputy District Attorney Paul Delucchi, the search warrant was executed improperly, though he wouldn’t say explicitly how the cops messed up. “There were some search and seizure problems we couldn’t get around.”Nonetheless, city officials got what they wanted — the house of ill-repute is shuttered and out of business. As for the cops — well, their efforts didn’t go totally unrewarded. From what 7 Days hears, the boys in blue carefully examined those dozens of secret videotapes depicting sex acts while preparing for the court case.

Blame it on sideshows: The Oakland Tribune recently ran a headline that forced 7 Days to slam on the brakes: ” ‘Sideshows’ force Jack London Square cabaret to close.’ ” Like most readers, 7 Days then expected to read the story of how heavy car traffic around the Oak Tree Grill on Saturday nights kept patrons away from the high-end cabaret. At the very least, we expected to hear disgruntled owners blaming young crowds and impotent city leaders for their woes. After all, business owners in the square have alleged for weeks that Sideshow riffraff are overrunning the area, and pushing pedestrian dollars out.But readers were left with no evidence that came close to suggesting Sideshows were to blame for the Oak Tree’s demise. In fact, the restaurant biz is a famously vicious one, especially during times like these. Chances of surviving more than two years are minimal. The Oak Tree only beat the rule by a few months.In his article, reporter Chauncey Bailey notes that owners Clyde and Julian Sotomey didn’t return his phone calls, so he couldn’t provide any first-hand accounts. The closest Bailey got to hanging the Oak Tree’s closure on Sideshows is a one-sentence quote from a neighbor who lives a block away from the restaurant. And even then, the neighbor gives Bailey a connect-the-dots conspiracy theory: “The Oak Tree started to attract beautiful women, but then the young men who wanted to talk to them would hang outside their cars and it became a sideshow for the ‘Sideshow.’ “Since reporters at the Trib don’t write their own headlines, Bailey can’t be blamed for this turn of events. But maybe a better headline for his story might have been, “Beautiful Women Eat at Oak Tree Grill: Business Doomed.” Or. better yet, “Trib Gets Lazy, Blames Sideshows. Again.”

O, Where Art Thou, Naked Guy? A few Saturday nights ago, passerby on College near Ashby Avenue got an eyeful when they spotted a naked dude cruising the strip wearing only white tube socks. “He was crossing the street and he smacked his butt,” says eyewitness Donita Boles, who was walking toward the Wells Fargo ATM. “And then he went to Caffe Roma and talked to the customers.” According to Boles, one patio customer asked the naked one, “Is it your birthday today?”Of course, naked folks in public are nothing new around these parts: earlier in the day pedestrians near the same intersection reported seeing a dude strolling along in nothing but thong underwear. Witnesses said Thong Man did his thing, then sped away.So, what shakes on College? Has it become the drag for the textile-challenged? Or, was it all an act? A quick call to the X-plicit Players, the Berkeley-based nude performance troupe, revealed nothing, and according to the group’s Web site, no appearances were planned in the College/Ashby area for that date.Still, the skin-sightings aroused 7 Days to wonder whether nudity was making a comeback in our fair city and, more importantly, whether the Caffe Roma mingler was, in fact, Andrew “The Naked Guy” Martinez. Martinez, every reader should recall, made national headlines when he wandered the UC campus and city streets in just his flip-flops. We haven’t heard from Martinez in ages and thought, maybe, just maybe, the naked dude may have actually been the Naked Guy.

But according to Boles and Caffe Roma employees, the nudie from a few weeks ago was decidedly Caucasian-looking, hardly resembling the dark-skinned Martinez. And, the naked dude had one other glaring characteristic that distinguished him from Naked Guy.

“He had frat-boy hair,” Boles says.


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