Political Glitz: Fade to Black
With Art Bruzzone
By Art Bruzzone, special to Fog City Journal
February 19, 2008
San Francisco --- where film crews are rarely seen, where the
Hollywood elite comes to dine and escape their crazed fans ---
we have our glitz.
It's minor stuff, though. Glitz here is no more than adolescent
flashing. Just a step up from those American teens, who, armed
with webcams and a YouTube site, become stars for a couple of
weeks, then slip back into their small towns all around the country.
Island-like San Francisco sits in the dominating shadow of "Hollywood."
Hollywood, of course, died long ago. Developers and hookers now
share Hollywood Boulevard. But Hollywood flash and glitz lingers
on -- the garish displays and excesses of mythical Hollywood,
streak like the chemical tail of a disintegrated comet. Would-be
actors, writers, hip-hop groups and porn stars still roam the
streets of L.A. It's part of the "industry" -- a free-for-all
jungle, where only a handful claw out a living. Like an overcrowded
colony of rats in an inescapable cage, they're hunted by producers
who search for those talented enough, strong enough, brash enough
to outwit, outlast, and out-perform the competition. That's how
stars are born in Hollywood. But for many, the trouble starts
once they've made it.
Our "stars" will do whatever necessary to get a sound
bite on the six o'clock news, or an interview on Fox News.
Who are our stars? Not the city's multi-billionaire capitalists
in the Financial District. Not the gaming wizards in SoMa kicking
out multi-million dollar video games. Not our biotech scientists
in Mission Bay who are engineering hybrid forms of life, and certainly
not the hundreds of talented artists, writers, actors, singers
and rock musicians, Latin and hip-hop groups that struggle to
eek out a living in the Bay Area. They don't get much camera time.
Our stars are the politicians - the current Gen X occupiers of
And for a time they had the goods-camera time, that is. Fortunately,
that's fading. Just as celebrity status in L.A. is now associated
with emotional crack-ups and driving under the influence, political
glitz here has burned itself out. There's a parallel at work.
In L.A, at glitz's high mark, sometime last year, Paris Hilton
dominated every form of media, managed to get by with one famous
line, a video, and her Mona Lisa smile. Paparazzi nightly climbed
over each other to get crotch shots, and cameras tracked the stars
playing and puking in L.A.'s bars and lounges.
At the same time, in San Francisco, our politicians were treated
like rock stars. Mayor Gavin Newsom rubbed shoulders with the
political elite in Davos, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval got his
five minutes of infamy on the "O'Reilly Factor", while
District Attorney Kamala Harris and former San Francisco Chronicle
Editor Phil Bronstein fans, and haters, pounded out their anonymously
cloaked emotions on local chat boards. Supervisor Chris Daly became
our Sean Penn bad boy, while Harris became a stand-in for Angelina
Jolie. And for an instant, the two worlds - San Francisco and
Hollywood - met when the Mayor, and a second tier Hollywood actress
linked up, under the aura of Scientology (very popular in L.A.).
Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sophia Milos lock
spirits during a 2006 wedding reception.
But all that has changed.
While the psycho disintegration of Brittany Spears and Lindsay
Lohan - jail time for Hilton - and dozens of DUI arrests closed
down the hype in L.A., our boy, the mayor, had his bout with substance
abuse, simulated rehab, had an ugly Room 200 sex scandal, was
contrite, and filled with embarrassment. Over at the Board, the
pronouncements, green initiatives, anti-war rhetoric and useless
resolutions, have become like a stuttering mp3 player. Both in
L.A. and here in San Francisco, the performers, the 'stars', have
devolved into that one, strictly prohibited condition in show
business: They've become predictable, and boring.
The writers strike revealed the truth about "Hollywood".
Without a script - without the memorized lines - the stars are
like anonymous pedestrians without makeup. And here, without real
results, with violence on our streets, homeless cramped into doorways,
under freeways, dying daily, many hopelessly insane, our politicians
now dodge scrutiny and the cameras. They talk to themselves, watching
the clock as their terms run out.
And the fans, well, they head home, disappointed. The show's
over for them. Not much more for them to do now, unless, of course,
they turn on their computer and wander over to the Barack Obama
Obama, well, now, there's a real star, streaking towards
history, or on a collision course with his very worried party.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama
Art Bruzzone hosts weekly conversations on the City and beyond
at Comcast's "San Francisco/unscripted" (SFunscripted.com)