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This month: The Who’s Tommy! Bill Champlin! SF Tech Music Summit! Film reviews of Precious, It’s Complicated and Crazy Heart! The 17th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Show! Jeff Kreisler! The Bright River! Gimme Shelter! And the return of Shameless Plugs ‘o the Month!

Greetings, Heraldonians and welcome to 2010 and the re-launch of the SF Herald - and my rightful place as your director on the “Almost Famous” SF cruise ship!! My, it’s been a long, strange trip back to all of you. From January 2008 to July 2009, I was down South again  - the Deep South, that is - giving good ole’ Nashville another spin and fell off the SF Herald radar – after my now-classic comic-tragedy “Nashville Star Audition” story. But as fate would have it, my 84 yr. old mother Doris “Bergie” Goldberg became very ill and needed her prodigal daughter to return to the fold again. So I did something I’d never done before or believed I even could: I drove across the country - alone! And it was awesome! I was the Goddess of the Highway, thanks to my trusty GPS, visiting friends from state to state, making my way back home…the situation was pretty grave when I arrived, and we almost lost her. But my mom fought back in her signature “take-no-prisoners” way, I kicked ass pulling her up and keeping her there, and together we celebrated her 85th birthday on December 23, 2009. Took her to Café Divino in Sausalito and lovely songbird Lynn Asher and her trio sang Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday to Ya”. It was a good, good night, indeed! Go Bergie! Mazel Tov!

Special thanks to my BFF Butch Berry for getting me the hell out of the house New Year’s Eve. We took Muni downtown and it was like a Barnum & Bailey three-ring circus! So festive and absolutely hilarious! Then we took a bus packed tighter than a NY subway at rush hour and hailed in 2010 at a bar called Fly, with his peeps who know how to party, yo! Ended up at Mel’s Diner at 1:30am eating French fries and didn’t get back till the wee hours of the morning. And the whole night was free! A true San Francisco experience to welcome in a brand new year and decade!!...

This ‘n that Around Town
On November 7, my talented pals Butch Berry and Fans of Jimmy Century’s (formerly Simon Stinger) dynamic duo Alicia Perrone and Victor James and I went to see the closing matinee’ of  Ray of Light Theatre’s production of the classic rock musical The Who’s Tommy at the Victoria Theatre in SF. Now not only did I see the revival on Broadway many years ago, my first experience with Tommy goes all the way back to Camp Tawonga in the South Bay when I was a very impressionable pre-teen. The camp counselors put it on the last night of camp: with costumes and make-up and those incredible songs and I was hopelessly hooked on that magic mix of theatre and rock ‘n roll penned by Pete Townsend and Co. I shared this lovely slice-of-life tidbit and how excited I was with the show’s executive producer Justin Sadoian when calling for press tix, and he admitted he too was a life-long fan of the show and could not have been more eager to accommodate us.

This production was nothing short of astounding! The tight-as-a-drum choreography by Ellyn Marie Marsh was so mesmerisingly in sync with the top-notch onstage rock band driven by musical director Ben Prince, it rivaled anything I’ve ever seen on a twice-as-large Broadway stage – like a magical musical machine. Every cast member from Zachary Franczak’s powerful adult “Tommy” to his younger counterparts played by David “Kelli” Kahawaii and the adorable Deucalion  Martin, the pitch-perfect Emily Wade Adams’ “Mrs. Walker” and really, the entire lead and ensemble cast did not miss a note or a beat. Not one moment or inch of that stage was wasted. The formidable Leanne Borghesi’s “Acid Queen” brought the house down! Director Shane Ray completely nailed the production top to bottom and by the audience’s joyful reaction to the show we saw, I was but one of many who felt its’ power and precision. The only thing missing was a bigger, more powerful sound system to properly deliver it to fullest effect. It wanted to rock harder! But Pete & the Boys would have been proud…

On November 11, I trekked across the Golden Gate to 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley with my drummer/singer/real estate agent pal Jake Baker to see legendary singer/songwriter Bill Champlin, recently departed member of the band Chicago, and former leader of iconic, cult-favorite Bay Area ‘70s band Sons of Champlin. Bill’s lovely wife Tamara Champlin, herself a fine singer/songwriter, is an old friend of mine from my LA days, and I was really looking forward to seeing them both again after so many years. The joint was jammin’ with mostly good ole’ 50-60 plus yr. old die-hard Sons fans chompin’ at the bit to see their hero play their old fav tunes and the energy and excitement was palpable. But Bill & Co. were on a different mission: to deliver his first new solo album in 13 years No Place Left To Fall in its’ entirety.

The show was an odd mix of sonic perfection and almost lackadaisical staging and pacing. While we waited for the show to begin, A fit and trim Champlin sauntered up to the mic and introduced his attorney (whose name escapes me, sorry dude), who proceeded to deliver long-winded stories of  ‘60s rock stars in between badly botched versions of their hit songs on his ukulele that went on for a painfully long 20 minutes or so (this was not the “perfection” part)! The audience seemed as shocked and confused as we were. “Bill must owe him a lot of money,” my friend Jake quipped. Now was the time to bring the lights down, give Bill a proper introduction, and slam into a Sons of Champlin crowd pleaser to bring the fans to their feet in the first few notes! Then they could have mixed it up with the new schtuff and some of his Chicago and Grammy-award winning hits, like George Benson’s hit “Turn Your Love Around” (which he did later).

.But with the house lights still up, no introduction and zero fanfare, Bill and his studio-caliber band shuffled onto the stage and began to play pristine, note-for-note replications of every song on the new record – with little stage banter or interaction. Finally after the third song or so, somebody got a clue and turned the house lights down. Hooray! Now I had given the new disc a few spins in the days leading up to the show and thoroughly enjoyed some of the new tunes, like the title track (co-penned by Tamara and Michael Caruso) and many others – so at first it was cool to hear them again live. But it was obvious most of this crowd was hearing them for the first time, and instead of priming them to enjoy the new stuff with a bit of familiar territory, he basically tamed them into polite silent listening, and that’s how they responded. Champlin was in exceptionally fine form, shifting easily between keyboards and guitar, his voice as strong and soulful as in the Sons heyday. The band did not miss a beat and the stacked background vocals were equally on the money as any instrument. It was almost more like watching pro studio musicians in a rehearsal or live recording session than a live performance.  I did enjoy getting to hear Tamara take the lead on “You Won’t Get To Heaven Alive”. Then they took a 20 minute break – probably to help the house sell some wine and goodies. When they came back on, half the crowd had left and the ones remaining looked tired. To add to this show without end, Champlin began to give each band member a lengthy solo – nice gesture, but too much, too late. By then it was after 10pm! At the very end of the second set, he finally delivered a Sons of Champlin song and finally some weary crowd members got to their feet and started dancing. This is the way the night should have begun! And now it was time to go!!

At press time, Bill is embarking upon a Sons of Champlin reunion tour to please the poor fans that did not get their fix on this solo tour. Note to Bill: lose the lawyer and turn down the lights! We’re glad you’re back!

A few other noteworthy events and facts…on December 7, I attended my first SF Tech Music Summit at the Hotel Kabuki. It was a highly educational and thoroughly entertaining all day conference with panel after panel of experts from all facets of the speed-of-light changing and intertwining music, technical, and social media industries. This ain’t your grandmother’s music biz, folks, and we all better get with the program if we want to keep up and get ahead! Knowledge is power, y’all! Many people had laptops while attending each panel and all the rooms were abuzz with intense energy and enlightening information. All types of visionaries, entrepreneurs, developers, journalists, and providers from cutting-edge companies like Google, Youtube, and others from across the globe connected the dots to the artists, radio, live shows, record labels and countless octopus arms of every aspect of this new frontier. I could attend a dozen of these panels every year and learn a million new things each time! Particularly enjoyed the Mastering and Recording panel, where I met Gavin Lurssen from Lurssen Mastering ( in LA, a Grammy award-winning engineer for the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant masterpiece Raising Sand, both produced by T-Bone Burnett.  Just found out Gavin worked on the soundtrack for the brilliant new film Crazy Heart (see below) that I can’t stop talking about (and just won two Golden Globes for Best Song and Best Actor) – and my dear friend Brenda Warren’s lovely solo piano record As Time Goes By - what a wonderful, small world…Special thanks to publicist Christopher Buttner from and SF Tech Music Summit mastermind and all-around cool guy Brian Zisk and his lovely wife Shoshana. Fun fact: Brian is a huge fan of the illustrious publisher of this little newsrag Gene Mahoney’s comic strip Good Clean Fun(!! )…I think that may have been the reason I was allowed in the joint. Well done!

On December 18, I performed at a wonderful house concert with talented London based/New York /old Nashville friend artist Mark Aaron James, hosted by  sweet music fan/musician Cherie Hung at her lovely Pacifica home. Mark used to host the only non-country songwriter round in Nashville back in da ‘90s and I was fortunate to have participated many times. Always fun and a welcome break from the cookie-cutter country ones. After a stint in NYC (where he plans to return) and a few years in London, Mark is on tour supporting his new CD Use Both Hands  I encouraged him to play SF and he suggested I find him a house concert and join him! A great time was had by all, and if anyone is interested in hosting a house concert for 15-25 people, please e-mail me at

On December 27, eight members of my Jewish family and the non-Jews who love them attended the 17th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy at New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown, a tradition of many years now for the Goldberg clan (an oxymoron?). Jews eating Chinese food during the week of Christmas, what could be better? Hosted by Lisa Geduldig, this year’s line-up included NY gal Hilary Schwartz, stand-out stand-up Brian Malow, and the creator of Comedy Central’s Dr. Katz Professional Therapist Jonathan Katz . Malow, (a member of Dan Piraro’s 2004 Bush-whacking Tour that I reviewed that infamous  and tragic election year) rocked hard as ever, the gals were fine, but Jonathan Katz proved that a successful animated series on Comedy Central doth not a good stand-up (or his case, “sit-down”) make. Sorry, Doc.

And speaking of the Bush-whacking tour of 2004, another one of the fab comedians on that show is already making a splash in a big, big way…NY’s own Jeff Kreisler, who looks like the love child of George Clooney and John Belushi, has written a pee-your-pants hilarious and utterly scathing book called Get Rich Cheating. JK exposes all the major crooks in every area of our lovely US of A with documented proof, and then teaches you to do it like the pros! I could not stop reading this thing. I even stuck in my prayer book at temple during the Jewish High Holidays and had to bite my lip from laughing during the service! Jeffy will be at The Purple Onion for the SF Sketchfest on January 30 at 8pm. I can’t wait…

All you film buffs out there need to run, not walk to three of the best movies I’ve witnessed in any genre ever…Several months ago, I was fortunate to have attended an early press screening of the controversial and ground-breaking film Precious, based on the novel Push, by Sapphire. Directed by Lee Daniels, and starring newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as “Precious”, an illiterate, obese, abused teenager who is having her absent father’s second child, this story is not for the weak of heart  - or anyone looking for some light entertainment. But for anyone with a heart, this is an absolute must-see for a myriad of profound reasons. Alongside Sidibe’s astounding performance (who’s never acted before and in real-life talks like a white Valley girl!), is comedian Mo’Nique’s Golden Globe winning tour-de-force as Precious’ psychotically abusive mother – so frightening you can almost feel her coming at you from the screen. It is nothing short of a revelation, and if there is any justice in this world, both will receive Oscar nominations , as well. But this film is far from just a horror show – it is a true testament to the power and necessity of good teachers who give a damn – they are truly society’s last hope for the future of our world. Paula Patton demonstrates this beautifully as the teacher who refuses to let Precious be buried alive by her tragic circumstances, as does an unrecognizable Mariah Carey, as her social worker. Even my man Lenny Kravitz, as her nurse (!) does a fine job. Oprah and Tyler Perry signed on as executive producers early on, giving the needed push to get this film out into the mainstream where it can change lives. Thanks to Larsen Associates for this opportunity to get in ahead of the curve.

On Christmas Day, Doris “Bergie” Goldberg and I went to see the romantic comedy It’s Complicated starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. All three should all be nominated for Oscars! And Nancy Meyers for best screenplay and direction! Comedy! Drama! Real relationships! Great writing! I didn't think they made movies like this anymore. Not a moment wasted – every mark was hit. Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are brilliant dramatic actors who are just as adept at comedy, and Steve Martin has aged into a fine, subtle, touching actor who knows exactly what moments he can use with just a hint of his iconic, wacky persona to elicit howls of laughter. Baldwin has morphed into a ROCK STAR - a cartoon like his TV 30 Rock character, but he can still turn on that passion, sex appeal, romance, and real dramatic acting to light the screen on fire and remember why I was hot for him during his leading man days. He’s like the Mick Jagger of film! And Streep – is there anything this woman can’t do? Beautiful, hilarious, touching, and sexy at 60 – without a hint of outside help, if ya know what I mean, you GO, girl, I mean, woman!!...

As mentioned above, on January 3, I saw the movie Crazy Heart, abouta faded country star’s struggle to keep his waning career and tortured soul alive on bad tours of bowling alleys and dive bars with women and lots of booze. A story of fame, loyalty, crushed dreams, destruction and redemption – can the love of a good woman ever really save a soul bent on going to hell on earth?...I am still beyond words - beautiful, like a symphony or an opera. Jeff Bridges' Oscar-caliber and Golden Globe winning performance was like the country music version of Mickey Rourke's in The Wrestler (Fun fact: I posted this comment on Facebook before the SF Chronicle review!). Heartbreaking. Like watching a documentary. Absolute perfection...touched me on so many levels as a songwriter, a journalist, a musician, a woman and a human being. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s single mother, small town journalist hit all the right, sweet notes, as did the uncannily authentic original score by producer T-Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton (who died of throat cancer last May as production was wrapping up - tragic). Even Irish heartthrob Colin Farrell nailed it as the younger country protégé whose rising star passes up his mentor Bad Blake (Bridges) going down, down, down…and they all actually played and sang these amazing songs. So damn good there should be a law against missing it – so don’t!...

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “Beatboxing” is a form of vocal percussion which primarily involves the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue and voice. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments. Beatboxing is connected with hip hop culture although it is not limited to hip hop music. On January 13, I went to see a “beat box musicalcalled The Bright River: A Mass Transit Tour Of The Afterlife at the Brava Theatre. I’d never heard the term “beat box” and “musical” used in a sentence before so my curiosity was peaked at the get-go. The producer, Joegh Bullock, is a larger-than-life, colorful character and long-time SF event producer for the mostly “Burning Man” crowd so I already knew I’d be in for some kind of wild ride. JB did not disappoint. The Bright River is the brainchild of one Tim Barsky, an East Bay Chasidic/Islamic Homeboy (four more words I never thought I’d use in a sentence) with an actual degree in this stuff from Brown University. He has a background as vast and wide as the day as long: as a flutist/beatboxer/author/performer/storyteller/fire juggle/political commentator/emergency youth advocate/street outreach worker, I could go on till the next issue and still be describing what this dude does. He has assembled a trio of musicians as eclectic as he is: human beatboxer Carlos Aguirre, cellist and electronic programmer Alex Kelly, and drummer/loop dude Kevin Carnes, to provide an on-going, where-should-we-look-now musical backdrop to Barsky’s one-man-show of riffing on subjects as varied as Bodkin - traditional Hassidic street theatre stemming from the Jewish Ghetto hundreds of years ago to 20th century Manhattan – love, purgatory, socio-political commentary – again, the list goes on so long I can’t even give you the full monty. Barsky’s combo platter of old world style/urban homeboy defies any further explanation except to comment on his stamina: the dude’s got mad skills! I was exhausted after the first act, but Barsky was far from over and the crowd definitely wanted the E-ticket ride, responding with wild applause and standing ovations. Through February 20 if this floats your multi-cultural boat.

On January 12, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, driver of the Los Train Wreck Jam, held on the second Tuesday every month at El Rio, and myself took liberty with Elton John’s “Benny & The Jets” to write and perform a parody for our pal Ben Fong-Torres’ 65th birthday, called “Benny’s Lost The Yet” (as in the recently closed Yet Wah Restaurant in Diamond Heights where we did karaoke). The band nailed it as we sang about every aspect of BFT’s colorful life. Our friend, Ben was completely caught off guard, and delighted by our surprise tribute which included a cake. Priceless!

A few shameless plugs: I have a new website: And how did this happen?...because a fablous woman named Joanne Oliveri entered my life via Facebook and SF Herald fav Sony Holland (who has moved to LA) and asked to interview me!  Jo Jo’s a local poet and author of two poetry chapbooks who runs a popular poetry and photo blog at  As a music lover, she has created a blog in order to promote various musicians throughout the Bay Area and beyond - – like yours truly! Jo’s currently looking for other deserving artists to give her special star treatment, so be sure to tell her I sentcha!

A few more for the road: I’m currently working on my yet untitled book of my Almost Famous columns ala Carrie Bradshaw in Sex & The City and my pal Ben Fong-Torres’ compilations, Not Fade Away and Becoming Almost Famous. I obviously need to find an unborrowed moniker – so if ya got any ideas, please send ‘em on over! …And to add to the creative mix, producer Jay Russio is taking me into the studio the record my long-overdue new CD – and I plan to market the two together! How cool is that?? We’re currently talking to interested musicians and financial backers, so please contact me at To hear samples and purchase my CD Sycamore Street, go to .

Tune in Sunday, January 24th at BBC Radio Humberside, to hear my song “I Ain’t Tammy” (co-written with Jack Williams) played on Steve Massam's Sunday Requests - transmission time 12 (Mid-day) – 3pm. It will be played between 2:00-2:30pm, which will be 6:00-6:30 am CA time!!! Let’s pull an all-nighter!! You loyal readers may recall the touching piece I wrote some years back about the late Eva Cassidy - and the DJ from Hull, East Yorkshire England who interviewed me as part of his BBC Radio tribute to her. We’ve recently reconnected and Captain Steve (winner of “Biggest Mensch”- Yiddish for ‘cool guy’- in 2003) is bringing me back to merry ole’ England via the airwaves!

On January 16, we all did some housecleaning and got rid of those dusty old duds at Sizzlin’ Steve Sodokoff’s annual benefit Gimme Shelter clothing drive. Gigantic thanks to SS for hittin' it out of the park for Game 18!! I feel so honored to have been a musical part of the Gimme Shelter fun this year and hooking up with Mike Dingle's Third Thursday Band for my own set, and being thrown back up at the bewitching hour by SS to wail on "Gimme Shelter Round II”. There were so many other talented artists and a fabulous, energetic crowd that did not give up until the last note was hit. Those baby-boomers know how to party-hardy! Props to my girl Emma Jean Foster Fiege (formerly of The Unauthorized Rolling Stones) for taking the lead on “Gimme Shelter Part I”!  Extra special thanks to fab photographer/ event photojournalist Amy Carr for her uncanny ability to capture some of the best moments of my life! Now I can see what it feels like to “channel Janis” – and you can, too! To witness this first-hand and share the love, check out my Facebook page at or go to to check out the whole album. You can even order them and all proceeds go to the GS fund! How cool is that? The divine Ms Carr also specializes in candid portraiture and unique corporate head shots, and I am certain there is not a subject alive or still that she can’t work her special mojo on. Check out her scene at and travel pics at

Need a good laugh? For those of you who peed their pants laughing at the "Total Eclispe of the Heart" literal video, this one's for YOU!!:

I have a great new dentist in SF – and she’s an old chum from Serramonte High School!
Dr. Josephine Weber (formerly Jit Medina) at 9 Silliman St. (415) 468-1777. Tell her Kim Goldberg sentcha!

Calling all souls in need of being nourished: my high school homegirl (and class valedictorian), Bishop Rachelle Pierson (winner of “Best Pastor” in 2003) presides over a new non-denominational church on Treasure Island called Led By Faith Ministries. There are no requirements to attend other than a willing spirit and Bish ‘Shell rocks da house!  It’s located on the corner of California Street in the library tucked behind the chapel. Even this wandering, open-minded Jewess was able to find it and so glad I did! Sundays (natch) at 11am. A lovely place to visit and all are welcome.

Like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.” So great to be back. It’s gonna be a good, good year…###

All contents © 2008 by Gene Mahoney