Monday, January 30, 2006


I just got an email from Jerry Brown. Current Mayor of Oakland, former Governor, perenniel Presidential candidate......and now candidate for Attorney General of California.

Jerry was high tech before there was high tech, and was an early casualty of primitive Swift Boat style smearing by his political opponents......both Democrats and Republicans. He dated Linda Ronstadt (I remember when she was asked what kind of music he liked, she said that he really seemed comfortable in elevators......). He drove a Dodge Dart, and avoided the Governor's Mansion. He went to Tassajara and meditated......Governor Moonbeam.

I hope I haven't told this story before......We were briefly the IN-caterer in San Francisco. We worked for Joe Alioto, the son of the ex-Mayor, and his wife Michelle at their amazing mansion in Pacific Heights. The bill for one party resulted in the first bounced check in the history of the Alioto family, who were friends of the founder of Bank of America.

Anyway, in the midst of our run, they threw a fund-raiser for Jerry Brown who was running against Pete Wilson for the Senate. There were a series of televised debates, and we catered the post-debate bash on Pacific Heights. The mansion was gorgeous.....a pink granite kitchen with a breakfast nook overlooking the Marina and Golden Gate; a full ballroom, mahogany panelled public rooms including a big library with its own bar big enough for a restaurant.

Working for the Ailioto's was a trip. Michelle was gorgeous and totally supportive.....she never questioned anything we did: the perfect client. Joe's guests were another story. This was right around the Godfather era, and the place was always full of olive-skinned young men with expensive haircuts and serious suits and shoes, talking out the side of their mouths.....Al Pacino-style.

We booked local college kids to cut down on the schlepp from Carmel Valley to the City, and Joe liked that we usually had serious babes on the crew. Our chefs were our own, and the level of sarcasm was high, as usual with us. I had to keep shushing my partner Peter, who insisted on whistling The Godfather theme all during the parties. And also typical of us, we forgot things and invented new things, and pulled dishes out of our butts half the time. At one memorable event, Peter turned cashews to dust, breaded oysters with the dust, and broiled them with cream and some prociutto and asiago. They were a hit, and one of the babes asked him: "What do you call this.....everyone wants to know!!" Peter responded, "Oysters Corleone." We giggled, and then I thought, "Oh, no......" and rushed out after the babe. Sure enough, she was just informing Mr. Alioto and a group of friends: "They are Oysters Corleone, sir....." I was aghast. They all nodded knowingly, and said, "Oh, yeah......I've had that."

Anyway, night of the big debate with Jerry Brown, I was extra stressed because Joe Alioto, Senior was coming over with his wife.....the big man himself. We had not seen him before: there was some stress in the family. Maybe because Michelle was a gorgeous blond, not the least bit Italian? Maybe because Joe, Jr. had lost a hundred million dollar malpractice claim for the family firm? Regardless, it was a super state occasion and I was extra-paranoid. I was behind the bar in the library, making sure all the glasses were extra polished. I had just bent down to check another case when the door flew open and two men rushed in. The CHP dignitary protection team swept the room quickly and left, but missed me in the back of the bar. I didn't think much of it, and continued quietly doing my work.

The two men turned out to be Jerry Brown and his closest friend and aid, Jacques Barzaghi. Jerry and Jacques proceeded to have an extremely personal and intimate conversation in the library. It was like listening to a therapy session. I was trapped in the bar, and it was clear they had no idea I was there. It was like another time, when I was using the master bathroom at a wedding in a big house, and the new bride came in with the best man and had wild monkey sex in the big bed. I hid in the linen closet, and prayed to St. Oliver Plunkett for continued concealment........At the Alitoto's I called on Blessed Ollie again....only this time I was afraid I would be arrested, or shot.

I was trapped for about 45 minutes, while Jerry Brown poured his heart out to his aide and confidant. I heard every word. In the entire conversation, he did not utter one cynical syllable. His only concern was whether or not he was getting his message across, whether people could see his vision, and whether his ideas would be good enough......not just to win the election, but to improve the lot of Californians.

I have known a ton of politicians.....decent, motivated people most of them. Even so, none of them have that purity of intent and action that I witnessed at Alioto's. I have no idea why in the world Jerry wants to be Attorney General......I wish he could be president. Anyhow....check him out.

Oh, and I didn't get shot......I started rattling glasses, and they brought their conversation to a close. Jerry Brown looked at me back in the bar. "Did you hear all that?" "Uh....yup." "What did you think?"



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