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February 24, 2003


PJ Party

Jammin’ with the Junkies

By Betsey Culp (bculp@sfcall.com)

Baseball is, they say, the national pastime, but in San Francisco the ruling passion is politics. Political junkies are everywhere, holding forth at public meetings and combing news releases in search of tidbits of gossip and bits of power.

On Friday evening, these PJs swarmed south of Market to the Goodwill Atrium, where the SFCall was hosting a mayoral candidates forum.

John Wildermuth and Gino Rembetes came to observe. A number of other PJs were there to make it happen.

PJs come in all sizes and colors. Kimberley Knox is one. This tiny European American who grew up as a Navy Junior is rapidly becoming the city’s hostess with the mostest – who else could set the trend for many future events by creating San Francisco's first Recycled Fashion Show, for the Mayor's Office of Economic Opportunity, in 2001?

Malik Looper is another. This tall African American from the Mission, whose day job finds him directing government and community relations at Goodwill, is better known as the founder and moderator of the website where PJs get their fix, SF Polifix.

On Friday evening, this dynamic duo orchestrated quite a show.

They were backed by another PJ, Tony Imperial, whose name and machine-gun style of conversation suggest a kinship with the Sopranos. In fact, he’s the boss of Story Road Consulting, an organization that hires homeless people to provide sound and lighting for public events. On Friday, Imperial and two members of his crew, like ninjas in dark coveralls, worked silently to make sure that the rest of us could hear.

In the audience were a number of the day-time occupants of the building, participants in the Goodwill transitional training and employment programs.

But that was only the beginning.

Five media representatives were on hand to grill the candidates about their intentions, like concerned parents checking out their daughter’s date: Samson Wong (AsianWeek and the Independent), Savannah Blackwell (Bay Guardian), Shirley Chou (Sing Tao Daily), Marvin Ramirez (El Reportero), and h. brown (Sentinel and SFCall). They were joined by more than 200 aunts and uncles – the general public – who submitted questions to the candidates. Lots of questions.

That was the point of the forum: to ask questions. To frame the questions that voters would like the upcoming campaign to focus on. The questions they posed will be posted on the Call’s website later this week, and readers are invited to add their own before the entire compilation is forwarded to all the candidates.

Oh yes, the candidates.

There were seven – Angela Alioto, Tom Ammiano, Michael Denny, David Giesen, Susan Leal, Jim Reid, and Tony Ribera (with a cameo appearance at the beginning by Roger Schulke). The magnificent seven had been selected not for their debating skills – for this was not a debate – nor to represent the entire field of mayoral candidates. They constituted an elite group, and therefore more likely to set the terms for the campaign that will unfold over the next several months.

We want them to get our message out.

And so, we peppered them with questions, demanding lightning responses. They obliged, although no doubt wishing for the simpler lines of more traditional political encounters. There will be plenty of time for those. But at a PJ party, anything goes.

Anything goes, but not everyone came. There was one invited candidate who – alas! – declined to join the hardy Goodwill band. One Noshow.

Ingenious PJs put forth a number of explanations for his absence, some more plausible than others. No, it is not likely that he hurt his back rearranging the furniture in his living room.

It is possible that he has merely following in the footsteps of San Francisco’s other famous Noshows – Nancy and Dianne – who acknowledged an overwhelming lead over their opponents by simply ignoring their existence. If that was the case, the strategy may have backfired, because most of Gavin Noshow’s opponents at the forum returned the compliment by ignoring his existence in their remarks. Gavin who?

But perhaps we misjudge him. It is equally possible that he stayed away because he was embarrassed, lacking the proper clothes for a PJ party.

It would be an act of kindness to provide him with some, to encourage his acceptance of the next invitation. Perhaps some bright red jammies, with a square button-up flap in the back. Or better yet, some made of blue-and-white striped cotton, nicely pressed, such as that man-about-San Francisco William Powell wore in The Thin Man.

Then – maybe – next time, Gavin Noshow will show. And join the party.

In the meantime, the SF Call thanks all the intrepid PJs who did attend. Your donations will be put to good use – stay tuned for further information. But more important, we had a wonderful time. We hope you did, too.