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Bigelow’s Babble On by the Bay: Live Music, Fete Tests And A 40th Fandango

by Catherine Bigelow

Miss Bigelow’s Babble On by the Bay
Miss Bigelow’s Babble On by the Bay

Amid heady days of the go-go ’80s era, our EssEff gala scene — sartorially overstuffed with prodigious shoulder pads — gifted deep-pocketed patrons with sponsor goody bags: signature Burberry check scarves or Cartier crystal objets, etched with the occasion’s date and theme.

Fast-forward to (is it post-? or still present?) our 2021 COVID gatherings. Now the ne plus ultra in de rigueur host gifts? The promise of tableside checkins — accompanied by a pre-entrance and free rapid COVID test. Masked guests are still allowed entrance to the venue. But guests may only remove masks once they receive a negative — or rather, all-clear — “pingdemic” beep on their mobile device.

Such was the scene July 18 fronting the Russian Hill penthouse aerie of Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz. She gathered global grandees — including Dr. Henry Kissinger; Philippe Etienne, French ambassador to the U.S.; Ambassador of the Principality of Monaco Maguy Maccario Doyle; San Francisco French Consul General Frederic Jung; Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, former Mayor Willie Brown — along with civic poobahs Gina Moscone, Nancy Bechtle and her husband, Joachim Bechtle.

The occasion? An elegant Shultz designed Francophile reception — replete with songbird Marianne Kent and her beret-adorned musicians plus a bountiful McCalls buffet, including to-order omelets — honoring Monsieur Thomas E. Horn, who, on July 19, was awarded France’s highest order of civil merit: chevalier de l’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.

Horn, a New Mexico–raised raconteur and philanthropist, has worn numerous civic chapeaus: from former Bay Area Reporter publisher and staunch supporter of the San Francisco–Paris Sister City Committee to his current posts as honorary consul general of Monaco and president of the War Memorial Board of Trustees.

But it was Mayor London Breed who advised Shultz to issue a Saturday night email informing guests that, the next day, COVID tests would be required.

Bravo, Tom! And we’ll supply beaucoup celebration deets, accompanied by Drew Altizer photography, in the September issue of the Gazette.

Michael Horwitz celebrated his wife Cameron Phleger at a “cowboy chic” birthday party among the redwoods at the historic Phleger estate in Woodside.

Fabulous 40: There are few EssEff multigenerational natives more beloved than Cameron Phleger. Dynamic, energetic and philanthropic (trustee to the Exploratorium and Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco), Phleger, a former private preschool teacher, is surprisingly shy.

But surrounded — and encouraged — by her husband, Michael Horwitz, and beloved family, including mom, Jean Phleger, big sister Kelley Johnson and husband, actor Don Johnson, along with with nieces, nephews, lifelong friends and devoted godfather Tom Kelley, Phleger gave into the celebration set amid the redwood groves of her family’s historic Woodside estate. Though a majority of that exquisitely verdant property was gifted by Phleger forebears as a preserve to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, the family maintains some magical woodland groves where Phleger was feted — in “cowboy chic” style.

Designed by Isabella Sikaffy of Florabella Studios, the party featured the Miami-based Social Band, who set the groove beneath twinkling Got Light–adorned branches with classic rock and Western tunes. Family-style tables groaned beneath a masterful McCalls “Old-Fashioned Cowboy” meal, starring sublime tomahawk steaks and Cajun-spiced wild salmon.

“Tonight is a memory of a lifetime for Cameron, my North Star, and our extended family, though our sons, Tripp and Atherton, are with a babysitter,” toasted Horwitz with a laugh. “And thank goodness, I didn’t mess this up.”

His toast was followed by childhood friends, one of whom, Liza Nebel, testified to her pal’s excellence: “Cameron is unique: she’s a bit of an introvert. But her heartfelt sincerity never fails. Every person she meets feels uniquely special to Cameron.”

Haute tickets: The fall arts season is just around the corner (time to schedule your “tans” and stylists) and fingers crossed, we’re going LIVE!

While COVID wreaked havoc with pretty much everything last year, this year it’s imploded our traditional Hell Week — that post-Labor Day scramble of arts patrons, caterers, valet parkers, artists and tent-riggers switching gears and gowns in just 48 hours between the San Francisco Opera and SF Symphony opening night galas.

First at bat, literally, is the opera on Friday, September 10, at … Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. This fete, coined “The Homecoming,” features a live concert — a potpourri of operatic faves — onstage at the Opera House (check website for COVID protocols and seating) and livestreamed on the Giants’ LED scoreboard. Ballpark seating is free. Honest: zip, zero, nada. But patron packages are available for dinner in Oracle’s sweet box suites. Unless you really insist on dusting off your tux or busting out a new ball gown, the dress code is that always-elusive option: “creative attire.” But SF Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock and Giants Enterprises President Stephen Revetria slyly suggest “orange tie.”

P.S.: Opera season is already underway this month, launching Saturday, August 21, with the beloved Puccini tearjerker Tosca.

On Friday, October 1, the San Francisco Symphony celebrates its reopening with a full concert at Davies Hall. But there will be no glamorous Lake Louise tent. Instead, two pre-concert patron dinners will be held at City Hall. We’ll have more deets on that ’do in the September edition of the Gazette.

Actor Jimmie Fails (left) and musician Pato Banton (center) with Value Culture founder Adam Swig in Golden Gate Park.

Culture in the wild: San Francisco scion Adam Swig, founder of the nonprofit Value Culture, co-hosted his first postpandemic, in-person free music concert — with The Last Black Man in San Francisco co-writer, lead actor and fellow EssEff native Jimmie Fails — on July 15 at the historic Spreckels Temple of Music band shell in Golden Gate Park.

On the musical docket: the legendary Pato Banton, American History X filmmaker and musician Tony Kaye, Swathi Ravichandran, Estrella, and members of Turf Feinz — all of whom Swig met on Clubhouse, a sort of online radio station where creators sought connection amid lockdown.

And a delightful all-ages tumble of some 120 fog-wrapped fans flocked to the park, enjoying the jams and taco trucks, sponsored by the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice.

“This is my first live event since February 2019 with Jimmie, who’s joining the Value Culture board. The band shell was revamped by SF Recreation and Parks for the park’s 150th anniversary, but celebrations were shut down during the pandemic,” explains Swig. “But I applied for a permit, which Rec & Park approved. And I’m loving that tonight everyone is outdoors together again, enjoying live music and smiling.”


Join Catherine Bigelow each month for a roundup of newsy nuggets, boldface names and juicy tidbits. Gotta item? Email [email protected].

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