Movers and Shakers

Movers and Shakers in April: Keanu, Julia … and Groot?

Illustrations by Olivia Wise

High achievers on our radar this month, from Bay Area heavyweights to the next generation of power players

Keanu Reeves

Reeves and San Francisco have been enjoying a some-what symbiotic relationship lately. A 2019 cameo in the SanFrancisco-set romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe reignited pop culture’s obsession with the actor. (Broody pictures of him in the ’90s began to flood Instagram; he was dubbed “The Best Internet Boyfriend” by The Cut.) In February, he was back in the Bay, and City dwellers (plus one Gazette editor) started spotting him around town while he filmed intense action scenes for Matrix 4. Reeves graciously flashed his smile to fans as he rode a motorcycle through the Financial District with his co-star Carrie-Anne Moss, jumped off skyscrapers in down-town and dined at House of Nanking. A collective buzz permeated San Francisco like a thick fog: Where would Keanu be next? Though the City is no stranger to celeb sightings, seeing Reeves — chic in Matrix black, skin aglow and unchanged from his halcyon Speed days — was like seeing a unicorn. So long for now, Neo! See you in theaters — soon, hopefully.

Julia Roberts

New York, L.A. and now San Francisco: Roberts officially owns homes in three of the most culturally significant cities in the country. Not to mention everywhere in between. What would the kids call that? Goals! The megawatt, Oscar-winning Erin Brockovich actor dropped $8.3 million on a hundred-year-old Presidio Heights Victorian last month, with scenic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and five levels of living space. Roberts has been known to hang out in the City on occasion — last year she was spotted enjoying a cozy meal at Outerlands, the organic restaurant in Outer Sunset. In 2017, she rang in her milestone 50th birth-day shopping at hip boutiques in the Mission District like Voyager on Valencia Street. Looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Pretty Woman star around town— if she ever decides to leave her new digs. And with multiple balconies, a wet bar and a wood-paneled wine cellar, the odds are like fifty-fifty. We’ll shelter in place with you anytime, Julia!


Groot is the kind of hometown hero that doesn’t need trophies or awards — a fresh ball will do just fine. In late February, the 3-year-old golden retriever rescued the Palo Alto couple who had been missing in the Marin County woods for over a week, accompanied by his owner, Rich Cassens, and another volunteer. Search parties had scoured the area for days trying to locate Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin, who got stranded in a ditch while on what was supposed to be a romantic hike. Then came Groot, who sniffed them out on his first official search as a newly minted member of the California Rescue Dog Association. What beginner’s apprehension?Cassens told the Chronicle that he’s making sure Groot stays humble, not letting all the media attention go to his head. To which Groot added: “Woof!”

Helgi Tomasson

On April 23, the legendary artistic director and principal choreographer of the San Francisco Ballet had been scheduled to receive the Museum of Performance + Design’s 2020 Arts Medallion in a ceremony at Saint Joseph’s Arts Society. Tomasson joins the ranks of other SF icons who’ve been recognized for their arts leader-ship by the museum: Norman Mailer, Dede Wilsey and Willie Brown, to name a few. Tomasson has led the ballet with fervor since 1985, morphing it into one most revered dance institutions in the country. This year marks the former dancer’s 35th season, crowning him the longest-serving artistic director of any major ballet company. In celebration, the museum had also dedicated an entire exhibition to its leader. Helgi Tomasson: 35 Years of Artistry is a highlight reel of Tomasson’s best hits with the San Francisco Ballet, and was to be on display through May 2.

Nancy Oakes

During the coronavirus pandemic, Tosca, the storied North Beach institution, reopened for takeout last month. Under its trio of talented new owners — chef Oakes, restaurateur Anna Weinberg and designer Ken Fulk— the vibe of Tosca 4.0, which its socially distanced customers have yet to experience, was set to pay tribute to the Jeannette Etheredge era. Oakes added a little polish plus menu items that keep true to the neighborhood’s diverse Italian community while evoking the dishes she ate in her youth, “when she would spend enormous amounts of time in North Beach trying to look cool.” She told the Gazette: “I’ve always thought of it as a meeting place. … It’s never had a class stipulation to it, which I think is so important.” What is perhaps a perfect example of the new ownership trying to uphold Tosca’s democracy while honoring its roots: the house cappuccino. There are plans to bring in a rotating roster of mixologists who will try their hand at making the classic cocktail, and patrons will judge which is best. Plans for the Lusty Lady next door are still in the works. Did someone say burlesque?


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