Black & White Ball '99

On June 5, 1999, I attended the Black & White Ball at San Francisco's Civic Center. This was my first ball, and I had fun!

Getting There

I took Caltrain from Menlo Park up to the city, getting in around 9:30. I waited for a taxi, wondering why there weren't tons of them. Turns out that the streets around the civic center functioned not unlike a roach motel for cars -- the taxis check in, but they don't check out! Anyway, I got a taxi around 9:45 and got to the ball just after 10pm.

The Ball

The ball covered the whole civic center area (which was cordoned off), so there was dancing in the streets (and the largest mirror ball I've ever seen). When you enter one of the buildings, you exchange your ticket for a red wrist strap -- you know, those foil ones with the plastic rivets. These allow you access to the entertainment areas.

Eric Burdon and the New Animals were starting their set at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, so I went there first. Grabbed a piece of chocolate cake on my way in, figuring I'd get more food later. I made my way to a spot next to the stage so I could have a good view of guitar chords. There was a pretty blonde woman to my left, who was there I think with her boyfriend and another guy; when she saw I wasn't moving much to the music, she got me dancing. She'd say "Do what I do" and I'd try to follow; I felt uncoordinated, but I didn't care -- I was having fun! I must've missed some guitar chords, but was too busy having fun to notice!

Jefferson Starship were next. While they were setting up, Paul Kantner appears with a bandana on his head and smoking a cigarette, looking about as appealing as Keith Richards on a good day. I don't know who the other band members were. I guess I'm out of the loop, cuz I was expecting to see Grace Slick; in her place was Diana Mangana(sp?). She sang a lot like Grace, and looked very sexy in her slit dress, but it just doesn't feel like Jefferson Anything without GS. Oh well, at least I saw some chords.

It was after 12 now, and the food was all gone. There were still drinks and chocolate, but not a munchable item in sight. I went over to the Davies Symphony Hall to see if I could catch some Joan Baez, but her set was winding down so I went back to the BGCA and rested my feet in the balcony while Dave Mason performed. After that I took a walk around City Hall while Martha and the Vandellas did "Dancing in the Streets" from the Opera House lobby, and went into City Hall for a bit (that was the event building with metal detectors).

I wandered over to the Civic Center Plaza Tent where George Clinton was performing in what looked like a giant diaper. I was surprised to find some munchables nearby, and eagerly partook of otherwise boring veggies, dip, and french bread.

Finally it was time for Todd Rundgren at the Davies Symphony Hall; I got there while Willy "Mink" DeVille was finishing his set (due to the time it took the bands to set up, few started on time; Todd was scheduled for 1:45 and actually started about a half hour later). I stood at the edge of this stage too, as I wanted to catch some more -- you guessed it -- guitar chords. I met a lovely woman named Amy who complimented me on how good I looked in my tux and that I'd probably look good in a t-shirt! That blew me away, as I'm not used to women seeing me like that; I joked that maybe I should wear the tux to work. :-) She added that it's what's on the inside that counts, and I decided that I liked her both inside and out, so I gave her my card. I think I'm a fool as I didn't ask for her number. Well, she did say she'd probably email me...
Todd Rundgren came onstage, and during songs he'd shake various fruits and veggies to the rhythm. There were a couple of obnoxious, loud guys standing behind me, shouting things like "shake the zucchini, Todd!" and "his hair is big, but his brain is small" -- I eventually had enough of that and took a seat about 20 rows up. (Amy had already left.) I had hoped to learn the chords to "I Saw The Light" but the guitarist used a nylon string classical guitar instead of electric, and seemed to be playing in a different key. Interesting rendition though. Soon it was 3:00 and the party was over, so we all left the building.

I heard some music still playing, so I followed it up the street to the State Building courtyard where Elvin Bishop was performing. That squeezed another ten minutes out of the event, and then that was the end of it. I had hours to kill before the next train or bus back down the Peninsula, so I asked the cops if they knew of anyplace I could go. The best-sounding suggestion was Mels Diner, so off I went.

Going Home

I walked up Van Ness towards Geary, where the diner is. Ahead of me I saw a pretty girl walk out of a garage carrying flowers and head up the street. When I got to Geary, she had continued on up the street, so I thought "OK, no conversation there" and turned to cross to the diner. As I'm standing inside looking the place over, in comes that same girl (I guess she decided she was hungry) and takes a seat near the far end of the counter. Since I was a party of one I'm directed to the counter as well, and the only free seat there was next to that girl, so I thought "how about that -- looks like I'll get to chat with her after all" and took my seat. I didn't catch her name, but learned she was from Morocco and spoke Arabic. I was going to impress her with some Arabic, but then I remembered the closest I come to that is just a few words in Farsi. A guy from Queens ("hey, fellow New Yorker!") sat down to her right, and at one point told me I looked like I'd just gotten married (that tux again!). I replied "I wish!" :-) I hung out there till around 5:30, nibbling at breakfast and singing along with the jukebox songs.

I decided to walk all the way down Geary to get to the bus station, which took about a half hour. Caught a 6:30 bus which arrived in Menlo Park around 7:45 AM, and was home a few minutes later. Thus ended my big night out!

-Walter

Also see an article in the San Francisco Examiner.

 
 

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