1981

Fondly remember a night in August 1981. Took a free seat at a table in the front, armed with just purchased new albums by Richie Havens (“Connections”) and Bob Dylan (“Shot of Love”). Picked on immediately by the MC who wanted to know why I was alone and wondered if I ever bought music by anybody born after 1945. I then proceeded to tell him that I could do a mean impression of Dylan clearing his throat (I had heard this on a live Jose Feliciano album) which got more laughs than the MC. He decided to leave me alone.

Also remember late into the show when a cop car pulled up to the curb which naturally gave the stand up (wish I can remember who was on the bill – it was August 1981) plenty of ammo to ad-lib. While he was yakking the smiling cops turned their search light on which lit up the entire club, whie breaking it up as well. Great times.

I was a 22 year old kid away from home in Montreal travelling extensively for the first time and fell in love with SF the moment I stepped off the train. I’ve been trying to get back for over 30 years.

I won’t ever forget my evening at The Other Cafe.

Cheers
Mitch Melnick
http://www.mitchmelnick.com

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How the Other Cafe got its name

JBS from Illinois, thats in Chicago BTW ; )
March 14, 2011 at 9:43 PM
Stumbled across the 30 year reunion info last year and in light of your response above I wanted to share a bit. I worked at the “Other” in 1975 (this was the Original Other Cafe before sold to Ayres et. al.) behind the counter and hung out a lot when the first acts, open mike type, music (mainly) bad piano and guitar players, were just starting. The original owner and progenitor was a young woman from St. Louis named Kay M. who got the ball rolling. She put fresh cut flowers on each table every day and you could sit outside and catch some sun at a table or two on the sidewalk. (hard to do, if you didn’t go across Mt. Parnassus to the Sunset.) Met some great Haight neighborhood folks, Sweet Jane, Lauren, Tom, Daryl, Ernie, David, Louie and last but NOT least Smiley, (King of the Queen of Cups and UFO spotter par excellance)you all know who you are!!) and generally soaked up what vibe from the early days that was still floating around. (and there was some!) However, the reason I write is to explain the name, the “Other Cafe”. During the heyday of the Haight, one of the main hangouts for good coffee/food was called the “Psalms Cafe” at the corner of Haight and Masonic. Great recorded music playing and cheap and good food. It was the place to go for hippies and straights alike. The Psalms, was Mecca, True North (so to speak) So, Kay not able to instantly enter the fray, especially so far off of Haight street direct action circuit came up with the name that if you know about the Haight, you knew instantly what it meant. It was a good idea, and the cafe was flourishing when I left. I don’t why she sold it a few years later,(apparently 1977) since I had gone back to the Midwest. But,the name was already beginning to be worth something. It was locally famous before it got nationally famous. regards, JBS

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Remember these t shirts?

ha ha now it’s part of a T shirt quilt!

email ducksbreath.jpg (987 KB)

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other memories

i remember living on carl and parnassus, i belonged to a christiam community and there were about 3 or 4 of us that would hang out during the day at the other and taking in some shows at night, one of the people bein beverly; she was a midget and everyone treated her so well, alas she has passed on since then. i remember durst doing the marothon on the phone, bob sarlatte, doing the rate the song bit, dana carvey, he told me i looked like his sister, i didnt know he was part latino. kevin meaney, food service, jeremy kramer, his purple suit, etc. i moved away and when i came back the other was gone, had a crush on the guy that wore the ponytail, manager/owner of the other, never told him though. saw timothy leary, that was a trip. just found out the other is in marin, sure want to visit. i missed the 30 year reunion in the park and at the other, darn it. love and peace, judith

Top.jpg (64 KB)

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Other Cafe Memories!

Hello All! My favorite memory as a counter worker was one night we locked the front door about 11:00, and some troublemaker (probably me) went out to buy a big bottle of tequila. There were about six of us, but the only other wrongdoers I remember were Barbara McQueen and Richard Snow. We sat at the little bar area near the kitchen and did multiple fun “tequila puffs” which were more like inhaling amyl nitrate than drinking alcohol. Yeah, we borrowed some of poor Bob and Steve’s Perrier, and pounded the glasses and drank them down. We put a bunch of quarters into the jukebox, which we turned up really loud, turned up the stage lights, got on stage, and danced topless to semi-nude, with passers-by outside cheering and laughing at us. Barbara ended up passed out in the Other Cafe bathroom. I have wondered over the years how Steve and Bob could have put up with some of us.

Who else remembers Mike Bloomfield wearing his bathrobe for his show the week after we Helper-Server Units wore ours at work? Or those cute Other Cafe calendars that someone used to make up every month… Wonderful memories.. See you at the show? 🙂 Tim Cuzzi

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author/attorney

We lived on Clayton St. so we were regulars at The Other. At the time I was an entertainment attorney, representing Robin Williams, Michael Pritchard, Will Durst. I also represented The Other, but they may have stiffed me and I can’t remember what I did for them anyway. Best memory is when my Mom died and Robin and Will decided I needed “comedy therapy.” They took me to The Other Cafe, conspired with Bob and used me for a comic prop.
Phil Ryan

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Sylvie and Penny Cooking Soup

My shift started at 6 pm to help prep for the evening’s show. The sky was still light and the N-Judah was crowded with tired downtown workers heading home – some would dash in for a bagel and coffee and then catch the next N. Sounds of the Grateful Dead drifted through the club along with tantalizing aromas of herbs and spices. Over simple burners, Sylvie and Penny stood stirring steaming huge pots of delectable soups. Their boyfriends usually hovered nearby waiting to walk them home, Penny and Sylvie usually did not stay for the show. I worked near them mashing avocados for guacamole and squeezing pitchers of orange juice. The sky outside darkened, fog rolled in, the lights in the buses went on and rows of chairs were set up at the Other. The waitresses and the comedians soon arrived. The microphone was set up, comedy fans started to line up at the door. The soup was ready. It was time for the night to begin.

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Rob Schneider’s Don Ho night

I still remember a memorable showcase at the Other called the Don Ho Show with Rob Schneider and a bevy of other comics of the day. It started with Rob being carried in on a surfboard and had boasted a phone link up with Don Ho that didn’t end up panning out and a hiliarious bit of an interview with Don’s less successful brother, Bud Ho..Don’t think I’ve laughed as hard since!

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Went there every day during High School

Mary Haas was our regular barista and a bunch of us from McAteer would hang out in the afternoon and then I would come back at night with some older friends to see the open mike night. Saw pretty much every well known comedian there. Some of them may remember me as being a black chick with a blonde mohawk between 1981-1985. Anyhoo, I hope to be there for the reunion.

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Coming of age….

As I turned 21 friends told me about a new after hours night club/comedy club under construction in my home town of Santa Rosa. I walked in and was introduced to Bob Ayres. Life changed forever.

Within a few monthes Bob made a floor manager and we created a modern music night on Wednesdays. Ted Cousins mixing great music and Matt Koons playing great videos. Santa Rosa had seen nothing like this before. People were in lines around the block to get in and it was the place to be seen.

We could go into any resturant or bar and were instant celebrities. Everybody wanted to go to “The Planet”.

It opened my eyes to great comedy as well. One night in my office I had the pleasure of having Rob Schieder, Paula Poundstone and Robin Williams chatting before a show. I was in awe.

Bob, Chip and Rich took me to open two more clubs in the Bay Area after the Daily Planet and the life experiences I had I will never forget.

I traveled with Bob to Sacramento once to scout out spots for a new club. I remember the ride in the back of Bob’s car with many new experiences including newly released U2’s “Joshua Tree”.

We went to Atlanta for a “night club” convention. Most of those stories I will save for another time.

The last club was “Politics” in Emeryville. An amazing 10,000 square foot comedy club, night club and resturant. We had all the major east bay football, basketball and baseball players. Record release parties for huge bands and comedy that featured poeple like Martin Lawrence.

I grew up over those years and I thank Bob, Rich, Chip, Scotty, Amy and Ted for letting me go along for the ride. Taking a chance on a young kid in the night club world where others wouldn’t.

Thanks for the memories….

John McGill

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Impressions from a comedian’s friend

I can remember many crazy nights riding up to the Other Cafe with my friend Rich Marks, an up and coming comedian at the time. Through Rich, I got to hang out with Monty Hoffman and others..! I am SO looking forward to the upcoming Reunion and hope that Bob Ruben will show up with some “hash browns…golden brown…crispy!”

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WWJLD (What Would Jim Lange Do)?

Sometime in the early ’80’s, I yielded to peer pressure and signed up to be a selecting bachelor on an installment of the Other Café’s squirrely version of “The Dating Game.” My wardrobe being quite nondescript, I decided that my stage debut called for some new threads to step up my game. So, a few days before the show, I emerged from Macy’s Tiger Shop with a stylish new shirt in bold, purple and black stripes with marine accents — sort of hip, new wave meets cool bowling shirt. It looked great with jeans and would sizzle beneath the Other Cafe stage lights, I figured.

The big night: The house lights dimmed, I left my seat in the audience, perched myself upon the bachelor’s stool onstage — and came face to face with the host for the evening, the amazing and uniquely formidable Jane Dornacker. She sized me up, her eyes twinkled in anticipation, and then she turned to the audience and bellowed: “How many couches had to die in order to make THAT shirt?!” Yikes – my imagined Dating Game experience did not include that introduction! (Far beneath the audience laughter, I heard a tiny voice in my head squeaking, “But my groovy new shirt doesn’t look anything LIKE couch upholstery.” Then I flashed darkly upon comedian Lorenzo’s bit about the legendary Filipino comic Joey Keeno, whose masterful way of dealing with a persistent heckler was to jump offstage and stab him. If I were to playfully stab Jane with that butter knife from that table in the first row, not too deeply but enough to draw blood and get her attention, would anybody get it?)

Anyway, by the time my round was over, I fortunately had managed NOT to select Bachelorette #3 (a silky falsetto-voiced Steve Berman, the power-hitting left fielder from Bob’s softball team). Instead, I wound up with a buxom and utterly delightful member of the Screaming Memes, a local performance art group. Some time later, she and I went on our (unchaperoned!) lunch date at the Ramp, my sofa shirt went to the Goodwill, and I returned to a life of quiet desperation.

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The Healing Closet

I remember working there in the early 80s all the while studying at the Acupressure Institute. We used the closet off from the kitchen to go in and have treatments by me whether it was a performer like Robin Williams or Jane Dornacker or just another staff member who was in need of some acupressure and tension relief. Those were the days when we were all so open and willing to try new things.
Its been 26 years now that I have had my successful Zen Shiatsu practice in SF and Marin (plus teach at a few schools in the bay area and mentor private serious students of Shiatsu) and I owe my beginnings to The Other Cafe who graciously let me try my techniques while the nachos were in the oven!

Thank you! I can’t think of a happier place to springboard into my career from!

Sincerely,
Kathy Kapps

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Peforming in the first “Angel Drake Cocktail Show”

I’d have to say my fondest memory of The Other Cafe would be performing in Linda Hill’s first “Angel Drake Cocktail Show” as my alter ego, accordionist lounge lizard Enrico Roselli. I was the opening act for the other lounge performers who were on the bill (one of them being the hilarious duo of Warren Thomas and Sue Murphy as a soulful, salt and pepper version of Sonny and Cher). I did a killer 5 minutes with my Around the World with Enrico Roselli medley. As I exited the stage to thunderous applause, Angel Drake (Linda Hill) said to the audience, “too much, too much! — I think we got our 5 dollars worth already, let’s go home!”

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I loved working at The Other Cafe!

Waitressing at The Other may have been the funnest job of my life. That little room transformed every night, depending on who was performing, cooking, dishwashing, waiting tables,and the audience. A nightly surprise. I remember how if Bobby Slaton was on I would try to wait tables furthest from the stage, since he’d always find a way to work the closest waitress into a raunchy bit about what kind of a lay we were. And If Daryl was on, again, the back tables because he’d get so worked up over that Hunter Thompson I-5 routine that he’d spit and sweat all over the front row. All of the waitresses were in love with our bosses; Bob, Steve, Chip, and Richard they were relaxed and adorable! Hope to see many of you on the 25th!

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Mister ?

Bob Ayres: a very good softball player. I managed a team called the Headhunters, and our fiercest rivalry was against Bob’s team. Always great games.

Joe

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Robin Williams drops in on Paula Poundstone

I remember one night at The Other Cafe when I was there to see Paula Poundstone (could have been Marsha Warfield, after all, it was a long time ago) and walking by the large windows was Robin Williams who came in and did 15 minutes…….so fun

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I was 14

I have the most amazing memories of the Other Café and wish for it back all the time. I lived in the neigborhood for about a year when I was a kid, and managed to land a job as a bus boy in the morning. Becuase of this, they would sometimes let me into the shows at night. As a kid, I think I really wasn’t supposed to come in at night, but I was let in and given a Coke and a Blondie (the Vanilla brownie’s that I will never forget, and which have never been as good since the Other Cafe). I used to go every night my parents would let me and that I could get in (usually open mic on Mondays). I Saw Dana Carvey and Robin Williams there one night (for the first time). Truly unforgettable

Now I live in the neighborhood again and drive by Carl and Cole all the time, look at the Crepe place (that occupies the old spot) and with a sigh wonder how it is that the Other Cafe isn’t still there!

I am SO pleased you are doing a reunion and think you really need to re-open and try to recapture that old vibe.

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The Summer I turned 18

I think I went to The Other every Monday night for Open Mic night the summer I turned 18. My Boy Friend was doing the “travel through Europe before college” thing and I felt very left out staying at home with my first waitressing job. I lived in Pacifica and drove up alone. I remember seeing so many funny people, many new faces each week and many who were regulars. I often wonder what happened to them all. One of the highlights was seeing Paula Poundstone on her first night. I don’t remember many specifics (I’m old now for heavens’ sake!), except how much support she got from the staff (I found out years later that she’d been working there so everybody knew her) and how her biggest joke was about her questionmark posture. It’s good that we’ve all moved on and it’s great to have all those memories!

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early 80’s

We used to go to the open mic nights in 82 and 83. My girlfriend Christine and I and whoever we could drag along. Always sitting in the front row, we would watch Evan Davis, Paula, Jeremy and Pearl all do their thing. I remember Chris Titus just starting out. One night Robin Williams came in to do a drop in and asked Christine what she wanted to do. She said, “act”. Robin brought her onstage and he went to the back and played a casting director. One night Evan Davis pulled out a gun from a purse. Remember the car that drove through the front door?
Milt Abel being asked to tell us a story.
Mouser, where are you?

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The Night We Saw Robin

We went to see Dana Carvey at The Other (we went every time he came in to do stand-up). Dana was great as usual, then Mark McCollum cane in to do a surprize bit, and Robin Williams arrived, and all of us, Dana included, were frozen in awe. Robin was in full “Mork” fame at this time. And to make it better, we had friends from Chicago who NEVER thought they’d see all this comic firepower (given Dana’s future too)-It seems like yesterday.

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Moving the Laundry

I remember the night Jane Dornacher took the entire audience across the street to the laundromat in the middle of her set while she moved her clothes from the washer to the dryer.

I lived around the corner on Shrader Street. It was so great to feel a part of the Other.
Thanks for the memories.

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Bobcat

Saw Bobcat do almost an entire show inside a cardboard box (washing machine?). He was so insane, when he finally came out of the box, he scared the crap out of us.

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MAKE-UP!!!!!

My memorable experience! Circa 1983?? I spent an entire day with Other Productions as the back stage make-up/hair person. This was an extravaganza of young raw comic talent. The taping was shot at Wolfgangs on Columbus St. for I believe ONTV a very early cable television network show. Ok, besides the stories I will not share because of professionalism I will tell you this: Master of Ceremony… Paula Poundstone. Comics in the line up: Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Kevin Meaney, Kevin Pollack, Bruce Baum, Will Durst, Bobby Slayton and a not yet out of the closet Ellen Degeneres! Lon McQuillin was the TV director responsible for me getting the gig. I was also taking telephone messages for Bob and Chip on the one phone back stage. One message I took was from Whoopi Goldberg wanting me to tell the guys it was a “GO”. I don’t think anyone believes me when I tell them about that gig! The Other Cafe was cutting edge and San Francisco was the happening place for comedy.

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Open Mic Nights

My second or third time on stage was at the Other. I came off on a Monday night and Durst walked over to me and said, “You have some funny stuff in there…”

For a stand up with maybe 15 minutes of stage experience at that point it was a pretty heady complement. I knew I was on the right path. That, plus I was unemployable doing anything else.

Brian Leonard.

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Something Different

I closed almost every show with an interview with a comedienne – most of them on their way to perform at the Other Café. It was a privilege watching the comedy scene unfold in the 70’s and 80’s, and Bob was instrumental in helping their careers take off. Come to think of it, I still have Penn (& Tellers’) boxer shorts, and Kathy Najimy’s bra, and a box full of tapes with interviews.

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Weddings and Beauty Contests

As a merchant in the Haight I rather enjoyed sponsoring the Global Travel contestant for the Ms Haight Ashbury Beauty Contest year after year. Although we never won it was all a blast. Then when Bob got married that was a party to never forget. Everybody had a mask that when the couple turned around all they saw was a crowd of people that had their faces on the masks. Must have been scary.

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After Party at the I-Beam

My first introduction to the Other Café was through the softball team. After a grueling workout for “Café Management”, I was given the thumbs up to join this elite group of athletes. Win or lose, after each game, we always came back to the Café to hang out and party, (a major perk). Imagine sitting in the audience watching one of the many hysterically gifted comedians, and all of a sudden in the middle of their set, a group of sweaty guys in full softball uniforms proudly cruising through the middle of the room…Always a kudo for the team when the comedian made a wisecrack directed at us!

The team was always treated to all we can eat, drink and a FREE show! Bob, Chip and Richard made us feel right at home… With much love–thank you! Quite often the party ended up at the I-Beam on Haight, dancing the night away in our softball uniforms… Hit that perfect beat boys!

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I’m on the Menu!

Over the years, Other Cafe management worked hard to improve and expand the array of food items at the Cafe. And by improve, I mean that my name was used in the title of two dishes: the Bish Burrito and, later, the Bish Burger. It was quite a thrill to spend time in the club not only hearing my name in play, but also to think that, somewhere in the room, a waitress was having a positive thought about me. Sadly, the Other Cafe closed before dreams of future menu items such as the Bishlafel, Spicey Sea Bish, and Spaghetti with Bish Balls could be realized.

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Fool me twice, shame on me!

I was lucky enough to pal around with Other Cafe owners Bob, Chip, and Richard when the comedy club was hitting its stride in the late ’70’s, which meant that I was exposed to quite a bit of Cafe-related prankery. On one occasion, the Cafe was closed to the public on a Sunday night so that Bob could throw a private dance party for staff and friends. Bob invited me, encouraged me to bring a cassette of dance music, and also insisted that it was a pajama party — something he had always wanted to do. (Bob was a big fan of Hugh Hefner’s 1960’s “Pajama Party” TV show.) I invited a few friends, and at the designated time my group strolled down Cole Street in our robes and pj’s, eager to experience the Cafe under potentially very frisky circumstances. Upon arrival at the club, I flung open the door and stared blankly at a room full of distinctly non-pajama-clad party people. NOT a pajama party — the joke was on me! After a half hour or so, I stopped worrying about explaining myself to others and simply enjoyed the freedom of dancing to my musical program in silky pajamas.

A few weeks later, Bob invited me to join Frish (his wife at the time) and him for a spaghetti dinner at Bob Sarlatte’s house. (This was during the period when Sarlatte actually received people at his home, before dubbing himself “The Genius.”) A dinner at the Sarlattes’ was something which Bob and I had imagined for a long time, given the enormous potential for laughs, so I only hestitated for a moment when Bob added that we were going to surprise Sarlatte by showing up in our pajamas. On the appointed evening, Bob and Frish arrived at my apartment in pajamas for the drive to Sarlatte’s house, putting any lingering fears to rest that I was going to be victimized again. During the drive, we giggled in anticipation of Sarlatte’s reaction to our cheekiness. We pulled up at the Sarlattes’, got out of the car … and then I heard behind me the frenzied laughter of Bob and Frish, which I instictively knew was trouble. Sure enough, they peeled off their pajamas to reveal normal clothes underneath, leaving me to face my favorite comedian in pj’s. Burned again, by the same joke!

A happy postscript to this story: Some time later, Sarlatte dropped by my apartment after performing at the Cafe for a late night session of beer drinking and plumbing the depths of my record collection. The wheels in his head began to turn, which ultimately resulted in another special dance night at the Other Cafe, in which he performed as Casey Kasem and I spun the records he introduced. I would hope that “The Genius” remembers this night as fondly as I do.

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My memories

My memories of the early Café days are more flashes than cohesive memories as I was just a young lad (having been born in 1970). However being Bob’s nephew came with its privileges as I often times got to visit my “cool” uncle in this strange environment called The Other Café and to see live comedy performances on a stage that appeared to me at the time to be HUGE and in front of what felt like THOUSANDS of people.

These late 70’s memories include:
-seeing my comedic Idol Robin Williams get on stage after the headliner finished and doing his “thing”. I understood absolutely nothing he was talking about but found myself laughing uncontrollably with the audience. However I kept waiting to no avail for the patented “NA-NU NA-NU” greeting that made me laugh every Wednesday night on television.
– finding the “fat face” of Michael Pritchard irresistibly funny. (Hey, I was 8 years old!)
– “hanging out” with Bobby Slayton and having him refer to me only as “the little jewish boy”

In the mid 80’s I lived in the east bay and once I got my driver’s license, I was able to come to “the City” more often.
-driving out with my friends to see Denny Johnston at the Other and breaking down on the bay bridge only to get a tow truck driver questioning us 16 year olds, the entire way to the club, on whether we have felt how soft Asian women’s skin is!!! CREEPY. The night was rescued by a night of great comedy.
– working a daytime shift at the Other Café during a high school summer and being “instructed” to add MORE garlic to the guacamole. :wink
– Ushering a New Year’s Eve show at the Palace of Fine Arts and doing a little too much underage drinking at the after party and us taking turns puking out the window of the designated drivers car on the way home.
– Ushering the next year’s New Year’s Eve show with some guy named Rob Schneider who kept telling us that “one day that will be ME up there” YEAH RIGHT DUDE!
– And yet another New Year’s Eve show memory when one of the years after Chip Romer got done addressing the audience he gives the mic to the comedian (who it was escapes me at the moment… maybe Tom Kenny) to which the first comment from the comedian is “Hey Chip, I see you let the forehead grow in”. I am not quite sure why I found that line so funny and why it has stayed with me over all these years but I could hardly breathe for 5 min afterwards. I guess at 17, bald jokes were funny. However, now at age 40, they are not as funny as I am right there with my friend Chip.

And then lastly having the privilege of working various jobs in the early 1990’s at Politics & The Other Café in Emeryville, ranging from comedy room attendant, door staff, bar-back, and then finally bartender. I had the honor to work with some great people there. I will always look fondly of my time there despite the “challenges” that existed with the job. I got to know both Chip and Richard as an adult, rather than knowing them just as a kid and I personally grew up a lot while working there. But perhaps my greatest experience there was getting to know Scotty Gelfand. Amazing individual who provided me perhaps the most singularly defining “geek” moment of my youth with an afterhours screening of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Best of Both Worlds” episode Part 1 and 2 (you know, the one with the Borg!) on the giant 15 or so foot screen and incredible sound system in the Politics dance floor.

The Other Café in all its incarnations has provided me with long lasting memories and the opportunity to meet, socialize and work with some incredible people.

I would be remiss not to give a special thanks to Bob Ayres for sharing this amazing thing you helped create. I will always treasure the memories! I love you “brother”!

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Goldthwait off to rough start, saved by the Homeless Guy

The first time I saw Bobcat was at The Other. He started with his usual, painful, over-the-top, snot-infested “hey, how ya doin, welcome to the show, whatta ya do for living . . .” greeting and the crowd just didn’t get it. Might of been a heavy 707 night, but a couple of guys started tossing quarters up on the stage. I was practically peeing my pants but was largely alone in my glee.

But this homeless guy walks past the storefront and of course the stage was right there, and he sees a room full of people. He disappears behind the stage and then reappears with a cigarette shoved up each nostril and proceeds to “walk down stairs” from right to left. He disappears below the sill and then reappears walking back up stairs back behind the stage. He does this a couple of times, essentially getting all of the laughs. So Bob runs out and tries to grab him, but he skeedaddles. Bob went on to kill, but it was that homeless guy that warmed the crowd up.

This was a pretty typical night in the early 80’s SF comedy scene. Intimate, talented, and often totally random.

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mogul

The location of the Other Cafe at the corner of Cole and Carl was a Rexall Drugstore when I was growing up in the late fifties and sixties…Archie comic books and Bazooka Joe bubblegum.

During one of the iterations, I remember a kind of bizarre combined exotic animal (sold illegally for pets) and plant store. The owner was friends with John Lee Hooker and I met the old bluesman during an impromtu late night pot-fueled jam.

Playing the coffee house circuit in the 1970’s as a singer-songwriter, I was thrilled when Bob, Chip and Steve opened the doors of The Other Cafe. At some point an open mike started up and the usual mix of local talent from embarrassingly bad to brilliant got up on the stage and plied their trade. It was almost exclusively musicians in the early days.

So I saunter down on one of these Sunday nights (1980 or so?) only to find the sign-ups exceeded the space available to perform. The MC was Barry Sobel. He was new on the scene and trying out his comedic ‘schtick’ in between the musicians. I remember how frustrated I felt as he burned up valuable minutes with what (I perceived of at the time), as lame humor and musicians were eventually being introduced as an after thought, or so it seemed. Other performers never had the chance to take the stage and were turned away.

When I finally complained about this to Bob, he didn’t hesitate: “Think you can do better?” “Actually, yes…”, I replied and was given a chance to MC.

Sunday nights grew in popularity with more and more comedians showing up to the point where they began to outnumber the musicians. The ‘open mike’ nights were divided with music continuing on Sunday nights and the comics performing on Monday nights.

The rest as they say is history.

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Other Cafe Art Gallery!

The Other Cafe gave me my first “gallery show” in ’77, as my collage art decked their cafe for a month or so. The opening was great fun– drawing lots of neighborhood folks and friends.
I loved the place. It not only had great entertainment, but a wonderful staff. Thanks,guys!

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don’t you know who I am?

I was kind of a small town kid from Santa Rosa when I landed a job at the new Daily Planet night club. I caught the bug and it was’t long before I found myself doing open mic at the Other Cafe, then moving to the City.

Bob Ayres helped me get a bartendinng job at the Waterfront restaraunt and then later called me to help open the new Other Other across from the Cafe’
What a great gig this was. Bill Romer and I shared lots of laughs working the bar.
It was like a big family, owners, employees, talent, the only requirement was you had to be or at least know what funny was. It is amazing to me looking back at how talented you all were and are especially back then.

I remember the first time I met Ellen DeGenerous. She flipped out at me for charging her for a drink after one of the KQED tapings. “don’t you know who I am”? She said. I gave her a Rob Becker style “Nooooohhhh” She was the only one of the many soon to be stars to drop that on me.

When I think back on all the people I had the joy to rif with back then it still blows my mind.

I would love to reconnect with anyone who wants to share memories of those great days in the Haight.

cheers,
Chris

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The Crazy Hazy Days Of Comedy

The Other Cafe and the Zoo were the two places where my friends and I hung out most nights in those great crazy hazy days of comedy back in the 70’s and 80’s – we had for 5 to 6 years before opening up our own comedy club the Flatiron in San Rafael in August of ’81. Most of our friends then were comedians. We’d all spend hours playing RISK at Durst’s house (or was it Kevin Meaney’s – one of them had a new baby then – I can’t remember now!), or over to Monty’s house near the park for some libations. Random memories of Lorenzo planning the first Comedy Competition in GG park, or traveling with Dr. Gonzo, Monty Hoffman, Steven Pearl and myself to LA for them to play the Comedy Store (I was just the driver of the old Lincoln Mark 4 we took) – we all stayed with friend Dana Carvey while we wrecked havoc in the city of angles. Ah the good ol days of no sleep and cheap drugs. One fun night at the Other Cafe was when we brought a friend with us to see Robin play. This guy looked just like Eddie Money, and the crowd went crazy wanting autographs and taking pictures – all through Robin’s performance. It might have helped if we said he wasn’t – but the audience was having too much fun – and besides, like always, we were enjoying the great comedy talent the Other Cafe always provided!!

Barry Sobol Flatiron.jpg (288 KB)

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Thanks for the Memories

I worked at The Other Cafe for about 18 months ending in February 1983. I had a blast getting to know all the workers, managers and entertainers. Thanks Chip for writing this webpage!

All my best,

Wayne

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Was it all a dream?

Hello Others,

If you are reading this you might consider yourself lucky for two reasons:
1.    You have actually survived the last 25 years, and
2.     You were a part of and privy to something very unique and special. . . The Other Café.

Examining that time and place you can’t help but to weigh the repercussions and realize just what it meant to have been there.

The world was a different place, Reagan was in the White House, and Gas was
.25 per gallon. The internet didn’t exist and no one owned a cell phone. Cocaine wasn’t addictive, and Aids only affected gay people. Our music was on vinyl, and we were going to live forever.

We were young- full of ourselves- and San Francisco was full of artists, musicians, actors, and yes comedians, because they could still afford to live here.
It was a flashpoint; like Paris in the 20’s, or Berlin in the 30’s, and we will be able to tell stories to our grandchildren that to them will sound like someone telling you about knowing, say, the Marx Brothers or W.C Fields.

Think about that.

We knew so many people who went on to become stars of television, film and stage, etc. We’ll see somebody in a commercial or a name that rings a bell in the closing credits of some show.

Let’s face it; we can’t even turn on the television without seeing someone we knew two and a half decades ago.

There was no way of knowing then just how groundbreaking it was but we did know something interesting was afoot and the feeling was electrifying.

We just happened to be there in the exact time and place to witness so many of them get their start.

People like Paula Poundstone, Dana Carvey, Kevin Pollak, Rob Schneider, Richard Lewis, Greg Proops, Tom “Spongebob” Kenny, Bob Goldthwaite, Ellen Degeneres, Margaret Cho, Whoopi Goldberg, Nora Dunn, to name a few. Andy Kaufman would come in. Seinfeld played our little club as did Leno. Not to mention a guy named Robin who kept hogging the stage. We even saw Bobby Slayton, of all people Timothy Leary It doesn’t get any stranger than that.

Some of our regular Patrons became stars as well Danny Glover, Kathy Baker, Chris Isaac, The dead Kennedy’s, Rickie Lee Jones and others.
It became apparent later that we had been smack-dab in the middle of STARMAGEDDON.

I personally have so many great stories of that time that it really is just an embarrassment of riches.

So, hats off to Bob, Chip and Richard for serving as midwives to an era in creating the last of the great non-corporate comedy clubs.

I feel grateful for having been allowed to be a part of it.

Thank you.

Jim Boldman

P.S:
My favorites? Well. . . Paula of course, Jeremy Kramer, Kevin Meaney and my very favorite; Jane Dornacker who said, “Why have a personality when you can be one.”

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I was a waitress at The Other in 1979

Hi I have alot of fun memories of the other cafe I worked as a waitress in 1979 and also as a cook and barista there. I saw Barry Sobel and many other great comedic acts. Loved open mic night also. Great club…

Mari

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A Toast to The Other by Susan Edwards

It was 1978 and the Great Disco Scare had descended on San Francisco. I was new in town, a little lost, working two awful jobs and living in the Haight, which was seedy and long past its glory days. It was kind of a gloomy time for me, and I was sorely in need of a laugh.

Then a beacon shone from afar, at the corner of Cole and Carl streets. Music. Laughter. Food and beer. And best of all, they were hiring waitresses. I traded my union job at a disco on the wharf for one at the Other making a fraction of the money. But it had its advantages: No Donna Summer. No Village People. No slippery food and beverage manager trying to cop a feel. Just a pair of gentle souls who lived and worked together and had created this cozy club where you could have a bite to eat and watch some amazing talent onstage.

Tips were always lousy at the Other but they hit a nadir on folk music nights. Kate Wolf was lovely and angelic, but to this day when I hear her ethereal voice, I still remember wholesome Birkenstocked, bearded dudes and their earth mother girlfriends nursing a shared two-dollar pot of tea all night long and leaving a quarter on the table.

Blues nights were fun, but my favorite by far were the comedy nights. Comedy was on the rise everywhere at the time. Saturday Night Live was in its third year and in L.A. relative unknowns like David Letterman were doing standup.

In San Francisco, comedy lived at the Purple Onion and the Other Café both of which hosted established performers but also provided supportive environments for nascent acts and experienced comedians looking to work out material on savvy audiences. The Other became something of a creative comedic vortex, thanks to Bob Ayres, whose warmth, love of comedy and enterprising spirit made it all possible.

It was fascinating and sometimes painful watching comics work their material on the intimate stage at The Other. They were close to the audience there was no escaping a bombing performance for either side. Sometimes just the slightest change in wording, timing or delivery would mean the difference between embarrassed silence and beer-spewing spontaneous laughter. The comics who ultimately succeeded were not always the most brilliant out of the gate, but rather the ones who worked their routines until they found that sweet spot and then kept hitting it.

The one I remember best was this skinny, dorky guy with a Prince Valiant haircut (straight, blond bangs and longish pageboy). He had a guitar, and his schtick was he’d strum it and sing some funny, folky pap when a joke bombed, which was fairly often. But that guitar moved him and audiences past those embarrassing moments and provided a bridge to his next bit. The first few times I saw him, I would never have guessed that Dana Carvey would someday be famous.

My favorite comedy/multimedia variety act was Jane Dornacker. She performed original music with her band Leila and the Snakes featuring Pearl E. Gates, and did various hysterical characters in sketches and film shorts. One real crowd pleaser was her spoof of Anita Bryant, who was a very controversial Florida orange juice spokesmodel and anti-gay bigot at the time.

Robin Williams was still widely unknown but was becoming a legend in comedy circles. He would turn up in San Francisco and do these incredible stream-of-consciousness improvisations that blew everyone’s mind. He was like a gifted jazz musician on a creative high. It was theater as much as comedy, and a truly amazing thing to witness. (I’m happy to report that he was always polite to his waitress and tipped well too.)

The Other Café was a haven for me at a time when I needed one. It made me forget for a while the sadness of my other job, working with troubled, often violent adolescent girls. I loved coming to the Other and getting everyone settled with food and drink and then standing in the back watching the show. It was a special time and place with a great group of people.

Here’s a toast to Bob, Steve, Chip, Debra and all the wonderful artists, entertainers, audiences and assorted other souls who came together at the Other Café: I wish you all blues only in your music, a happy reunion, good health and many, many more laughs.

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Some Nights I remember…

BobCat’s First Audition Night
Bob Goldthwait’s first performed on a Monday auditions night – no one was sure whether his voice was real or character.. there were very few laughs until the audience grasped his unusual brilliant style – then they immediately loved him.

The Dating Game!
Nervously, I entered the unusual and hilarious community-involved Tuesday night event called The Dating Game – and Won! They needed an extra player, and the question-asking contestant was an improv comedienne named Barbara Scott!  We went to the SF Comedy Contest Finals for our date – it was a blast!  I was thrilled and made a friend for life.

Paula boards the empty 33 Bus!
After the 33 bus passed by and it was empty, Paula Poundstone decided to get on the bus to help the driver not feel so lonely. She left the stage the next time round to board the bus…

The audience watched and cackled as it took her some 10 minutes before returning to tell about her experience.

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