Fox night!

Sorry for not posting anything yesterday. My hiatus is over now, but during my month off, I sort of forgot how hard it is getting a solid blog up everyday. You stay up past midnight watching the Council meeting, then just want to go to bed and figure you’ll write about it in the morning, but then you wake up and life gets in the way. (Highlights: our Federal lobbyist telling At-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan that if she wants to influence criteria for stimulus fund distribution, she should send an e-mail to Obama at whitehouse.gov. Also, District Three Councilmember Nancy Nadel being all confused and disturbed upon learning that we can’t spend Federal law enforcement funds on restorative justice.)

Anyway, I totally wanted to write yesterday about how much I HATE CALTRANS SOOO MUCH OMG, and don’t worry, you guys will get that tomorrow (check out my Oakbook story from yesterday for some background). But today…well, how could I possibly post about anything but the Fox?

I’ve talked before about my first Oakland community meeting, which I attended about a week after moving here. It was about the Forest City project, but people would not shut up about the Fox. “When are you going to restore the Fox?” “We want the Fox reopen!” “The most important thing for that neighborhood is to restore the Fox!” Finally, then District Two Councilmember Danny Wan was like “Um…look folks. The Fox is still closed for a reason. Money has to come from somewhere. It isn’t getting fixed anytime soon.”

But then an amazing thing happened – we decided to fix it anyway. Back in July 2006 (PDF), when the City Council approved the DDA, we had managed to come up with about 32,000,000 in loans from the Central District redevelopment fund, which would be combined with a variety of tax credits and and historic preservation type grants to finance the roughly $60 million restoration of the theater.

Fast forward two years and another 20 plus million (PDF) in grants and tax credits (PDF), and you’ve got an over $80 million restoration project sitting right in the heart of downtown Oakland. I was lucky enough to get a little preview of the Fox recently, and let me tell you guys – it was worth every penny. The whole building is just straight up stunning, and really overwhelming in its level of detail and beauty. Out of practice blogger that I am, I stupidly forgot to bring my camera, so y’all are gonna have to settle for these sad cell phone photos which do not do it justice at all.


The Fox Theater opening gala is tonight. Tragically for me, it conflicts with some long standing dinner reservations and pretty much one of the major highlights of my year. Alas. But if you didn’t want to cough up the $250 to go tonight, make sure you go soon. Oakland has a new treasure and it is not to be missed. (Read all about the Fox Theater’s history in yet another totally awesome post from Eric on Transbay Blog.)

Oh, and when you do visit – a word of warning to the ladies. Watch out for your heels! Everything about the Fox is totally awesome except for the air vents all over the main floor which were clearly designed and selected by men, and are, sadly, a stiletto trap. Be careful.

52 thoughts on “Fox night!

  1. Becks

    Thanks for the warning about heels V. Do you know if they’re going to have any public tours of the Fox?

    Tagami – if you’re reading this, I’d *love* it if you would organize a tour for Oakland bloggers and blog readers. That would be incredible!

  2. Stax

    I took a tour of the Fox last week as part of an Urbal Land Institue event. You are right, it is a jewell. I can’t wait to see a show there. My favorite fun fact: 10 bars with 6 taps each!

  3. oaklandhappenings

    Now that my countdown (on the open thread) has come to an end, I had to check out the Fox’s exterior close up. Like many others here perhaps, I wasn’t willing to shell out 250 smackers to be inside this evening. However, I had as much drama and fun outside between 5 and 7:30 PM: While having quick chats with attendees such as Larry Reid (he’s a really nice guy btw) and Jerry Brown, I saw other Oakland-govt folks come up (Sandre Swanson for one) and all of the entertainment-circus types.
    It was a magical time, although my first time going inside the Fox will wait until a future date. I stood close enough to the ribbon cutting to probably be in a few dozen photos. People there were in great moods to chat, and I hope that this is the turning point for not only the Uptown/A&E district, but all of this center section of Oakland. Of course, Friday evening, the Paramount–not to be outdone–will have a show the same time as the Fox’s Social Distortion one. With The Uptown nightclub, Van Kleef, Art Murmur, Luka’s nightlife, etc., the uptown area could draw close to 10k people between 5 PM and 2 AM! I only hope that most people take public transit, and help keep the streets more free of vehicles.

  4. oaklandhappenings

    btw, V, thanks for the photos, and no worries about the quality. Just remember folks, that SF tore down their Fox theater. I have a hunch that the Fox Oakland will rival–and perhaps end up outranking–many in SF still there today…maybe all??

  5. Patrick

    oaklandhappenings – it is clear that the Fox Oakland outshines anything SF has to offer – which is why there was no mention of the Grand Opening in yesterday’s Chronicle. Not a peep.

  6. Eric

    The Fox Oakland is undoubtedly a unique gem in the Bay Area. And it contains substantially more seats (hundreds, or more) than well-regarded San Francisco theaters, including the Orpheum, Castro, Warfield, Golden Gate, and Curran. Perhaps the only movie palace that might have compared was the old San Francisco Fox, which, as oaklandhappenings already remarked, is long gone.

  7. Max Allstadt

    What I’m really looking forward to is that the Fox is exactly the right size for a rock show. I heard the East Bay’s own Les Claypool say once that if he had a choice, he’d only play venues around the size of the Warfield, or a little bigger.

    Musicians love venues of this size, and this particular one is a beauty. I expect to see bands wanting to shoot videos here too. And for that matter, sometimes when huge bands who are totally loaded want to go on tour just because the feel like it, and not for the money, they seek out venues like the Fox and sell tickets to fanclub members based on a lottery. Bruce isn’t reading this, true, but someone who knows him might be…

  8. Navigator

    Great point Patrick. Also, KCBS had a fifteen second blurb this morning. They didn’t even bother to send a reporter to the event. They were too busy pimping two San Francisco luxury condominiums. Also, on the way back from work this afternoon, again no mention of the FOX grand opening but they did have a full segment on the Chinese New Year’s Parade. Can you all imagine if this was the San Francisco Fox that was opening what the reaction would be?

    As I’ve said repeatedly, there is a tremendous bias against Oakland by the San Francisco media. Oakland is a threat to their business interests. Oakland has the three best and most beautiful theaters in the entire Bay Area and we still can’t get Broadway plays. The only way you can get their sorry SF asses to Oakland is with crime, or with a demonstration/riot. For THAT they bring the helicopters and dozens of media vans.

  9. Dave C.

    Navigator: How is Oakland a threat to the “business interests” of SF media? Oakland has 400,000 residents, and it is in the interest of the SF media to attract the eyeballs and/or ears of those 400,000 people. I don’t see the internal logic in your claim of “tremendous bias.” I can see an argument that there is ignorance or unfamiliarity with Oakland among reporters/editors/producers who mostly dwell in SF, but what incentive do they have to show a tremendous bias toward Oakland?

  10. VivekB

    DaveC, speaking purely as someone who lived in SF for years, I know this mentality well.

    I lived in North Beach then Russian Hill, allow me to say that the desire to “belong to a group” breeds bizarre responses. Myself included, I was happy not just harshing on
    - the East Bay (which I viewed as a gigantic ghetto),
    - the Peninsula (which I viewed as a gigantic piece of mass product tofu without flavor),
    - the North Bay (which I viewed as a place hippies went when they got bored)
    - the Marina (buncha damn white yuppies)
    - the Haight (where my old girlfriend girlfriend lived, who hated it when I told her and all her friends that they were just as discriminatory as Marina-folks, they just had different values, and the only reason they let me hang out with them was because I had a tatoo)
    - Richmond/Sunset (in the city, which I viewed as a gigantic waste as is constantly foggy/cold, and it still takes you an hour to get anywhere interesting, aka downtown)

    I could go on & on, but you get my point. I didn’t get any “benefit” other than commiserating with my tragically hip North Beach & Russian Hill friends about what a sewer was, and how NB/RH were the “true SF”.

    Sure, that was >10 years ago and I was younger then, but the desire to create ones identity by putting ourselves into a nice little box and badmouthing those not in our box is a human characteristic.

    Same basic deal with the SF Media. They’re very busy self-congratulating themselves about living in a cool city in a cool part of the country, and god help you if you don’t make the same choices they did.

    Now that I live in Rockridge, I’m so much wiser. Hey, at least I didn’t pick LaMorInda, I hear they’re all out there :-)

  11. Navigator

    Dave,

    The San Francisco Chronicle is owned by San Francisco interests and is here to garner advertising from San Francisco businesses. Of course they’re going to promote positive events in San Francisco and ignore, or downplay, positive events in Oakland like the opening of the Oakland Fox Theater. Do you think that the San Francisco tourist and entertainment industry view the opening of the Oakland Fox Theater as a positive development? Of course not. It’s about money. As long as Oakland is perceived as a dangerous, crime riddled place, with nothing to offer, the better it is for San Francisco business interests who rely on people from the East Bay to clog the Bay Bridge every Friday and Saturday evening on their way to spend money at theaters and restaurants. The constant focus on negativity and crime also serves to keep people in the West Bay scared to death about patronizing Oakland theaters and Oakland businesses.

    Also, the Chronicle likes to attract those 400,000 people in Oakland with negative stories about crime and governmental dysfunction. It serves the Chronicle and their San Francisco interests well. How else do you explain omissions like the grand opening gale of the Fox Oakland Theater? This isn’t the first time positive events in Oakland are ignored by the San Francisco media.

  12. Navigator

    Instead of chastising me why don’t you speak to the fact that the opening of the Fox Theater was virtually ignored. That’s right I’m the enemy.

  13. We Fight Blight

    At last, one of the most tragically blighted structures in all of Oakland rises from the ashes in a glorious restoration. All of Oakland must surely be proud to see the beautiful and meticulous renovation of this masterpiece. Rather than devolving into a petty and boorish argument about media biases, can we just for once enjoy and cherish that Oakland has actually done something right and positive–something that will provide a rejuvenation for downtown. The Fox will surely outlast and hopefully mitigate the damage of Dellums and Lindheim.

  14. Tony

    It’s sad that out-of-towners don’t see all that Oakland has to offer. I wish that the Convention & Visitors Bureau did a better job promoting the city. I totally understand how all this is such an injustice, but a very small part of me is glad that Oaktown is overlooked. I want it all to myself.

    Uptown is hopping tonight. I’ve never seen such an active Art Murmur. The snail car did it for me.

    With all the build up to the Fox’s opening, that climatic gala (amazing night), and now basking in the afterglow, I need a cigarette if you know what I mean.

  15. Dave C.

    VivekB: I can understand that mentality, but it doesn’t address my question to Navigator, which is how it serves the “business interests” of the SF media to be tremendously biased against Oakland. I would categorize the mentality you describe as roughly “ignorance or unfamiliarity,” which I am not denying exists. And you’re probably right that there is some tribalism involved. It’s the big conspiracy to ignore Oakland because of “business interests” that I am dubious about.

    Navigator: The Chronicle, despite being “owned by San Francisco interests,” has a pretty positive story in Saturday’s paper about the opening of the Fox. So much for the great media blackout — the editor who let that article slip through must not have gotten the memo.

  16. oaklandhappenings

    Dave’s right, Nav: I just read the article that Chris Herrera put up. The only thing about it that bothers me, is that he seems to focus too closely on crime, in one part of the article. I feel as if it is extremely rare to read an article about something really good about Oakland, without a Chronicle writer bringing this up–in even the slightest bit of over-detail. There are a few columnists who don’t which I praise. However, I would appreciate that they, along with other Bay Area media outlets, can talk about the new accomplishments in Oakland while giving the crime issue a rest. It is easy for a reader to interpret the crime as a steady problem in a developing area, instead of it potentially decreasing.

  17. Navigator

    Oaklandhappenings, I’ve written my comments on that article in the Chronicle comments section.

    It still doesn’t make up for the fact that they missed the Grand Opening Gala on Thursday. The article brings up “Gold Teeth Masters” on an adjacent street. What does that have to do with the FOX? Also, why is crime such an issue in Uptown, but the much higher crime rates around the San Francisco Theater District is no big deal. Yes, it’s a belated article with a little too much negativity about empty condos, crime, and blight. I suppose it’s better than nothing. However, the opening of the Oakland Fox Theater, after a heroic restoration effort by many people,is an incredible and inspirational story about a gritty city which never gives up despite facing negativity from the media from an adjacent city like no other place in the Country.

  18. Navigator

    I’m not going to dwell on this. I know that it’s there from years of living in the Bay Area and from years of studying the San Francisco Chronicle Archives. The bias is there. There is nothing we can really do about it. And, Oakland will still eventually overcome it and be the city it would be if it were the dominant city in its own region like so many other cities Nationally of Oakland’s size and stature.

    Oakland has way more hurdles placed in front of it than similar sized cities with similar sized populations, demographics, and crime rates like Saint Louis, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, etc. These are the cities that we should be comparing Oakland to, not Newark , New Jersey or Gary, Indiana. These unflattering comparisons come from a San Francisco centric viewpoint of how Oakland relates to San Francisco’s universe. That’s why we’ll gladly settle for crumbs from the news media.

    Anyway, enough of this. Let’s concentrate on what the Fox will do to reinvigorate Uptown, Downtown, and the entire city of Oakland. It’s a magnificent building which will eventually lead to the filling up of those vacancies on the 1700 and 1600 blocks of Telegraph. Let’s also hope that the Cathedral Building sees an increase in interest due to the excitement generated by this magnificent theater.

  19. Max Allstadt

    Nav,

    I didn’t feel like the Fox opening was ignored. Then again, I was playing a show directly across the street from it last night, so it was rather hard for me to ignore it.

    Tagami – the spotlights and the hubbub made my show feel pretty important. The potential for the Fox to elevate downtown and spill over is absolutely obvious to me now. Well done. The first person to open a late night restaurant across the street is gonna make money hand over fist.

  20. Navigator

    Good for you Max, I’m glad to hear it was a wonderful night. I agree, the FOX is going to benefit all current and future restaurants in the area. If I had the money I’d open one up myself. The question is, is there demand for a Portuguese restaurant in Oakland?

  21. Max Allstadt

    Hmmm….

    The mysterious Navigator slowly reveals little details about himself. But is he of Portuguese descent, or does he just like Portuguese food?

  22. Patrick

    Everyone loves linguiça and bacalhau! Also, my company sells a GREAT Vinho Verde @ $68/case, with 5 on 3 and 10 on 5 family plan discounting…

  23. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator, what the hell is wrong with you? I have warned you repeatedly about this behavior, and in this very thread, no less. I’m tempted to block you right now, and I think I would be more than justified in doing so. But I’ll be nice and give you one more chance. But I want to be very clear on this. If you ever type so much as another word about the “media bias” against Oakland in one of your comments here at any point in the future, I will immediately block you from commenting ever again.

  24. oaklandhappenings

    Hey Phil, thanks for that willing to set up a tour. I am not a blogger with my own page. (except facebook–promoting the Fox on there and being part of the group there) However, I read and comment often on this one and others. If you are able to give blog readers–as well as bloggers–a chance to tour earlier than anticipated, I would be thankful.
    As for the theater itself, it was a wonderful beacon last night for those standing at Art Murmur’s ground-zero (23rd and telegraph). The view from Latham square of it and the Paramount rivaling each other with their marqees is fascinating. Let’s hope that the Paramount starts booking more events, as a result of this “competition”. Not only for the dualing marquee’s but the doubling of foot-traffic in that area nightly.

  25. oaklandhappenings

    Good thought, Navigator, regarding a Portuguese restaurant right there, taking you literally. I think that whole area surrounding the Fox and Paramount should be full of multi-cultural eateries. Uptown Oakland’s residents are diverse enough, and the theaters draw diverse crowds to such events, even if the Fox sticks mainly to a rock/punk/classic blues format; the paramount mixes it up a bit more, with more contemporary R&B and African American/Latin comedy, to draw as ethnically diverse a crowd as Oakland itself has. Although people on various forums have urged the theaters (particularly the Fox) not to do any rap/hiphop shows, that would be sad to single such an interesting music genre out. I think they could find a way to do it in a way as to not have a repeat of Mingles–with the proper, protective standards. What do others think??

  26. Max Allstadt

    Another thing that I hope will happen with the Fox is that Van Kleef and the Uptown find opportunities to create compatible bookings, and schedule pre-shows to match Fox events.

    Imagine if the Uptown had scheduled it’s line up last night to have local punkabilly acts for two hours before showtime at the Fox. The proximity makes for really cool possibilities for synergy.

  27. Max Allstadt

    happenings:

    Mingles was mismanaged. The second they started to have thug problems they should have started aggressively ramping up security, detaining anybody who messed around, and handing them over to OPD when necessary.

    They also shouldn’t have put it where it was. The square itself is boringly corporate. And the demographic of waterfront condo-dwellers and such is a total mismatch. Hip-hop shows will be fine downtown.

  28. Dave C.

    Hey, I’m a blogger, and I would jump at the chance to tour the Fox. My email is dc at fragmentaryevidence.com, if anyone’s offering. And if public tours like the paramounts are offered for a small fee, then I would jump at that too. I haven’t heard anything except gushing reviews of the inside.

    Speaking of openings, I walked past Sidebar a few minutes ago, and it seemed to be filling up nicely too. I intend to try it sometime in the next week or two.

    Finally, a portuguese restaurant sounds like a niche to be filled (are there any at all in the East Bay?). Start rounding up investors, Navigator — it sounds like you already have a few potential customers here.

  29. len raphael

    so how come when i ask my portugese friend for some recipes, he rolls his eyes and says portugese food is about as good as irish cooking. the sardine and salt fish seemed ok to me, but he says the range is very limited compared to say spanish fare.

    now his homemade liquor, could burn a hole thru your stomach.

    -len

  30. Navigator

    Dave, I drove by the FOX last night. It was encouraging to see the restaurants like Flora, Cafe Madrid, Lukas etc. doing well. There’s some night life around the Fox now. However, it saddened me to see so many empty storefronts on the 1700 and 1600 blocks of Telegraph. Also, the street scape mess created by the unfinished sidewalk improvements make the area just north of the Fox look like a cluttered construction zone. The empty lot owned by Forrest City also takes away from the contiguous street scape. Right now the brightness of the Fox Theater Marquee is kind of a stark contrast and a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to make Telegraph into a vibrant and exciting area full of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, pubs, nightclubs, etc.

    Also, it seems like the street lighting is too dim and the BART plaza on Telegraph desperately needs a face lift. I’m hoping that the four story building under renovation across the street from the FOX doesn’t take much longer to complete and is soon put to good use. One more beacon across the street would add tremendously to the rather dark street scape on that part of Telegraph.

    Yes, a Portuguese restaurant could do well based on some of the comments here. Patrick could provide the wine ( Vinho Verde) and we could have a menu with such delicacies as Espada, Bacalhau, Bol de Mel, etc. Maybe we could even get Max to perform a Portuguese Fado for us. I’m getting hungry just writing this and it’s only 8:20 AM.

  31. Ralph

    Thursday night I was at Berkeley Rep. I loved that the little block had great arts appeal and complementary stores. Friday, I walked past The Fox and all I could see was potential that one day – someone will teardown those disgusting crap g-stores. I eventually see a block populated with restuarants, an arts complex, and a fine/eclectic hotel. I think it is a crying shame the lack of hotel beds in the Oakland and Berkeley.

  32. oaklandhappenings

    Nav, regarding the BART plaza, I think I heard or read someone saying that there would be much improvement there, and maybe the station itself. I would really enjoy any future retail on the blocks of Telegraph you mention, being expanded down to the 19th St. BART station. New York City subway stations have them, and I think (besides Subway) that 19th St. could also have more outlets. The same goes for 12th St. Could those brick-like walls be knocked out and have outlets carved behind them? I don’t see why not. Is there anything behind them now, besides some maintenance room space? Wtih the Paramount and Fox dueling it out with shows at the same time for many evenings to come, 19th St. will have more people coming in and going out then ever before. Oakland and BART really need to make this happen. Phil T., if you are reading this, do you have any feedback or info??

  33. oaklandhappenings

    Thanks, Max. I didn’t think of that, regarding Mingles vs downtown hiphop. Unfortunately, clubs such as @17th, Sweet Jimmy’s (was it?), and one or two others downtown/uptown didn’t survive, because of crime and even murders outside their doors. If the Fox can make things happen differently, and successful, more power to them.

  34. Ralph

    Fox and Paramount tend to attract adults and if not adults people who at least are familiar with the behavior of civilized people.

    some of those other clubs you mentioned attracted the hoi polloi. to echo max, the multi-genre appeal of of the fox and paramount make them special – chris rock, speaker series, social distortion, b.b. king, bill cosby, etc… yes friends it is a beautiful day in the uptown

  35. len raphael

    Nav, please post your favorite but easy to make portugee (no offense intended) recipe and i’ll try it. hear there’s a grocery in san leandro that sells the speciality ingredients.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  36. cbg015

    A Portuguese restaurant sounds great! Oakland used to have a pretty large Portuguese population especially around Jingletown, Melrose and deep East Oakland (around 106th Avenue). I believe the population moved towards San Leandro and Hayward. San Leandro still has a pretty decent Portuguese population. I believe Luso Mercado is the Portuguese market len raphael is thinking of.

  37. Steve Lowe

    Portugal rules (or should)! The phylloxera that killed off Europe’s great vineyards during the late 19th century skipped a lot of Portugal because of the sandy soils, so it is possible today to savor some fabulous old vine vintages while listening to fado in old Lisbon – almost worth leaving Oakland for, even forever!

    The glitch, however, is that the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1755 was far worse than anything we’ve ever had here in SunnyCal, and even an all day fado fest couldn’t make up for the combo tsunami / earthquake (followed only days later by another of similar size) that killed off maybe half the population! Is a repeat of that coming again?

    Still, what are the odds: better than here along the Hayward fault?

    So where’s this Luso Mercado, anyway?

    ?????

    – S

  38. Navigator

    Steve,

    I plan on visiting Lisbon this summer with my entire family. I’m actually from the beautiful Island of Madeira located on the Atlantic Ocean about 500 miles south west of mainland Portugal. It’s an incredible place with amazing topography, wild flowers, amazing culture, and is basically THE vacation spot for many Brits and Germans. The capital is the city of Funchal with about 120,000 inhabitants. Funchal is a charming cosmopolitan city and a cruise ship stop over for Europeans heading for the Caribbean. The island is basically the tip of a submerged volcanic range. The coast is dramatic with a 2,000 foot sheer cliff called Cabo Jiraon. The interior of Madeira features a 6,000 ft mountain range. Think of Sausalito on steroids and you can start picturing what the city of Funchal looks like. Think of Monterey with Yosemite in the background and you get an idea about Madeira.

    I’ll be taking the kids this summer to show them were Dad spent his first nine years.

    Oakland, with its Mediterranean climate, waterfront, and green hills, makes me almost feel like I’m back home. I’m glad we settled here.

  39. rossrich66

    A little late to this thread. But just wanted to share my experience about my visit to the Fox Grand Opening Gala.

    A little bit of background, I moved to Oakland from SF when I was five and lived there for the better part of 30 years until 2001 when I moved back to SF. I grew up going to movies at the Grand Lake, Parkway and attended many events at the Paramount. But I had never been to the Fox as it was already closed.

    Fast forward to 2009… I’ve been in LA for 2 1/2 years now, but I follow my hometown happenings along with the Fox saga. Well I contributed money to the restoration and in return I was invited to attend the opening gala. My partner and I flew up Thursday afternoon, checked into the Marriott City Center and had an awesome evening with all things Oakland…drinks at Flora, partying at the Fox which was amazing! We were both floored by what we saw inside. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was also strange, that I was actually in a place in my hometown that I had never seen before (only from the outside) and I can’t really explain the feeling, just that I was glad to be “home”. It was great to see Oakland so “alive”! After the party, I took my partner (originally from Michigan) on a walking tour of downtown, which included the Lake, the Paramount and the new Cathedral. Needless to say, he was very impressed. Headed in a cab for a nightcap at my old watering hole the “White Horse” in North Oakland, late night grub in Chinatown and then back to the hotel.

    The next day we headed for a matinee at the Grand Lake before heading over to spend the weekend in the City with friends.

    So that’s it. I was glad to be a part of this next chapter in the Fox and Oakland’s history. A lot of bad news coming out of Oakland these days, but this was certainly an event that makes me hopeful and proud of my hometown….

    You can take the Boy out of Oakland, but you can’t take Oakland out of the Boy…

  40. oaklandhappenings

    Ross, it is cool that your friend is from Michigan originally. Wherever a visitor is from however, to have them see the good (or great) of Oakland means one less person to talk s*** about our city, scenery-wise, anyway.