Gentlemen of Leisure and Hypocrisy

I suppose I should know by now not to be surprised when Oakland politicians behave in a manner contrary to all logic or reason, and completely inconsistent with anything they’ve ever said before. But it still makes my blood boil every single time. And after the seriously pathetic show of small mindedness in the news this weekend, I’m tempted to just give up on following Oakland City Hall forever, and devote my time to less frustrating hobbies, because clearly whatever progress this city ever makes is going to be in spite of local government, not because of it.

What other conclusion could one draw when reading statements from Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, and District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan saying they’re don’t want an HBO series being filmed in Oakland. It’s really just…completely unbelievable. I don’t know what to say. I have sat and watched all three of these politicians talk about the importance of supporting our film industry on multiple occasions. Film industry jobs are green and pay well, without requiring a college education, they say. Supporting the film industry benefits small businesses like caterers, dry cleaners, and building suppliers, they tell us. We want to make Oakland the “creative capital” of Northern California, they promise. Creative arts is one of our key areas for potential job growth, they announce.

So now, what happens when they get exactly what they’ve been wanting, and we have a television series wanting to start production here next year, at a time when the local economy could desperately use any kind of jolt? They suggest HBO take their series elsewhere because they don’t like what it’s about. I’ve grown pretty used to the nearly incomprehensible hypocrisy of the Mayor by now, so his attempts to interfere with the project come as no surprise. His entire administration has been nothing but a poorly executed magic show, so naturally he’s going to prioritize maintaining his catch-phrase of a “model city” over something that might put the fantasy in jeopardy while furthering the reality of his dream, creating local jobs and bringing in some actual revenue to fund those model programs he’s so attached to. Maybe he could work out a compromise with HBO and they can have the character enroll in the green jobs corps.

Resistance from Pat Kernighan isn’t much of a surprise either. Pat’s elitist and nanny-like tendencies are the worst thing about her. Who could forget her Grand Lake Guardian letter about her attempts to block a thrift store from opening on Lakeshore in her district?

I immediately contacted the owner’s broker, Steve Banker of LCB Associates, and told him that a thrift store would not be welcomed by the majority of area residents. I also called and spoke with Out of the Closet’s broker and the Board President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which runs the thrift stores. I explained that Lakeshore is trying hard to attract more shoppers with disposable income to keep all the stores in business and that a thrift store would lead in the other direction.

Her complaint in today’s Matier & Ross:

Plus, I don’t care how you portray prostitution – there are still creepy guys out there who will be getting a kick out of seeing women abused.

besides being somewhat nonsensical, is unfortunately fairly consistent with the rather chilling ideas ideas about speech she displayed with respect to the canceled Buju Banton concert. Still, it’s hard to see why someone would introduce to the Council a reduction in film parking fees (PDF) in hopes of supporting the industry and increasing revenue to the City if they’re so concerned about potentially objectionable subject matter being shot in Oakland. After all, the entertainment industry isn’t exactly known for relentless promotion of moral fortitude.

So Dellums and Kernighan are disappointing, but their hypocrisy at least is expected. What I found the most crushing was opposition to the series from Ignacio De La Fuente, who we can normally count on to be a voice of reason when it comes to supporting business and industry. For him, of all people, to be broadcasting the message that we want more creative arts, but only if the scripts meet our apparently stringent moral standards, just makes me lose all hope for Oakland.

All this hand-wringing about Oakland’s image is, as I’ve said before, totally misplaced. If we don’t want Oakland portrayed as a high crime city in the media, then the proper response is not to complain about the media, but to reduce crime. If we’re unhappy with Oakland being shown as a hotbed of prostitution, then we should do something about our terrible human trafficking problem. Because those are the things that give Oakland a bad reputation. If someone was talking about making a reality show about child prostitution, sure, I could understand the objection. But we’re talking about a scripted fictional series! A television series on HBO about a retiring pimp who lives in Oakland will do no more to make people afraid of Oakland than the Law & Order franchise, with its three weekly hourlong primetime dramas of gruesome murders, makes people think they’re going to get killed if they visit New York, or Twin Peaks made people think that people are being butchered constantly in rural Washington. Which is, I’m guessing, not at all.

121 thoughts on “Gentlemen of Leisure and Hypocrisy

  1. Max Allstadt

    “Plus, I don’t care how you portray prostitution – there are still creepy guys out there who will be getting a kick out of seeing women abused.”

    I really have to disagree with this. There may be a handful of sick bastards out there who get off on watching realistic depictions of sex slavery. However, a show that tells the truth about this horror will probably turn off many more prospective street Johns than it turns on. It could help shatter the mindset that these Johns have that allows them to enter into denial about the harm they’re doing.

    The more truth you tell, the more people understand the whole story. Men will be more likely to stop patronizing street prostitutes if they get a better of idea of just how horrible and enslaving pimps really are. Young women and girls in Oakland and elsewhere will also get a better idea of the horror they face if they submit to being pimped.

    One of the things that SF’s sex-positive movement makes a point of is highlighting sex-slavery and shunning those who patronize women in that condition. It helps reduce the problem to a degree. The reason they can do this is because they’ve created an atmosphere of total honesty regarding kink, sexual appetites, and non-mainstream sexuality. Tell the truth about what turns you on amongst friends, and you don’t have to go paying to get your more unusual needs met.

    This show also presents an opportunity to create a focus of NGO attention on this issue. Imagine a nationally visible show that could have a reason to piggyback ads or public safety announcements from sex-worker outreach organizations. If it’s done honestly, it will help much more than it hurts.

    The level of realism that HBO is known for, as well as the level of nuance and confrontation… if not for this reputation, I might well be against this too. But they have this reputation for a reason. The truth will set us free.

  2. Max Allstadt

    One more thing:

    The producer is a woman. I think that dramatically changes the odds of this being any kind of attempt at glorification or titillation.

  3. OP

    Sorry V, I agree with the Mayor and the Council on this one. One of the biggest hurdles Oakland has to overcome is its image, and an HBO program putting Oakland on the map for being a hotbed of prostitution (and I can only imagine they’ll show other gruesome violent crime too) is not going to help.

    Cities like NY, LA, and Miami, which also host famous crime dramas, already have broad reputations for being cosmopolitan cities with a lot to recommend them. When people watch a crime show in NY, they know the show is just talking about a part of NY and that there are a lot of safe areas of NY with a lot to do. Duh. But for Oakland, that is just not the case: we don’t have much of a reputation outside of violence. I am living on the East Coast right now and whenever I tell people I come from Oakland 90% of the time the questions are about is the city safe and have I been shot at. Frankly, when I was in college in So. CA the reaction was the same. A TV show that confirms that image with gritty depictions will make it even harder to attract residents, tourists, and investments. I think the programming may also be demoralizing for residents who take pride in this city, or worse, possibly cause some youth to glamorize a side of Oakland we really should be trying to get rid of.

    The argument that, “if Oakland doesn’t want a high crime rep it should solve the crime problem,” is of course easier said than done. Moreover, if the show heightens negative depictions of Oakland it might hurt the city’s ability to do this.

    The crux of the issue is suspicion over how the series will portray Oakland. If it’s going to depict Oakland as a lawless underworld, then I think our electeds are right to reject it. On the other hand, it’s true that Oakland could use the jobs and capital. If there are some assurances from HBO won’t portray Oakland as an oppressive place to live in every episode and maybe highlight some positive aspects once in a while that may make the difference. (I haven’t seen these assurances in news accounts and I don’t implicitly trust HBO to be nuanced as Max suggests… I think they chose Oakland b/c we have a negative reputation people can instantly identify.) Heck, maybe as a last-ditch effort we can encourage them to film here but call the city “Birchland” or something.

  4. ConcernedOakFF

    My god people!!! Stop being so freaking short sighted!!!

    1) We need the money.

    2) We need the money!!!!!

    3) We already have a bad rep, you think a TV show is responsible for that??? You think that it will make it WORSE than it already is??

    4) We have a chance to be seen in a multifaceted way, they can’t show only bad things, that would make for a very unbalanced show that would quickly fail.

    5) If the wider world has a chance to see the problems that truly exist here, maybe crime will not be swept under the rug as easily. You think that politicians in Washington don’t watch HBO??

    There are sooooooo many opportunities in this show, I just hope that we are not going to cut our noses off to spite our face.

  5. Mike Spencer

    “The crux of the issue is suspicion over how the series will portray Oakland. If it’s going to depict Oakland as a lawless underworld, then I think our electeds are right to reject it. ”

    In many parts of Oakland we do have a lawless underworld. Heck, we have a City Government that practices nepotism, cronyism, waste, etc.

    Trying to manage media/perception is a losing battle. It can’t be done. Why do you think local print and broadcast continues to pound Oakland? Despite our protests and kvetching, they will do it anyway. Oakland leaders love to posture. I agree with V on this one. Real change begins at home, not trying to constantly manage perception.

  6. James H. Robinson

    Is it worth making money now if it costs us money later? Besides, we need more retail business, not more negative depictions.

  7. ConcernedOakFF

    What no one had yet been able to explain is how will this TV show change anyone’s perceptions about Oakland in a negative manner.

    The perception is already bad. At the very worst, it will just confirm opinions, but in reality, no TV show would only depict negative things about a place, otherwise, what is the point of someone getting out of the “pimping” lifestyle into something better?

    How could it POSSIBLY cost us money later James? No one makes business decisions based on a fictional depiction, and if they do, then they deserve to fail and we don’t need them here.

    It could only make us money and jobs, and tax revenue etc…

  8. We Fight Blight

    I am with V on this one.

    “All this hand-wringing about Oakland’s image is, as I’ve said before, totally misplaced. If we don’t want Oakland portrayed as a high crime city in the media, then the proper response is not to complain about the media, but to reduce crime.”

    Why spend time and effort trying to manage the media spin on Oakland? Why spend time and effort even worrying about the media spin on Oakland? We are being distracted by all of the noise rather than having a clear laser focus on the issues that really give the media fodder. Eliminate the fodder and you negate the ability to write the stories.

    Even if there is a media bias as some assert, wouldn’t our time and effort be better spent on improving the quality of life in Oakland by: (1) reducing real and perceived crime; (2) improving the performance of schools so families have an incentive to stay in Oakland rather than moving out of Oakland; (3) reducing blight–rundown properties, graffiti, litter, etc; and (4) investing in our streetscapes.

    So much talk about this and that and so little gets done. Pick up the phone and contact the Public Works Call Center at 510-238-3381 and report blight, report graffiti, report illegal dumping, report potholes in our streets, and report abandoned and inoperable vehicles.

    With few exceptions, you can drive or walk almost anywhere in Oakland and find blighted properties. Yesterday, while driving to Emeryville to shop, because Oakland has so few options that are clean, safe and enjoyable, I was able to identify 22 blighted properties in North Oakland in an area bounded by 56th, MLK, San Pablo, and 41st. and I wasn’t even really trying.

  9. dto510

    Objecting to a big-budget TV show is Oakland’s typical anti-business BS, though in this case the stakes are pretty high (we risk permenantly driving away the film industry by publicly rejecting a major project). We want retail, but no chain stores. We want restaurants in the Fox, but only if they pay a living wage. We want new development, but only three stories. The fact that this is coming from normally-rational Councilmembers de la Fuente and Kernighan just shows how deeply ingrained it is in politics.

  10. justin

    Certainly can’t agree with you on this one. If someone could point out a single positive popular cultural association with Oakland, then perhaps I will rethink my opposition to allowing Oakland’s name to be once again used as a synonym for crime, degradation and poverty. I am sorry, but image does matter, and image is not organic–cities must actively manage their image to become and stay attractive as places to move to, invest in and visit. Some HBO special about a pimp who gets a new lease on life (like I give a shit) is not the vehicle.

    And for those who, in the best example of something that is NOT ironic, find no problem prostituting Oakland’s name and image for a miniseries about pimps and crime, please closely read what Amy Zinns’ says:

    “‘Gentlemen’ will be set in Oakland, and Ms. Anthony’s intent is to film the entire series in Oakland, primarily on location,” Zins wrote. “Oakland will be IDENTIFIED as the city in which the story takes place, and will be featured as a character unto itself as a city with a great diversity of people, culture, arts, architecture and geography. Characters and locations depicted in the series would REPRESENT a wide spectrum of those FOUND in Oakland.”

    So, short version: a few B roll shots of Lake Merritt, with everything else on some streetcorner in Toronto or a soundstage elsewhere. Even if you don’t think begging to get paid to portray your city as a violent pimptopia is a fantastic economic development strategy, you can still be pissed that you may not get paid for it at all.

    And I simply can’t be the only person who did not get a positive picture of Baltimore by watching The Wire? Like some developer is now going to start building here because “Gentlemen” clues him into the emotional complexity of the lives of the city’s absolute worst denizens.

    I am happy with Pat’s, Ignacio’s and even the Mayor’s opposition. It’s important to show that we have a little bit of shame left. As a property owner, feminist and taxpayer, not to mention the father of a little girl, this is just a lose-lose-lose-lose all the way around.

  11. Robert

    Ask yourselves why HBO wants to use Oakland as a location. It is because Oakland is already seen as blighted with crime. If this show is located in Oakland it will only serve to reinforce that perception week after week. If we want the money, then why not negotaite with HBO to film here but not identify Oakland in the series and provide a fictional location. Yes people will find out, but we will be thought of as a stage and not as the real location for the crime.

    I see a big difference between kvetching about Chip Johnson, which I think is pointless, and helping HBO provide negative advertising about our city.

    Opportunities with this show? It might be possible to have the show and not have a negative portrayal of Oakland, but do you seriously think we will get script approval to insure that happens. Give me a break.

    Max, it is certainly possible that a show like this will help shine the light on prostitution, but it does not have to be in Oakland to do that.

    OP is right, most other cities that host crime dramas are already major tourist attractions, with well established, generally positive, reputations. Oakland doesn’t have that cushion, and this show is likely to just enhance the negative impression of Oakland, and further discourage visitors, companies and potential new residents.

    For once, Dellums is right.

  12. James H. Robinson

    Having the highest business taxes in Alameda County is “anti-business BS.” Taking 10 years to even start developing Oak Knoll is the result of “anti-business BS.” Putting living wage requirements on a grocery store in a part of town that doesn’t have a grocery store is “anti-business BS.” Protecting a city’s image is not BS. San Francisco’s liberal image is a major reason why they get so many European tourists. On the other hand, Washington DC’s image suffered with Mayor Barry was caught smoking crack. Image is highly important, especially to a gullible population.

    Personally, I would like to see Oakland concentrate on helping its current businesses survive the downturn, while clamping down on crime to help bring in new businesses.

    How many jobs will a TV show generate, anyway?

  13. Max Allstadt


    As a feminist you object? Do you think the female producer is going to produce a show like this from a misogynist point of view or from a feminist one?

    The more our society creates truthful representations of its own dark side, the less we can ignore them. I for one would love to see a depiction of Oakland’s dark side in national media. It would make it a lot harder for folks who live in Temescal or Rockridge or Montclair to pretend my neighborhood doesn’t exist. It would make it a lot harder for folks who never go west of Telegraph to live their lives in innocence of what’s going on over here.

    Maybe if we had an accurate depiction on TV of the way stuff goes down in the flats, Oakland’s more affluent folks would spend a little less time joining organizations to better their own backyards and parks, and spend a little more volunteering and voting to help do things which will lift the flats out of the desperate state they’re in.

  14. Max Allstadt

    Neither do I. The Buju Banton thing V mentioned was equally bothersome. I think Buju Banton in a homophobic bastard, and I also think reggae culture in general has a huge surplus of homophobia. You know what I do? I don’t go to the shows and I don’t buy the music.

    Objecting and abstaining is one thing. Using government to obstruct speech is as fucked up when liberals do it as it was when Ed Meese and Charles Pickering did it.

  15. Navigator

    Robert hit the nail on the head when he states, ” Ask yourselves why HBO wants to use Oakland as a location.” They want to play on Oakland’s negative image. Oaklander’s should be insulted by this.

    I do disagree with Robert regarding Chip Johnson and the San Francisco slanted reporting. The slanted two tiered crime reporting system coming out of San Francisco is partially responsible for that well publicized negative image which HBO now wants to capitalize on. Anyone who’s traveled extensively to major cities knows that blight and crime is not unique to Oakland. What’s unique to Oakland is having a cross Bay neighbor constantly pointing out your imperfections to the World while sweeping theirs under the rug. It’s because of those SF news bastards that HBO thinks of Oakland as a Pimp and HO paradise

    It’s an insult to Oakland. Take it to San Francisco and watch Newsome have a fit. Image isn’t important indeed. Only OAKLAND”s image isn’t important. The schmucks across the Bay protect their image dearly every single day.

  16. Brooklyn Avenue


    How do you read a paragraph that says, “Ms. Anthony’s intent is to film the entire series in Oakland, primarily on location” and “Oakland…will be featured as a character unto itself as a city with a great diversity of people, culture, arts, architecture and geography,” then paraphrase that as “short version: a few B roll shots of Lake Merritt, with everything else on some streetcorner in Toronto or a soundstage elsewhere”? Do you just assume that Ms. Anthony is lying about her intentions? Just because a city is “IDENTIFIED” as Oakland and “REPRESENTS” Oakland’s diversity doesn’t necessarily mean that most of it is being filmed elsewhere. To interpret it that way seems a bit bizarre to me.

    As for the Wire and Baltimore, I don’t think the important question is whether or not people here in Oakland or anywhere else got a “positive picture” of Baltimore from watching The Wire. For me, the more relevant questions are, “Did The Wire bring money and jobs to Baltimore? (Yes.) Did filming The Wire in Baltimore make it more likely that other producers would film in Baltimore, in part because they saw how visually interesting the city is and in part because Baltimore now has more local cast and crew available and eager to work on productions? (Probably.) Did the economic benefits to Baltimore outweigh any economic costs resulting from the negative portrayals of the city in the show? (I don’t know. I’d be curious to see a rigorous study on that question. My guess is that the benefits far outweighed any costs.) Do Baltimore residents feel that the show was a benefit to the city? (My impression is that many in the highest levels of government and police force disliked the show, but that people at lower levels of government/police and most of the city’s residents were excited and pleased that someone was paying attention to their city and its problems.)

    James H. Robinson,

    You wrote, “Washington DC’s image suffered with Mayor Barry was caught smoking crack. Image is highly important, especially to a gullible population.” Okay, but does a city respond to the reality of a crack-smoking Mayor by trying to prevent anyone from mentioning that the Mayor was caught smoking crack, or by admitting that the Mayor smoked crack and then working to make sure that no more smoke-cracking Mayors get elected? This notion that we should sweep reality under the rug and try to prevent people from portraying the ugly side of Oakland in order to improve our image seems crazy.

    Oakland’s got a lot going for it, and I think it’s great that city officials want to spread the word about Oakland’s good side. However, trying to micromanage the city’s image by rejecting business from a major cable network seems very counterproductive. All it will do is reinforce Oakland’s reputation as a city that never misses an opportunity to miss an opporunity, and reinforce Dellums’s reputation as someone so eager to project an image of a “model city” that he won’t take any concrete steps to actually make that image a reality.

  17. DoubleA

    This reminds me of an interview I read with David Simon, one of the creators of The Wire. The mayor of Baltimore wasn’t too pleased with the concept of the show, and at one point told him he could not film in Baltimore. So David Simon basically said “I can film elsewhere, but the show will still take place in Baltimore. So Philadelphia or another city can get the jobs and money, but the setting will still be Baltimore.”

    At that, the mayor reluctantly gave the show permission to film in Baltimore. Even if Oakland doesn’t allow HBO to shoot here, they can still have the show take place in Oakland.

    I didn’t know much about Baltimore before watching The Wire. All I knew was that it had a lot of crime. After watching the series I know that Baltimore does have some bad neighborhoods, areas that look worse than the worst parts of Oakland. I also know that it has nice areas, as well as neighborhoods that are in the process of gentrification. Also portrayed are many good restaurants, cool looking bars, and unique neighborhoods. All in all, it seemed to be portrayed as city that is struggling the same way many American cities are struggling, but that still has positive, maybe even vibrant, attributes.

    Baltimore’s crime rankings are similar to Oakland’s year to year, and it’s not like as if the city had a positive reputation before the Wire. The fact that the show is very realistic, and also portrays positive sides to the city is a good thing. I think it would also be a good thing for Oakland.

    To put a personal spin on how a series like this can help Oakland, just look up De’Rodd Hearns. His older brother and parents were the subject of the book and HBO miniseries “The Corner.” His parents were both junkies and his older brother a drug dealer. The Wire gave him an opportunity to both act and work on post production. Now he is continuing to work on movies and seems to have bright future ahead of him. If a TV series filmed in Oakland can do this for just one kid, I think it will have been a success.

  18. James H. Robinson

    Why Oakland?

    Doesn’t San Francisco have a prostitution problem? Last time I checked, they tried to de-criminalize prostitution in November. Then why has there never been a show about pimps and whores in San Francisco? Is it because San Francisco’s hookers tend to be Asian or white, while Oakland’s tend to be Latino or black?

    HBO has a pattern of capitalizing on black pathology, be it “The Wire,” “Oz,” or “Pimps Up, Hoes Down.” Why should Oakland play a part in that?

  19. Patrick

    In the end, I have to agree with Jennifer regarding censorship but I’m willing to go further: a group of elected officials who are unable to effect change on something as patently offensive as public urination should not attempt to abrogate the First Amendment.

    Oddly, I agree with virtually every single post – while I’m reading it. But Oakland is what it is. I’m sure that many, if not all, of you have escorted visitors through our city to exclamations of “Wow, it’s really nice here” and “It’s not at all like I pictured it”. I love it when people eat their own misconceptions. Why not take Ms. Anthony at her word? She can’t “expose” Oakland as a crime-infested hellhole – we already have that reputation. But she may be able to offer a view into the Oakland we all know exists and want the rest of the world to see.

    As the media show no signs of ending the exploitation of our city, we may at least insist on a sensitive portrayal and a little bit of cash from HBO in the process.

  20. Robert

    Gentlemen of Leisure will explore the generational conflict of old-school pimps living by honor codes and creeds who are being pushed aside by violent upstarts who are coming “with their guns blazing,” mixing prostitution with drugs and thievery.

    That certainly sounds like it will present a positive side to Oakland.

  21. Robert

    I don’t see the censorship. Nobody prevented him from speaking, they prevented him from making money. The constitution protects the right of speech, not making money. He could have gone on the street corner and expressed his views.

  22. James H. Robinson


    “She can’t “expose” Oakland as a crime-infested hellhole – we already have that reputation. But she may be able to offer a view into the Oakland we all know exists and want the rest of the world to see.”

    That’s a great sentiment. I guess I lack faith in HBO. If the producer wanted to create a show that presents a positive side of Oakland (or urban/Black America, for that matter), it wouldn’t be about pimps. Why not do a show about middle-class people in Oakland trying to survive and succeed during a global recession?

  23. Patrick

    Because a show about middle-class people trying to survive and succeed during a global recession is already running…it’s on every single news channel at 6, 10 and 11.

  24. OP

    To be honest, I don’t think The Wire is a good example for what Oakland should want to follow. Before that show, I knew very little about Baltimore. But, if you’d asked me about it I probably would’ve guessed it was like other big cities like SF, with positives and negatives. Now I still know little about the City, but my overall impression is that the City is nearly in chaos with rampant crime.

    Like others that have posted here, I think the City’s image is important for several reasons: 1. It’s important for people who live here to take pride in our City. 2. Having a negative image affects outside investment.

    A lot of people seem to doubt the last point. This won’t settle the issue for anyone I’m sure, but in 2007 the Oakland Chamber released an economic report where it wrote that there were four “strategic enablers” that are key to economic growth in Oakland. The first is to: “Improve public safety and actively manage the perception of crime in the community. Safety is particularly important to encouraging new investment, new business development, business expansion, and retail in the downtown corridor.”

  25. Cecily Burt

    Personally, I thought The Wire was one of the best series on televison and I mourned its end. If we could get another series of that caliber in the works, and it makes money for Oakland, what’s not to like?
    And it’s not the only topic filmmakers are interested in.. A film crew from the Discovery Channel has been here filming a documentary about West Oakland gang warfare, getting footage of funerals, etc.
    Unfortunately, that’s not fictionalized.

  26. avis

    Underage prostitutes work the streets near my house every night. So far nothing the Mayor or the City Council has done have slowed the trafficking down one bit. But now the Mayor is upset because HBO wants to publicize Oakland’s dirty laundry, The message I’m getting is that it’s ok to have child prostitutes in Oakland, but not OK to let the rest of the country know about it. I’m with you V, the hypocrisy at City Hall is truly amazing. Perhaps HBO could do an expose on that subject too.

  27. charles hahn

    Only David Simon and Ed Burns could do a “Wire” in Oakland, not the Hughes Brothers. The Wire had multi-tiered themes to the series that examined everything from the corners, the port, city politics, the school system and the press in the final season. It was multi dimensional as opposed to just focusing on the criminal elements. Most importantly, the Wire did its best to capture everything about Baltimore from the projects, to beautiful skyline at night at the port and even B-more club music in which is big on the East Coast.

    If the Hughes Brothers are doing a series, it should be its own entity and not have any comparisons to the Wire. The Wire had characters that still live on in our heads such as Stringer, Omar, Marlo, Snoop, Detective McNulty, Detective Bunk, Lt. Daniels,Sergei, Prop Joe, Bubbles,Duquan,Michael and even Butchie who died so honorably even in his old age because he wouldn’t give up his nephew Omar.

  28. ConcernedOakFF

    Look – Oakland has a long and storied history in the Annals of Prostitution, and unlike many other cities, it still has a current prositution problem.

    Think about The Mac and otehr Blacksplotation films of the 70′s, American Pimp etc…

    NYPD blue actually changed the way the NYPD worked, Miami Vice changed the way that the Miami Crime syndicates ran (or didn’t run) the city and the Wire exposed many issues that actually exist in Baltimore (far deeper than the other 2 shows).

    This could be a real opportunity for Oakland. It is not about race. It is about reality.

    The girls that walk the streets that I an my fellow Firefighters and Police Officers see everyday ARE by and large African American. The pimps that we see ARE by and large African American. Definitely NOT all of them, but if the intent is to film a Black Pimp, Oakland is a realistic place to set the series.

    If people get a chance to see what they would like to forget about, it will do everyone good.

    We need exposure. As I stated before, if someone doesn’t move here or move their business here due to a TV show, they probably should stay right where they are.

    The entertainment industry is very sensitive to cities that make their lives difficult. Believe me, if we reject HBO or make it hard for them to shoot here, we will not be getting ANY more work from the industry. Why should they work here, when there are hundreds of other places to go that are begging for their patronage.

    This could bring thousands of jobs and rebound business for everything from shopping to labor to restaurants.

    PLEASE look farther than your own preconceived notions about what might happen negatively and see that the positives FAR outweigh the negatives.

  29. Born in Oakland

    Totally cool! A TV show about prostitution in Oakland, maybe a reality show! I want some of the action: my husband doing his morning sweep up of used condoms and maybe he can be paid for it! He could be an “extra.”

    I never watch any of the shows talked about above but I sure would watch this one…I would be looking for my house and my friends and my favorite places. Who do you think would buy commercials? Maybe all the companies that moved out of Oakland…do you think?

  30. Max Allstadt

    Charles Hahn,

    You just came up with the first argument I’ve heard that’s giving me pause. Hooray! Ambivalence.

  31. filmhouse

    Wow, I’m amazed at the coverage this (non) story is getting, let alone the response. I agree with many posts on this list. Cecily summed it up best with “If we could get another series of that caliber in the works, and it makes money for Oakland, what’s not to like? “. With everything else in the dumper, why not take the chance? Seriously folks, it will not make our situation worse!

    ConcernedOakFF brought up many other series, including “Miami VIce”. Does anyone on this list remember what “Miami Vice” did for Miami? Quick recap…For 2 decades Miami had a section of its city that was so crime ridden, the cops didn’t want to patrol there. Ordinances and public money were poured into this area, to no avail. A filmmaker decided to set a movie in this area of Miami, about drugs and drug lords and corruption. After “Scarface” was released, other filmmakers wanted to capitalize on the storyline and seedy look of this Miami ‘hood. Thus was born “Miami Vice”. Guess what happened? Film crews (starting in the second season) started buying houses in the area, to be close to where they worked (and because they were relatively inexpensive). The well written show popularized the area, despite the graphic depiction of crime, graft and corruption, and people flocked to the area. Do you know what area of Miami I am describing?…South Beach!!! The most beautiful (And expensive) aree of Miami today!

    It is no lie nor exaggeration to say that “The Wire” helped Baltimore in a similar way. Call the Baltimore Film office! (410.752.8632) Ask them what the direct economic impact of “The Wire” was, then ask them what the indirect impact was. You probably will be shocked to find out how much money was brought to that community by a cable TV show.

    For the most part, HBO has brought intelligent, well written stories to the small screen for the past dozen years. There is no reason to believe this will be different. Besides, this is FICTION for god sakes. Maybe they’ll do another remake of “Much ado about nothing” set in Oakland. Would there be as much of an outcry about that one?

    Folks, we should be rolling out the red carpet for this show, and almost all others. In addition,we all need the work. (along with the rest of my Union and Guild brothers and sisters in IATSE, SAG, AFTRA, WGA, and Teamsters)

  32. Ralph

    While we need the money, Oaklannd lacks the mayor or strength to counter the negative portrayal that tends to come with some of these videos. David Simon faced this same issue with H:LOTS, The Wire, and The Corner. While those shows tended to portray the city as crime and drug infested and grated on some of the powers that be, they could successfully counter the image with a beaming downtown.

  33. MIke Spencer

    Filmhouse, stop injecting logic and facts into this forum….Maybe Ignacio is against it because it hits a little too close to home. I am so tired of looking at other cities and seeing all of them do something better than our City. Does any agency or City department have a vision for Oakland for the next 5 or 10 years? I have no idea.

  34. oaklandhappenings

    It was mentioned today on KRON (a station that I usually avoid because they ignore all of Oakland’s goods and think SF is the best place on Earth) that regardless of how much Dellums and the CC whine, they can’t stop the project: there are specific permits that may be approved by them, but that is the most they can do. They might as well sit back with their hands tied (literally) and just try to swallow it all in. Watch out folks…this could make Oakland really rich (compared to now) or much worse, in regards to some of the city’s problems.

  35. Andy

    Filmhouse , great points. Your suggestion to call the City of Baltimore film office sounds like a good idea for these council people and mayor to do. Get the facts. They would never do that.

    I love telling people that I live in Oakland just to see their reaction. As many have stated above, Oakland has a reputation – not from TV, but from reality.

    I question anyone that gets their perception from TV alone.

  36. Becks

    I’ve been following this discussion for the past 24 hours (and talking and thinking about this issue far too much). Others have already covered most of what I think about this project, which is that we should embrace it.

    But I wanted to convey a sense of urgency here. I know regular ABO readers keep up closely with Oakland politics, but I’m unsure how many readers here have been following the California budget crisis closely. The short version is that California is pretty much screwed. The Republicans and Arnold have held the budget hostage (it needs a 2/3 vote), and the state is running out of money so quickly that we might have to start issuing IOUs. We’re such a huge credit risk that we can’t sell bonds so instead the state has shut down all infrastructure projects in the state, leaving 200,000 workers jobless right before the holidays.

    This is serious. Oakland may have its own problems, but they pale in comparison to the problems of the state. Of course, the state’s problems will effect us, as transportation, redevelopment, and school funds are slashed.

    My point? We cannot turn down a huge opportunity like this. It’s not only Oakland that needs the jobs and residual spending, but the state too.

    I encourage everyone to read Calitics regularly over the next few months, as they have been doing the best reporting on the budget crisis. If that doesn’t convince you that we need to support this project, I don’t know what will.

  37. V Smoothe Post author

    I find it beyond ridiculous that we would even consider turning down a permit for someone who wants to film a TV series in Oakland because we think it would be bad for Oakland’s image. We’re not talking about a reality series called “Oakland: Prostitution Capital.” We’re talking about a scripted drama that takes place here. I think those against filming the show, aside from having some truly frightening ideas about the regulation of speech, seriously underestimate the HBO’s audience ability to distinguish fact from fiction.

    An informal poll on the subject last night among eight Texans showed unanimous agreement that nothing on any TV show could possibly do anything to harm Oakland’s reputation, since it’s already been completely shot to hell. The three people there who had visited Oakland previously all agreed that the show would be a boon to Oakland, because to the extent that any of the show’s viewers thought about Oakland at all (which everyone agreed would be probably not very much), they would likely not imagine the crime situation as any worse than they already thought of it, but they might at least get a chance to see how beautiful the City is.

    Personally, the negative media attention for Oakland that I’m worried about from the show is the attention in film industry publications. Because if the industry news is that HBO was all set to film a series in Oakland, and the City found a way to turn it down because they didn’t like the content…well, don’t even bother building the fucking film center at the Army Base because you have just frightened away every production company in the business and killed that industry in Oakland forever.

  38. Max Allstadt

    In the national eye, there are only a few things that make Oakland cool. Black youth culture is one. Grit and crime are another. It doesn’t matter that grit and crime are not actually cool, in just matters that some people are under the mistaken impression that this make our town exciting.

    Instead of freaking out about the possibility of negative attention, we should exploit it. Sucker folks in with a look at what they think is cool. Then redirect. HBO will give us eyeballs, once we have them, if we can’t show them something better, that’s our problem. Not only that, but this HBO series will dispel misconceptions about how cool the underworld is anyway.

    I also would like to support V’s informal polling technique. I encourage those of us who are out of town for the holidays to do the same. Ask outsiders for the first image when they hear “Oakland”. Not a fucking one of them is going to say “that beautiful jewel, lake merritt.” Most are going to say “E-40″ or “Crime” or “Violence” or “Detroit in the 70s” or “Isn’t it across the bay from SF?”…

    So I’m with V, the show can’t make it any worse. You want to keep it from getting worse? I have a three word solution: Elect Competent Politicians.

  39. V Smoothe Post author

    I think DoubleA also makes an excellent point that people should not forget – even if we can prevent the show from being filmed in Oakland, we have no power to keep the production company from setting the show in Oakland.

  40. Robert

    Fine, but how much money does the city actually get out of this? Much of what the city collects goes to overtime for police etc, so what is left after that. And while jobs are created temporarily here, how many of those are Oakland residents? Many posters keep talking about the financial benefit to Oakland, but what is the measurable benefit?

  41. Andy

    Censorship/approval of scripts, show content = bad, anti-democratic, anti-jobs, anti-American.

    Filming a show in Oakland ,set in Oakland = $, jobs, opportunity, publicity. Isn’t all publicity good?

    How can anyone be so clueless as to think that people from outside the Bay Area could have their perception of Oakland changed in any way by a TV show on HBO? The fact is, how many people even have any perception at all about Oakland? We are not on the map for a vast majority of the country. Last year I was at a wedding in San Diego attended by a number of people from the East Coast. Another guest was also from Oakland – he was telling people he was from San Francisco, because Oakland has no reputation back east. It is just another big city, with typical big city problems. Nothing surprising. The fact is that most people outside the Bay Area no nothing specific about Oakland, and don’t even want too know anything about Oakland. Hell, many of my neighbors know very little about the inner workings and happenings of Oakland, except that there is a crime problem.

    Agree with Becks – the State budget problem is totally f’d up. Arguing about this now is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

  42. Robert

    No Andy, all publicity is not good publicity.

    And if a lot of people in the country don’t know anything about Oakland, you think it is beneficial if the first thing that comes to their mind is Oakland=prostitutioin?

  43. Steve Carney

    I think we should replace our city council with V’s eight random Texans. That way, we’d get more efficient governance from people who aren’t afraid of making decisions that aren’t unanimously popular with every last Oakland constituency group.

  44. len raphael

    if we’re gonna play master spin doctor on oakland’s image, the place to start is getting rid of the Raiders. Ask 100 random non California people what do they think of when they hear the word Oakland, and it’s that football team that don perata and several other currently prominent pols brought back to oakland.

    not only does the team give oakland the rep of being a town of unruly losers, we have to pay Al Davis for the privilege.

    Go Raiders! Go now!

    -len raphae

  45. ConcernedOakFF

    The jobs that are created are all union, good paying jobs that often are taken from the nearest IATSE (Stagehands) Local. Once a location gets a good reputation for making films easy and simple for a director or a production group, it feeds on itself and more and more films are produced.

    A good point was also made: the worst possible outcome is that they set the show in Oakland and film it in LA or where ever, which if we keep bitching, is going to happen.

  46. Navigator

    Let’s do what Hollywood has done over the years. Why not shoot the scenes in Oakland but call it San Francisco?

  47. Navigator

    I’ve never seen a town where people think so little of their city that they’re ready to sell their image to the highest bidder. Image is very important. Why do you think the San Francisco Chronicle does all their crime feature stories on Oakland and not their city? Why do you think C. W. Nevius never brings up the San Francisco homicide issue while Chip Johnson’s columns are 90% crime or negativity?

    I was listening to KCBS on Sunday as I was driving home. They brought up the resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong. The news reporter stated, “the failure to bring down the San Francisco homicide rate has been a big issue in Heather Fong’s resignation.” I almost crashed my car. I didn’t even know San Francisco had a homicide “issue” Did any of you know that San Francisco had a homicide “issue?” Why don’t we go the San Francisco Chronicle archives and look up how many times C. W. Nevius brought up this “issue” through out 2008. Let’s go back through the archives and see how many times Jaxon Van Derbecken omitted the current San Francisco homicide number from his homicide stories. Let’s see how many feature articles were ran in the San Francisco Chronicle about this so called “homicide issue.”

    Take some pride in your city. Oakland doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Ask yourselves how Oakland’s reputation got to this point. Oaklander’s have been slammed for so long with the slanted reporting from the San Francisco media that they have very low self-esteem and think their city is the crime capital of the World. I read people on this board denigrating their city left and right. If it’s such a crappy place, and deserves the reputation that many of you think it does, along with being denigrated by many of you on various blogs and newspaper sites, then get the hell out.

    If this was such a great money maker Chip Johnson would have been against it like he was against the proposed movie studio near the Bay Bridge. Johnson poo pooed the entire thing in one of his columns precisely because it would have been a very positive thing for Oakland and it was going to include a film theme park which would have been a threat to San Francisco tourism interests. But a pimp show in Oakland? Hell, that’s a natural.

  48. Patrick

    The reality of Oakland is the reason I moved here. Real. Authentic. Beautiful. Captivating. Overwhelming. Who can blame others for wanting to show that to the world?

    Nav, I truly do understand your intentions…but what you are suggesting is – to use a recently overused euphemism – that we put lipstick on a pig. I WANT our Mayor, Pat K., Nancy N., Iggy etc. to be forced into a position where they must defend their policies against the reality splashed across the small screen.

  49. Navigator

    Patrick, Unlike many posters on this blog, I don’t think Oakland is a “pig.” That’s the premise many people who support having this pimp show in Oakland begin with. There reasoning is, ” our image is all screwed up any way” so what’s a little more screwing up going to hurt.. I don’t except that. I don’t think Oakland’s image Nationally is as screwed up as it is here, in the so called, “progressive” Bay Area.’

    Many people around the Country don’t know a whole lot about Oakland other than the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s. And, since I’ve been to Texas many many times, mostly to San Antonio and Austin, although I’ve also been to Houston. I’ve driven through the congested Houston freeways, I’ve seen a whole lot of blight in Houston, I’ve see a polluted, ugly, crane filled, shipping channel. The Oakland Estuary looks like Monaco in comparison. Having said that, I find it amusing that anyone in Texas can look down their noses at Oakland. It just goes to show you how distorted Oakland’s image has become. Now, instead of trying to rectify that horrible image, we want to further perpetuate it with a dark, gloomy, show, about pimps and prostitution with a few gun fights thrown in for good measure. Instead of fighting this image, we give in to it.

    Oakland needs to hire a PR company to straighten this out. Oakland needs to promote itself, and stop hitting itself over the head with the fact that there’s crime here. There’s crime everywhere. San Francisco County has the highest PER CAPITA crime rate of any County in California. San Francisco recorded 100 homicides last year according to the FBI. (98 according to the “official” Chronicle sponsored tally. You see, they’ll do anything to keep it under three digits) San Diego with a population of 1.2 million residents, had 55 homicides. You don’t see Frisco hitting itself over the head for their outrageous crime rate. No, they have an IMAGE to protect.

  50. Robert

    FF, that doesn’t answer my question of how many of these jobs go to Oakland residents, or how much money the city really makes from the project. Or are we going to pimp Oakland out like a $10 whore

  51. Coolhand Luke

    I understand Nav’s disgust at allowing Oakland to prolong its legacy in Frisco’s shadow, but the reality is that HBO has the freedom to set the show here whether we allow them in our city or not. I worry that sending them packing will leave them more likely to accentuate Oakland’d negative. Let’s face it, a story about pimping in Oakland is not hella random or undeserved. And this has happened before. Perhaps the most famous pimp movie ever was set and filmed in Oakland. It was called The Mack. I’m sure HBO’s take would be a bit less blaxploitation and a bit more well rounded.

    I also agree with V that this sends a horrid message to the whole industry, if we stiff arm them now. Yes Oakland is an amazing city in many ways, but it also has issues. To ban the depiction of those issues is to do what the Chron does to Frisco crime- something you despise Nav. Im sure Baltimore had to face the music after The Wire, and hopefully Oakland would be forced to do the same after Gentlemen of Leisure. I am more interested in solving problems than covering them up. If it takes HBO to paint the picture for city officials to address it, then I’ll take it. Because I love Oakland more than PR.

    Charlie Pine has argued that the counsel and mayor are being hypocritical in their actions, but not in the way V has argued. He says that the mayor and counsel actually usually do support negativity and violence in Oakland. He writes that the city “gives grants and jobs to gutter rappers and other assorted practitioners of thug culture,” among other smears in his continued cultural crusade against youth progress in Oakland. I’m tired of Pine sitting behind his window pane and berating individuals and organizations doing positive work in the community, as well as city officials who support such efforts. To read my rebuttal to his latest rant, visit

  52. David Lezynski

    I am a 30 year Oakland Resident (Laurel District) and work in the technical departments of film and television production. I am also a member of the Oakland Film Center, a group of film professionals that is at the Oakland Army Base and attempting to develop Oakland as a viable Film & Television Production Destination. There has not been a TV series in the Bay Area since “Nash Bridges”……… “Monk” and “The Chris Issac Show”, although set in San Francisco, were actually filmed in Canada with a dabbling of SF background plates.

    Robert’s $10 whore question is valid. I’m not sure how many dollars in fees go to Oakland directly, but I do know that there are many Oakland residents that may work for the HBO Production of “Gentlemen of Leisure”……. Set designers, Prop & Effects design (don’t forget the weapons experts :-) ), camera/sound/lighting technicians, Catering, makeup/wardrobe and more. Most of us make between $20-$60 dollars an hour and a show like this requires about 60 crew people to make it work……. if they shoot 13 episodes and use 1/3-1/2 of the crew from the Oakland Film Center, then about 1M dollars could go to your friends and neighbors……… We also pay business taxes. Hotels, restaurants, hair salons, OPD services also benefit. 13 episodes @ $500K-$1.5 million per episode is not unusual…….. so there are a lot of rupees floating around and quite a few can stay in Oakland.

    Television and film are images and not reality. Oakland’s reality is much more seedy than a imaginary pimp trying to find redemption……..”Gentlemen of Leisure” sounds like a PR bonanza for Oakland …….

    The Oakland Film Office is trying very hard to secure this series for the well being of Oakland’s finances and the marginal prosperity of Oakland’s Film Workers.


  53. Ed Matney


    Finally some facts & common sense. i spoke with the Baltimore Convention and Visitors Bureau last week. They reported no convention planners pulled out of Baltimore because of the Wire.

    Dave, i urge you to send your comment to our political leadership, addresses below.


    Desley Brooks
    District 6

    Jean Quan
    District 4

    Patricia Kernighan
    District 2

    Ron Dellums

    Henry Chang

    Ignacio De La Fuente
    District 5

    Dan Lindheim
    Acting City Administrator

    Nancy Nadel
    District 3

    newly elected and will be sworn in 1/5/09
    Rebecca Kaplan
    at large

  54. David Lezynski

    Thanks for the e links Ed……And, of course, encouraging everyone to speak their mind. Don’t be shy on this one folks. I think Tip O’Neil said “All Politics is Local”. Thanks so much for this blog

    Not surprisingly, there are Tony Soprano bus tours of Newark, NJ. Not an exactly flattering show for Newark. But Newark has become quite a bit more buffed out since, OMG, an HBO show poked at the seedy side of that city. Mayor Booker is an Urban turnaround wonder. Kind of a young guy too. Went on a hunger strike when he was on the city council……. drugs or guns or sumptin. BTW, my sister works in Newark…. and she is not a brave soul…… sez it’s a lot better than Oakland…… and she was just here visiting.

  55. Navigator

    I guess Oakland must be the armpit of the Nation.

    We better go tell the joggers at Lake Merritt, the people living in their million dollar hillside homes with five bridge views, the people who dine in Oakland’s wonderful 800 restaurants in Rockridge, Piedmont Ave., Lake Shore, Temescal, Montclair, Jack London Square, Old Oakland, Uptown, Fruitvale and Chinatown, that they live in the armpit of the United States.

    David, no wonder you’re for this pimp movie. You have a very low opinion of our city. I also lived in Laurel for quite a few years. Macarthur looks ten times better now than it did when I lived there. Also, can you quantify “How seedy” Oakland’s reality is for me?

  56. ConcernedOakFF

    Nav – I do not understand your points on this one. No one is saying that Oakland is terrible. Those that support this project are looking beyond the obvious to see the opportunity to change the reality in the form of jobs, publicity and publicizing our issues so that they will not just be a by-line like “man shot in East Oakland” scrolling along the bottom of our TV news stations with no one giving a rat’s ass.

    Can’t you see the good that can come out of this? Can you even name something bad that can or will come out of it?

  57. Max Allstadt


    “San Francisco County has the highest PER CAPITA crime rate of any County in California.”

    Because V totally PWNED you’re ridiculous rationale for city by city crime comparisons, you switched to county by county data. Well done. Clever. But meaningless.

    Unfortunately it’s an obvious cheat. SF is an incorporated county. So what you just did was to start comparing the city of SF to the entire county of Alameda instead of Oakland. Diluting our city’s crime stats by adding in the rest of the county proves nothing…

    But is sounds good, which leads me to my next point.

    If you want to keep trying to use statistics to skew people’s image of reality, perhaps you should should start the PR company you’re suggesting we hire. Not that any one will buy any of it. On the other hand, if you put an equal amount of effort into inventing a car that runs on bullshit…

  58. Robert

    FF, in fact, it has been said several times in this trhead that Oakland’s reputation is so bad that this series can’t possibly make it worse, so no harm can possibly come from a series about a pimp in Oakland. I am with Navigator on this. But the potential harm to Oakland’s rep does have to be weighed agains the financial benefits to the city. And while I suspect that Dave is biased because he has a financial stake in the deal, using his numbers and some assummptions, there might be $10M pumped into the local economy over a year and of that I would estimate that $0.25M to $0.5M would make its way into the city coffers.

    That does make me feel more like a $1000/hr call girl than a $10 whore.

    And FF, publicizing our issues is not going to make them better. The city actually dealing with them is the only thing that will make them better.

  59. David Lezynski

    Navigator…….. the word seedy itself is only slightly charged toward the Pejorative. Not a quantifiable word by any means, neither in my framework nor yours. The Armpit of America is your extension of my timid little word…. a higher level of contempt than “seedy”.

    I like Oakland. Oakland is an interesting town with a frontier spirit….I know the neighborhoods quite well.. it’s just a bit ……. oh, how about scruffy?.

  60. DoubleA

    I think that the people arguing against the show being set in Oakland would have some good points if we were all working at HBO and making the decision whether to set the show here. The show will depict some of the more negative parts of Oakland life(which also exist in any big city in this country), and broadcast it to the world. I understand why people are not comfortable with that.

    As it is, none of us work for HBO that I know of. If HBO wants the show to take place in Oakland, that is where the show will take place, regardless of how any of us feel.

    The question is, will Oakland welcome this opportunity and prove that this city is a great place to shoot movies and TV shows, with great locations and many talented people to work on the cast and crew? Or will Oakland drive away this show, leading it to be shot elsewhere but still being set in Oakland, and discourage future TV shows and movies from even trying to shoot here?

  61. bennett Hall

    Thank you Double A for putting some common sense to this string – It is sad that it is not a show about a teacher struggling in the inner City or something warm and fuzzy, but it is a REAL show nonetheless. The public tends to watch crime shows – FACT, -and, last I checked no cancellations have been caused by the terrorist that blew up LA in 24, or the creepy murders in Vegas on CSI or the Wire in Baltimore. ALso, HBO is a business – not a social service NGO, and last I checked, this is still a free and capitalist country…OK…sort of…

    That said, HBO comes here and so does opportunity, small businesses evolve to service the production, artists get gigs they desperately need, many are hired as noted elsewhere, more room nights, more meals purchased, location fees to property owners, etc., and this all leads us forward a bit -one step at a time, and it will make the NEXT film production a little easier if the industry to support it becomes marginally viable.

    Why do you think they shoot in LA so much?

    Meanwhile – perhaps this subject is too close to home – do check out International etc on Sat night if you want to know the truth. This situation is real – there are so many who have fallen into this life – pimps, hookers, and yes, many are also underage -they need help, education, support and opportunities other than the hand that they have been dealt in life thus far – wishing it was not true and stopping HBO from shining a light on this, will not resolve this social crisis.

    I would wager that if asked nice, HBO will be a partner in helping with some of the problems that the show is featuring. The production company has made PSA spots to try to stop gun violence for example – not exactly a sign that they want to set up whore houses and market slave girls – these twin brothers ( Hughes) seem to want to do the right thing. How about partnering with them instead for everyones benefit….

    Let’s make the best of it! If they have not already been to p***of and picked Portland or Phoenix, maybe we can find a win win here instead of shouting them out without even so much as knowing the plotline.

  62. filmhouse

    To back up Dave’s claim and answer questions that several posts have asked…real numbers and real dollar figures. The average series prime time episode (40mins) spends approx $1.8 to $2.4 million (PER EPISODE). HBO series average 55 mins per episode. Approximately 2/3 of the episode budget is direct spending locally (when the series is based where it is filming.) A series of 13 episodes generally films for 24-30 weeks. To correct Dave’s wage assertions, the vast majority of the crew averages $28-34 per hour, and these are vocationally trained union jobs overwhelmingly. So lets take a conservative path and say that the production will spend $2mil per episode, 2/3 of which is approx $1.3 mil x 13 which equals approx $16.9 mil spent locally per season. Now you have to factor in the “Multiplier factor” which is essentially ; the restaurant that the crew has dinner in wasn’t expecting that income so they turn around and spend money on improvements, the servers spend their extra tips on a gift for a family member, and so on. This is a very real effect. The generally accepted multiplier for the Film Industry is 3.2x. So that $16.9 mil turns into $54 mil economic impact. Check the CEIDC reports and others for confirmation

    These numbers are approximates, but the methodology is real and accurate.
    In other words…film = much money for the local economy.

    Hope this helps

  63. Susan

    DoubleA, FilmHouse, Bennett, David, Ed, Luke, V Smooth, Max, Mike, Becks, Cecily, Robert, et al:

    You all make OUTSTANDING points.

    Oakland should be welcoming this television production — it’ll result in increased employment and added revenues that this City so badly needs.

    I encourage ALL of YOU who believe that this production be welcomed by the City of Oakland — to write to our City’s leadership, stating your support.
    (Ed has posted the email addresses of members of the City Council, the Mayor, and other relevant officials above).

    It will make a difference if our elected officials hear directly from us, their constituents.

    Happy holidays, everyone.

  64. Paul Lindner

    I moved to Oakland after living for nine years in SOMA San Francisco. I am really disappointed in Oakland’s city governments level of denial and stupidity. This is saying a lot since I was represented by Chris Daly!

    Before I moved here my image of Oakland was a few visits to Rockridge, Downtown and the persistent BART-riding drug dealers in SOMA taking advantage of the lenient SF DA office. I’m willing to bet that I’d have a much more balanced view of Oakland if I was exposed to more of it, good and bad.

    Oakland has problems. So does San Francisco. At least in SF I didn’t have to pay multiple parcel taxes for it … :-)

  65. Navigator

    Most of the economic gains from this series will go to San Francisco while Oakland gets stained with the image of a pimp and ho paradise.

    The hotel rooms will be rented in San Francisco, just as they are, when pro sports teams come to Oakland to compete against the Oakland A’s, the Oakland Raiders, and the image conscious “Golden State Warriors.”

    Anyone willing to further denigrate Oakland’s tarnished image with this dark, gloomy, seedy, and violence depicting series, for the loose change that will be left over after San Francisco once again picks Oakland’s pockets is sticking their heads in the sand.

    Oakland already has a very long list of film credits. Oakland doesn’t need to sell its soul for spare change. If Hollywood wants to bring something to Oakland without trying to capitalize and perpetuate a seedy image of this city created by slanted, biased, unfair, and relentless negative reporting emanating from Oakland’s direct economic competitor across the Bay, then we can talk about allowing them to use our gorgeous scenery, our charming neighborhoods, our incredible topography , our shimmering Lake, our wonderful historic architecture, and our interesting waterfront. Until this happens, they are only perpetuating the negativity which the news media uses to define Oakland.

    Max, you missed my point. The point being, that there are many ways to report and compare crime rates. Who says one is more accurate and more fair than another? Per capita crime rates don’t tell you how much crime is in a certain area like a downtown of a city, which is where most people tend to congregate, do their civic business, go to restaurants, go to the theater, go shopping, etc. Therefore, without knowing how many people live in the exact geographic area, comparing downtowns and other AREAS in various cities, per square mile crime rate, is an accepted method to find out how much crime exists in that specific area.

    The point I was trying to make about San Francisco when I used the per capita crime stats in County comparisons is how increased population dilutes crime rates. Therefore, medium sized cities like Oakland will always be ranked higher in crime rates than cities with huge populations like New York or Los Angeles.

    Also, another point is that San Francisco has a very high homicide rate for its 49 square miles. The fact that San Francisco’s homicides occur much closer to areas where visitors and shoppers congregate than Oakland’s homicides in neighborhoods farther from the commercial centers of the city, should be reason for concern on their part. The fact that San Francisco recorded 100 homicides in their very compact city of 49 square miles with a population of 760,000 residents, and San Diego recorded 55 homicides with a population of 1.2 million residents should tell you that San Francisco has a horrendous homicide and crime rate. This is irrespective of Oakland’s crime problems. The crime in San Francisco is a more than significant enough issue for the San Francisco Chronicle and the rest of the San Francisco dominant news media to address. Instead of addressing the very real crime issue in San Francisco which happens to occur much closer to average folks going about their daily business than the crime in Elmhurts, Melrose, and Eastmont in an area of Oakland far away from downtown, they throw rocks and point fingers across the Bay.

    Max, I’ve researched this issue. I’ve studied archives, I’ve studied various methods of reporting crime, I’ve studies the different aspects on a city’s economy based on unfair and slanted crime rankings. And, I’ve lived in the Bay Area for many many years. So, don’t come here and insult me by saying that there is no medias bias in the Bay Area towards the city of Oakland. Anyone who’s lived in the Bay Area for any length of time and payed attention to what gets reported and what doesn’t, will tell you that you’re full of shit.

  66. David Lezynski

    Navigator……… sheesh, you might want to unclench your fists, breathe deeply and let the love come in…… you sound a little bound up

  67. filmhouse

    Navigator, Merry Christmas or perhaps Happy Holidays! I mean that! Someone needs to wish you joy.

    It definitely sounds like your teed off at something, and you are definitely knowledgeable in some areas, but please do not portend to know everything. Your statement;

    “Anyone willing to further denigrate Oakland’s tarnished image with this dark, gloomy, seedy, and violence depicting series, for the loose change that will be left over after San Francisco once again picks Oakland’s pockets is sticking their heads in the sand.”

    is amazing in its reach and assumptions. Did you read the script? If not, then it you are judging based on (false) conjecture. The same conjucture that you are accusing others of.

    Secondly, your assumption that

    “Most of the economic gains from this series will go to San Francisco while Oakland gets stained with the image of a pimp and ho paradise.”

    is ludicrous as well. You are making statements about things that you demonstrably have no experience in. First, to equate where sports teams stay for one or two nights while visiting the area, with where talent for a ongoing TV series will stay shows this obvious lack of experience. (Please understand, I have no wish to call anyone names or get into a “Flame” war, I am merely rebutting what you tried to present as fact). Additionally, If talent were to stay in SF, while the show is based in Oakland, would require that they use IBT (Teamsters) personnel from two different locals, with different rates, and different manning requirements. This would probably not happen on any sort of a regular basis.

    Because the Bay Area is a regional economy, yes, SF will see some economic benefit, it would be ludicrous to imagine otherwise, but it will be extremely small compared to the benefit the East Bay will receive, With the Production Based Here!!!

    Navigator, until you can prove expertise in the world of Film and television production, marketing effects of television and Feature Film, and an in-depth understanding of economics, as it relates to the aforementioned, Please, for the sake of all the good things that will come out of this, please make it clear when you are stating a personal opinion compared to stating facts. Remember, the statement “I feel Saddam Hussein is (was) a bad man” has been proven infinitely more credible than “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction”

  68. Navigator


    Merry Christmas to you and to your family.

    I’m not pretending to know everything. You’re right, no one knows the exact content in this proposed series. However, I disagree that Oakland will get the economic benefit needed to outweigh any negative damage done to the city’s image. I say this from a historical perspective from living in the Bay Area. I still remember the Major League All Star game held in Oakland many years ago. I still remember the NBA All Star Game held in Oakland some years ago. In both cases, even as the games were held in Oakland, many of the aerial shots were of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline, most people stayed in San Francisco hotels, spent their money in San Francisco restaurants, spent their money buying souvenirs at Fisherman’s Wharf, etc. Oakland got stuck with the traffic, police overtime, trash clean up, and very little positive publicity.

    Can you, or anyone else in the Film Industry, guarantee Oakland that the same thing won’t happen when people from the film industry in Southern California come to Oakland to use our city, and its unfair negative image, to give credence to their pimp and ho series, that the above Oakland exploitation, and San Francisco profiteering scenario, will not repeat itself ?

    Also, I’m not as angry as I appear. I was just responding to Max’s colorful language.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  69. Max Allstadt


    I wasn’t saying there was no bias in the media. I was saying that you were wantonly cherrypicking statistics in order to belabor your agenda which is biased in the opposite direction. Because that’s exactly what you were doing.

    Compare Oakland to SF, and Oakland is worse. Compare SF County (which is the entire city of SF) to Alameda County, and you get to dilute Oakland’s horrendous stats with Piedmont’s stats and others. You were manipulating statistics in order to make our city look better that it is.

    Perhaps I should have suggested something less inflammatory than “inventing a car that runs on bullshit”. Maybe you should call David Chai for a job instead, or write rhetoric for Jean Quan.

  70. Navigator


    I think most people on this blog want the best for Oakland. I know that you do, and I know that V does. We just happen to disagree on some issues on how to go about making Oakland better. That’s all. I’m just someone who loves this city and wants Oakland to be the best city it can be for all of its residents and also for people of this region. Please don’t misunderstand my motives or my sincerity.

    Also, I appreciate that V takes her personal time and gives great effort to make a contribution to the city by creating this medium where we can discuss all of these important and fascinating issues. Take care my friend, and have a great Holiday Season.

  71. filmhouse


    I couldn’t agree with you more when you say that most people on this blog want whats best for Oakland. I certainly believe you do! I make my (meager) living in the production industry here, as a resident and business owner, rather than down in LA. I would have to struggle a lot less down there, as the cost of living is definitely cheaper, and there is a lot more work. But my heart belongs to the Bay Area, particularly Oakland. It has a soul! (unlike what I’ve found in LA). I think that many people try to protect that soul, but it’s bigger than any of us, was here before us, and will outlast us. The soul is made up of hundreds of thousands of unique and creative people. No TV show or movie will hurt that soul for the people who know what it is truly like here!

    What WILL hurt that soul is legislation,exclusion, and squashing the voice that yearns to tell a story. That story may not be yours or mine, but it’s voice deserves to be heard. Who are we to judge the story? If it is incidental, unworthy, or reeks of untruth, it will die it’s own ignominious death.

    You spoke of both the NBA and Major league all star games several years ago. You are completely correct; the cameras focused upon the postcard views of SF, tourists spent their money there, and stayed in hotels there. Most of the money was realized by SF.

    Here’s the thing; How many people do you know (Or can imagine who are not from the area) that would plan their vacation trip around Oakland. “Gee honey, let’s to Oakland on the west coast! We can walk around Lake Merritt, visit the Chabot discovery museum, see that neat Theater they just renovated downtown, and then go catch a bite to eat at Jack London Square. Not only that but we can get to bed by 10pm! We’ll figure out what we will do for the next 5 days when we get there.”

    This isn’t meant to be snide, merely realistic. (I could spend a month in Oakland without being bored, and without leaving (As long as I didn’t need to do retail shopping). If we want to have Oakland as a destination, we need to create it as such. Oakland is the 44th largest city in the US, and yet the only thing that defines us to the rest of the nation is 4/5 most crime ridden city, the Oakland Raiders, hyphe, and gangsta rap. I suppose 3 out of 4 ain’t bad, but it is still not an overall positive picture.

    Getting back to the dollars spent elsewhere, as I stated in a previous post, a series would film a minimum of 24 weeks here. 24 WEEKS! not the 3 to 7 days that a Allstar game encompasses. Money spent locally!

    As I said above, the positive physical, social, and economic ramifications of having a production based locally are huge! Regardless of the genre of the story told. I mentioned previously about Baltimore and “The Wire”, I invite you now to call up the Albuquerque New Mexico film office, the Shreveport and New Orleans film offices and find out how much positive impact filming has had on the local communities there, regardless of genre being filmed. Please, please, please do this research before uttering another invective, another adverse vitriolic rant.

    In summation, to answer the last question you posed to me; can I, or anyone else give assurances that Oakland will not be exploited in this program?
    No, I can’t
    No one can. Ever. On anything.
    But as a local crew member, (along with a great many other local crew members) who has input into the creative process, as an active member of the community, and as a person who believes in the greater good of man, I can assure you that I will work to prevent that from happening.

    All my best to everyone for the New Year! I leave the country tomorrow for a month!

  72. David Lezynski

    Just about every point and counterpoint imaginable has been made. I guess it’s about time to jump into our letterwriting and whatever else we do.

    Just a note about crew members. Most of us have a pretty good nose for Bullshit and Inappropriate products or platforms. All of have some ethical line that we will not cross even if there is money waved at the Hos that we are.

    I would surely doubt that HBO or any Production Company, in our enlightened society, would glorify an Ermine Coated, High Hatted Pimp, abusing women. We have grown, as a culture. Similarly, in our times, Tony Soprano was depicted as a Pathetic, Frustrated & Remorseful Mobster. It was a compelling series. No production would dare offend contemporary sensibilities and survive the critics. If I am wrong about the story line, I will take my tuba and badly play “Lucia di Lammermoor” at he corner of 14th and Broadway. In a Fur Coat with a Pimps Hat.

  73. Navigator


    Thanks for taking the time to write and making such a compelling argument. However, if we can revisit your fourth and fifth paragraphs, we can see the essence of Oakland’s problems.

    First of all, that fictional couple planning that fictional vacation to Oakland, wouldn’t know about any of the spots in Oakland which you described. Ask yourself. Why don’t most people know that Oakland offers beautiful scenery, great weather, awesome restaurants, beautiful historic architecture, three of the most beautiful historic theaters in the Country, in the Fox, the Paramount, and the Grand Lake Theaters, (San Francisco can’t even begin to match this) amazing religious architecture in the Oakland Mormon Temple, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the awe inspiring Christ the Light Cathedral. (San Francisco can’t even begin to match that) Why don’t they know of our superior ZOO, (better than San Francisco’s) our wonderful Chabot Space & Science Center, and the great Oakland Museum of California? Why don’t they know about our abundant hiking opportunities at Joaquin Miller Park, Chabot Regional, Redwood Regional, and Sibley Regional Park? That’s the point. They don’t know anything about Oakland. Also, people who visit San Francisco don’t just stay in San Francisco for five days.They go to Sausalito, the Wine Country, Carmel, Muir Woods, etc. You can do all of that from Oakland, plus go to San Francisco.

    Your fifth paragraph is about what you believe is known about Oakland to the outside world. I’ll have to disagree that people know that Oakland is ranked fourth or fifth in crime. Those studies and rankings are used more in the Bay Area by San Francisco media interests to keep Bay Area residents afraid of Oakland, than they are by the National media. Sure, people may know that Oakland has a high crime rate, but no more so than Saint Louis, New Orleans, Washington DC, Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Baltimore, Memphis, or any other large urban American city. Also, the hiphe and Gangsta Rap culture is a sub culture known only to a small segment of a young population. Why does this define Oakland?

    Oakland has a huge IMAGE problem. An image problem carefully grown and nurtured over the years by a selective San Francisco centric media. I just don’t see how a show about pimping and prostitution helps reshape Oakland’s negative image. I don’t see how a show about a pimp will allow the outside world a glimpse of the real Oakland which gets brushed aside in favor of the crime the grit, and the subculture.

    I’ll agree with you that a series in Oakland may bring some short term economic benefits to the city. And, I certainly do understand the need for sustainable employment in Oakland. I want Oakland to cultivate and grow its film industry. Oakland has a very long history cooperating and working with Hollywood. Films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Made in America, Tucker, True Crime, Bee Season, Matrix, Hulk, and many more have had segments shot in Oakland. Car commercials are shot in downtown Oakland all the time. Oakland is no stranger to Hollywood. Unfortunately, only a few of the movies have actually been set in Oakland. Made in America, Bee Season, True Crime, and Tucker come to mind. The rest of the time, we play fill in for San Francisco. Why not press Hollywood for something which will use Oakland’s wonderful attributes and assets in a positive way? Why do we need to go the way of the Pimp? Oakland is once again selling itself short.

    Again, I appreciate your viewpoint, and I understand the possibilities of short term economic gain for the local film industry. I just think that Oakland deserves a better long term plan to grow its film industry than just acquiescing to the demands of stereotypical depictions of our city, from Hollywood.

  74. Paul Lindner

    My goodness. It’s sad to see signs of an inferiority complex vis-a-vis San Francisco. Just admit it, Oakland has earned some of it’s bad rep and work to deal with it.

    In any case, you want pimps go watch “The Streets of San Francisco”. It was a cop drama, but man oh man if you were to base your image of SF on that show you’d think that it was full of heroin junkies, prostitutes, gunplay and a rather seedy looking Portrero Hill. Today Portrero is quite gentrified.

    So my opinion is that everyone should attempt to work with the directors/producers to get the great parts of Oakland into the spotlight. As has been stated before, they’ll set the series in Oakland whether we like it or not.

  75. Patrick

    I’d go so far as to say they will DEFINITELY set the series in Oakland – if only out of spite. A couple of sign changes and WHAM! The Bayview district in SF becomes Oakland. I can hear the responses: “Yes, but it wouldn’t be Oakland, and people would know that”. The question is, would they care?

  76. bennett hall

    A few points regarding the logistics of repairing Oakland’s tarnished image.

    First, it is great to list landmarks and envision their appeal, however Oakland does have an IMAGE problem, as do most places do. The roots of Oakland’s “image problems” are long term and founded in reality; pretending they do not exist is likely not a successful strategy.

    We have competition from San Francisco and other cities around the country, and they all have their respective marketing teams to pitch their town. Many other cities are vying for opportunities like HBO and feature film, MacWorld (RIP), the “Orthodontists” Convention, or even just convincing the Circus to come to town.

    We have to out market them. We have to invest in this just like a business would.

    Problem is Oakland’s Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) is underfunded, in fact, virtually a self-funding member organization with a frozen-deferred budget of 750K / year that was just chopped in half from 1.5M recently. Right now, the money comes from membership – hotels, restaurants an loyal boosters, many of whom are also facing budget shortfalls of their own. The budget to ‘fix Oakland’s Image” is literally “peanuts” in relation to their task of pitching and achieving national brand recognition for Oakland. Further, the CVB is also cash-flow net positive from its efforts – making it not the most logical first place to cut.

    “If you want to make money – you have to spend money” is an analogy well suited here.

    Ditto for the Oakland film office – not sure the numbers, but I am going to hazard a guess than Ami Zin could use more resources.

    Therefore, if you really want to help Oakland bolster its Image, support both the CVB, FilmOakland and other organizations in a position to market Oakland’s positive attributes – volunteer – join – pay dues – encourage others to fund them. Their job is to pitch our City and make a difference by promoting Oakland. And, while you are at it, go out and spend money in local restaurants and shops before they go down under the Cat 6 economic storm we are currently in the midst of.

    Lastly, at risk of stating the obvious, the tarnished image of Oakland is a, “Horse that has already left the barn…”. Nailing the door shut will not help right now. Working WITH not against HBO towards creating a partnership with the community this production WILL help, and things might just get a little better.

    How about asking instead, “How can we organize a partnership among the public-private-NGO-labor sector stakeholders so as to achieve a balanced opportunity wherein everyone can win from HBO coming to town.”

    Ideas anyone?

  77. Navigator


    These aren’t signs of an inferiority complex. I like Oakland. I don’t want Oakland to be San Francisco. These are signs of someone who’s lived in the Bay Area for some years and studied the media coverage coming from San Francisco regarding Oakland. Does Oakland have crime? Of course. Does Oakland get the same type of crime coverage as San Francisco. Of course not.

    I don’t have an inferiority complex regarding Oakland. I have a FAIRNESS in the media complex regarding the two different types of crime coverage for each city.

    Patrick, so the “Bayview” becomes “Oakland.” I though maybe the Bayview would become Eastmont, and “San Francisco” would become Oakland. Nah, I guess that wouldn’t work.

    Oakland has the right to protect its image. Oakland should sue any film company that uses its name without permission and without actually having the series set in Oakland. Without the consent of the City of Oakland they are not authorized to use the city’s moniker in a manner which would denigrate the city. There are legal issues here. It’s not that simple.

  78. Navigator


    I understand that Oakland has the same problems which have plagued every major urban city in America. No one is trying to deny the problems in Oakland. The point I’m trying to make is, that the image Oakland has at the moment is far beyond what it should be. Pretending that Oakland gets a fair shake from the San Francisco dominant media doesn’t do us any good. Pretending that San Francisco crime is reported in the same manner, doesn’t do us any good. In order to address a problem, we need to understand it from ALL angles. Sure, part of Oakland’s image of having a high crime rate, is earned. The part that takes Oakland’s crime rate out of context by covering up San Francisco crime, is not.

    Bennett, I’m sincere when I ask this. Do you, or any of the Film Production people know why, and how, Oakland was chosen for this series? I’m really curious.

  79. bennett hall

    Nav – I can only speak to the process from my own professional experience in research and strategy. I am unaware of anything in print, yet, from the Hughes Brothers that explains why they selected Oakland. It is certainly not know as being the most film friendly or inexpensive place to shoot – neither is SF. They could just shoot in La and save $.

    They [Hughes] would have a research department that would analyze pros and cons or a variety of Cities before selecting a location. This department would have presented the recommendations to the creative team. There could also be personal reasons or other factors – maybe they have been here and like the scenery.

    If I find out and the information is releasable I will let you know…

  80. Patrick

    I chose Bayview because its housing stock, terrain, views of the bay and general “feel” are similar to – at least one -of the residential areas of Oakland that are generally recognized as plagued by prostitution. It’s obvious to anyone who has visited SF and Oakland, even briefly, that the only part of SF that could pass for any part of Oakland is the southeast corner of SF…but primarily because it is sunny and non-descript. While we’re at it, how many parts of Oakland could pass as SF? Our downtowns, post-industrial sites, commercial corridors, and residential neighborhoods look, for the most part, completely different. Most of our homes have lawns for god’s sake! Our city sits in an amphitheatre of lowlands rising slowly to the hills, while SF sits on a series of 47 gumdrop hills. Overhead electric bus wires – street widths – the dearth of pre-1906 structures in wide swaths of SF – 580, 880, 980, 24, 13, INTERNATIONAL DRIVE – the differences are beyond numerous.

    I think, sometimes, when we focus solely on what we want to believe, that we can lose sight of what is real. And really, if HBO wants to set this series in “Oakland”, they can do it in SF, or Richmond, or Marin City, or Redwood City, or East Palo Alto, or San Jose, or Long Beach, or Los Angeles … hell, with a few stock flyover shots and a couple of potted palms, they could probably do it in Baltimore.

  81. Brooklyn Avenue

    For whatever it’s worth, this is what the show’s producer reportedly told Ami Zins about why she chose Oakland:

    “Zins said that Anthony told her that although she has never lived in Oakland, ‘she has spent quite a bit of time in Oakland and chose Oakland as the location for the show out of appreciation for our diversity, our beauty and our rich musical history.’ ”

    As for the idea of suing any production company that sets a series in Oakland without permission, any such lawsuit would likely damage Oakland’s reputation more than any TV series could. For someone who claims to be so eager to improve Oakland’s image, Navigator, your strategy seems very counterproductive: first, we turn down business from Hollywood (thereby not only losing the benefits from this production, but also reducing the chances that anyone in Hollywood will contemplate Oakland as a location for future productions). Then, just in case anyone didn’t get the message that Oakland is NOT open for business, we sue the producers who wanted to give us the business, guaranteeing further stories in the press about Oakland’s dysfunction and misplaced priorities.

  82. Patrick

    Look…let them film the thing in Oakland. The media schwag – SF Chronicle – will do their pathetic article with the almost-cute headline and frequent misspellings. Then, the NY Times, Washington Post and Time magazine will do an article that requires actual fact-finding and reporting, and the truth about our city will be heard – great location, underserved population, unequaled infrastructure and with plenty o’ space to open that Target!. I’m more interested in appealing to the readers of those publications than the tittering half-wits who read the Chronicle.

    Nav., sometimes any publicity is good publicity. If the show is a hit, people will want to know more. And, unless you’re afraid that the WHOLE MEDIA WORLD is hell-bent on trashing Oakland, I think we should give it a shot (no pun intended).

  83. Susan

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE — let our City’s leadership know you support HBO’s filming in Oakland:

    Desley Brooks
    District 6

    Jean Quan
    District 4

    Patricia Kernighan
    District 2

    Ron Dellums

    Henry Chang

    Ignacio De La Fuente
    District 5

    Dan Lindheim
    Acting City Administrator

    Nancy Nadel
    District 3

    Jane Brunner
    District 1
    238-7001 phone
    238-6910 fax

    Larry Reid
    District 7
    238-7007 phone
    238-6910 fax

    newly elected and will be sworn in 1/5/09
    Rebecca Kaplan
    at large

    City Attorney:John Russo
    238-3601 phone
    238-6500 fax

    City Auditor Courtney Ruby

  84. David Lezynski

    Thanks Susan for all the Mailing Info…… OK Kids, start your engines and let Democracy start working. I think We still live in a Democracy.
    In case anyone needs a SnailMail address it is: One Frank Ogawa Plaza
    Oakland, CA 94612. Should get to any of the folks listed.

  85. Max

    OBTW…. The Community Nature of this blog doesn’t seem to lend itself to Avitar Names. I kind of like a Proper Name, and it doesn’t have to be one’s Real Name……. initials are OK too. I understand the fear of sociopathic behavior, but I just can’t seem to take a noun seriously, even if the ideas are compelling. BTW, I may change my name to Max. Too late, just did.

  86. Navigator

    Brooklyn Avenue,

    After reading your link to the BCN article, I have to say that I’m a bit more encouraged about the prospects of this series. Assuming that the perimeters mentioned by the producers and agreed upon by the city are met, then I think this may be a positive endeavor for Oakland.

    Having said that, the city needs to be vigilante in order to make sure that the economic benefits stay in Oakland, and aren’t siphoned away by San Francisco, as is usually the case when major events and undertakings are held in Oakland.

    I don’t want to see Oakland exploited while our uppity, finger pointing, neighbor across the Bay makes off with the loot, while Oakland, once again is left holding the bag along with a more tarnished image. I have a feeling that their media, through spite, jealousy, and ridicule, will do their best to make this a negative for Oakland in the minds of the Bay Area populace. I’ll take comfort in what Robert mentioned regarding the National media’s take on this. I agree with you Robert. The National media tends to take notice and be more complementary regarding Oakland’s accomplishments than our spiteful San Francisco neighbors.

  87. Navigator


    I was glad to read the you were comparing the Bayview neighborhood in San Francisco based on climate and the housing stock. I was worried that it might have been a common and erroneous knee-jerk comparison because of the crime and demographics in that San Francisco neighborhood.

    Patrick, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard San Franciscans compare a San Francisco neighborhood to the entire city of Oakland. It might go something like, ” people take their personal safety in their hands when they venture into high crime areas like Bayview, Oakland, Richmond, East Palo Alto, or South Central LA.” I’ve listened to a San Franciscan speaking of the homicide rate saying, “Hunter’s Point is giving Oakland a run for its money.” Not, Hunter’s Point is giving Elmhurst or Eastmont a run for its money, but “Oakland”

    Many San Franciscans want to compare the crime plagued South East corner of their city to the entire city of Oakland. They forget that they also have crime in the Mission, the Wester Addition, the Tenderloin, Filmore, Civic Center etc.

    As far as Oakland neighborhoods which we can compare to San Francisco. How about Crocker Highlands to Saint Francis Woods, Rockridge to Noe Valley, the attached flats on the east side of Park Boulevard to many parts of San Francisco. How about Adams Point, Haddon Hill, and the Grand Lake Apartment District, with their hillside, densely populated, apartment filled streets? How about Montecito Avenue coming down the hill towards the Lake with the Lake Merritt high rises directly in front of you? How about the Lake Merritt Financial District to anyone who sees this shot and knows that its in Northern California but has never been to Oakland? Would they know that those waterfront high rises were in fact in Oakland, or, would they assume that this was taken in San Francisco?

    To make a stereotypical comparison of a crime and poverty plagued section of San Francisco to the entire city of Oakland, based on an erroneous stereotypical perceived estimate of the demographics of Oakland, is wrong.

    In fact, Oakland has been used many times by the Film Industry as a stand in for San Francisco.

  88. Patrick

    OK, I wrote to all of the e-mail addresses listed above. I have received two responses thus far, an out-of-office autoreply from Kernighan, and the following from Brooks:

    Dear Mr. ********,

    Thank you for writing to share your views. I strongly disagree with you and I have no intentions of supporting the proposed HBO series Gentlemen of Leisure.

    I would encourage HBO to go to LA or any other city to bestow the great honor of having a pimp series produced in their city.

    Best regards,

    Sent from my GoodLink synchronized handheld (

    Ami Zins should prepare her resume now; this city will never see a film crew in it again.

    There may be two Max’s, but there is only one Max Allstadt!

  89. Navigator


    She may have a point. Again I ask. Why Oakland? Why not San Francisco where they usually film? Why not LA where it’s cheaper? If their intent is to use Oakland because Oakland may be perceived as a city where a pimp would reside, then, they’re full of shit.

    If their intent is to use Oakland because they perceive Oakland as having some unique charm and beauty that couldn’t be captured in San Francisco or LA, then that’s a different story.

    Again, if the perimeters of the show can be strictly identified and agreed upon between the producers and the City of Oakland through a legal and binding contract, including the number of local Oakland jobs, the number of hotel nights, along with strict guidelines in hiring local ancillary businesses, then I can see positives for Oakland.

    It all depends on the content, and on the documented economic impact on Oakland.

    Turning this down on our terms doesn’t necessarily send the wrong message to Hollywood. Lake Merritt will still be here, our historic architecture will still be here, our waterfront will still be here, the rugged canyons of Montclair and the charming English Tudors in Crocker Highlands will still be here, our charming commercial shopping districts will still be here, our great climate and less expensive hotels will still be here.

    If we turn this down it may tell Hollywood that Oakland will not allow itself to be used. It may tell Hollywood that this town is getting a little pride and self-respect back. It may tell Hollywood, what else you got? This isn’t a good enough story line for our city.

  90. Born in Oakland

    The truth of the matter is that we DO have a problem with pimps/prostitution in Oakland, The problem has been around for a long long time and we have not done anything to resolve it. The other truth is that we are hiding under a rock if we think that our little secret will be revealed because of a TV show. The secret has been out for a long time and that is why so many Johns are from out of town. Film the show, generate some money and perhaps enthusiasm. Let the chips fall where they may. This is all sounding so NIMBY.

  91. Navigator

    Born in Oakland,

    We have a problem with pimps and prostitution just like LA, San Francisco, and dozens of other major cities in the Country. Let’s not allow this to define our city.

  92. BOB

    Navigator…… It is certainly wonderful to observe your Mental Meanderings. Your Grim and Apocalyptic lightning strikes of revelation are a refreshing change from Linear and Logical Processes.

  93. Skip

    I’m a newbie to this blog but I wonder……. Prostitution has been a noble vocation for a long time. Freud had it right. Unfortunately the addition of the pimp and violence against the female has not been noble. I certainly would encourage self-evaluation about the essence of prostitution before casting judgement against the profession. Is prostitution truely a crime or an offense against society? There may be some elements of HBOs “Gentlemen of Leisure” that are offensive but the basic sexuality of man encourages the continuation of the craft. My opinion…… Let HBO explore the idea of prostitution….. they’re no dummies….. something good may come of all this.

  94. Patrick

    UGH. I excuse myself from this thread. When a personal belief becomes an inviolable tenet, no discussion is possible. I want off the merry-go-round!

  95. ConcernedOakFF

    Nav et al that are strongly opposed to this show –

    You are all still missing the point that if they want to set the show in Oakland, they will, if we oppose it, they will film it in LA or SF and call it Oakland.

    Loss of benefit and gain of poor image. So, keep on opposing it, city council and citizens. Go ahead, let these good union jobs go to another area that needs them less than us. Go ahead, ensure that no one else tries to film a big project here.

    Just don’t complain when people say what a S!(@ hole Oakland is when they are really looking at south-central or bayview.

  96. Frank Castro

    At a time when Mayor Dellums is wholly invisible, the City Council dysfunctional and we don’t know where the money will come from to pay for vital services, why in the world would Oakland want to turn its back on an opportunity such as this series. I agree with V that if you don’t want a show about prostitution set in Oakland, get rid of the prostitution. I found a very interesting and enlightening article written by David Simon the creator of The Wire on why he chose Baltimore. Please read this article and change the name of the Mayor to Ron Dellums and the City Council to our current motley group.

  97. Frank Castro

    This is the most priceless quote in the article that addresses the main theme of this ongoing discussion:

    “In a country where unemployment is over 40 percent and too many people live at the margins within endless squatter camps, the issue of jobs is paramount. A discussion of the film industry’s psychic burden on the civic image would be, well, absurd. ”

    True dat.

  98. Jennifer

    I support freedom of speech and expression. I really don’t understand why the City Council and Mayor would get to weigh in on the content of a production. Their only input should be the amount of resources that would need to be dedicated to the production and how it would impact neighborhoods, e.g. the filming schedule.

  99. Keith


    This is perhaps the idiotic icing on his incompetent cake. We haven’t had a long term TV production in the Bay Area since Nash Bridges. I work in film production and I live in Oakland. I guess my Mayor has no interest in helping me get work. If he really thinks that an HBO series would tarnish Oakland then he’s more of a foool than everyone thinks he is. I think I can speak for the majority of production workers here in the Bay Area when I say he’d better pull his head out of his @$$ and realize that landing this show woud be the one shining moment in his pitiful stint as Mayor.

  100. david fine

    One thing that really bothers me is to see Democrat Politicians actively engaging in censorship of art. These sorts of conditions exist in Oakland that are the subject of this series. To prevent a High Art series from shooting that deals with these issues stems from a fear of discussion of realities in Art. And it constitutes censorship.

    Brave up with regards to freedom of expression democrat friends in Oakland.
    And also let the revenue flow to Oakland and Bay Area film industry members and others throught the cash multiplier effect of production dollars spent here in a community with high unemployment and bankruptcy looming.

    david fine (II) imdb

  101. bennett hall

    Further, if you have not checked out International Blvd. lately on any given Saturday night, another clue may be not be apparent. Truth is, child prostitution is flourishing and the bad guys are everywhere – maybe this is just too close to the truth for our politicians?

    What they should really be afraid of is 60 minutes coming to town and exposing the truth, not the Hughes Brothers making a high-profile revenue generating arty HBO entertainment piece.

  102. Navigator


    Why has Oakland been blessed with this HBO series about a pimp? There a pimps and prostitutes in Los Angeles and also in San Francisco where Hollywood likes to shoot many of its productions. As a matter of fact, pimping and prostitution is a huge problem in just about every large city in the United States. This is not about “censoring” reality. This is about how much negative publicity one single city, who has basically no media, and is at the mercy of a competing city across the Bay which houses nearly every large media institution in the Bay Area, can take.

    As I wrote previously, If many of you in the local Film Industry can persuade the producers of this series to sit down with the City of Oakland and agree on some sort of criteria for the script, and agree on the number of man hours given to Oakland residents, along with agreeing on the number of hotel rooms reserved IN OAKLAND, then, and only then, the additional negativity brought on the city by this series may be outweighed by the additional revenue to the local economy. This is the only way I can see this as being a positive for Oakland

  103. Navigator

    That’s funny Max! I love a good joke.

    I plan on keeping on singing about this. It’s important Max. Please join me in the chorus.

  104. Roger Hall

    Objecting to this show is like objecting to reality. Oakland is Oakland, warts and all. I find it bordering on insanity that the mayor and other city leaders object. The Wire did great things for Baltimore and we know what the Sopranos did for NJ.

    Call the Mayor and tell him to issue the permits!

    (510) 444.CITY (2489)

    Just because he wants to live with his head in the sand it doesn’t mean the rest of us do.

  105. m.

    The only problem here is this is the Hughes Brothers. NOT the producers of The Wire. They LOVE crime/pimping etc… They WILL glorify it. So even though it may bring long needed revenue back to Oakland, we really don’t need this image right now. I HIGHLY doubt it will be a balanced or honest look at prostitution/pimping.

    If you don’t believe me, just watch their other movies.

  106. jason halley

    Oakland Needs this Show.
    I am a resident of Oakland DGA union-member and I need this show and so do many many other residents of Oakland.

    Don’t you know how much money it spent as a direct result of FILM PRODUCTION? The benefits are both immediate and long-term. I don’t get your argument in regards to your image of Oakland. This is Oakland- and Oakland’s image will always live in the shadow of San Francisco…. Look at NYC and New Jersey and the drama’s made about them.

    Another thing that you don’t realize is that if the Producer’s want to make this show about “Gentlemen of Leisure” they are going to make it. And Mayor Dellums- this could mean going to Vancouver again…. and again… and yet again…

  107. jason halley

    Oakland Needs this Show.
    We all do here, especially in these troubled times. We cannot turn anything down to employ Oakland residents. You of all people certainly know all the benefits of having a production such as this would mean to this area. I get tired of hearing the same old “Nash Bridges” stories from “Coneman” Ed- I love Ed, but “Nash” is old and currently in syndication.
    Regardless of where “Gentlemen of Lesure” is shot…its going to be produced and it better be here in Oakland and not in its “Photo Double” of a city known as Vancouver… and that’s Canada.


  108. MayB/JuanC

    If certain political leadrers are so concerned about media industry portrayals of Oakland, shall I assume they’ve contacted all record labels (large and small) requesting that they cease producing and releasing ALL product from Oakland-based rappers who talk about pimps, hos, gangs, drugs, etc.? Can anyone confirm and/or ask that for me? Thanks.

  109. Ed Howard

    Tell me what’s going on? Below is a similar situation in Oakland that we can’t get a possitive response from the city.

    Hello Mackites, East, West, North Oaklanders and all who supported my open letter to Ron Dellums, Mayor of Oakland.

    Over 400 of you have responded to my request for the City of Oakland to support the McClymond’s Defermery Park Annual Picnic (MDPAP). I am sorry to report that the organizer of the picnic, Sue Wilkerson, has not been contacted or received any support from the city as of this date.

    Over the last 17 years, Sue Wilkerson has managed and paid out of her personal pocket for the picnic. The picnic has become so successful that it is pulling Oaklanders back to Oakland from all over California and across the United States. The picnic is creating money for the City of Oakland. We rent hotels, eat in restaurant, buy gas, visit churches, shop at stores, go to movies theaters, ball games, etc. There is no group of Black people in Oakland more authentic to the history of Oakland than the people who come to the MDPAP.

    Why isn’t the city of Oakland providing some assistance to the MDPAP event that is rooted in its history and created by the people who really lived its history? Why isn’t the City Oakland reaching out to the people who are responsible for breaking down the closed doors of opportunity and opening them up for everyone in Oakland today? The city reaches out to the Mexican community and helped upgrade East 14th Street/International Blvd Fruitvale area. I respect the Mexican politician for pushing the city to give assistance to his community. The Asian community definitely gets their share, I read about it in the newspaper all the time. The Caucasian people always get their share.

    Something is wrong with this picture. The MDPAP is an Oakland Black cultural event that we have created for the last 17 years and have not asked the city for a dime to support us. (More updates coming).

    We will not be disrespected. The positive image we are creating for Oakland’s Black community is good for Oakland and good for us.

    Ed H