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Editor's Note: The owner of Chloe's Cafe at 1399 Church Street sent the Voice this reminiscence, prompted by the loss of a film star and friend.
The Journey from "Dirty Dancing" to Chloe's Cafe
Before my wife Melania Kang and I opened Chloe's Cafe in 1987, we had a motion-picture catering business. We would go "on location" throughout the nation with production companies to provide food for the cast and crew for the duration of the "shoot," which generally lasted from four to six weeks.
We primarily worked with two companies, one based out of New York and the other out of Los Angeles. Athough we mainly worked on small budget films (American Playhouse on PBS, two Horton Foote films, an ABC production), we also did some larger features: Robert Altman's Streamers and the Coen brothers' Raising Arizona.
In August of 1986, the New York company called and asked if we'd like to do a five-week shoot starting the third week in September in Lake Lure, North Carolina. About the same time, we got a call asking us to cater a John Sayles movie. I liked his films and had heard that it was an enjoyable experience to work with him. However, we decided to go with the New York crew because we'd worked with them before. They said the film was going to be a "boy-girl love story" titled Dirty Dancing.
We flew to North Carolina a week before the project started to arrange for the logistics. Upon arriving, we went to the production office to greet old friends and get a copy of the shooting schedule. When we walked in, I glanced at the black-and-white photographs on the wall to see who was in the cast. There was a photo of Patrick Swayze. I had known Patrick since he was 14 years old. I had attended Waltrip High School in Houston, and had been good friends with his older sister throughout high school and college. I had worked with his mother, Patsy, on many local dance and theater productions, helping her with everything from lighting to sound and scenery.
After the first day of filming, Patrick and I shared many memories about his family. I gave him my address in San Francisco to give to his sister. On the set, and throughout the filming, Patrick was always cordial and easygoing with everyone he worked with. Overall, it was a fun project to have worked on.
Two weeks after the film wrapped, I received a letter from Patrick's sister, Vicky. It was great to hear from her. She was living in Simi Valley in Southern California and teaching dance classes at her mother's studio.
Dirty Dancing was to be our final project for catering movies. My wife and I had decided to open a cafe in San Francisco. We had been traveling a lot, and now wanted to establish a business and settle down.
We explored many different neighborhoods and looked at many different spaces for rent, until we finally found a tiny deli in Noe Valley that had been closed for six months. It didn't have a stove, but the rent was $475 per month. Noe Valley had a really good feel to us, and we liked the space, so we bought it to open our breakfast and lunch place. That was 22 years ago.
Recently, I was saddened to hear about Patrick's death. I thought about him and his family, and about how working on Dirty Dancing had enabled us to open Chloe's.
Thank you for publishing Bruce Sherman's obituary by James Koehneke. Some 200 people attended the memorial, which was a bittersweet farewell with song, music, and tear-filled testimonies.
I submit this prose "Verbal Equinox," which began with the death of Adam Lanier (Ruth Asawa's son) and with the attending of too many memorials. I read the piece and dedicated it to Adam Lanier, William Albert Lanier, Richard Knight, Jack Ertola, and Bruce Sherman--all standard-bearers and honorable Noe Valley residents.
When I was younger man dreams of sailing ships and riding horses were the only reality that filled my soul. And pine needles and grass growing kingdoms in the sidewalk were the only distraction I needed. In my youth the center of my story was an island inhabited by a crusty sailor.
I visited him every summer and he taught me to sail rough waters, but he was frail. I never knew where the stories he told me separated the shadow that ended the song of his ancestors. As I bonded with the old sailor, he said all his life he battled an evil bear that put its victims to sleep with responsibility, and the world's troubles.
The old seaman said the only escape from the bear was to never forget the abundance, which was always in front of you. Some entered the monastery, which was pointless, because you're already in one from the moment of your birth. One day the old man departed in a violent storm, and like droplets reclaimed by the sun even his sloop vanished in the mist of forgotten record. It was that, that made him a sailor of the old school. On the day the bear came to collect the old sailor, I knew he too had passed into verbal equinox, and I made a grievous noise.
Henry S. Trout
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THE NOE VALLEY VOICE
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The Noe Valley Voice is an independent newspaper published monthly except in January and August. It is distributed free in Noe Valley and vicinity, on or before the first Friday of the month. Subscriptions are available at $30 per year ($25 for seniors) by writing to the above address.
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December /January Issue: Nov. 20, 2009
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Sally Smith, Jack Tipple
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS AND EDITORS
Olivia Boler, Last Page Editor
Corrie M. Anders, Associate Editor
Heidi Anderson, Associate Editor
Karol Barske, Helen Colgan, Chrissy Elgersma,
Jan Goben, Liz Highleyman, John Hohulin,
Laura McHale Holland, Florence Holub, Tim Innes, Jeff Kaliss, Doug Konecky, Pat Rose, Roger Rubin, Shayna Rubin, Lorraine Sanders, Karen Topakian, Kate Volkman, Heather World, Alaish Wren
Pamela Gerard, Photo Editor
Beverly Tharp, Senior Photographer
Jan Brittenson, Najib Joe Hakim, Leo Holub,
Ken Newman, Paula Whitehead
Jon Elkin, Sally Smith, Jack Tipple
Misha Yagudin, Jack Tipple
Jon Elkin, Elliot Poger
Steve Steinberg, Advertising Manager
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Contents ©2009 The Noe Valley Voice
The Voice apologizes for these errors in the October 2009 issue:
* In the story headlined "Garden Group Scouts Out Help from Volunteers," a photo portraying a newly planted garden at the Noe ValleySally Brunn Library carried the wrong credit. Lisa Erdos should have received credit for the photograph.
* In "A Refuge from the Road," about a new minipark and plaza at Guerrero and 28th streets, the square footage of the park was incorrectly stated as 11,000 square feet. The actual size is 9,000 square feet. Also, Jane Martin of Shift Design Studio was misidentified as a landscape architect. She is an architect and landscape designer.
* Finally, our Halloween story's mention of St. Philip School may have given some readers the impression that the children in our Halloween photos were students at the school on Elizabeth Street. In fact, the costumed kids in the photos were from Adda Clevenger School on Fair Oaks Street. Thank you, Ben Harrison, headmaster at Adda Clevenger, for letting us know who those happy celebrants were.