Gay-rights activists have denounced the re-nomination of Lorenzo Hoopes to the Paramount Theatre's board of directors because the 96-year-old former president of the Mormon Temple was Oakland's leading contributor to Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage initiative. While it appears that the city council won't approve him, history suggests that there are other reasons to question his qualifications.
As we reported in 2007, the nonprofit board, which operates on behalf of the city-owned facility, has long been criticized for being blithely out of touch and lacking industry knowledge. At least two members — Hoopes included — are in their nineties, and have been on the board since its inception in 1973.
Former board member Rene Boisvert argued that the largely self-perpetuating board wasn't nearly proactive enough in making the historic theater a thriving venue. He was responsible for ending the city's yearly subsidy of the theater (between $150,000 and $300,000 annually), because he believed it could be self-sufficient. He believed that the theater could benefit from sponsorships, increased marketing, increased beverage sales, and producing more of its own shows. Yet board members — Hoopes included — rejected Boisvert's recommendations and eventually booted him off.
While Hoopes has been devoted to the Paramount for decades (he was involved in the fund-raising that helped restore the theater), some of his beliefs may have cost the Paramount revenue. In 2002, Boisvert convinced the board to pay for a study on possible sponsorships. According to the report, the opportunities were worth more than $400,000 per year. But in an interview at the time of our story, Hoopes called Boisvert's ideas "completely impractical." He said he hoped to increase the theater's sale of beverages but stopped short of allowing patrons to take drinks into the theater. He called the Paramount "primarily a rental building" and said that being a producer was "risky business." "We don't do that," he said, adding that the Paramount's classic movie series was an exception. "We get our income from renting or movie classics," he said.
Bay Area Musicians to Aid Haiti
With the earthquake in Haiti all the news, Bay Area musicians are coming together to donate to the cause. At least four benefit shows have been announced so far (and we're sure there are many more). SILA, Bayonics, Native Elements, Joe Bagala, J-Boogie, Non-Stop Bhangra, and others will perform at "SF Hearts Haiti" at the Independent on Wednesday, January 27. Tickets for the show will cost $10, and 100 percent of the proceeds from the door will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. Money from the door at Sila's Thursday-night residency at Coda, "Sahara," also will be donated.
Two benefits at Ashkenaz: Haitian-born, Oakland-based Afro-Caribbean band Kalbass Kreyol will headline a show on Thursday, January 28, at Ashkenaz (8 p.m., $10+). Proceeds from the show will go to the Haitian Emergency Relief Fund. The following week, Bay Area-based, Afro-Caribbean fusion group Lakay, led by Mystic Man, and the Haitian dance troupe Rara Fusion will play a show, which will start with an Afro-Haitian dance lesson. The event happens Saturday, February 6. 8:30 p.m., $13 and up.
Latin jazz artists will stage a benefit concert on February 28, 3 to 8 p.m., at Pier 23 Café. Performers include Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco, Sandy Cressman & Sombra y Luz, Ray Obiedo and Mambo Caribe, the Bay Area Latin Jazz All-Stars, Anthony Blea, Ray Obiedo, Jesus Diaz, John Santos, Wayne Wallace, and many more. Tickets cost $25 and all proceeds will go to Sionfonds for Haiti.
Anna's Jazz Island Closes
In early January, downtown Berkeley jazz club Anna's Jazz Island announced it was closing. In a written statement, owner Anna de Leon cited issues with the developer of her venue on Allston Way — including "rowdy and disruptive events" next door at the Gaia Arts Center — as well as the desire on behalf of a new owner of the building to terminate her lease. San Francisco's Marsh Theater is taking over the entire two lower floors of the Gaia Building, and held its first show there last week. This may not be the end of the longstanding jazz venue, however. De Leon wrote: "We are now looking for a new space and a new partner, somebody who loves jazz, to participate in opening a new venue."
First Lady Michelle Obama told People Magazine that the Oakland R&B singer Ledisi is one of her favorite artists on her iPod. ... CNN announced it was launching two new online video series with Vice Magazine's VBS.TV and Sub Pop Records. The former will feature VBS.TV's content on CNN.com, while the latter will be a video tour diary in Asia with the Handsome Furs. ... Leopold and His Fiction have returned to the studio to record its third album, which will be produced by Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Little Joy, Vetiver). ... String-metal trio Judgement Day will release a new album, Peacocks/Pink Monsters on April 13, the follow-up to 2004's Dark Opus. ... WHY? drummer Josiah Wolf tries the solo gig on a new effort on Anticon, Jet Lag, to be released March 2. ... Rogue Wave takes a left turn for its new album, Permalight, which features "club beats." The album releases March 2. ... February marks the start of the fifth annual RPM Challenge, which challenges musicians to produce a record (10 songs or 35 minutes long) in 28 days. The East Bay Express will host a listening party on March 27 (venue TBA). Register at RPMChallenge.com.