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Two pills in a pod: Petrelis disrupts former Chron columnist Chuck Nevius’ stage show

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(Courtesy image)

On Guard column header Joe

When the titanic lizard Godzilla blasts the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah into oblivion with its laser breath in the 1991 classic, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, we the audience tend to root for Godzilla. Only a few scenes prior, King Ghidorah had established itself as the villain, gleefully blasting lightning at tall Japanese skyscrapers.

Though Godzilla is ostensibly the title character, and therefore the protagonist, it’s tough to truly choose a champion: Not ten minutes after knocking out its triple-crowned rival, Godzilla turns that same laser breath to Tokyo, leveling the city to the ground.

In a similar fashion, it was tough to know who to root for when watching San Francisco’s infamous pain-in-the-keister, Michael Petrelis, disrupt the stage show (yes, stage show!) of former pain-in-the-keister San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chuck Nevius, in what was a decidedly non-Godzilla level disaster just this past Friday night.

Mid-performance, Petrelis hopped up to Nevius’ face and shouted him down on-stage at the Marsh during a press screening of his show “THE OAKLAND RAIDERS, TRUE CRIME, & COMING OF AGE IN SF,” which plays through December 15, Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., with tickets from about 20-35 bucks.

After seeing the clash I’ve got to say it’s hard to decide — who is the more intolerable pill?

The first man, Petrelis, is a noted attention-seeker who once followed State Sen. Scott Wiener (then-supervisor) into a bathroom to photograph the politician’s, ahem, namesake. A restraining order followed, which led to the most one-sided debates you can imagine after Petrelis decided to run for District 8 supervisor against Wiener but wasn’t allowed within a particular radius of him.

On the other hand, he has done some tremendous work with public records, bringing former Mayoral Chief of Staff Steve Kawa’s own calendars to public light, among other officials. The squeaky wheel, right?

The second man, Nevius, led a one-man misinformation crusade against the homeless of San Francisco. There are many dribs and drabs of knowledge journalists must and do learn about homelessness in this city, and our job is often to translate this information to readers and dispel their assumptions about our housing crisis, to truly assault assumptions that harm real progress. Heather Knight, in particular, does God’s work at the Chronicle at debunking these rumors — but Chuck Nevius ain’t Heather Knight. Not even close.

Hell, good ol’ Chuck decidedly took the opposite route in his column as matter of course, actively playing into people’s worst fears, feeding their worst assumptions, and honoring their worst impulses, explaining homelessness using his “common sense” with little grounding in fact. Shooting from the hip with little care can make for a snappy sports writer, Chuck’s previous calling for some 20 years, but are among the worst qualities for a news columnist.

Which leads us back to Friday night at The Marsh.

Petrelis climbed the stage and, in video he uploaded to Facebook, demanded, “Why were you so hateful to the homeless? It’s time to hold Chuck Nevius accountable for his evil attitude toward the homeless!”

To which Chuck replied, “You’re ruining my show, dude!”

Petrelis: “He used his perch three times a week to spread evil about the homeless people, about renters, —” then a woman tried to grab his phone. “You’re wasting my time, you’re wasting my money,” she said.

(Based on photos of subsequent shows, I believe she’s a tech with The Marsh).

“Don’t touch me!” Petrelis continued, as audience members hopped up to convince him to leave.

“This is San Francisco, we disrupt things!” Petrelis shouted to the crowd, as he walked off stage.

For his part, Chuck wrote on Facebook that the audience thought Petrelis’ theatrics were part of the show. He critiqued Petrelis’ pronunciation of his name, “It’s pronounced KNEE-vee-us. Effective heckling requires that you get your pronunciations straight,” he wrote. And, he wrote, “this guy totally tipped the balance” of his crowd’s mood, and had them “behind me from that moment on. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s the best audience of the run so far.”

After reading that, my eyes rolled nearly permanently to the back of my skull. Godzilla and King Ghidorah were at least pelted by missiles from a fictional Japanese military. Who’s going to save us from Petrelis vs. Nevius?

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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