Bob Pritikin, author of “Christ was an Ad Man,” is a testament to his book.
Quick, witty, quixotic, humorous, incisive, he maintains long and deep friendships with some of The City’s finest — Angela Alioto, Bella Farrow — and still manages to have a bang-up annual Labor Day party for 850 on the lawns of his home, Chenery House, the largest private property in San Francisco. If Bob were a color, he’d be charismatic carnelian.
Bob was born in Chicago — “raised in Chicago, lowered in L.A,” he says — and was graduated from UCLA. In the military for four years, he was a wunderkind in the ad business, rising to the top ranks of Young & Rubicam before forming his own major agency, Pritikin & Gibbons.
He taught at S.F. State, built the Mansions hotel on Sacramento Street (replete with a ghost and home for a time to Barbra Streisand and Robin Williams), then incorporated a magic show: “Pritikin Squished Eyeball Theater (World Class Magic with a Touch of Terror).”
He found his current property 25 years ago and constructed an elegant, expansive, extravagant edifice that’s part Southern plantation, part party house, all rife with the kinetic, exuberant, dash of fun and bon vivant joie de vivre that characterizes the owner and host. The artwork alone is estimated at over $40 million.
The major features of the house: the grand staircase; giant crystal chandelier; San Simeon-style second-floor swimming pool; capacious, 18-foot-high second-floor parlor; San Francisco “heart” exterior sculpture; “Burning Man Tree” from Las Vegas. A falling stream and bucolic fountains are oversize and all-encompassing on their own.
His Labor Day parties are renowned. He’s just had his 15th — and, he says, his last — featuring Bob Weir, one of the co-founders of the Grateful Dead. While Weir or Pritikin played (Pritikin’s a pianist and noted as the world’s foremost concert saw player) a crowd that ranges from rockers to socialites, from locals to European visitors and paparazzi, danced and dined in the afternoon sun.
A minute with Bob Pritikin counts as a month with anyone else. The man is time-compressed energy. He’s a blast, going Mach 2 or 3 most of the time — and I interviewed him when he was recovering from the flu.
More than anything else, Bob is a man of deep commitment. His work with Angela Alioto to promote a replica of the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi in North Beach is a proud moment. The man’s smiles are gold. The rest is gravy.