Gap founder a joker at heart

In the days since his death, Gap Inc. co-founder Don Fisher is finally receiving his due for being a civic giant in San Francisco. And it’s heartening to know that The City will remain home to he and his wife’s priceless art collection — a gift that his critics appeared willing to sacrifice.

Fisher did make many enemies in his role as a corporate titan, and there’s little secret of his disdain for the “progressive” politics he believed were ruining his beloved hometown. But he was not without a sense of humor, to which I can personally attest.

How funny and devilish could he be? He once tried to get me to run for supervisor.

Fisher steadfastly declined to be quoted in the press, but he wasn’t shy about summoning — there really isn’t any other word — those journalists who he believed could help him. And so it was a few years back that I received a call saying “Mr. Fisher” would like to speak to me.

He proceeded to tell me how there were those in town who believed they needed a “big name” to help defeat Supervisor Chris Daly, the bombastic bad boy who shouted about the evils of nameless corporations with the ease that others used to sip warm coffee.

Many thoughts came to mind, including the old joke about not wanting to join a club that would have me as a member. But, the idea of running a native-son campaign against a rambling arriviste like Daly did have its undeniable appeal.

When Fisher assured me, however, that I would have the backing of the entire downtown business community, I snapped back to reality. Any candidate with the backing of the downtown business community would be doomed, no matter what.

Besides, I had the best job in town and I could make the steam rise out of Daly’s ears without ever having to debate him (saving the campaign from the costs for a personal security team.)

The focus turned to Rob Black, who fought hard but lost out in Daly’s carefully gerrymandered district.

Black recovered nicely with a downtown business job. Daly went on to become Fairfield’s most famous landlord. And Fisher went on to other fights on other fronts.

Just you wait till Sunday for this pop show

Anyone who can come up with a song titled “You’re With Stupid Now” deserves serious attention. That’s why singer-songwriter Aimee Mann will get more than her fair share when she plays at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park on Sunday.

Mann has been hailed by critics as one of the world’s premier pop writers, penning lush, lyrical songs about friends and relationships with heartbreak and humor. And, as it turns out, she’s just funny.

When I asked her if she knew what to expect from the festival, which attracts about 500,000 people, she exclaimed mock horror.

“Will they have clowns in the audience?” she said. “I’ll bet they’ll have a dream-catcher booth.”

Mann has been nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and numerous Grammys for her songs, which often combine bleak, poetic images with dreamy, infectious choruses. And she’s been doing it since she fronted a punk band in Boston in the early 1980s that led to the formation of ’Til Tuesday and its first hit, “Voices Carry.”

“We were playing art-rock noise during a period where we felt that if you had heard this before, we weren’t going to play it again,” she said. “It was kind of like a revolt to start doing melodic pop after that.”

Her songs have been called “mini masterpieces,” not unlike the three-minute Beatles tunes to which they have been compared.

Don’t expect any Dead covers — or banjos — just a lot of wit and passion weaved amid pop guitars.

We know you’re running, so cut the games, Jerry

Not long after Mayor Gavin Newsom challenged his would-be Democratic primary counterpart for governor to a series of debates, California Attorney General Jerry Brown had his camp say that he’s not officially a candidate.

Instead, they wanted everybody to know that the founders of DreamWorks, including mega-Hollywood powers Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, would be holding a fundraiser for Brown. And take that Newsom, who is having President Bill Clinton out next week to do some glad-handing for him.

I like Brown personally and have known him for years, but I have to say this peekaboo candidacy is annoying. He can raise more money for governor when he actually jumps into the race, so why pretend? So he can go after the culprits who killed Anna Nicole Smith?

And that “make nice” pledge Democratic Party officials want Newsom and Brown to sign? Sure, no problem.

If only voting were run like online auctions

Meg Whitman made her fortune running a sort of public auction, so it’s no wonder she’s trying to play the “Big Spin.”

You would too if your credibility was so low you couldn’t even auction it off on eBay.

The Republican candidate for governor has been doing her best to try to explain away her lack of a voting record (she wasn’t registered to vote before 2002 and there’s no record she was a registered Republican before 2007).

The Sacramento Bee first broke the story, and at a weekend GOP gathering she repeatedly refused to answer questions about her voting past.

But now, she’s telling anyone who will listen that the reason she didn’t vote was that she was so focused on her family that she had no time to do what ordinary folks do so routinely.

Oh, but when she took the reins at eBay she became inspired to get political because of all those government regulations — you know, the ones she’d be responsible for if she wins her bid to be governor.

We’ll give her credit for saying that her voting record is unacceptable. Her fact-challenged dance with the press wasn’t so pretty either.

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