S.F.’s iconic falcon returns to its perch

The glass case that sat empty on the second floor of iconic John’s Grill in San Francisco since the famed Maltese Falcon statuette was stolen in February, finally welcomed its caged bird home.

The statuette seemed irreplaceable and its loss irreparable when the icon — a copy of the prop that caused trouble for detective Sam Spade in the 1941 movie version of Dashiell Hammett’s novel “The Maltese Falcon” — was stolen along with several books signed by the writer.

But in a twist worthy only of a Hollywood film noir, the 100-year-old restaurant received a new 150-pound bronze falcon from the Academy of Art University. The unveiling of the statuette took place Friday; it will be placed in a new, secured case surrounded by video cameras.

The restaurant’s owner, John Konstin, received the statuette in the 1990s from the film’s last living actor, Elisha Cook Jr. To Konstin, the falcon was a loss that was more symbolic than financial. Nevertheless, Konstin put up a $25,000 reward for the bird but never got any leads.

A few months ago, he asked the Academy of Art’s director of sculpture, Peter Schifrin, to make him a bigger, better version of the bird.

“[The original copy] actually wasn’t a very good sculpture — it looked like a fat, middle-aged parrot,” said Schifrin. “We wanted to make a different bird, a San Francisco bird. So we made it more falcony, with falcotude.”

Schifrin researched the bird with his two interns, Zach Roberts and Ah Young Jeon, and sculpted the creature over the past month. It measures one-third bigger than the original.

At the unveiling celebration, John’s Grill served Sam Spade’s lamb chops with baked potato and sliced tomatoes, the way Hammett used to order them when he frequented the restaurant in the 1920s.

The writer’s granddaughter, Julie Rivett, said she was happy to see that the falcon is back in its place.

“I see that the falcon fever is contagious,” she said. “I’m glad it’s got a nest here at John’s Grill.”

At a nearby table, someone whispered, “When they rip this one off, the new one is gonna be even bigger.”

svasilyuk@examiner.com  

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A nurse draws up a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Mission neighborhood COVID-19 vaccine site on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF expands vaccine eligiblity, but appointments ‘limited’

San Francisco expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday but appointments remain limited… Continue reading

The now-shuttered Cliff House restaurant overlooks Ocean Beach people at Ocean Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
History buffs working to keep Cliff House collection in public view

Funds needed to buy up historic building’s contents at auction

Perceived supply and demand in the Bay Area’s expensive rental market can play a big part in determining what people pay. (Shutterstock)
Bay Area rental market rebound — why?

Hearing about people leaving town can have as big an effect as actual economic factors

AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, center, says the band has been “lucky” throughout its long career. <ins>(Courtesy Josh Cheuse)</ins>
AC/DC’s Angus Young: We ‘keep it basic’

Rockers’ 17th album is ‘Power Up’

Federal legislation would require more highway funding to go toward bike lanes, bus stops and street safety improvements. (Shutterstock)
Federal legislation would direct more money toward street safety

Safe street infrastructure might soon become a national priority, pending passage of… Continue reading

Most Read