Arnold Schwarzenegger made his first state visit to San Francisco last evening, rolling up to the diplomatic entrance of City Hall in a progress of security vehicles that Gray Davis never needed. Not that Arnold is the object of hostility. As the scene inside the old Municipal Palace attested, Arnold – and, of course, the glam Maria – are super stars. People want to be close to them.
Arnold swept through the foyers and ascended the landing of the grand staircase in the rotunda, turned and faced a crowd of the well turned out – some of them almost as glam and swank as Maria Shriver. “I am here,” he told this crowd of 500 San Franciscans led by Willie Brown, “on my first official visit to San Francisco to take action … on reducing the huge budget deficit I have inherited. … To that end, tomorrow morning, we are auctioning off two or three million dollars of Willie Brown’s extra clothes.”
Brilliant opening. Huge roar of laughter from the crowd of San Franciscans which ranged from Nob Hill’s Margo de Wildt to Telegraph Hill defender Aaron Peskin … Boz Scaggs to Warren Hinckle … Val Diamond to Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom … Ronnie Lott to Stanlee Gatti … incoming DA Kamala Harris to outgoing Police Chief Alex Fagan … Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Denise Hale … A few more Big Leaguers, Ed Moose … Leah Garchik … Party Doll Jeannette Etheredge … Those two “never say die!” Democrats, Linda Corso and Ambassador Jim Hormel … Carolyn Carpeneti, whose charming daughter, Sydney Minetta Brown, waved to her father as he ran the show … Wilkes Bashford and Joe O’Donoghue, of whom San Francisco has no better friends … Good Sport Dennis Herrera and Voice of Common Sense Tony Hall. … The two Harrys of High Spots: Denton and de Wildt ... The fantastic Daniela Faggioli, leader of San Francisco’s European Community … Martha Cohen and Ron Vinson … Chic Eleanor and Richard Johns … Oh, and those were just the people hanging around the bar. …
In places of honor: Mayor Art Agnos … Gina Moscone … Kevin Shelley … Kathleen Sullivan Alioto (her son, Patrick, the remarkable, smiling image of his beloved father, Mayor Joseph Alioto) … Mayor George Christopher’s soignée sisters … and did I mention Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and George Shultz?
Governor Schwarzenegger saluted Secretary Shultz. “George Shultz is my economics advisor,” said Arnold, “Some advisor. He’s the man who advised me to spend $65 million to run for a job that pays $175 thousand.” …
Arnold was a huge hit, but he and the 500 who came out on a Sunday night – San Franciscans’ traditional night ‘at home’ – came out not to just to wiffle down a wassail or two, but to enact a surprise. A surprise decreed by Willie Brown, a man who truly knows how to throw a do.
The surprised guest – and the only person who could draw such disparate San Franciscans together cheerily, even during the holidays -- was Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, the City’s Chief of Protocol, Chief Partygiver, and tireless enthusiast of San Francisco.
It’s hard to surprise Charlotte. She knows everybody and knows how to draw everybody out. As her husband told me, “When Willie told me he wanted to do this, I told him I wasn’t sure it was possible to keep a secret from Charlotte. After all, she knows every cop in the City. She knows every doorman in the City.”
Willie swore the cops to oaths of secrecy and to keep the hotel doormen, the most voluble guys in town, in on the deal; he had them all come to the party. The diplomatic entrance to the hall last night was lined with the liveried doorkeepers, from the beefeaters of the Sir Francis Drake to the admirals of the Fairmont.
Charlotte has been running the protocol office at City Hall for seven mayors, but more importantly, she’s been running parties for San Franciscans, one and all, in all that time. It’s the mark of a good hostess to make every guest feel welcome. But only Charlotte Shultz could throw a party for an entire city and make every citizen, from the toniest to the shyest, from the most connected to the most isolated, from the ‘born-and-raised’ San Franciscan to the one who hasn’t even had a moment to doff her backpack, not only welcome, but integral.
Charlotte has tossed victory parades for the ‘49ers … celebrations for Herb Caen … bonanzas for bridges. And did you know that when Charlotte tossed the gala for the Golden Gate Bridge, more than a million people swarmed the bridge, and -- now it can be told – while the mass marched on the bridge, the span actually dropped, lowered itself? Engineers feared a disaster. But just as Charlotte managed to make the Queen of England smile, she managed to keep the span’s supporting wires humming. She made the bridge a part of the party.
So last night, George Shultz told his wife that, enroute to a dinner at the home of those classy citizens Lucy and Fritz Jewett, they had to stop at City Hall to “talk to Willie about a celebration.” Good diplomat that the former Secretary of State is, he never tells a lie. He’s just careful.
So indeed they took off to the Hall. But at the state entrance, she saw the white marquee tents, the honor guard arranged by Chief Fagan, and the gauntlet of doormen in all their finery.
Then at the top of the stairs, she saw The Guv and the First Lady. She gasped. Arnold hugged her, took her by the arm, and they made a grand entrance into the rotunda where the 500 – your hoi astoi, your citizens of all trades who have contributed to celebrations, and all your representatives of official San Francisco.
(A Night to Remember Continues with descriptions of the guests, the show. Hit the link in the column to the left, near the top of the page, to Part II).