Yes, San Francisco has always been unique and you have heard about the old guy who crowned himself King, Alcatraz, the world's crookedest street, and all that. Here are a few current and now defunct sites from the City By The Bay...
Perhaps one of the more unusual gift ideas I have found comes from PaxtonGate.com. Artist Jeanie M. performs taxidermy miracles on mice and turns them into creepy little works of art. They sell for $38.00 and up and supposedly a thousand orders have gone out. Most feature a twisted religious bent, usually Catholic- nuns, priests, the Pope. Visit the site and poke around a bit, it's actually full of little marvels.
Here at Robot Nine strange ideas cross the desk without chemical enhancement, but for Mark McLoud a little L.S.D. always enhanced things. As intriguing as the drug were the colorful and original designs that the "blotter paper" featured, everything from The Grateful Dead to The Simpsons and the clown shown above, originally on a 1/4" piece of paper. McLoud began collecting neutralized, legal samples years ago and in 1987 his collection was presented at the San Francisco Art Institute and has since been featured in galleries around the world. Read this interesting article and then maybe Google can track down any future traveling exhibits.
Founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey, the Church of Satan was the first satanic group to be outwardly visible with a public profile, books such as The Satanic Bible, and now a website. At it's height the creepy chic of the all black guru of darkness attracted Sammy Davis, Jr., Jayne Mansfield, and Tina Louise as members.
Finocchio's was a famous draw from the 1930's all the way into the 1990's, famous for it's drag performers, or as they say "Finocchio's Fantasy of Fun and Frolic". Must have been a different world as the picture above looks like a man without quite enough work having been done to "simply slay" me. And what's a "rib artist" and why is he "society's favorite". Sorry, Robot Nine could not find the answers to these questions. One more thing, if you were going to be a drag performer wouldn't you be Jessica or Samantha Or Victoria. Even Sue. But Mr. Ted Hendrix? Strange.
Universal Life Church, a fantastic thorn in the side of organized religion and the I. R. S. Simply send in your name and address and become an ordained minister! Perform weddings, preside at funerals, say the invocation at the next presidential inauguration! Ordained ministers have included such leading lights as Wolfman Jack, Johnny Carson, Debbie Reynolds, Merle Haggard, Mae West, even President Lyndon B. Johnson. Open your own church and be tax free. Best have a good accountant tough as ULC has been to court several times with Uncle Sam- winning every battle. You might end up as pastor of a ten-thousand member mega-church. Just beware the drugs and male hookers!
In the basement of Cliff House in San Francisco you will find Musee Mecanique, a great collection of over 140 mechanical people and such that entertained carnival-goers for decades. These are rare and are maintained by the staff. When one breaks, parts have to be handcrafted on premises. Pictured above is Laughing Sal, a hideous five foot tall gal that cackles maniacally. Drop 50 cents in and watch small children cry. Great fun!
Romance author Danielle Steel owns an historic mansion in San Francisco that has 55 rooms. But when you have sold 550 million books that only comes to about ten million dollars per room. No problem! More fascinating than any boring old mansion is Steel herself. If you have read her work you might wonder where she comes up with such ludicrous, unlikely soap operas. Look no further than her own life. In short, she survived both polio AND cancer in childhood. At 18 she married a banker, Claude-Eric Lazard, had a daughter and a divorce. She met husband number two in a prison, convicted bank robber and rapist Danny Zugelder. Pregnant with Zugelders child she met a moving man, William Toth, divorced Zugelder and married Toth, who happened to be a burglar and recovering heroin addict. (Shall I go on?) Divorcing Toth, she moved up to rich guy John Traina, then divorced him for venture capitalist Tom Perkins. (At this point she has had more husbands than I have had dates!) Along the way throw in numerous scandals of abuse, lawsuits from former employees, and a son who died of a heroin overdose and you have all the makings of a Danielle Steel novel.
Ah, what could be lovelier than two little gnomes in the garden, swaying gently in the breeze on a swing. If you are Liz Spera, leader of the International Gnome Club, than a few dozen or a few hundred gnomes would only make things more... gnomelier? In this interesting article you can see how serious gnome lovers take their little friends, trying to strengthen laws on gnome theft! As a confession I have one of these little fellows at the front door. The little Satanic Bible he holds keeps the religious proselytizers from knocking.
Infantilism. More than just a word you remember seeing in a Psych textbook, for Tommy of San Francisco it's a lifestyle and a business called Diaper Pail Fetish that caters to 12,000 people that love their men in diapers. This one goes into the 'To Each His Own' category, and thanks to the Internet fellow babies can chat online about their fetish, exchange tips, meet friends, shop in privacy. Feeling entrepreneurial? Tommy has apparently reached an age where he can no longer manage the website and mail order business that has been profitable for years, and it is for sale! And yes, rather than post a pic of a man in diapers, Robot Nine went with the babe cartoon.
These sites are listed in the excellent book 'San Francisco Bizarro' by Jack Boulware. Dozens of other equally odd and fascinating places are detailed in the book. Order a copy or win mine in the Picture Puzzle as my copy is in the Robot Nine Reading Room!