Be thankful Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen are bringing the party to San Francisco 

Let’s face it, if you choose to dwell along an earthquake fault, you can expect life to be a little edgy. So we can understand the concerns about tremors, tsunamis and radiation.

But the first real sign of the apocalypse came when it was announced Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen would be holding nearly back-to-back live shows in San Francisco.

Could the magic have returned — just one more time?

For years now, San Francisco has been pushing against its own feisty fabric, quietly removing the spontaneous traits and cultural leanings that once made it America’s epicenter of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

The city that spawned impromptu concerts in Golden Gate Park by the likes of Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead decided over time to take the fun and regulate it. Almost everything that attracts people to San Francisco now requires a permit. Things we once took for granted are now prohibited.

Just this week, a San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee voted to ban the distribution of commercial phone books. State officials cracked down on infused drinks made with fruit and vegetables. And those fast-food kids’ meal toys — forget it, even if one supervisor was made to look like a fool on national television for coming up with the idea.

But just because a city is allegedly filled with smart people doesn’t mean individuals always do smart things. San Francisco is just not that innocent.

A mass of young people descended on the Entertainment Commission this week in support of late-night electronic music gatherings, which were banned from public buildings after one person died of a drug overdose at a rave last year. People who take drugs know the risks (or should), yet trying to legislate behavior is about as effective as telling smokers they should quit.

The town that treated Halloween almost as a national holiday — with huge parties on Polk and Castro streets — whittled it down to one event. Then after a random shooting, it was snuffed out entirely. City officials offered to move it to a parking lot — a parking lot — but that plan died naturally because no one was interested.

But now we have Britney and Charlie, one in post-meltdown mode trying to rehabilitate her career while the other is in a full-frontal froth, caving in the No. 1 network TV comedy show in the country. Why San Francisco? Because it’s crazy, or at least it was, back when music and partying were still front and center. Remember when U2 played a free concert at the Vaillancourt Fountain? It’s almost unimaginable that could happen today.

Having Britney, a former fixture in Disney’s chain of squeaky-clean pop stars, perform in front of the Castro Theatre on Sunday (officials say weather, however, could move the show to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium) for a concert airing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday is like having Keith Richards play in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral — without the dancing. She’s here to promote the release of her new album “Femme Fatale” — which seems so much more Bette Davis, but with the dancing. Some Castro merchants have complained about the planned street closure, but really isn’t this what the Castro is all about?

Sheen’s appearance here seems more fitting for a strip club, but still fits in the train-wreck class that San Francisco used to embrace. If it involves booze and bizarre behavior, just turn on the vacancy sign. More stars probably show up in Indian casinos for the easy allotment of cash than they do in major cities these days. And while San Francisco is still a mecca for major performing arts, who would you rather see at Davies Symphony Hall, Sly and the Family Stone or Mahler?

When it comes to celebrities, San Francisco isn’t the only city that needs some rehab. There was a time when seemingly every television show wanted to film here, and it was Alfred Hitchcock’s personal paradise. Now we get a lame series like “Fairly Legal,” but only for the exterior shots. The show is taped in Canada. Man, that hurts.

So we need Britney to bring us back to the groove, and Charlie for the next eruption.

We gave the world free love — now it needs to send some back.

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Ken Garcia

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