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Ghoulish Activity

from Benicia’s Colorful Past

Fashion Weekend

Draws Runway Stars & Designer Icons

Behind the Scenes with

Benicia Old Town Theatre Group • 1

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3rd Annual Benicia Fashion Weekend

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Benicia Magazine OCTOBER VOLUME 6 ISSUE 12

9 10 10

Printing Sustainably

From the Editor Feedback


9 Just For Kids 12 Interview with Elizabeth d’Huart Executive Director, Benicia Historical Museum

14 Currents

Electric Cars to be Assembled in Benicia Winter Vegetable Gardens Fashion Noir

19 What’s on the Web 25 Fashionista A Tribute to Designer Icon Betsey Johnson


Features 16

Repetitive Ghoulish Activity


The Ghosts of Benicia’s Past

What’s in a Play?


Benicia Old Town Theatre Group Still Going Strong After 94 Productions

Key Pieces:

Fall’s Must-have Wardrobe Expanders

30 Looking Back

Head Case: 1950’s Fashionable Hats

32 Listening

Live Music & Local Musicians

34 October Events

Top photo: Crooks Mansion by Tom Bowles circa 1950 Cover: Benicia Depot, by Jerry Bowles

6 • Benicia Magazine


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Contributing Writers magazine Dan Clark Elizabeth d’Huart Beth Steinmann Christina Strawbridge Sue Sumner-Moore

Benicia Magazine is published monthly by Polygon Publishing, LLC. Copyright © 2011, all rights reserved. Contents of Benicia Magazine cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without the written consent of the publisher. Opinions expressed in Benicia Magazine editorial or advertisements are those of the authors and advertisers, and may not reflect the opinion of Benicia Magazine’s management or publisher. Subscriptions $18.00 per year. Benicia Magazine, P.O. Box 296, Benicia, CA 94510. 707.853.5226,


What makes a printing process green? Being a green company is very important to us. Our printer has demonstrated a commitment to green printing practices. Some of these include: —Vegetable and soy inks, in a composition that allows them to dry faster and at lower temperatures, reducing energy and fuel consumption and allowing the printer to use the Soy Compliance logo —State-of-the-art, energy-positive emissions system, far beyond state and federal guidelines —Carrier water-cooled screw chiller with a modern cooling tower enabling “free” cooling to all equipment when the outdoor temperature is below 50 degrees —“On demand” compressor/vacuum system, which reduces the amount of electricity required by 75% while still meeting demands —Plate making system that virtually eliminates all chemicals from the process of making plates —All paper waste is 100% recycled —Certification by the Forest Stewardship Council

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From the Editor

Photo by Lisa Duncan

We always strive to bring readers the latest and greatest in editorial, photography and sustainability. But it came as a surprise that, a few weeks after we published an article on the treasure-hunting game called geocaching, the Wall Street Journal ran a similar article in their Bay Area section. Oh, what fun to let the mind run wild and imagine that the Journal’s Bay Area correspondent, Stu Woo, saw our article and deemed the topic worthy of their ink! Then again, perhaps it’s not as far-fetched as it seems, we recently received validation for our mailings outside of Benicia. Last year the City’s tourism program sent advertising about our town to television and radio outlets, and Sunset, Diablo, San Francisco, Oakland and Benicia Magazines. They tracked responses with questionnaires distributed to visitor centers and stores all over town, asking visitors how they heard about us. Over 1,000 forms were filled out, which the city collected and evaluated. About half of the respondents checked the category “Other.” From the media buys, Sunset Magazine, who had recently done a story on Benicia, garnered the most responses (21.45%), and Benicia Magazine came in second (11.26%). Diablo came in third (4.85%), radio spots, fourth (4.29%), TV commercials, fifth (2.68%) and San Francisco and Oakland Magazines had 2.41% and 1.88% respectively. Our team is proud of the fact that visitors attributing Benicia Magazine as their information source came from thirteen cities in four different states: California, New York, Minnesota and Hawaii. Our distribution is unique: 96% of our printed copies are mailed to homes and businesses. Most are sent to Benicia, but each month we also mail to selected high-income homes

in Glen Cove and Green Valley. Also, on a rotating monthly basis, we mail to one of eight Contra Costa cities. Of course we want optimal exposure for our advertisers, but it seems the magazine is also playing a significant role in bringing tourists to Benicia. Back to the WS Journal article: it noted that, there were 75 geocaches in the world in the year 2000, and last month, the number had climbed to 1.5 million. In California alone there are 100,000 hidden geocaches, 500 of which are within five miles of downtown San Francisco. 500 caches within a few miles! How do we know this? Because geocaches are also tracked; on various websites. And if you missed our article, “Getting in on the Geocache Gold Rush” last month, you can search for it on our website, To find the Journal article, Google “Geocaching Players Treasure the Thrill of the Hunt.” On a final note, enjoy this month’s fashion features, and don’t miss Fashion Weekend’s big events. And I love how Benicia throws itself headlong into Halloween. Check it out, from ghosts and scarecrows to costumes and haunted houses. —Jeanne Steinmann Be the first one to comment on any article in this issue and win a pair of tickets to BOTTG’s new production, “The Voice of the Prairie.” Tweet, post or email your responses for next month’s Feedback column. Twitter: @beniciamagazine Magazine

Feedback Arts Coverage Thank you, on behalf of Arts Benicia, for including such

incredible coverage about the arts in the community (and surrounding communities)—our Auction, the Expanding Experiences event, the Fine Arts & Crafts Fair, and the di Rosa Preserve (not to mention the inclusion about the Historical Museum and the Calendar of Events). Benicia is fortunate to call your publication “our own.” —Susan Mann, World Events Client Development Manager & Arts Benicia Board President

New Size I love the new size of the magazine. It fits nicely on my coffee table!

10 • Benicia Magazine


Calendar listing brings new member

We just got a new Toastmaster member because of our calendar listing in the September issue. Thank you so much. —Windy Keefe

September articles Since I had complained about the lack of specifics about the Benicia Community Center in your previous edition, I wanted to write to compliment you on the September edition of Benicia Magazine. It had terrific articles, dates of events scheduled throughout town, and a wide spectrum of interesting tidbits. Great job! —Georgia Benedict

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Benicia’s third annual

Arbor Day Celebration Our Community, Our Trees City Park Saturday, October 15, 2011, 10am - 2pm Live music & tree care demos Guided tree walk Local art, craft, green products, & food Master gardeners Sustainability Commission California Native Plant Society Fall plant sale & much more! For more information: • 11

Photo by Lisa Duncan

An Interview with

Elizabeth d’Huart How did you decide to move to Madison, Georgia, after living in Europe for 20 years? Because of my background in interior design and flipping houses, I researched historic districts. I read the National Register of Historic Districts, I looked at their populations, their average income, whether or not there was a growing commuter base—and I learned the South is still growing. … So I read The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns in the South. Katrina hit while I was in Madison, and I decided I wasn’t going to live near an ocean. That evening I went into town and I learned that there was a chamber concert series, there was an independent bookstore, and I could get the New York Times delivered on Sunday. I returned to France and packed up. What prompted the move to Benicia? It wouldn’t have come up on my radar except for two things that happened at the time: I was visiting my sister in LA, 12 • Benicia Magazine

By Sue Sumner-Moore To follow the path that Elizabeth d’Huart took to Benicia, start in the suburbs of Chicago. Head east to Virginia for college and on to Washington, D.C., to work. Cross the Atlantic to London to take a great job, and then make your way to the south of France before traveling west to Madison, Georgia. From there, pack up and head to Benicia. “I’m not afraid of change or moving forward,” she says with a smile. This zig-zag journey brought Elizabeth to Benicia late last year. Along the way, she worked in marketing and public relations for real estate firms and publications, ran an interior design business, flipped houses and raised a daughter. From 2007 to 2009, she was the director of the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art in Buckhead, Georgia. She’ll put those skills to use in her new post as executive director of the Benicia Historical Museum, where she started working August 24. Elizabeth is one of three paid staffers at the museum located in the historic Camel Barns in the Industrial Park. All are parttime, though the workload often requires more hours. Elizabeth also volunteers with Arts Benicia, serving on its youth education committee. Serendipity and research helped her find Benicia. When she decided to move to the West Coast, she started looking for an arts community. Someone mentioned Benicia while she was visiting Savannah, Georgia, and her brother-in-law in the art gallery business affirmed the community’s support of artists. From there, Elizabeth began learning more about our town. “My friends call me Ms. Google,” she says. “I’m a researcher.”

and she’d been asking me for years to come to the West Coast. When I saw the real estate market was going down and realized I was not going to be able to supplement my (museum) directorship income with flipping houses, I started looking for an arts community on the West Coast. … So on one of my trips to visit my sister, I visited Benicia and I liked it. I had a friend living here, and he said, “Why not do it? Why not?” And I did.

it has personality, it bears the touch of people who have worked on and with it. Obviously, the collection has been given by local people who also shared their stories about the items.

When did you first visit the Benicia Historical Museum? I think it was November of 2009, while I was here to see the town. I came because I’m a museum person and I’m an arts and cultural person.

What were your first thoughts about Benicia? It seemed like Benicia was a town straight out of the movies. The other thing that impressed me about Benicia was the number of maintained green spaces, the wonderful little parks. I also love the wind. To me, it’s like another ocean. I love listening to the wind. I keep the windows open at night to listen to the wind. … My first impressions of Benicia were lovely.

What were your first impressions of the museum? My first impression was that it is a fascinating collection that covers a part of history and an area that I’m not particularly familiar with. I found it to be charming in the true sense of the word:

Why were you interested in the museum position? I am a museum person, and I wanted to live and work in the same place, for many reasons. If you live in one place and work in another, there’s a disconnect every day.

Are there differences between running an art museum and managing an historical museum? Similarities? The management of any museum is going to be the same—it’s a nonprofit organization with a collection that has to be preserved and maintained. You have special exhibits and a permanent collection. There will be committees, a board of directors, and some conduit for local people to become involved. The size may change, but these are the components. There are more similarities than dissimilarities between the two. However, even if people appreciate and enjoy the visual arts, they may or may not like a particular artist and that may impede their support. But there may be many avenues for local support of local history, a broader range of interest and support. What lessons did you learn in Georgia that you might put to use here? I would say that it makes sense to focus on the interest of the community and match your mission with the mission of the community. We have many, many people here who chose to move here for a reason—they were looking for the best environment for their children, a place with a good education system, a low crime rate, affordable housing. I want to focus on education. Secondly, there’s a large community, of which I’m a member, that’s interested in connecting all the dots of local historic sites and preservation. I would like to pay attention to that because our collection is not just a collection in any old structure, but in historic structures, and they are part of the whole history of Benicia. I want to make sure the museum is participating in all historical activities locally. … I think nonprofits should work together, nonprofits need to work together. What’s at the top of your agenda as you start this new job? Working as the director of a nonprofit, funding is always at the top of one’s agenda. Also, helping the board members accomplish what they want to do—I serve at the pleasure of the board. How do you plan to increase attendance and interest? I have ideas. I want to do more educational events here. I want more programs—anything that will get the children here and learning. We need to coordinate and generate publicity about what’s already here. What’s been your favorite part of the job so far? I’m enjoying the people. All the people I’ve met on the board and the volunteers are intelligent, well-educated, wellread. I’ve had great conversations. I like learning. What’s been the most helpful thing you’ve done to get to know your new hometown? Volunteering at Arts Benicia, and I’m a Chatty Cathy. I’ll speak to total strangers. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What free time? (laughing) I’m a reader, a walker and explorer. I’m a tourist at heart. I like to go to anyplace that’s been described as a beautiful location, any restaurant that’s been well reviewed—anywhere and everywhere. B

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CODA and Amports Partner to Assemble Electric Cars in Benicia

For the past several years, Mayor Patterson and the Benicia City Council have discussed bringing green technology companies to the Benicia Business Park. On September 12, at a well-orchestrated press event at Amports, it was announced that a partnership between Amports and CODA, an electric car maker based in Los Angeles, will do just that. Besides the press, attending the event were members of Benicia’s Sustainability commission, Benicia City Council members, Mayor Patterson, County Supervisor Linda Seifert, Benicia School Board member and Amports Attorney Dana Dean, representatives from State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s and US Congressman Mike Thompson’s offices, US Congressman George Miller, CODA and Amports executives and CODA workers. Amports, an automotive processing company in Benicia’s port, will be assembling the cars at their facility, amounting to 12-14,000 of the all-electric vehicles this year. Congressman Miller started things off by driving into the warehouse in a bright yellow CODA sedan, with Mayor Patterson in the passenger seat. Miller, Patterson and CODA CEO Philip Murtaugh spoke in turn about the importance of green technology, the practical considerations of how the cars will be assembled and that the collaboration will bring fifty new jobs to Benicia. Patterson cited Middle East volatility, fuel costs and air pollution as reasons for the importance of green technology, and the CODA/Amports partnership to assemble the electric vehicles in Benicia. The collaboration between the two companies could very well be the impetus for other green tech companies to locate here in the future. Mario Giuliani, Benicia’s acting Economic Development Manager, said, “The synergy between sustainability and Economic Development is personified by CODA cars.” Economic Development Board Chairperson and City Council candidate Christina Strawbridge said, “This will jump-start our economic

14 • Benicia Magazine Currents

development plan moving forward. It’s a great thing for Benicia.” A 333V, 36kWh Lithium Iron Phosphate battery powers the car, which takes six hours to fully charge from a 220V outlet. It can also be charged on a standard household outlet. Fully charged, CODA cars have a range of 150 miles. “This is an excellent green-tech project that adds jobs to the company. The way the economy is now, it is definitely a step forward,” said Danny Nelson, Amports employee. Installing a second meter as a charging option came up during a PG&E presentation at a recent Benicia City Council meeting. Two concerns noted were infrastructure problems with the power grid and the cost of installing a second electric meter, an option for homeowners that could put car charging in a lower rate category. A second meter is considered a home improvement upgrade that could increase its value. The cost of a second meter would also be offset by the savings in gas. Benicia Councilman and Mayoral candidate Alan Schwartzman said, “It is incumbent upon all utilities to make sure the infrastructure is in place to handle the increase in the electric vehicle (EV) phenomenon beginning to unfold in our state. It is imperative that all aspects of the electric vehicle industry, consumers, manufacturers and utilities, coordinate and think through the issues that increased EV demands will necessitate.” The CODA car, a 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, will sell for around $45,000, but qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit and possibly a $2,500 state rebate, according to Matt Sloustcher, CODA’s Government Relations and Sustainability Manager, as well as a 3% federal EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) tax credit, of up to $1,000, “to get homes plug-in ready.” Creature comforts include an Alpine allin-one audio, video and navigation system, Bluetooth, and easy to use touch screen, with seating fabric and other upgrades available.

Winter Vegetable Gardens a Cure for End-of-Summer Produce Blues

Whether you are a serious backyard farmer or just a dabbler in seasonal vegetable growing, you probably experience a pang of regret over the demise of gardento-table summer produce. In California, however, we are blessed with weather that’s warm enough to sustain a winter garden, banishing the May-to-September garden doldrums for good. October is an excellent time to plant vegetable starts (it’s too late to grow from seed). The soil is still warm and roots

can establish themselves before the colder weather begins. Cool season vegetables include broccoli, kale, cabbage, onions, beets, Brussels sprouts and a variety of lettuces. Unless there is a hard or early frost, these vegetables will enhance any meat & potatoes meal or soups of all kinds. And the money spent for young plants will be offset or even pay for themselves when you consider the high price of lettuce and other cool-season vegetables from the grocery store.

Fashion Noir What is it about black in a woman’s wardrobe? Many women’s closets would reveal more than a few black pieces. Can you ever have too much of it? Not this season—black is the new black. Before a picture of Coco Chanel’s short, simple black dress was published in American Vogue in 1926, black was mostly worn for mourning and to show sorrow. Chanel’s dress was calf length, straight, and decorated by only a few diagonal lines. Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford.” Like the Model T, the little black dress was simple and accessible. Vogue predicted that the LBD would become “…a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” The little black dress continued to be popular through the Depression. The rise of Dior’s “New Look” in the post-war era and the conservatism of the 1950s returned the LBD to its roots as a uniform, but also as a symbol of the dangerous woman,

or Hollywood femme fatales, who were often portrayed in black halter dresses. The black sheath, similar to those designed by Givenchy and worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, set the bar for style in the 1960’s with simple chic. In the 1980’s, the LBD came back into vogue with the popularity and technology of knits for dresses and businesswear. Along with the fitness craze, new designs incorporated broad shoulders and peplums. The grunge culture of the 1990’s saw the combination of the LBD with sandals or combat boots. In 2011, women are turning back to black for economic reasons, using a pop of color to enhance the look. For style that takes on a new dimension and interesting alternatives, try combining black texture, tones and fabrics. This fall, also watch for muted and mysterious tones of blood red, deep plum and mauve to combine with “basic black” that is anything but basic. B • 15

By Beth Steinmann As a young teenager growing up on J Street in Benicia, I found myself inexorably drawn to the waterfront. Eager to ditch my parents but not quite driving age, I frequently embarked on meandering evening walks between home and First Street, spending time along the way contemplating gently lapping waves from various rocky perches. Some of my favorite haunts were the boat yard and the old Jurgensen’s Saloon at the end of First Street, before it was moved a few blocks north and restored for use as retail space. I had heard that Jack London used to drink there (I found out while researching for this article that he resided in a houseboat on the waterfront), and I wasn’t the only teen who yearned to gain entry in spite of the boarded up windows. These parts of town held an aura of romantic and almost forlorn living history, which appealed to the 16 • Benicia Magazine Feature

theatrical drama of my age. As I wandered through town I envisioned the coalescence of inebriated poets, ‘ladies of the night,’ robber barons, gold miners, sailors and adventureseekers. There were times I could almost feel, almost see these figures rushing past me, as if their experiences made such a strong imprint on the fabric of time that they kept repeating themselves, just out of reach. Yes, I have an active imagination. But I wasn’t too far off—Benicia’s boisterous history can’t be denied. If you think it’s a happening place now, imagine laying eyes on the first handful of gold discovered, imagine the dust clouds left by Pony Express riders, imagine river boats and ferry boats, naval ships and ships of industry depositing a daily potpourri of travelers. Do you know that in the 1870’s Benicia housed the largest ferry ever built—2000 horsepower and more than 3500 tons—that was fashioned to

Crooks Mansion, photo by Tom Bowles Circa 1950

Benicia’s Ghoulish Living History

Photo by John Molfino, courtesy Benicia Historical Museum

Photo by Lisa Duncan

buck whole trains across the bay? The ferry brought so many people to the area that it put itself out of business in 1929 when the railroad bridge was built. The town’s infrastructure blossomed so rapidly in the 1800’s it was dubbed the “Athens of Greece.” Not that it didn’t have humble beginnings—in 1847, before Benicia’s first birthday, the Solano Hotel was erected on First and F Streets. The saloon’s bar required holes drilled to accommodate the buffalo horns used in the absence of glassware. The hotel itself served as a boarding house and later a house of prostitution, before it was razed by fire in 1931. Benicia was a hotbed of crime in its Wild West days. According to, “a thief stole three lengths of rusty stove pipe from J.W. Jones, who operated the store that sold books and stationary. Newspapers advised their readers to guard their stove pipes, as the thief no doubt was intent on erecting a stove for the winter season.” Present day Benicians can feel blessed not to have to abide such barbarous felony. But the past persists—many colorful characters may yet be perceived, in spectral form. Eleanor Walsh, late wife of Captain Walsh, long roamed the rooms of the former Captain Walsh House Bed and Breakfast. The Union Hotel has experienced

repetitive ghoulish activity from a young woman who hung herself in one of the rooms. She often appears at dusk in a hotel window, and may be heard crying and talking to herself at night. An O Street resident reported a gentleman in a checkered suit, who frequently appeared then disappeared in her home. When she learned that her neighbor had seen him too, they concluded the gentleman was circa 1800’s, because of his shoes. Owners of an 1850’s-built downtown residence report that the original owner, who drowned himself in the straights, has been attached to the house ever since, and makes his presence known periodically by moving household objects around. For this small, representative handful, armloads of other supernatural sightings and happenings occur regularly in Benicia. Ask those brave souls who have attended our town’s popular monthly ghost walks, where one can meet ghoulish children, a Pony Express rider who still brings the mail, a ladies-man ghost and more. Opinions vary widely as to the actual existence and nature of ghosts. Are they spirits of the deceased that missed the boat to the after-life and are doomed to repeat the actions of their former existence in a limbolike state between being and non-

being? Can all supernatural sightings be explained away rationally? Many do have common threads. Sightings are often accompanied by some kind of electronic interference— lights dimming repeatedly, phone lines crackling—temperature change such as a breeze or sudden chill, and sounds—rapping, tapping, crying, whispers, footsteps, etc. Ghosts may appear clear as day, but often they glimmer and fade, becoming thin, wispy and floaty, even passing through walls. Many ghost’s humanly ends were tainted with violence. Some believers site violent death as a reason a soul may get stuck—they must repeat the action until they are able to break the pattern by forgiving themselves or whoever perpetrated the act of cruelty. Bona fide or imagined, their popularity spikes this time of year. Haunted houses and scary stories are Halloween traditions—with good reason—this holiday, like many, has its roots in earlier celebrations. The preChristian European holiday, Samhain (pronounced sow-an), on October 31, marked the final harvest of the season, the ritual slaughtering of animals to feed the village through the winter, and the lighting of each family’s hearth for the coming winter from a communal bonfire. Each villager walked between two bonfires in a symbolic purification Continued on page 21 • 17





TERRIFIC SCHOOLS Continues To Support: • Close relationship with School Board • Continued joint City/School field use • After school recreation programs • School resource officers • Support for parents and kids through early intervention programs • Healthy snacks for elementary schools

Negotiated first recycling program and free garbage service to the schools “I appreciate our relationship with the City and Alan’s efforts in keeping our school children safe.” –Rosie Switzer, BUSD Trustee

QUALITY OF LIFE “Alan knows the value and importance of maintaining the city's parks and cemetery. He supports a variety of recreational activities for Benician's of all ages.”

Strong Supporter Of: • Clean air, clean water • Strong oversight of development • Historic resource maintenance • Downtown community events • Outstanding park system • Arts and culture • Improving public transportation • Uverse alternative to Comcast

–Nancy Cockerham,

Chair-Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Commission

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18 • Benicia Magazine or contact Alan at or 707.746.4920

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Dr. Lerner is one of the few doctors performing CK in the East Bay. • 19

Benicia Old Town Theatre Group’s

Long-running Formula for Success By Dan Clark Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes, and the advance planning required to produce the semi-annual plays at the Benicia Old Town Theater? It all starts with Benicia Old Town Theatre Group (BOTTG) volunteers and the selection of a play. In the spring of 2010, the “ayes” were in the majority and the die was cast for the spring 2011 production of The Nerd. After months of reading dozens of possibilities, BOTTG’s play selection committee chose one of three recommendations put forward by their members. The process, which has led to almost one hundred productions in forty seven years (since 1964) had began anew. Early publicity about which play has been chosen for production is sent to local media outlets and event publications, as well as a call for a director. Likely candidates are interviewed by another BOTTG committee. Clinton Vidal, a former professional actor and recent addition to the theatre group, was chosen for The Nerd. The next step for the theatre group’s board of directors is to set the production’s financial budget. In the meantime, design work for graphics is begun. Dan Morgan designs the graphics used in publicity, on BOTTG’s website and on the theater 20 • Benicia Magazine Feature

programs. Paul Zill, set designer for the last five years, had relocated to Idaho prior to the production of The Nerd, but he agreed to submit a design for the show. He even sent a three-dimensional set model via UPS, and he would ultimately return for a week to help in the set-building process. Open auditions for all roles are held a couple of months prior to a show’s opening. Notices are sent to local newspapers, a Bay Area theater magazine and BOTTG’s list of prior actor hopefuls. After three days of auditions, director Vidal was able to fill all the roles for The Nerd and rehearsals began within two weeks. The all-important publicity job is handled by Dyanne Vojvoda. Postcards are addressed and mailed to BOTTG’s mailing list. Meanwhile, costumes are designed and fitted and hand props are collected. Dyanne and her crew got busy on The Nerd’s costumes while the hand props were collected by Cindy Smith and other volunteers. BOTTG has a shop in the Benicia Industrial Park where work on a set begins. Transportable pieces are built there, then moved to the B.D.E.S. Hall when it is possible to physically move them in. For The Nerd, set construction at the B.D.E.S. Hall by a volunteer crew,

mostly retired, was intense for four or five days. Then the set painters take over. The goal is to get the cast onto a finished set as soon as possible before opening date so there’s plenty of time for rehearsals. While all of this is occurring, tickets are being sold. Volunteers are scheduled for necessary jobs on the backstage crew, front desk, and as bartenders for the production’s four week run. Lights are hung and focused, props and furniture moved to the theater, and the bar gets set up. Only then is the hall emptied of all the debris of the preceding weeks, cleaned by the janitorial staff, and set up for the Opening Night Champagne Gala. Whew! What a relief and a joy to finally see the finished product. After the eleven scheduled performances of The Nerd, the set was struck and moved out, props and costumes cleaned and stored, the bar packed away, and the hall emptied, all within a week. The Nerd was history, but tasks had already begun for BOTTG’s fall production, The Voice of the Prairie, opening October 21. The wheel turns. Like the coming of spring, each new show carries the promise of discovery and creative delight. Dan Clark is a long-time member of BOTTG. B

The Voice of the Prairie opens October 21, 2011 Directed by Casy Cann

Friday & Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2pm Opening Night Champaign Gala $25 General admission $20 Seniors 62+ and students with ID $18 Tickets available at the door, online or at the Benicia Chamber of Commerce Doors open one hour before curtain No Host Bar • Snacks/desserts available for purchase B.D.E.S. Hall 140 West J Street, Benicia • 707.746.1269

Cast photos by Joe Messina

Benicia Old Town Theatre Group has won numerous awards for their productions, including the prestigious Solano County ARTY award. The group welcomes new members, and invites all members to become involved with productions.

The plays produced during BOTTG’s forty-seven year history consist of a wide variety of cultural offerings, including: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Love Letters Annie Bullshot Crummond On Golden Pond The Lion in Winter Little Shop of Horrors Sugar Babies

St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School A Place of Catholic Christian Values Where Honor, Character, Excellence and Compassion Are Abiding, Lived Realities

Open House

Sunday, October 30, 2011 1:00 - 3:30pm

Preparing Your Children for The Future 1500 Benicia Road, Vallejo

The Mousetrap Cabaret The Matchmaker Blythe Spirit Cat on a Hot Tin Roof A Chorus Line Bottoms Up!

Benicia’s Ghoulish Living History continued from page 17 ritual; and masked, costumed dancers imitated departed spirits in attempt to placate them through impending winter darkness. These customs were later incorporated in the Catholic All Souls Day. Similarly, the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos entwines aspects of the Catholic holiday and pre-Catholic Latin rituals of paying homage to deceased loved ones. Perhaps Benicia’s supernatural aspect can be attributed to the anomaly of its existence. Imagine the bare hills and windy straights before 1847. No doubt a peaceful, quiet existence for the native population that roamed the land and the flora and fauna that thrived here. Then a fire pushed west, a fervor that became a frenzy the night James Marshall held out a handful of gold for Mr. and Mrs. Robert Semple to see. A mix of location and luck turned Benicia into a metropolis overnight. Perhaps our ghost sightings are merely the imprint of a time that couldn’t quite handle itself, that doesn’t quite realize it’s over and continues to careen drunkenly into the present. At fifteen, as I searched for meaning outside my family, I sensed Benicia’s living history in it’s old buildings and gentle waves. Suppose for a moment that ghosts really are stuck entities. Putting myself in a pair of ghoulish shoes, I guess it would satisfy me to have my presence—spectral as it may be—acknowledged. Perhaps Halloween is a ghost’s favorite holiday. B • 21

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Fashion Weekend Events

Benicia Main Street Presents

Friday, Oct. 7

Three days of showcasing fashion and beauty

the 3rd Annual Fashion Weekend

Project Runway’s Jay Sario  Special Promotions!

Saturday, Oct. 8, 1-3pm

Trunk Show featuring Local  Designer Kathleen van der Speck

• Friday: Fashion Night Out after hours shopping 6-9pm

Grand Opening Oct. 1! Be Chic San Francisco

• Saturday: Runway Show First & East D Streets, 5:30-9pm

3566 Sacramento Street 415.563.1477

• Saturday and Sunday trunk shows & demos

Tickets: 707.745.9791 or Simplicity • Comfort • Elegance

707.745.1148 309 First Street, Benicia Chic Boutique

Elizabeth Patterson A Proven Mayor

Our best days ahead Leaders propose positive, constructive ideas, involve the community, keep promises, and get things done. It takes experience, vision and heart.

Paid for by Committee to Re-elect Mayor Elizabeth Patterson 2011, P.O. Box 1933, Benicia, Ca 94510

24 • Benicia Magazine

Treasurer: Mary Frances Kelly Poh, FPPC #1289634

e h t o t s d n e g Le

e r u t fu

By Christina Strawbridge Betsey Johnson is my fashion superhero. Anyone who can do a cartwheel on a runway after every collection for fifty years is an automatic icon in my book. Her feminine and whimsical approach to fashion has made her a legend in the industry. Johnson was part of the 1960’s youthquake movement, inspired by Carnaby Street and the British Invasion. She reveled in the underground scene with Andy Warhol and used Edie Sedgwick as her house model at Betsey Bunky Nini, her first boutique. In the 1970’s, Johnson took control of the fashion label Alley Cat, which was popular with musicians of the day. Her first collection for Alley Cat hit $5 million in volume, and in 1972 she won the prestigious Coty Award. Johnson started her own fashion line in 1978, with innovative designs using simple fabrics, but with an edge. Her styles were affordable and made high fashion accessible. While her first collection was a success, her second one bombed, leaving her with 3,000 pieces of unsold spring clothing. In response, Johnson opened a retail store in New York City’s SoHo called Betsey Johnson. Today, there are over forty-five Betsey Johnson stores worldwide and five in the Bay Area. She was inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame in 2002, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion in 2009. Her style formula is “take a leotard and add a skirt.” Through the years I have collected some of Johnson’s designs and recently came across an ensemble I bought and

wore in the early 1990’s. The top and skirt are Lycra knit with sheer black organza. The top has an offthe-shoulder neckline and the skirt is worn over a leotard, leggings or as a layering piece. It still looks current twenty years later. This year’s third annual Benicia Fashion Weekend, sponsored by Benicia Main Street, will be held October 7-9. Three days of fashion, beauty and shopping make the event a perfect girlfriends’ weekend. Friday night, October 7, is a Fashion Night Out, which focuses on shopping, trunk shows, guest designers and an assortment of stylish events, hosted in stores and restaurants throughout downtown. Saturday night, October 8, will feature a multimedia production runway show, silent fashion auction and cocktail reception. Five downtown businesses, Be Chic Boutique, Christina S Fashion Destination, Miguelena, Piccolo and Studio 41, will show the best of fall 2011 from designers and brands seen in any major fashion district in the world. This year’s show, “Legends to the Future,” will be expanded to include a tribute to Betsey Johnson, with some of her recent New York Fashion Week collection, and celebrity runway personalities. Lluviana “Lluvy” Gomez, from season four of America’s Next Top Model, will be modeling on the runway, and available to chat about her modeling career. Richard Hallmarq is known as a fashion-forward icon within the industry. He has shown collections at San Francisco Fashion Week, and his styles have even been donned by some America’s Next Top Model contestants. Hallmarq made a name for himself with his first show in San Francisco nearly six years ago. He is the chief designer for Prince, (as in “the artist formerly known as”) and his band and backup singers. At press time, I await confirmation from Project Runway and The Fashion Show stars, who may also attend the runway show. Sunday, October 9, is another fun day of “finding the finds,” so come back downtown for more shopping and fun activities. Benicia continues to be a destination for women who love to find the extraordinary as the legends and future of fashion are showcased this October. Fellow fashionistas, see you there! B Fashionista • 25



panders x E e b o r d r t-have Wa s u M e Season ’s l h l t a F h g u o r ou Th to Carry Y 1. Georgie motorcyle jacket, $290

Piccolo, 707.747.9321 216 First Street, Benicia,

2. Poetic License stacked heels, $110

Piccolo, 707.747.9321 216 First Street, Benicia,




5 3. Cordellia cranberry skirt, $125

Christina S Fashion Destination, 707.745.5125 370 First Street, Benicia,

4. White and Warren cotton sweater, $210 Be Chic Boutique, 707.745.1148 309 First Street,

5. Big Buddha Bag, $91

Christina S Fashion Destination, 707.745.5125 370 First Street, Benicia, Photos by Lisa Duncan

26 • Benicia Magazine


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Bewitching Tea

A fundraising event for Safequest and STAND, serving victims of domestic violence

Sunday, October 30 at 11am, 1pm & 3pm $40 per person, includes tax & gratuity Traditional Afternoon Tea • Fashion Show by Christina S Tea Leaf Readings • Raffle Prizes and Favors by Soroptimist of Benicia “Haunted Hat” Contest with prizes! Reservations and advance payment required

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Benicia Magazine Halloween Photo Contest! Winner receives $25 Downtown Dollars to spend like cash at downtown stores or restaurants

707.748.1336 • Gallery Hours: Tues-Thurs 11-5 Fri 11-7 • Sat 10-7, Sun 11-5 109 East F St., Benicia, CA 94510

Email your photo to Deadline for entries: November 5, 2011 Photos must be at least 300dpi at full size • 27

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Group Classes Private Instruction Thai Yoga Massage Gift Certificates 707.246.2331 • • 28 • Benicia Magazine

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Head Case

By Elizabeth d’Huart Call it “vintage,” call it “retro”… if you’re mad for Mad Men, the hit TV series, or love the design attitude of the 1940’s to 1960’s—or simply delight in accessories as a form of expression and “apparel as art”—you won’t want to miss the upcoming hat exhibit at the Benicia Historical Museum. Originally intended as a small case exhibit for the Museum this autumn, interest and contributions have compelled Curator Beverly Phelan to expand the space required out of the original display area and to move the exhibit to 2012. A cross between present day “fascinators,” (ala Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge) and cocktail headwear, these gorgeous confections were a requirement for the era’s “ladies who lunch.” The majority of the hats featured were donated through Gladys Wold, one of the founders of the Museum and past president. They originally belonged to Georgia Wagner, a former resident of Benicia. Beverly is interested in augmenting the display with any photographs and advertisements of women and their hats appropriate to the time period, so please give her a call at the Museum office, 707.745.5435 if you have something to lend to this special show.

30 • Benicia Magazine Looking Back

Photos by Lisa Duncan

Midcentury Wearable Art

Benicia Cleaners Since 1977

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2nd Chance Thrift Store

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Listening How do you share your music with your family? I’m always playing music around the house. My home is pretty much like a guitar center. I play guitar, drums, piano and woodwinds.

By Rhonda Lucile Hicks

Featured Artist:

Ken Maffeo Born: Van Nuys, CA Resides in: Benicia, CA, for past 12 years Favorite Food: Sushi! Love it. Have been eating it since I was 10. Favorite Book: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman Relationship Status/Children: Married, wife Liz, son Dante age 5

Ongoing The Rellik Tavern 707.746.1137 Live music every Friday & Saturday night

Upstairs at the Café 707.745.1400 Live music Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights Jazz Sunday afternoon

Union Hotel 707.746.7847 Live jazz every Thursday 6-9pm

Benicia Farmer’s Market 707.745.9791 Live music every Thursday

Gracie Barbeque, Vallejo 707.552.2254 Blues Friday nights 6:30-9pm

Does your son play guitar yet? He is just picking it up in his little hands. My wife has one from when she was a little girl and we just left it out in the living room. I just sit back right now because I want it to be his choice and I don’t want him to feel any pressure from me. What did you listen to as a teenager? Well I was a teen in the 1980’s so our choices were interesting. I’ve always been drawn to Power Pop….Police, Duran Duran, Oingo Boingo, so you can see I was of “that” generation.

Live Music

What’s the first music you remember hearing? AM 70’s radio. You remember that CD set AM Gold? I have it and love it. All those 1970’s pop one-hit wonders? I can’t name them all but I know the songs when I hear ‘em. Why do you sing? Singing is the closest I will ever get to God. When you sing there is this connection to everything around you and it just feels right. I sang in choirs starting at the age of six and I knew that I had some way to communicate with something bigger than myself. The greatest gift is when you can sing harmony with others and it clicks. That is pure bliss. We do have a heaven here on Earth and that is when singers sing together in perfect harmony. Read Ken’s expanded interview online at B

Special Events


Alexander String Quartet

Favela’s Fusion, Fairfield

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

Sticky Rice Chinese Bistro & Bar, Fairfield

Journey and Foreigner 707.863.7500 Live Music Saturdays from 6:30-9:30pm

Sleep Train Pavillion, Concord Wednesday, October 5 at 7pm

Winterhawk Winery, Suisun Valley

House of Floyd 707.745.4453 Live music Thursday Benicia Farmer’s Market 6-9pm 707.421.8484 Live Mariachi music, first Friday of the month 707.428.6977 Live music, dancing & wine tasting Saturdays 2-5pm

Mondavi Arts, Davis Sunday, October 2 at 7pm

Freight & Salvage, Berkeley Sunday, October 2 at 7:30pm

Octoberfest, Concord Thursday, October 6 at 6:30pm

Continued on page 34 32 • Benicia Magazine Listening


Christina has experience, a proven track record and the vision needed to move Benicia forward to an economically viable future. • Chairperson, Economic Development Board • Successful small business owner • Past President, Benicia Main Street “Benicia has huge economic potential. By creating new revenue sources we can preserve the things our residents expect and deserve: excellent schools, historic assets and robust sports, arts and cultural programs.” – Christina Strawbridge

Paid for by Christina Strawbridge for City Council 2011 FPPC # 1339457

Christina Strawbridge for City Council • 33

October Events 10/1-10/31 Capitol & Fischer-Hanlon House 10am-5pm

10/14-10/31 Haunted Depot, Fri., Sat. & Sun. & Halloween

10/5-10/26 Toastmaster’s Group, Wednesday evenings 7:30-9pm


Weekends only Fischer-Hanlon tours 1st & 3rd Sundays, 2nd Saturday Tours at 1, 2 and 3pm, Oct. 2, 8 & 16 115 West G Street, Benicia, 707.745.3385

Learn to speak with confidence in a friendly environment 601 First Street, Suite 100, Benicia 707.745.5694 Larry Miller

10/6-10/27 Benicia Farmer’s Market, Thursdays 4-7pm

See the ghosts, goblins and spirits down at the Depot 90 First Street, Benicia 707.745.9791

Arbor Day Celebration, 10am-2pm

Master gardeners, tree care demos Tree walk, plant sale & more City Park, First and Military Streets, Benicia

10/15 Sorcerer Saturday, 12pm-5pm

Fresh produce, baked goods, food booths, arts & crafts First Street between B and D Streets, Benicia 707.745.9791

10/21-11/12 Benicia Old Town Theatre Fall Production

10/7 Benicia Plein Air Gallery Reception 6-8pm

Featured artist Iris Sabre, “Down by the Bay” 307 First Street, Benicia,

10/7-10/9 Benicia Fashion Weekend

Friday Fashion Night Out 6-9pm Saturday Runway Show 5:30pm Sat. & Sun. Trunk Shows & Demos A weekend focused on fashion & fun! First Street, Benicia 707.745.9791

10/7-10/28 Ghost Walk with Donna Raymond & Devin Sisk, Fridays, Main Street Depot Spooky tales of the paranormal history of Benicia Approx. 2 hours, no children under 10 707.745.9791

10/8 Vallejo Symphony Fall Concert, Ludwig in Paradise 8pm

David Ramadanoff conducts. “Know the Score,” 7pm Empress Theater, 330 Virginia Street, Vallejo 707.643.4441

Family-friendly celebration Sorcerers, Witches and Warlocks Foot of First Street, Benicia 707.745.9791

The Voice of the Prairie Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm B.D.E.S. Hall, 140 West J Street, Benicia 707.746.1269

10/29 Benicia Historical Museum’s Annual Costume Ball 8pm

Come in costume and be prepared for all things scary! Stone Hall, 2060 Camel Road, Benicia 707.745.5435

10/30 6th Annual Bewitching Teas 11am, 1pm & 3pm

Sponsored by Camellia Tea & Benicia Soroptimist Benefits Safequest and STAND. Fashions from Christina S Tea leaf readings, haunted hat contest, prizes, traditional tea $40 per person,, 707.746.5293

See Just for Kids on page 9


Live Music Continued from page 32 Natasha James

Laurence Juber

Vallejo Symphony

Keiko Matsui

Southern Pacific Smokehouse, Novato Friday, October 7, 2011 at 8:30pm The Empress Theatre, Vallejo Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 8 pm

34 • Benicia Magazine Calendar

El Campanil Theatre, Antioch Saturday, October 8 at 8pm Napa Valley Opera House, Napa Thursday, October 13 at 8pm

Louis Prima, Jr.

Silo’s, Napa Friday, October 14 at 7 & 10pm

with your smart phone to see many more listings

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NT • 35


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707-745-2100 • 36 • Benicia Magazine

Benicia Magazine October issue  

This issue is about halloween activities, ghosts from benicia's past, benicia old town theatre group behind the scenes, benicia fashion, ben...