Friday, October 29, 2010

San Francisco Overload - Sly Stone and the SF Giants

Thursday October 28th will go down in history for SF Giants fans as one of the highest highs of the teams 50+ years in The City. Anyone at or near the stadium, or watching it knows what I’m talking about. Nonstop unrelenting joy and pride in The Bay just spewing out is a beautiful thing.

I had another experience that night as well. Just as the game finished, I remembered that there was a film showing of the long awaited movie about Sly Stone, at the Roxie in the Mission. You don’t get much more San Francisco-ish than that, and I took the opportunity to cross the bay and headed out through the San Francisco streets. There was great weather that night -- after gloomy forecasts of rain – that reinforced the notion that Giants Fans in Heaven were making sure the stars were aligned for that nite.

The drive and walk were jovial, magical, and very hard to compare to anything else. Everyone from the panhandlers to the limo riders were flying high, no doubt about it. My mission was another Giant High, and that was to see the latest incarnation of the film about Sly Stone produced by Willem Alkema and "starring" the Dutch twins Edwin and Arno Konings. The three had been “Searching for Sly" like many others for years but their dedication and insatiable desire to find Sly Stone has finally paid off.

The film is titled “Coming Back For More” because as fate would have it, Alkema and the twins tracked down Sly Stone and engaged him with perhaps the first filmed interview in decades, and certainly the first frank and fresh interview since Sly did David Letterman in 1983 (those were the early years of Letterman, late late on NBC after Johnny Carson).

I got to the Roxie a few minutes into the film, and the scene on 16th street was nuts. People partying in maximum Giants ecstasy, and some Sly fans still milling about the theater entrance. Sly couldn’t have had a better entrĂ©e. The early segments of the film were incredible: fantastic early footage of Sly Stone, never ever before seen, and stories and vignettes of the great old days of 60’s San Francisco with a funky multiracial twist.

The song selections themselves denoted a level of love for the music that truly has stamped a generation, or many generations at this point. Alkema and the Koning twins did a good job of capturing the musical magic of the early Sly & the Family Stone, although it would have been nice to hear from Freddie or Larry about the nuts and bolts of the groove at that point.

The Woodstock days kind of fly by, but Sly’s underground genius period, the Riot album and the Fresh album are lovingly portrayed. There is a live rendition of “Family Affiar” with just Sly and Rose on piano from that time, that just made me weep. Then the craziness really begins, and Sly’s “wedding” at Madison Square Garden is shown, and all kinds of crazy things Sly either gets into or accused of are discussed.

Somehow in the midst of Sly’s shenanigans in the 1980s and his time with George Clinton, the story shifts to the Koning brothers’ attempts to locate Sly Stone for an interview. The turn is quite satisfying because the filmmakers had made sure that Sly himself was definitely a worthy target for their search. Anyone seeing the flavors of those spirited times, the brilliance and joy of the Family Stone early on, and the nonstop mischief Sly got himself into, anyone would want to put themselves into the twins’ places and do their own Search for Sly.

Most of us know that in 2006 Sly had agreed to do the Grammy awards, and Alkema & the twins bring their cameras there like the ultimate groupies they were, and they get some initial shots of their hero. Connections made there lead them ever so closer to Sly, and with the help of new technologies, and new financial burdens on Sly, Sly’s isolation dissolves, and the inevitable interview is finally accomplished.

There are some incredible sequences in the interview. The man is more brilliant, humorous and charming than we might have expected, yet he is also more worn down and broke than we might expect as well, and we are faced with a combination of transcendent genius, a life force of our generation, coming to grips with the struggles of a senior citizen in our modern times. The juxtaposition of fantasy and reality are mind blowing, and ultimately very satisfying in this powerful film.

When the film ended at the Roxie, Greg Errico, Cynthia Robinson and Sly-book author Jeff Kaliss did a question and answer period, and felt the love of the house (not packed but well attended), and I made a few connections and re-connections, and made my way back onto the San Francisco streets, where the endless World Series celebration was taking place.

It was an amazing night that I am still trying to process. I lost my dad last year, and he was a hardcore Giants fan, and if there is a Heaven, I know he is one of those souls directing events so that this joyous title can finally come to the Bay. My dad also turned me on to Sly & the Family Stone, and I know he would appreciate this night as I did. There was definitely some San Francisco magic in the air that nite.