Gavin Newsom: From The Balboa Cafe To Governor Of California, Don’t Change, Man!

As I write this, I’m in Fayette County, Georgia where it’s Thursday, November 8th, 3:25 AM EST. I’ve been here at my Mom’s home to keep her company. While I do this, I’m maintaining an apartment in Oakland that I’ve seen maybe 51 days out of this year.

I’m here for my Mom and because she’s of, as they say, advanced years, and so I feel it’s my duty out of the love I have for her, and as her only child. to be with her. So, from this kitchen table, with the aide of my devices and the TV and phone, view what’s happening back in California.

There’s not a day that goes by that I think “Man, I should go and help Gavin Newsom because he’s my friend and he’s running for Governor.” In fact, there’s a lot of friends I know who fit into that place, and so I’m not going to list them all here, because this is about Gavin.

See, Gavin’s someone I’ve been aquainted with since 1995. That was during the time I worked for Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris as his economic advisor, and I was a columnist for The Montclarion (my first media job). As is true of anyone who works in politics, Election Day is just “where’s the party, tonight”, spelled sideways. Well, a friend of mine told me about the gatherings rumored to go on at The Balboa Cafe in San Francisco.

I was quite familiar with the The Balboa Cafe, and going back to my days in graduate school at Cal Berkeley. Back then, in 1987, the students would talk about this place called “The Bermuda Triangle.”

No, it wasn’t the actual “Bermuda Triangle” they were referring to, but the intersection of Fillmore and Greenwich Streets, and the location of three bars. Then, it was The Pierce Street Annex, the City Tavern / and The Balboa Cafe. The area was called “The Bermuda Triangle” because when you went into it, you didn’t come out. Still, it was more an idea than a reality because I wasn’t the bar-going type so much.

“The Balboa”, then, was also a Cal Bar, so, as I was overcoming shyness as I advanced into adulthood and into the late 1990s, I had two reasons to go there: politics and socializing (which are pretty much the same.) That was how I met a man named Gavin Newsom. Gavin was one of the owners of the bar, and an up-and-coming business man.

One thing Gavin was at that time and now: approachable. And he was never full of himself, even as much as he was associated with the “in” crowd in San Francisco’s Marina District, and his dad is famed State Appeals Court Judge William Newsom. I can never say Gavin once treated me in a way where the word “racist” would even come into my mind. Not once.

In fact, as an aside, the same can be said for his father. I remember the time this rather unfortunate group of bikers decided to start their loud motorcycles in front of The Balboa. Gavin’s dad asked me to vlog the problem. So, I did…

Anyway, I used to say that the best thing that could ever happen to Gavin was for his face to be in an industrial accident. Every girl that you were interested in wanted Gavin. Women would come to The Balboa by the crowds just to be in the same room as Gavin. As a result, all of the Cal guys knew where the eligible women would be. So, on Thursday night’s in particular, The Balboa was packed: standing room only, with a line to get in.

When Gavin walked in, the room would collectively turn in his direction. Gavin took it all in stride, saying hello, shaking hands, and in retrospect, preparing to run for office. In those days, and now we’re into the late 1990s, I used to stand at the edge of the bar with then-KTVU anchor Steve McPartlin and read the newspapers that still hang on the wall today, or just talk. It was kind of like “Cheers,” but real life and many times more crowded.

After Gavin met and married Kimberly Guilfoyle, the couple would come to The Balboa on those Thursdays, pull up chairs and hang. I brought a woman I started dating over to meet the two of them, and the one thing she talked about was how nice they were. I even got a Christmas Card from them in 1998 that I’m pretty sure I still have. Then, Gavin’s life turned more toward politics, and as it happened, I became something called a “YouTuber”, having joined YouTube in 2006, and named “YouTuber Partner” in 2008. That year began what has grown into a string of video-blogs that, together, chronicle a good part of Gavin’s political rise.

Here’s a video from Gavin’s 2007 speech at the Fox Sports Luncheon while he was Mayor of San Francisco, and to kick off the start of Major League Baseball Season in San Francisco:

Here’s Gavin and former California Speaker and SF Mayor Willie Brown talking with me at the 2007 California State Democratic Party Convention:

This video in my collection best captures Gavin’s expressions of his political values of any vlog I have. This was 2008 in Berkeley, and an interview he did with me after a speech he gave to fire up Obama volunteers during the historic time we elected America’s first black POTUS:

Here’s Gavin (then Lieutenant Governor of California) and I talking about the Oracle Racing Team victory at the 2013 America’s Cup that was in San Francisco:

The Golden State Warriors 2015 NBA Finals victory and parade in Oakland provided another occasion to vlog Gavin’s view:

I have quite a few vlogs of our new California Governor Gavin Newsom, and a lot of memories and good times, and good people like my long-time friend Beth Schnitzer.

Through all of the 22 years of our friendship, Gavin’s always been the same, cool dude.

I hope he never changes.

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