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Another Club Bites the Dust

To be a working musician in San Jose is hard. To run a live music venue in downtown San Jose is damn near impossible. Latin jazz legend PETE ESCOVEDO found that out for himself last weekend when the Latin-music legend was forced to shut down his club at the SoFA flash point of South First and San Salvador last weekend. According to Escovedo, the older, upscale audiences for live Latin Jazz music never materialized. "We couldn't make it there," he says, by cell phone from his Los Angeles home. "No matter what we did it wasn't enough. People just didn't come out. It didn't do me any good staying there. Time to move on." After opening the club in July of 2004, Escovedo and co-owner MARIO GALEANO dropped $300,000 in improvements. He resisted the more lucrative DJ format, preferring to go for an upscale crowd with live jazz, blues and Latin. Being a musician himself, he wanted to give bands a place to play and get paid. When the crowds didn't show, the club got behind on everything: rent, phones, staff, advertising, liquor bills. Nine months after grand opening: grand closing. "It's a tough business," he says. "Unless you're making money every night, the numbers don't work. I was trying five nights a week of live music. It didn't support itself." By the way, the city offers national chains like the IMPROV and HOUSE OF BLUES hefty incentives and subsidies, but gave Pete—a guy with plenty of local ties—nada. Escovedo and staff tried to work with the area concierges to negligible effect. When the California Theatre opened, club employees passed out fliers to departing theatergoers, inviting them down the street for a drink. The older crowds in suits and furs strolled right to their cars and drove off—Escovedo himself watched them go plenty of times. "I guess it's that corner," he says, about the area bound by Agenda Lounge, Zoë and Glo—all nightclubs that attract a predominantly younger crowd. "People are so used to seeing the young crowd and it's what keeps the older crowds away." Three weeks ago, Escovedo experimented with DJs and Sunday night reggae as a last-ditch effort, but his heart wasn't in it. Today, the club is shuttered and for sale or lease. Escovedo is focused again on his music, touring and painting careers. "It's a financial setback but my spirits are high, and God takes care of those who have ambition," he says. "Whoever takes over, I hope it works out. Maybe in four or five years, San Jose will have a nice club like Yoshi's where people can enjoy live music in a nice setting."

Refilming History

Some people told ERIN McENERY she was too biased to make a movie about her father's pet project, a book TOM McENERY wrote about the bronze statue of Cpt. THOMAS FALLON, San Jose mayor in 1859 and controversial Mexican-American War hero. They were right—if McEnery's one-sided documentary is any indication. The Cinequest release featured many city officials defending Erin's father's effort to bring history to life, but neglected to include one of the most damning arguments of the opposition. JAVIER SALAZAR, the leader of the Fallon protestors, contends that much of the "history" attributed to Fallon is clouded with inaccuracy, and that Tom McEnery's infatuation with the character is proof of this. Before he became San Jose mayor, Tom McEnery edited a book called California Cavalier: The Journal of Captain Thomas Fallon, which some people thought was a factual account obtained from Fallon's authentic journal. The San Jose library placed its copy on the nonfiction shelves for nearly 10 years. Then in 1987, the same year Tom McEnery commissioned the Fallon statue, Salazar questioned the accuracy of the book and asked to see the journal. McEnery couldn't produce it. Instead, History San Jose republished McEnery's book with a disclaimer that reads, "Although as firmly based on an exploration of Thomas Fallon's life and personal letters as possible, this Journal is a work of fiction." KRISTIN McCAMAN, who oversees History San Jose's Fallon House, confirms, "There are no journals or diaries in existence that we know of. Unfortunately, a lot of people got the wrong the idea." Erin McEnery responds, "For 15 years, their whole argument is about a book? This doesn't seem that important to me." She says she doesn't think she knew about the book or Salazar's role in debunking it. "Anyway, how would I if Javier never returned my phone calls?"

All-Star Snub

Postal clerk Jeanne Viola works in a genuine landmark: the St. James Post Office building where the killers of department store heir Brooke Hart were incarcerated before they became the victims of California's last lynching, in 1931. But she thinks the city ought to have a real icon to give it some prominence. For example, she was recently watching the television show Food 911 on the Food Network. The show featured Smashmouth lead singer Steve Harwell preparing a Tex Mex-style meal at a home near San Jose's eastern foothills. Viola was more than a little incensed to see the location identified only as a city so many miles south of San Francisco and accompanied by shots of Victorian painted ladies and the Golden Gate Bridge. "There was not a single shot of San Jose!" she said. Viola was so worked up about the snub that she brought the matter up with Mayor Ron Gonzales at the gala for Ballet San Jose two weekends ago. Gonzales assured her that San Jose would have a world-class landmark when his new City Hall is finished. If so, San Jose will become the only large American city whose identity is defined by the most expensive municipal office building ever constructed. "That's not going to do it!" Viola correctly observes.

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From the March 16-22, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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