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Book captures Bay Area’s thrash heyday

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Beth Winegarner
Special to the Examiner
Dec. 30, 2011

The Bay Area may be known for Silicon Valley’s innovations, but it was another breakthrough altogether that gave it a permanent spot on the international heavy-metal map: thrash.

The early years of such seminal local bands as Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Death Angel and Vio-lence — plus their Los Angeles brethren Megadeth and Slayer — are captured in the new photo book “Murder in the Front Row: Shots From the Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter,” by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, out this week.

Oimoen and Lew’s snapshots reveal fresh-faced kids who worked hard onstage and played hard offstage. In one backyard shot, Metallica spits beer at Oimoen’s lens. In another, Exodus members balance light bulbs on their heads in bassist Gary Holt’s mom’s garage.

“One of the coolest, least known, and most unpublicized things about the Bay Area thrash metal scene back in the day has been the great brotherhood and camaraderie that was and is so prevalent,” Oimoen wrote in his introduction to the book. “There was no distinction between bands and fans like there is today.”

That camaraderie allowed Oimoen and Lew to get close to many bands and capture photos that couldn’t happen today — such as Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett lying side-by-side in bed with guitars, cigarettes and beer in their hands.

For many bands, the volume is a kind of yearbook of the early 1980s, said Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda. “I saw it at Kirk Hammett’s house — we sat and went through it for about an hour, and it brought back some memories of things we didn’t know were captured,” he said.

For the rest of the world, “Murder in the Front Row” is either a reminder of those times, or an introduction to the original thrash metal scene for a new generation of teens just discovering the genre. Serendipity led Lew and Oimoen to release the book now, just as Metallica and Slayer are celebrating their 30th anniversaries and toured with Anthrax and Testament this year.

“We’ve had these pictures for 30 years,” Lew said. “It’s better that we didn’t put the book out 10 or 15 years ago, because a lot of the younger metal bands are being influenced by the book the era covers.”

Outcasts latched onto thrash in the 1980s because it was the most aggressive music available, and fans today are looking for the same thing, according to Osegueda.

“I think it’s more viable now, ironically enough. Politically, the world’s in a state of utter chaos and turmoil, and that’s when this type of music seems to resonate,” he said. “This aggressive sound makes them feel like they’re getting something out of their system.”

BOOK NOTES
Murder in the Front Row

By Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew
Publisher Bazillion Points
Pages 272
Price $34.95

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Written by Beth Winegarner

December 30, 2011 at 8:36 PM

Bay Area-born pop culture icon dies at 82

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Beth Winegarner
San Francisco Examiner
August 13, 2007

Merv Griffin, the San Mateo native who went from big-band-era crooner to successful television host and game-show creator, died Sunday of prostate cancer. He was 82.

Griffin was born and raised in the city of San Mateo, where he launched a neighborhood newspaper, The Whispering Winds, when he was 7.

He graduated from San Mateo High School, and returned in 2006 for the opening of the high school’s new theater, which was named in his honor.

Although Griffin became one of the most popular and successful entertainers of the 20th century, he never forgot his roots, according to many locals who reflected on his life Sunday.

“I always look at San Mateo as a great place, and it gave him a great foundation,” said Supervisor Jerry Hill, a San Mateo resident. “He excelled in everything he touched, and he had a gift of entertaining people and making them smile.”

Griffin was initially diagnosed with prostate cancer in the 1990s, and was successfully treated for the disease more than 10 years ago, according to a family statement. He was recently hospitalized for a recurrence of the disease, which strikes one man in six and kills one in 35, according to the American CancerSociety.

“His death proves that this disease doesn’t respect any class status or occupation,” said state Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, who has publicized his own battle with prostate cancer in order to encourage men to seek regular screenings for the disease.

Griffin’s entertainment career arguably began at 4, when he began learning to play piano and performed recitals on the back porch of his family’s San Mateo home. Griffin left the University of San Francisco to work at San Francisco radio station KFRC, and then recorded a hit version of “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” which went on to sell 3 million copies.

By the numbers
» Born July 6, 1925, in San Mateo
» Began working for radio station KFRC in 1944
» Recorded “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” in 1950, which sold 3 million copies
» Launched “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1962
» Created first game show, “Word for Word,” in 1963
» Created “Jeopardy!” in 1964
» Created “Wheel of Fortune” in 1975
» Won 17 Emmys

Source: Official biography from the Griffin Group

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

August 13, 2007 at 10:05 PM

Posted in Celebrities, San Mateo

Daly City mayor hosts reality show

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
June 19, 2006

Many politicians wind up on television, but very few end up hosting their own reality shows.

This summer, Daly City Mayor Michael Guingona is launching “Pinagmulan,” a reality-TV show that helps Filipino-Americans connect with their family and friends back in the Philippines. “Pinagmulan” means “roots” in Tagalog. The show will air both in the United States and in the Philippines.

“Pinagmulan” has required the Daly City leader to make several trips to the Philippines, where he scouts out locations and connects with families on the Philippine side to make sure a story is worth covering. During these missions, he has climbed Mount Pinatubo and seen parrotfish deep in the ocean.

“I know it sounds like fun, but please, make it sound like work,” he said.

Guingona already has one television program on the air. “Citizen Pinoy,” which launched a year ago in both countries and debunks common myths and misconceptions that immigrants to the United States — particularly Filipino ones — may have about the immigration process. On the show, Guingona, fellow attorney Michael Gurfinkel and Gel Santos-Relos focus on a different aspect each week, ranging from adoption to citizenship.

In both programs, carried on The Filipino Channel, “We’re trying to connect people who need help with people who can help,” Guingona said. “It’s almost like being a broker.”

The first episodes of “Pinagmulan” will track the stories of a woman who hasn’t seen her sister in the Philippines in 14 years, a woman who discovers a sister in Asia she has never met and a Hawaiian brother-and-sister team who haven’t seen their caretaker in a decade.

Born in the United States, Guingona moved to Daly City in 1965 at the age of 3. He graduated from Westmoor High School and earned his law degree from San Francisco Law School. In 1993, he was elected to the Daly City Council and became its youngest mayor when he was first appointed to the post in 1995.

He is separated from his wife, with whom he shares custody of their 6-year-old son, Kai.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

June 19, 2006 at 9:52 PM

Posted in Celebrities, Daly City

‘Amazing Race’ champion turns up in San Francisco

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
May 18, 2006

Now that everyone knows he won the “Amazing Race,” San Francisco’s golden-haired hippie, Tyler Macniven, no longer has to keep his champion status a secret.

Macniven, 25, and best friend B.J. Averell, 26, emerged Wednesday night as this season’s winners of CBS’s intercontinental scavenger hunt. Filming wrapped in December, forcing the newly minted millionaires to keep their mouths shut for six months.

“It’s a big weight lifted from our shoulders,” Macniven, a Woodside native, said Thursday. “But it was a good secret. If it was a bad secret, it would have been harder to keep.”

He didn’t even tell his own father, Jamis Macniven, who owns Buck’s restaurant in Woodside. “The tension was killing me,” Jamis said. “But he never let on to any of us.”

“The Amazing Race” took Macniven and Averill — along with 10 other teams — from Thailand to Brazil, with stops in Russia and Australia along the way. Dubbed “The Hippies” early in the season, they were nearly eliminated twice before racing neck and neck with “The Frat Boys” to the finish line.

Along the way, the duo bungee-jumped in Greece, made peace with the denizens of Oman and ate bowls full of crickets in Bangkok, which Macniven described as “like eating tortilla chips with bug guts on them.”

They also fended off plenty of “dirty hippie” comments from other teams, but competitors laughed about those barbs after the race ended, according to Macniven.

Macniven and Averill met four years ago on a boat, and since then have been dashing from one adventure to another, traveling to Cuba, India, Southeast Asia and China. He even once walked across Japan — the long way — to impress a girl.

Macniven insists that yes, they really are hippies: “If the definition is someone who has long hair and is having more fun than you are — then yes.”

Once Uncle Sam takes his cut of Macniven’s half-million, the Bay Area native may consider buying a boat and docking it in San Francisco, Berkeley or Sausalito. He’s also considering investing in his brother Dylan’s new restaurant, the Woodhouse Fish Company, opening this month at the corner of 14th and Castro streets.

Some of the “Amazing Race” competitors may have been playing a role, but Macniven’s personality is the real deal, according to his father. “Tyler never acted during this whole thing. That is the real kid,” Jamis said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

May 18, 2006 at 10:04 PM