Celebrities on the street

When in-your-face filmmaker Michael Moore walks in the door with his crew, the usual response is fear. But when he wheeled up to Fillmore’s Elite Cafe on a recent Thursday evening and alighted from a black SUV with dark-tinted windows, diners at the sidewalk tables stood and applauded.

Moore had just come from the Clay Theater two blocks up the street, where he hosted a private screening of his new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. The master of the ambush interview arrived at the Elite without his camera rolling. And it wasn’t a surprise drop-in. Someone called ahead and made a reservation for four.

Despite his blue-collar persona, Moore didn’t have a shot and beer. “He ordered a Kahlua and double cream on the rocks,” said Fabian Oregon, the Elite’s personable bartender, who often works the plank solo at night.

“He was a gentleman,” said server Abby McLaughlin. Moore was dressed for the occasion in his trademark baseball cap, black T-shirt and jeans. “He took his cap off during dinner,” McLaughlin says, and when Moore and his party left, “He shook my hand and said goodbye.”

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Back home in the neighborhood from the political slugfest in Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her son — along with her Secret Service contingent — dropped in unannounced for dinner at Florio the other night.

From her table in the back of the dining room, she was the soul of graciousness as well-wishers repeatedly interrupted her dinner. Neither the public nor the politicians drove her to drink: She stuck strictly with San Pellegrino.

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The story of a magical plant

An island in a concrete ocean

Story and photograph
by Jean Collier Hurley

This is a story about kindness, determination, beauty — and an unusual bougainvillea plant.

Over the years, the front yard of the little house at 1923 Webster Street had become a junkyard, its wooden fence a dilapidated eyesore. The kindly owner, who had raised her family there, was too old and frail to do anything about it.

In April 1993, her next-door neighbor offered to plant a garden, turning a neighborhood blight into a blooming oasis.

At the nursery selecting plants, the neighbor, Loretta Bakker, saw a small Tahitian Gold bougainvillea with unusual gold and fuchsia bracts. “I’d give this plant three years,” the nurseryman said. “This variety only grows in warm Southern California climates. It may not make it here, but if you can keep it alive for three winters it may survive.”

“I’ll take it,” said Bakker.

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