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Outside Lands Podcast Episode 466: A conversation with Woody LaBounty

This week, Woody LaBounty makes a glorious return to the pod to talk about his origin story and time since handing over the reins nearly two years ago, to current WNP Executive Director and your podcast host, Nicole Meldahl.
- Jul 23, 2022

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 466: A conversation with Woody LaBounty Outside Lands Podcast Episode 466: A conversation with Woody LaBounty

Podcast Transcription

WNP466 – Woody LaBounty

Woody: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, the podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Woody LaBounty.

Nicole: And I'm Nicole Meldahl.

Woody: Nicole!

Nicole: Woody! Did we transport ourselves to 2014?

Woody: Yes. Wait, were you on the podcast in 2014? That seems like a long time ago.

Nicole: I think you might have brought me on for a guest appearance where I was so nervous, I couldn't remember anything I needed to say.

Woody: Ah well. I'm glad we've gotten past that. Now I can be the one who forgets what I'm supposed to say.

Nicole: it's your show, Woody. You can do whatever you want because you are our guest of honor this week.

Woody: I can't believe you're still doing this podcast. First of all, I kinda I kind of lost track and then I looked back in and I said, are you guys doing like an hour-long podcast? I mean, we couldn't come up with 20 minutes of stuff in the [00:01:00] old days, and now you do like an hour-long podcast. So, what happened?

Nicole: You know, I’ve never had a problem talking way too long about local history.

Woody: Oh, okay. Well, I'm impressed. I'm impressed that you've expanded and elaborated on a very rinky-dink project that we started so many years ago.

Nicole: Well, we're also, this is sort of, well, we're gonna be on the radio like the real radio soon, but that's an announcement that's gonna come in the next couple weeks. So, podcast listeners, we're going broadcast.

Woody: When you say we, am I gonna be on the radio? I didn't know that.

Nicole: They are gonna broadcast some old episodes, so you might be.

Woody: Oh, I might be. Did I sign away my rights? All right. That's okay.

Nicole: We can get into that another time. Right now Woody, we're here to talk about you and what you're doing with San Francisco history these days.

Woody: My favorite topic. So, do I have to introduce myself or do you have a whole new podcast audience?

Nicole: I don't think we have a whole new podcast audience, but we might have some who don't know who Woody LaBounty is. So, can we [00:02:00] like briefly explain to them your origin story?

Woody: Okay. Let's see. Origin of me. I, you know, there might be an origin story for Woody LaBounty, because my birth name is Stephen.

Nicole: Ooh!

Woody: That's sort of, yeah, that is like a secret almost. You know, I didn't try to keep it a secret, but, but I kind of lost it. Only my mom calls me Stephen. Maybe one of my brothers. So, I guess Woody does have a birth story, an origin story. And it really started, I grew up in San Francisco and I totally love the city. I would say that San Francisco is my third love. You know, I have a, my charming wife, my beautiful daughter. Very, both very smart, you know, very whip smart people. And then the third thing is San Francisco itself. The city is sort of my third love. So, I guess I try to translate that love. I’m like what do I do for San Francisco, since I like it so much. And, and that's when I started doing history and trying to like share the stories, which I think are [00:03:00] interesting and fascinating and just add to the richness of the City. And that's probably where Woody really became Woody to a lot of people, even though I had the nickname long before that. So, Woody LaBounty's origin story is probably starting Western Neighborhoods Project. And that would've been 1999.

Nicole: Ooh.

Woody: Yeah. A long time ago. I'm old.

Nicole: What is it? I mean, I know San Francisco's a fascinating city, so it's easy to get into the history of this town. But like, what is it about history that connected with you? People ask me this question all the time too.

Woody: So, yeah, you know, history is funny because, oh, I used to always say this. You remember I used to always do this in talks, is I think a lot of people consider history to be something that could be divisive, right? That you. people interpret the past differently depending on their level of power or prestige or controlling the narrative. And then there's division about that, an argument and how, and people fighting over history. But I always considered that history could be this great, you [00:04:00] know, sort of tool of understanding and coming together. And the way I always thought of that is there's these tales of the past, about a place we all love in some way or are very deeply connected to. And those tales we all share, whether we, it's about our people or our race or our religion, it doesn't matter. It's a story that happened on this ground. So, it's sort of the story of the neighborhood or the area or the city we live in. And it's a, It's something we all share. And so, I always figured it was a way to connect with people is to say, this crazy thing happened on this crazy corner, and you live here and isn't that interesting? And people be like, yeah, that's kind of cool. Or that's weird. Or that was horrible, that thing happened here, right?

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: But it's, we all know about it now. And when we have the knowledge and the short sort of, can retell that story. It's like something we all share and have in connection. Right?

Nicole: Yeah, and when I first started getting involved in [00:05:00] Western Neighborhoods Project, I was always really excited to see the tourists, or not tourists, but like people who had just moved here would come to WNP events. And they would start talking to people who are like fourth generation San Franciscans. So, we, this organization that you and David founded, has always been this great gathering place to talk about weird things, fun, weird things, right? In like a really fun way that felt very open.

Woody: Yeah.

Nicole: And so that's definitely alive and well at Western Neighborhoods Project.

Woody: Yeah, I don't think we need to, we're not trying to be trivial, but we are trying, you know, the past is just as fun as the present. You know, there's horrible things in the present and there's great, amazing, funny, goofy things in the present. And the past has both those things too. And if we only focus on the bad things of the past, or the, you know, the people who had the biggest impact on the past, then we're missing all these incredible tales of people who weren't famous, weren't rich, didn't maybe do anything of, you know, mag, large importance. But just a [00:06:00] goofy story or just something that's really interesting to people today in relevant to people's lives today. So, I, that's what I always think. Like history has everything and so bring it all out. Don't, you know, let's not just talk about, you know, people, capitalists, and, you know, leaders of organizations or businesses. But let's talk about their workers and the crazy stories and the lives they led too.

Nicole: Yeah. The phrase I keep saying is, we do serious history, but we don't take ourselves seriously.

Woody: Well yeah, there's probably a reason for that. I mean, people have a, sometimes people call me a historian and, you know, I got kicked outta Berkeley the first year because I was more interested in girls than studying. So, I wouldn't take me as a historian. I'm a storyteller, let's put it that way.

Nicole: Well I, well I take issue with that. Because I think you're one of the best historians that I know. You don't have to have like a pedigree or a Ph.D. or anything like that to be a historian. You just have to care [00:07:00] and conscientiously track your information, right? And like…

Woody: Sure. I mean, yeah. I do try to get my facts straight, but I guess what I'm saying is if people hear the word historian and they think that means somebody who's got a Ph.D., that's not me. So yeah.

Nicole: Well, we are, we are well versed in popular history, which is, someone recently told me, I was like, we do do popular history.

Woody: Well, we hope it's popular. I don't know if the results have actually born that out, but yeah.

Nicole: History's a hard sell sometimes. But, and for those podcasts listeners that don't know, like my brand of history, that some people have called it, is very much what I learned from you, Woody. You know, I'll never forget when I first started doing in-person lectures, which you and David forced me to do, I was really nervous and did not wanna do it.

Woody: Yep.

Nicole: You were like, don't worry about being, knowing everything. Just give people one true fact and two interesting anecdotes.

Woody: That’s right.

Nicole: And move on.

Woody: It's the rule of three.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: So, I guess one thing about [00:08:00] my background is, I was a performer, right? And David was too. But I was a clown and I worked in circuses and comedy and things like that. So, so I very much am attuned to what I think makes a good performance or what resonates with people. What makes people like remember something or get a fact out of something. And man, with the internet today and social media, it's like people can't hold more than one thing at a time in their brain. So, just get the one fact across and, and then, you know, make it a sandwich where there's something interesting to kind of hook them into the fact, they remember it, and then something fun for them to like go, that was great at the end of it and feel good. So…

Nicole: And keep it visual, right? Like, there's no point, like no one's writing down notes that you're a history lecture in person.

Woody: If they are, they have a problem. Yeah.

Nicole: So, you love history. You're born and raised Richmond.

Woody: Nope.

Nicole: Oh, raised not born. That is the deep, dark [00:09:00] secret of Woody LaBounty.

Woody: I thought the deep, dark secret was my name was Stephen, but we'll, let's hold that up. Let's hold that for now. I think…

Nicole: Okay, never mind. We're moving on. I'll distract people up by, I reminding them I'm from L.A., and that, that's hard for you to get over.

Woody: It bugs me, still bugs me.

Nicole: Well, that ship sailed. But you love the Richmond District and so much about what you do as a historian comes from your love of your neighborhood and wanting to share those stories. And you did that so well at Western Neighborhoods Project, and then you walked away in 2020. You just left us to our own devices.

Woody: 2019. Oh, well I guess I left the podcast in 2020, right?

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: Yeah

Nicole: Because you got an opportunity you couldn't refuse. And what opportunity was that?

Woody: So, I'm the Vice President of Advocacy and Programs at San Francisco Heritage, which is, now it's 51 years old, I guess. It's a nonprofit organization formed to, you know, it started as an architectural preservation organization. [00:10:00] Like, they were saving Victorians that were being torn down or slated to be torn down and really trying to shine a spotlight on the architectural identity and the sort of unique architectural landscape of San Francisco. Which is something I love too. Over the years, they had, they broadened it to like focus on things such as legacy business and cultural communities, which really attracted me. So, when the position came up to be Vice President of Advocacy and Programs, I was just very excited to continue that sort of triad of ventures that Heritage is involved with. Which is, I always really sum it up as we try to keep what makes San Francisco special. So, if you think of something, this is really a San Francisco thing, or this is really special about San Francisco, we fight for that. You know, we wanna keep that going. We wanna support that. We want to amplify those things. So that's what [00:11:00] I do at San Francisco Heritage.

Nicole: And what have you done there that's, that you're most proud of in, in your time?

Woody: So, I just said this. I testified in front of the Historic Preservation Commission, oh maybe a month ago. And I said this was the most, you know, sort of thing I'm most proud of in the three years I've been at Heritage. And that was the helping to push along city landmarking of Lincoln Park, which was the former City Cemetery. Many, many people don't know that Lincoln Park in the Outer Richmond district was a municipal cemetery. And from most, the last 30 years of the 19, the 1800s, and there are still people buried there. Many thousands of people buried underneath that golf course and under the Legion of Honor. And they represent the working class. They represent all the diverse cultures and ethnicities that built this city. And so, it's, it’s an amazing site to landmark, because it's not just some building. It's an archeological landmark and it represents just so much of what San [00:12:00] Francisco's about and the communities that are still here and the communities that built it. So, I just feel like that has, was just a great effort. Very broad-based, got a lot of community groups and different constituencies involved and it's getting closer and closer to being a landmark now. And I just think, I'll always look back on that and think that was a very worthwhile thing to help accomplish.

Nicole: Can you explain very briefly the, like, how does something get landmarked? Like, what is it that you do to get these things landmarked?

Woody: Yeah. So, and it's a question everybody asks, like, and what does it mean if you're landmarked? Does that mean nothing can ever change? And so, city landmark is a status that the city confers. It's a designation that the City of San Francisco can give to a building or a landscape or a statue or a piece of art. And it essentially documents what makes that important. Why that is significant for the city. What, how does it interpret the city's history [00:13:00] or past or present, and why, why is it something that we need to like designate as important.

So, there's a whole case report that gets done. There's a description of whatever it is. So, that essentially if somebody wants to change something, let's say you have City Hall, right? City Landmark and then Department of Public Works says, you know, these stairs are kind of crumbling. We need to fix them, but we don't know, should we just like use concrete? They could look at the City Landmark Report and say, wait, let's do a review of this. No, this is marble. You have to use marble. And so, like, oh, great, glad that was written down. Glad we know. Goes through a process and they do it the right. And it can cover private properties. It can cover, like I said, artwork. But it's essentially, it creates a review process. So things, there's an extra level of review before something gets changed. That's a city landmark and it's significant.

So, with Lincoln Park, you know, the golfers were worried. They're like, what if we need to like change a sand trap or something? Or [00:14:00] put a new water pipe in? But the landmark has been written so that routine maintenance, no problem. They're not gonna have to go through any extra review. They're not, they can change things. It's just significant changes that would have to go through a review. There's a couple of monuments that are still there, and if they wanted to take those down or paint them or do something crazy, they would've to go through a special review. And, even then, it's, it might be granted by the by the powers that be. So that's essentially what a city landmark designation gives you.

Nicole: I have to say, I've never seen anyone more adept at sort of navigating between different opposing viewpoints in various historical scenarios than you. You have an incredible, I'm trying to like channel this power that you have, where you can tell people, no, they're not gonna get what they want, but in a way where they think they're getting what they want. Cause it sounds so good.

Woody: Bamboozling them, huh?

Nicole: It’s not bamboozling. It's like calm. One [00:15:00] down and then getting everyone to see that they're not actually on opposite sides. They're actually, they actually want the same thing, which is to do, to be in San Francisco in this place doing something. And you are just so incredible at that.

Woody: Well, I did get it, I considered it a compliment. I had a, I think it was the chair of our board of directors said, you know, Woody has this talent to tell people no and they like him for it. But I will say, you know, people there are, you are, there are differences. I, I don't just like wishy-washy, get between things, make everybody feel good. Some people are still gonna be mad or they're still gonna be upset. I think my viewpoint is always, you know, what is it that each side cares about the most that we share. And usually, it is the health and the vitality of the city we live in.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: And so, it's trying to find some common ground between that and trying not to demonize both sides on that. What comes up at Heritage all the time [00:16:00] and all across the state is housing. And so, it becomes this people cast it in this very black and white. You can't landmark a building because that somehow that might stop housing.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: Or even if it doesn't stop housing, it might set some weird precedent that we can't build housing. And then on the other side, there might be preservationists where there's any project that changes something they feel like is, you know, a slippery slope to, to, you know, changes they don't want. And you usually don't have to live on those edges and those extremes, they're, usually the pathway of whatever the issue is before us is somewhere in the middle. And there might be some, you know, way to negotiate something where we both feel okay. But it doesn't always happen. I gotta say, some people are still mad at me about a lot of things. But that's the way it is.

Nicole: Yeah. I think what makes you a really powerful moderator is it's so clear that you care, right? Like a lot of people take jobs like yours for the prestige or the power or as a stepping stone to something else. And it's so clear that you care about this city and [00:17:00] you're trying to find a way forward that honors the past. And that kind of authenticity I'm finding more and more rare.

Woody: Well, you know, I have, we'll be at hearings and people will say, I've lived in this city four years, so I think, you know, da-da-da-da-dah.  And, of course, the easy knee jerk thing is to say, oh my gosh. You're like a baby in this city. Right? You know? Why should your opinion count? You've only lived here four years and people have lived here 80. Right? But I don't go there because I do feel like if you have counted the number of years you live in San Francisco and you take pride in that. And you are bringing that forward as like to, you know, marshal your argument. It's like, it shows you care about San Francisco. You love this city and you plan to like, you wanna be part of whatever its future is. And I respect that and I wanna encourage that. So, I'm not gonna ridicule you, you know, for being here four years. I'm gonna like try to lean into that and say, we both want this city to be great in 10 years. Right? You know, [00:18:00] whether we're here or not.

Nicole: But you're also really pragmatic about things, right? So, I remember when I first got to WNP, there was some building that was endangered. It was probably that gas station…

Woody: On Irving Street. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah, that they tore down. What's that?

Woody: Irving and 16th Avenue.

Nicole: Yes. And I was really upset about it and I was like, why can't, what we were gonna do? Like why can't we just stop this? And you were like, “Nicole, you can't save everything. It's our job to remember what was here.”

Woody: Yeah. If you can save it, I say save it. But sometimes when, when you can't save it, when it looks like you're gonna lose, to me the important thing is to amplify why it, it was worthy of being saved and tell that story continually. Because there's gonna be another gas station or something very similar or something that pulls the same heartstrings of people. And so, let's, let’s really kind of marshal our arguments again about why that was important and should have been saved so that we do a little advance work on the next battle. That's the way I think of it.

Nicole: Yeah, and I know that everyone [00:19:00] always talks about the Fox Theater on Market Street, right? Like, oh, what a travesty that was. But, and you probably know more about this than I do, it's demolition, much like Penn Station in New York City, really kind of galvanized the historic preservation movement here in San Francisco. So sometimes you have to lose one battle to like buoy you on to the next one.

Woody: Right. You know, I think everybody would rather have kept the Fox Theater on Market Street and said, you know, maybe the preservation movement could have started later. But, but yeah, you it's nice to look back on the positives of tragedies or things that, you know, help, like you said, galvanize the movement. And that definitely was one in the ‘60s. It took a little while to really sort of nurture that movement. It took a few years. But I do think people were starting to really realize that if they lose something they, that's really calls to what makes San Francisco special, that, you know, they don't get it back.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: And, and I think they really started feeling the loss when the Fox Theater went down. It was just [00:20:00] such an amazing, elaborate theater. It was just like a palace really inside. And, and then it's funny, I always say things like this. I remember I used to talk with David on the podcast like, what if it had been saved? What would the Fox Theater be today? And there's no guarantee it wouldn't have gotten torn down 10 years later. Because you still need to have that plan for like, what is it going to be? How, is it gonna be the same thing a movie theater that can hold whatever many thousand people that could hold? Or does it have to adapt? And so, you have to always look ahead and say, how does this survive and thrive in different environments and different realities.

Nicole: What should we do with the Alexandria Theater, Woody? What do you think should happen with that building?

Woody: It's a sore subject for me, Nicole. I have personally been working on the Alexandria Theater with, I think, five different supervisors in district one, many people in the planning department, different ownership groups since 2004. And. it is [00:21:00] just sort of, it just breaks my heart that nothing has happened with it. But I do think that the, it should, the interior artwork should be preserved. It has these large murals. These gold gilded panels. This beautiful staircase. Amazing chandelier. It, so whatever use it is transformed into, and I'm open to different uses personally, it's saving what's amazing about that building. It may not be able to be a movie theater again. But whatever it is, we've gotta preserve that sort of, that ornamentation and that really calls back to the splendor of that theater. And, of course, restore the outside.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: Which is just starting to get like, I mean, I, like urban decay on some level. But it's gotten to the point where it's, you know, it becomes an eyesore and then people don't know it's anything special and they're willing to let it go and we don't want that. So…

Nicole: No, we don't, I keep telling everyone we want the Alexandria Theater for Western Neighborhoods Project, and [00:22:00] then Woody rolls his eyes. You can’t see that.

Woody: It's a big ask, right? Like, what are you gonna do with a, it's a cavernous space.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: And it's gonna take a lot of upkeep. And so, I would love an organization like WNP to have it. But man, you're gonna have to raise millions of dollars really. So…

Nicole: Yeah, well dream a little dream.

Woody: Get on it. Get on it, Nicole.

Nicole: Who needs sleep?

Woody: Well, yeah, you just need some, you need some big donors and you know there's, I know there's a limited number of those out in the world. So…

Nicole: Yeah, I mean, so when I first got to WNP, you said, everyone used to say, doesn't somebody here know George Lucas?

Woody: Yep. And when I said a, that was when I said a fundraising effort was a failure. When they'd gotten to the point where they said, does anybody here know George Lucas, I realized their plan was a failure and they were not gonna raise the money. Cause they had like, they had gone to like the lowest level, which is, do you happen to know a rich person I've heard of that lives nearby. And [00:23:00] that's not a good, that's not a good plan. Yeah.

Nicole: Well, and it, I don't even hear that about specific individuals anymore. People just say, doesn't Salesforce wanna give you money? I'm like, well.

Woody: It's the same Mark Benioff, Mark Benioff gets pulled out there a lot now. Like, does I think Mark Benioff's grandkid went to my free school ne, you know, whatever.

Nicole: So, I'm like, I think they like to fund medical stuff. Not so much local history. But yeah, if I get in the room with them. Although I was at, this is a non-sequitur now, but I went to the opera like a couple weeks ago and I was like, oh, I should just bring postcards here. Everybody's like 75 and they look very wealthy.

Woody: Loaded. Loaded opera goers.

Nicole: Yeah. I'm like, I know you like arts and culture.

Woody: Well, let me ask you this. Do postcards work on those people? Those people go, oh great, a postcard.

Nicole: I dunno.

Woody: Is it a rave I can go to later? I just dunno postcards are the way they reach those folks. So…

Nicole: I mean, every time someone compliments my shoes, I can be like, you know how [00:24:00] you can support these shoes? Fund Western Neighborhoods Project. Anyway.

Woody: Here's a QR code on my handbag. Just picture…

Nicole: Please. No. People who are 75 and older don't wanna give money through a QR code. We're getting off the rails. Okay. So, you pioneered community history while at Western…

Woody: I did? Okay.

Nicole: Yeah, you did. I mean, how many groups popped up in, in the WNP image from 1999 until you left?

Woody: Two?

Nicole: At least two!

Woody: Yeah, okay, so I'm great.

Nicole: Let’s just go with it. You pioneered community history at WNP and then you took it citywide because you really did bring the Woody LOI approach to San Francisco Heritage. You're doing great. But you're up to something even more now because you just don't have enough to do with your life.

Woody: Well, yeah. So, I started a weekly email called, if you go to SanFranciscoStory.com and I would just say stop right now, pause, [00:25:00] go to SanFranciscoStory.com and sign up for the email.

Nicole: Clickety, clickety, clack.

Woody: Feel free to sign up. And then, but actually this week coming up, we're gonna have our email that only goes to the Friends of Woody, which is a paid level of the…

Nicole: Exclusive.

Woody: Yeah. Which Nicole, you're not gonna get this email unless you sign up for be a Friend of Woody. But the, the whole thing behind it was, you know, it came out of this, Nicole. People would say on social media or they'd say, you know, I just saw this building. I don't know what this is about. Or I heard something about. And I would say, I think I wrote something about that. Like, I wish I could just send you the link, but I have to find it. And a lot of it was on the Western Neighborhoods Project site, little articles or I don't know, message board posts. Or I wrote something for newspapers that aren't around anymore or websites that aren't around anymore. So, then I was like, I need to just pull that stuff together and update, amplify it, cause I've learned new things, [00:26:00] and get it out in the world. And then, so somebody says, what's up with that building, you know, or Carville. Like I heard Carville was about like these street cars that got dumped at the beach. Now I can say I, look, here's a video I made about it. Or here's an article I wrote about it. Right? And so, that's what got me started. But the other thing was I, my time did free up. I was interim President of Heritage for a year and I was just too busy to do anything else. And now that I'm not, I have a little more time. And I've just tried to spend some of my weekend time writing these emails. And I gotta say, Nicole, you know this too, it's like the pandemic just was, is terrible. And I wanna connect with people again. You know, you're so isolated and this is a way just to write emails, send 'em out, have people email me back, have conversations, have events. And so, it's just a way for me to hopefully connect with people again. And so, that's what it is. It's not a big money maker or any sort of, you know, way to [00:27:00] any larger goals other than to do things I think are fun and connect with people. So yeah.

Nicole: And it's very well stylized. You've, you have always been on the cutting edge of how this history can be communicated. You know, you were like, we should start a podcast when nobody had a podcast. Now everybody's got a podcast, unfortunately.

Woody: No, that’s okay.

Nicole: Yeah. I mean, you know.

Woody: It's better.

Nicole: Hit or miss, but, but again, I feel like you're on the forefront of what history can be. You might be the first history influencer, Woody.

Woody: San Francisco history. Yeah, I.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: I dunno.

Nicole: Yeah, you got your Instagram's jamming now. You're on it all the time sharing lovely little pieces of visual information.

Woody: Yeah. I don't think it's that jamming. But I, and I can't imagine who I'm influencing. But I guess you did hit it on the right word with communicator, because I do think like, it's the same with you Nicole and WNP is in the same way. It, we just wanna share things, right? It's not about we're the best or we're [00:28:00] the first. Or recognize us as the history people. Or it's more like, here's a cool thing and how do we get the most people to learn about it? And, and there's different ways to do that, and I've always been interested in how to do that. I know you, I think you and your thesis or whatever you did in school was about, you know, the connection between arts and history. And I've always been very much excited and interested in that and trying to use, you know, theatrical productions to share stories and visual arts and podcasts and all that. Like how do you share all the rich stories of San Francisco in all the ways and reach people where they're at.

Nicole: Yep.

Woody: Whether it's on social media or they only listen to the podcast or they only go to live events. It's like, just how to get into all those different places. So, sending an email every week that shows up in people's inboxes is just another way to reach people that maybe aren't on Facebook or don't wanna go to a, you know, an event. They just wanna get an email once a week. [00:29:00] So, that's all. It's just a, it's just a continuation of how to share things, how to share stories with folks.

Nicole: It's funny, KQED is starting to do these live theatrical history walking tours in…

Woody: Really?

Nicole: Golden Gate Park. That's their focus.

Woody: Huh.

Nicole: And they've already done one with Steven Pitsenbarger at the Japanese Tea Garden, which makes complete sense.

Woody: Yeah.

Nicole: If any of you have ever met Steven, he's the best. And they reached out to us to help like with some historical background and stuff like that for the next series. And when they were telling me the lay of the land of how it would all work, they were like well, you're the historian. And, of course, Chris Pollock, cause you can't do anything in Golden Gate Park without Chris Pollock. So, you'll provide the history and then we'll give that information to an actor, and that actor will do what they do with it and lead the walking tour. And I thought, oh, that's what you think of historians huh?

Woody: Yeah.

Nicole: There's no possible way we can make this entertaining. Which, in their defense, is often the case, right? Like historians, just like [00:30:00] collections managers and people back a house at museums, they're often maybe a little surly or stiff. But, but, I was like, oh, I wanna lead this.

Woody: Well, you should tell 'em that. Because, you know, they're different skill sets it's true. You know, some people are great researchers, but they're not public speakers, you know, and so that makes total sense. They may be assuming too much, they just don't know you guys probably and don't think that, you know, you're comfortable doing that, but maybe they just need to be educated, you know. So…

Nicole: It’s okay. I'm in a new zone these days. Woody made a joke earlier about how I say yes to everything. I'm saying no to things now cause WNP is gratefully asked to be at a lot of different tables nowadays.

Woody: Yeah.

Nicole: But I'm happy to just do the researching, pass it along this time.

Woody: All right, there you go. And Chris Pollock could do the research. I mean, that guy is the Golden Gate Park historian, and he could definitely do the research for them.

Nicole: Yeah, he’s wonderful. We actually have a wonderful student with us this semester, Lindsey Hanson, who's been doing all kinds of research for us, learning, she's very much like a [00:31:00] grown adult individual, but she's learning the WNP approach to history now. So, she's researching all kinds of salacious stories about people involved with certain parts of the Park. But anywhosit. So, Woody, we've talked about your origin story, Heritage, San Francisco Story. Is there anything else you feel like you need to get off your chest here on the podcast

Woody: No. I mean, I kind of feel like the last time I did a podcast for Western Neighborhoods Project, we did this exact same conversation talking about me. So, I feel like, whatever number that was, you could go back and learn more about me. So…

Nicole: Hey, but I didn't cry on this one. . .

Woody: Anyway, no, it's just a pleasure to be here and I'm always happy to talk about history and always, of course, happy to talk about Western Neighborhoods Project, which is something, of course, dear to my heart and I'm very excited and grateful about how it's continued on under your leadership. So…

Nicole: Aw, I paid him to say that. [00:32:00]

Woody: Yes. Well done.

Nicole: Alright, Woody. Well, that wraps up the podcast portion of this podcast, and now we're entering a new segment, which replaced your pearl segment. It's called Say What Now? And this is where I ask you a bunch of hard-hitting Barbara Walters-style questions to get to the core of who you really are as an individual Woody.

Woody: Does anybody remember Barbara Walters? I mean, that just kind of says something about the podcast audience, right?

Nicole: Baba Wawa.

Woody: Oh wow, you do. That's amazing. All right, lay it on me. I can tell you anything. I'm an open book.

Nicole: Ah, number one. What is your favorite dive bar in San Francisco?

Woody: So, what is the definition of a dive bar? I mean, what…

Nicole: Ooh.

Woody: My dive bar might be very elegant in other people's minds, you know?

Nicole: What is your definition of a dive bar?

Woody: I don't know. I don't really do that. I don't really think of dive bars. [00:33:00] I think of bars as bars and then, probably, okay, maybe this is it. My standard is a bar, is a dive bar. And then, anything beyond that is a cocktail lounge or something where I don't usually go.

Nicole: Okay.

Woody: Or a wine place. So, I can tell you my favorite drinking establishment and I think everybody knows this, who knows me. It's the Plough and Stars on Clement Street. And, and I often say that I would stay in San Francisco and the only time I would consider leaving is if Green Apple Books and the Plough and Stars closed. And if those are gone, then I'm like, maybe I'll look around. Although I probably wouldn't move.

Nicole: Moving’s hard.

Woody: Plough and Stars.

Nicole: Plough and Stars. In fact, if you're visiting from the UK and you happen to go to Plough and Stars, you might find Woody there.

Woody: Should I tell that story really fast?

Nicole: Yes.

Woody: I was in the Plough and Stars like 5:00 in the afternoon in the dark, in the back, somebody blocking my view. And then, but I was talking to somebody and then these two blokes came over and said, are you Woody LaBounty? And I said, yes. And they [00:34:00] recognized my voice from the podcast. They were from Manchester, England, on vacation in the Richmond District, which that was the thing I found most bizarre. And they just happened to come into Plough and Stars because they'd heard about it on the podcast.

Nicole: Oh.

Woody: From Manchester, England and I just happened to be. And they were just, you know, we took a picture. They like, cause they were fans. I just, I was like, I have fans in Manchester, England who listened to the podcast and went to the Richmond District. I'm like, you know, there's a whole city of other things in San Francisco. You don't have to come to Plough and Stars and Burma Superstar and Green Apple Books if you don't want to. But they were big fans. They loved it. So…

Nicole: They came to the museum too, and they were like, Nicole! I was like, ah.

Woody: We have fans from England, just kind of nutty. I know we had listeners from Copenhagen and Australia. It really baffles me, but yeah.

Nicole: Debbie from Australia, she comes every year and she [00:35:00] always comes to visit us. She always like brings little gifts, like wild.

Woody: Yeah, it's great to have fans. I mean, that's what's great about sharing this stuff is, you get to meet people from all walks of life in all places.

Nicole: It’s true. I feel like, maybe not some academic historians who just prefer to research and not actually deal with people, but like for the most of us, we're all just like jolly people people, you know like…

Woody: I dunno if we're all jolly, but yes, we're all people people, for sure.

Nicole: Well, we all have cranky sides, but, you know, that's because history's hard and running nonprofits is the worst. I mean, It's the best. I love my job.

Woody: Yeah. There you go.

Nicole: Okay, number two. Moving on. What's your favorite pizza slice in the city and where do you get the best burrito?

Woody: I don't think I've, I mean, I do have pizza sometimes. I don't think of it as a San Francisco thing so much. When we get pizza, we probably get Gaspare’s on Geary. And burrito, okay, burrito. Okay, now we're into, we're in deep. So, I put a lot [00:36:00] of thought into this. I mean, I didn't know you were gonna ask that question, but I always just think about burritos. And I would say that my general favorite burrito is La Cumbre on Valencia near 16th, and I mean, on 16th near Valencia. And, I would say that the key to a burrito, a northern California, San Francisco burrito, it's hard to get wrong, but I do think the key is sort of the, it has to have structural integrity to kinda sit on the plate in a vertical position with a tinfoil around it. And it's gotta have that mouth feel of cheese and tortilla that's melted together. You know those places where they throw the cold cheese onto the lettuce at the end? You're like, what have you done? Right? So, you know, you gotta have the steamer of course, but I think that's a given. So, yeah, I think La Cumbre and then I often have Chinos out on Outer Balboa.

Nicole: Oh.

Woody: Although they've gone down a notch, I would say. And I eat a lot of Gordo's burritos too.

Nicole: I hope that Arnold Woods hasn't heard you [00:37:00] talk smack about Chinos.

Woody: I think they've gone down a notch, but they're still good. I would also say Tacqueria Cancun on Mission, out like 26th, 27th Street. They do a great job with vegetarian burritos, which I'm a vegetarian so, a big shout out to them. And Tacqueria San Jose, always pretty good luck. La Cornetta, you know what the line kind of kills me. I'm just like, the burrito's good, but I'm you know, I just may not go because of the line in Glen Park. I don't like that. I have eight different people making my burrito. You know? I kinda like one person making it. See, I've thought a lot about this.

Nicole: Bespoke burritos. One person start to finish.

Woody: Yeah, exactly. I want a craftsmanship behind my burrito. I don't want like an entire team making it. I kind of just want one person. So…

Nicole: All right well, that's the most scientific approach to what's the best burrito.

Woody: We all eat.

Nicole: We've ever had here. So, thank you.

Woody: No, San Franciscans, they're, we're all thinking about it all the time.

Nicole: It's true. People will think about it in L.A. too, [00:38:00] but we won't get in into that.

Woody: Okay. You have burritos in L.A.?

Nicole: Oh boy. Oh, that's hurtful.

Woody: Is that like Del Taco or something?

Nicole: I don't know what to do. Okay. Del Taco's great, but I wouldn't say because it's good food.

Woody: Yeah.

Nicole: Also, don't get burritos at Del Taco. Anywhosit. Number three. Where do you take out of town guests when they visit San Francisco?

Woody: Well, if they're guests that are like staying with me, I often will go to places in the Richmond, cause that's where we are. If they're staying somewhere else, I think I give 'em a little driving tour. And we usually go, I think the places that people are gonna love if they're out of towners, are they wanna take a cable car and then I think the best way to do that is to catch the California Street cable car at Van Ness and go downtown.

Nicole: Yep.

Woody: And I mean, it's great to go on the Hyde Street cable car. That's the easiest, quickest, get the experience. You know, Crissy Field, Marina Green. That's just, they wanna see views of the Bridge and Alcatraz. Might go [00:39:00] down Lombard Street, who knows? But then, I kind of, people have made fun of me for doing the Woody tour, which is like, here's where I went to a high school dance and I kissed this girl. And, you know, here's where I used to play and build a fort in the park here. And I kind of give that extra personal touch to the Richmond district. And, of course, when the Cliff House was open, we would go to the Cliff House. Now we can go to The Museum at The Cliff.

Nicole: You can. Or, if you know somebody who has the keys to that place, sometimes you can drink after hours.

Woody: Okay. Bring your own. Yeah.

Nicole: Okay, so number four. What is the most San Francisco thing about you? And you can't say your hat.

Woody: I don't think it's a San Francisco thing. It's a fedora I wear. I think the most San Francisco thing is the secret we were hinting at, which is, I wasn't born in San Francisco. That's probably the most San Francisco thing about anybody, is that they're from somewhere else. Right? I was actually born in Santa Rosa and we lived there for a very short time before [00:40:00] moving back to, I say moving back, cause both my parents were here in San Francisco. My mother's family goes back to like 1850 in San Francisco. So, that's one of the secrets is I'm not a native, if you care. And, but it's a very San Francisco thing about me, cause most people who live in San Francisco were not born in San Francisco.

Nicole: John Lindsey always says, oh, I'm just a visitor. I'm still just a transplant. Like he's been here for like 20 years or 25 years or something like that. And still, he's like, I'm very mindful, not from here. I get it.

Woody: It counts. It counts. I think everybody who decides that they wanna be a San Franciscan and define themselves as one, you're in. You don't have to be a native. You don't have to live here 50 years. You just have to accept in your heart that you're a San Franciscan.

Nicole: I believe so too. Obviously, I've been in the city 20 years this year, and when I tell people that, I love watching them try to figure out how old I am, they're [00:41:00] like, hmmm.

Woody: So, you’re?

Nicole:  Woohoo.

Woody: Okay.

Nicole: Okay, last one. When people complain about San Francisco, what do you say to them?

Woody: What are they complaining about? Like some specific thing, you mean?

Nicole: You’ve heard it. San Francisco's the worst. It's dirty and progressives and like super expensive, blah. San Francisco's a failed city.

Woody: I don't know. There's so many places people can live. So, you know, it's, I just welcome them to find someplace else. I do think, you know, my brother who lives in, now lives in L.A., or Sherman Oaks, he'll send me those things, cause it's a fun thing for the national press to, you know, pound on San Francisco. And I was pointing that out to, I think Joe Eskenazi mentioned this in one of his columns, that San Francisco's population is the same as Columbus, Ohio. But nobody, the Atlantic, the New York Times does not write like articles, complaining about the way the city government in Columbus, Ohio does things. Although I'm sure they could and I'm sure there [00:42:00] are problems in Columbus, Ohio. But I think the reason that it, people like to do it is because otherwise, San Francisco is heaven. And so, it's always fun to go, here's the dirty underbelly or the secret horribleness, or, you know, it's so great, but you can't afford it. And so, it's just a journalistic or a storytelling, you know, device to like, just kind of find the bad things about a place that everybody else will laud is great.

Nicole: Yeah.

Woody: So, I think we can be bigger than all that and say, look, we know we're awesome. We have that hubris right of San Franciscans. And yes, there are problems. Of course, every city has problems. Ours are about affordability. Ours are, you know, we do have homeless problem, but so does Sacramento. We do have streets that need to be cleaned, but, you know, so do so many other places. And if you want a sanitized, you know, a place where everything is clean and you [00:43:00] can afford a house, you're running outta places really, that you can find. And, and then, you're gonna have to deal with the weather. I saw, I saw yesterday or whatever, every, a weather map, and everything was a 100, 90 degrees, 85. And San Francisco, it's 65 degrees. And I was like, yes, this is my home. I love it. So, I dunno. People wanna complain. They can complain, you know? but I love it. So…

Nicole: Did you know that Columbus, Ohio has a coffee shop named after Jack Kerouac? It's called the Kerouac Coffee Shop.

Woody: I didn't. I have, I have some like distant relatives that live in Columbus, Ohio. And what I mostly remember is they have like a circle route that goes around the city. So, that you could, if you don't know where you're going, you just keep going in circles, like a roundabout It's like a freeway. But, and I'm not picking on Columbus, Ohio. I'm just saying it's a similarly sized city, but there's no national zeitgeist that gets attached to it, like San Francisco. You know, It's the problem with being an important place, a [00:44:00] storied city that people want to talk about it negatively and positively.

Nicole: And still, San Francisco culture finds its way to Columbus, Ohio.

Woody: That's right. Yeah, for sure.

Nicole: All right. Those are all our questions for Woody. If you would like to ask Woody more questions, we're gonna tell you about an in-person event where you can do that in a little bit. But you can also just email us podcast@outsidelands.org. Those emails don't go directly to him anymore, cause I think we accidentally cut off his email access.

Woody: You did.

Nicole: We're trying to figure that out for Chelsea right now too, cause she can't get into her email either. So, we're happy to restore your access. I'm sorry it wasn't intentional. We're going through some stuff on the website. But anyways, listeners, the point is you can send us email, but you can also hit us up on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook because we're on all the social medias that are not TikTok and I'm happy to say that John listened to episode number 357 on King Norman's [00:45:00] Kingdom of Toys, and Woody. for old times, would you like to read this? He's shaking his head no. He doesn't want to.

Woody: I don’t have it with, I don't have it in front of me.

Nicole: Oh.

Woody: I think I was there for that podcast though. I think I did that podcast with you. So…

Nicole: You did. So, John said, so you’ll really enjoy this and that's why I picked it for this episode, John said, “I worked for King Norman at his second store in, in Westlake shopping center in Daly City. He started a birthday party package where you told him how many people and we took care of the rest. Cake, ice cream, party favors, and would show up the date arranged and set everything up. He also hosted monthly movies for employees at his home theater, showing 16-millimeter current pictures. And weekends during the summer, he would have us all go boating.”

Woody: Yeah, I mean, people can listen to the podcast, but King Norman's was the old-fashioned local toy store, and King Norman also had a, you know, [00:46:00] a local children's television show. And so, if you're a certain generation, a certain age, a San Franciscan, you, King Norman was a big part of your childhood.

Nicole: Yeah. Sounds like a great guy. Otherwise too, treating his employees.

Woody: I think he was a good local businessman, you know, and he got his wife involved. She was in the television show too. You know, it was definitely old school, local business guy. So…

Nicole: So, as soon is that podcast, you can listen to one of the older episodes and you can hear Woody LaBounty on the podcast again.

Woody: So good.

Nicole: So good. And, of course, this is the time where we tell you all about the benefits of membership and donating. Which includes still a quarterly membership magazine that sometimes we get out on time. Discounts…

Woody: What’s that? You gotta upsell this. This is like, David used to do this too, like try to like sell the membership by saying all the problems with it. You gotta come on. It's great. You gotta like push on the positives here.

Nicole: Well, I'm sorry, I absorbed what you both did with the organization and ow [00:47:00] just comes out in a higher voice. We do great work and you wanna support that. I know you do. Plus, you get discounts on events and other exclusive perks. But, most importantly, we keep so much of our history free still. This podcast free. And boy, the production quality is way better than it was at episode number one. Thank you, Ian Hadley. It also supports OpenSFHistory, which is a treasure trove of historic photos that you can look at for hours. We've got the Cliff House collection, which is really hard to take care of y'all. And so much more. So, you know, please become a member or just donate even $5 helps us get to the next day. You can clickety, clickety, clack the big orange buttons on the top of any page on our website outsidelands.org or OpenSFHistory org. And now, that [00:48:00] means it's time for announcements. Woody is silently questioning how I've rebranded the second part of the podcast.

Woody: Announcements.

Nicole: Announcements. Because sometimes we don't have events, but we're still doing things and we want to tell people about it.

Woody: Okay. All right. All right. All right.

Nicole: But ironically, right now, it's just gonna be all about events.

Woody: Okay.

Nicole: Events are back. We were on like a little bit of a pause while I feverishly got everything into the Cliff House, because we have a pop-up museum there and it's incredible. Woody, you went. What can you recommend about our pop-up museum?

Woody: I think what was great about it or is great about it is it the variety of things you're going to see there and the media in which you see it. It's not just a bunch of static old items. It's got modern, I would say more modern photography. It's got audio. It's got movies. So, it's, it really hits all the different senses. So, I, maybe smell, you don't have any odors, you gotta work, get the cotton candy smell [00:49:00] in there, maybe. But that's what I thought was most impressive about it, is it just hits all the senses. It's great experience

Nicole: And it's fun just being in the Cliff House. I mean, we worked really hard to curate and like provide historical information. But really, just come in there. It's free. We do ask that you register in advance for on Eventbrite to be in the special exhibition on weekends, 11 to 5:00 PM. But it's free. You can hang out as long as you want once you're indoors and it's very kid friendly. Like, we want you to sit for hours and play with things and take in the view. So, you can find a link on our website outsidelands.org/events or just search for us in Eventbrite. Where you can also follow us, so that you get the first notification when we add new events. Because we have finally been able to program events in the evenings at the Cliff House. So, first of all, Woody, you're gonna be joining us, August 24th for [00:50:00] a Western Neighborhoods Project History Happy Hour, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Woody: Yeah. It's a, it’s a great chance. Drink a beverage and talk with me. Which, how many times can you do that? I mean, actually you could probably do that anytime. But, but at the Cliff House with the curators and with all the incredible exhibits there and probably it'll be a beautiful sunset. Usually there's some beautiful sunset there. So, I would totally recommend you do that, cause that's when I’ll be there.

Nicole: Yeah, it's fun to be in that space outside of normal public hours. And we will be offering complimentary refreshments and it's free for WNP members. It's also free for Friends of Woody. But it's $30 if you're not a Friend of Woody and if you aren't part of the WNP family. And you know what? Being a member of WNP only starts at 50 bucks a year. So, if you're gonna buy a $30 ticket just to come hang out with Woody, you could probably give us $20 more and just [00:51:00] be part of the family.

Woody: Yeah, I mean, it's totally worth it.

Nicole: Totally worth it.

Woody: You see how I said that with a straight face sheet? It's totally worth it. And that's the way you gotta do Nicole. It's totally worth it.

Nicole: Yeah, WNP's totally worth it. And then, if you're still kinda, I'm a little bit nervous about in-person events, don't worry. We're relaunching our virtual programming starting on July 28th. That's a Thursday evening at 6:00 PM. There's an incredible new book by the author Patrick Moser named Surf and Rescue, George Freeth and the Birth of California Beach Culture. He used photographs from our OpenSFHistory archive, and it's all about how kind of the surf culture that we're so familiar with, Woody, I know you're familiar with it down at Kelly's Cove, came into being. And it does have a lot about Southern California, but it, but George Freeth had a lot of connections to San Francisco and of course, Sutro Baths, as well as a lot of his swimming disciples, which we already covered on a prior podcast. So, this is free, absolutely free, because we don't like to charge for virtual programming. But you do [00:52:00] need to register in advance to receive your Zoom link. So, go to our website outsidelands.org/events and you can get all set up. Okay. Woody, are there other events that you would like to PR that you’re involved in?

Woody: No. No. I just think if people go to these websites and follow the social media of your great organization. If they go to SanFranciscoStory.com. If they go to SFHeritage.org. They're gonna find all these great events. And I think the key takeaway here is we wanna see people and if we, if you don't feel comfortable seeing us in person, we wanna see you virtually too. You know, it's like all about connecting as San Franciscans and about around these topics and subjects and stories that we all love.

Nicole: Couldn't have said it better myself. So, I hope we see you soon. Our preview for next week is, in light of its hopefully temporary closure and controversial transfer of patients recently, we're recording an updated history of Laguna Honda Hospital, a [00:53:00] subject Woody originally talked about way back in 2014 on episode number 80, if you can believe that.

Woody: I can believe that. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. All right. Well, Thanks again Woody for joining us.

Woody: Sure. See you soon.

Nicole: Have a great night, or morning or day everyone.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

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