Thursday, April 9, 2015

The First Lady of the Tenderloin

Today is the birthday of my dear friend Katherine Sofos Looper​, owner of the Cadillac Hotel​ in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood.

Walking through the surrounding neighborhood with Kathy is like nothing I've ever experienced. Everyone in the Tenderloin knows her, from homeless people to the heads of corporations, and they all greet her affectionately and bend her ear about what's on their mind. She's celebrated in a mural on the side of a building, and was depicted in a play about the district.

The historic Cadillac, circa 1906, had many incarnations, originally as an upscale tourist hotel, then a place for people of modest means to spend a night or a few years, and when Kathy and her late husband Leory bought it they housed many people who had been homeless, and they brought in social workers to offer services.

Kathy hosts monthly concerts at the Cadillac where legendary musicians come to play for the residents and general public alike in the grand lobby, and it was at such an event I met two brothers who checked in to the hotel as tourists forty or fifty years earlier, but due to a snowstorm back home in Ohio they extended their stay, and never ended up leaving. "I still think about going back" one said.

Not long ago the brother who told me the story passed away, and the state decided the other was incapable of living alone and needed to be institutionalized. Kathy and her manager Magali Echevarria​ went to bat for that vulnerable old man, who was frightened and alone, and agreed to personally look after him so he could stay in his home.

Living two thousand miles away from my family was the hardest part of life in San Francisco, but Kathy became family, and I'm grateful to know her.

1 comment:

  1. I use to follow the band Little Feat around the country and one of their hit songs is "Cadillac Hotel"