Kaddish for Allan Rothfarb

My resumé is a graveyard of media companies in San Francisco, the stones marking names of businesses long expired but which have improbably lived on in memories carried in the heads of the bright young things who once lit up the offices with gleaming faces and smiles.
We are not so young now but my peers from then were and are ever bright.
A few of us still trod Planet Earth who whistled merrily into the front door at 611 Howard Street in San Francisco to be the face of W.A.Palmer Films, a film laboratory whose ranks included a World War 2 War resistor conscientious objector negative cutter and the right wing Bohemian Club owner of the business who saved him from jail. We were all mavericks of one stripe or another. It was the fabulous 1970s in San Francisco after Nixon and before AIDS and Armistead Maupin and Cyra McFaddin serialized our saga beneath the cannabis fog.

One stellar member of our constellation was our chemist Allan Rothfarb, recruited from Florida to be our mixer in more ways than one. One and twenty year old goyish rube from Midwestern prairies pilgrim that I was, I immediately found on my arrival in 1975 in that company the three Jewish men who would be my pals. And Allan was spectacular among us all. His undergraduate love was literature and seeing that I was the odd hairy goofball in the lunchroom reading Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder he took me under his wing, a Groucho Marxist appendage if ever there was one.

Allan owned a spring wound Bolex and he was the cinematographer for my first 16mm ektachromatic reversal cinema poem that got me a coveted one in twenty golden ticket for undergraduate film school at San Francisco State. We listened to jazz when rock seemed dead, talked about cinema and poetry and had a million laughs.

We went our ways. He had the bright eyes in 1980 to see the future was digital intelligence while I lingered in the pool of photochemical silver dreams.
I saw him two years ago, the bon vivant had become a mensch with a wife and two daughters and he mentored a legion of colleagues in computer science activities. He still made films, jokes, and laughing people.

Allan died December 7, 2013.

His song from then.

2 thoughts on “Kaddish for Allan Rothfarb

  1. Gary,
    Thank you for bringing the memory of my husband, Allan, to life. A trip to San Francisco always included his tour of his past apartments, the lab, and lots of stories.
    Your brilliant writing allowed me to be a part of those moments. I can see the twinkle in his eyes and his goofy smile as he enjoyed his time with you. Thank you for sharing those memories.

    Dian Rothfarb

    1. Thanks for writing, Dian.
      Those like us who had the pleasure of his company carry those smiling eyes of Allan with us still.
      He had one Tenderloin apartment where he set his film idea called “A Season in Hell” (Rimbaud was a favorite of his then).
      He hosted a surprise birthday party for me there and all the film lab pals showed up.
      Then he moved to a magnificent bachelor pad on Russian Hill.
      Our haunts included Keystone Korner where we went to hear jazz and the Greek Theater in Berkeley (he loved music, you well know).
      I can just see him showing the old town off.
      Be well, Dian.

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