Last Day For Dunsmuir Xmas

Around the East Bay, Dunsmuir Mansion is really the “go to” spot for holiday cheer.  For the past 38 years, this has been the ideal time to check out the place – filled with 35 rooms of decorations.

Now there’s just one day left to visit, Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm.  The mansion’s located at 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct. (map, directions), and worth a quick trip down Rt. 580 tomorrow.

Dunsmuir Xmas

Of course, volunteers began the decorations in October because there’s so much work involved.  This is a mansion from another era, and worth the loving efforts by these decorators.  According to the Tribune, it takes 5,000 hours to get ready.  Kind of amazing!

Since the weather’s supposed to turn frightful on Sunday, this should be your indoors destination of choice.  Edwardian-dressed docents lead tours through the mansion all day long, and expect to be serenaded by live music too.

Other things going on at Dunsmuir?  You can sign up for a formal tea-time, served at 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm for teens/adults (14+).   There’s holiday gifts for sale in the carriage house.  And if the weather’s not too bad, there will be a trolley ride through the estate grounds.

While tickets are pricey, this is the prime fundraiser for maintaining the mansion.  Admission runs $17/adult, $16/seniors (62+), $13/junior (6-13), and free/tots (under 6) at the gate.   If you buy online today, then you incur a $7 order fee but save $5 per ticket.  High teas cost another $25/person, and require advanced reservations.

What If An HBO Hit Featured Oakland?

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing lately about a potential HBO series that prominently features Oakland, in all its glory.  This series would follow an old-school pimp and his challenges as he deals with younger, more violent pimps.

The Hughes Brothers, who produced and directed American Pimp (1999) and Dead Presidents (1995), announced their upcoming dramatic HBO series entitled Gentlemen of Leisure last summer.  If all goes according to plan, the first pilot and episodes would air sometime next year.

In the Hollywood Reporter, scriptwriter Evan Reilly explained the series focuses on “a guy who wants to get out but keeps getting sucked back in by the allure of the game and by extraneous circumstances that have to do with his family.”

American Pimp

Ami Zins heads the Oakland Film Office, which supports movie, TV and commercial production here.  She confirmed that scriptwriter Reilly and executive producer Polly Anthony reached her about the project.  For HBO, this dramatic one-hour series ideally fills the The Sopranos gap.

If green-lighted, this series would film on location.  Zins said the producer identified Oakland as “a character unto itself…with a great diversity of people, culture, arts, architecture and geography.”  While the economic impact isn’t known yet, she pointed to The Wired (HBO) which contributes $35 million/season to Baltimore.

What’s the downside for Oakland?  You could quickly denounce it based on the subject matter alone, since Oakland becomes the land of pimps and prostitutes.  Hollywood is possibly glorifying this crime-ridden life as well.  However, I happen to believe that crime becomes a back-drop for the series and its characters.

Folks living in New Jersey probably had the same concerns when The Sopranos began airing.  The subject matter was about mafia violence, but somehow managed to work anyway.  This acclaimed series drew you into the dark drama and family dynamics over time.

(Full disclosure is that I used to work, long ago, for an HBO competitor.  Getting a top-quality series on HBO is a real coup because they aren’t subject to the pressures of network TV.  Simply put, critically acclaimed fare can survive without a mass audience and advertising there.)

So here’s an opportunity to bring Oakland into the American culture more prominently, warts and all.  It’s admittedly very grimy, and every major city in the world has an underbelly.  Will this transform Oakland into an unacceptable place on earth?  Somehow I doubt it.  If the series really gets aired, this isn’t bad for our city at all.

Dec 23rd Update:  News outlets and blogs are buzzing, and we recommend these original takes from  CBS5KTVUOakland TribuneEast Bay ExpressOakbookA Better OaklandBrooklyn AvenueBicostal Bitchin’