January 29, 2016: A part of the San Francisco Sound and one of North Beach’s most famous fixtures is gone. Yesterday, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship founding member Paul Kantner died of complications related to a heart attack he suffered earlier this week at age 74. Paul was one of myNorth Beach favorites; a unique, talented and unassuming fixture at the Caffe for decades. He could usually be found sitting out front, thoroughly savoring his Espresso and cigarette, sometimes giving interviews in his al fresco “office” or chatting with other customers. We often talked about our common world of music, and Paul would routinely stop in for a Saturday morning or afternoon coffee and intensely watch and listen to the Caffe Trieste Saturday Concert. I remember introducing him to our concert audience on several occasions, and also inviting him to sit in with our band, but he would always modestly refuse, once saying to me during a coaxing conversation “I can’t do that; you guys areREAL musicians”. His sincere, boyish modesty was legendary and refreshing. Paul was also always quick to lend a tune for charitable causes and events.
Though most may not think of Paul as an outwardly religious man, he could often be found quietly visiting the Porziuncola Nuova across the street between cups of Espresso, saying a rosary to the Blessed Mother. He once told Porziuncola and Knights of Saint Francis leader Angela Alioto that his devotion to “Mary” goes back to his Catholic school days. He unrelentingly had been pushing his idea of a concert in the Porziuncola for quite some time. Whenever he saw Angela on the block, he would ask her “so when are we doing the concert for Mary?”
I think Paul will now get his chance to do his “Concert for Mary”, in person. Get the crowd warmed up and the show started, old friend…..I will come and sit in with you someday. Paul, his family, musical family and friends are in our prayers We are really going to miss you, Paul!
We thank photographers Christopher Michel and Lance Iversen and the San Francisco Chronicle for contributing to this article.
Fabio G. Giotta, President/C.E.O. Caffe Trieste Incorporated, Trieste Music