NAME: Michael Mascioli*
Treasure of music collectibles to be found in SF's Castro District Special
By Jonathan Farrell.
Cabaret fans and nostalgia enthusiasts, take note: when looking for old recordings and rare one-of-a-kind finds look to All Music Services, the little treasure trove nestled in San Francisco's Castro District.
This reporter got to spend an afternoon discovering hundreds of songs, LP album covers and other memorabilia merchandise stuff related to celebrities from times gone by. Owner Michael Mascioli offers rare and unique records. Many of these music finds are being converted or "re-mastered" onto CD. Being able to gather them is an effort, one that Mascioli knows very well. Back in 1991 he was co-owner of Medium Rare Records shop on Market Street. After five years, he gave up Medium Rare but his passion for music remained. "I love music and being around it is very rewarding to me," said Mascioli. The walls of his office are literally stacked from the floor to the ceiling with music recordings from just about every era. Some of the records and artists, like Pinky Waters and her "Let's Be Buddies" album would be completely unknown to today's generation who follow the latest singer on TV's "American Idol." "Some of these singers were barely known in their time," said Mascioli who not only does lots of research to find records to sell, but also to understand the story behind them. At this point with All Music Services, all his customers are by way of mailing list. "I send out a mailing list, an email catalog, of what I have in stock and customers respond," he said. When this reporter met with him at his office he was preparing a shipment to go out to a customer in Australia. Mascioli took some time away from his office on Prosper Street to chat and explain a bit more of what has become not only a business but a passion in life. "I am not a singer or a musician," he said. "But all my life I have just loved music and all things related to it." Mascioli is pleased to help people find music, especially the singers. "I think it is important for singers to know the music they sing and to as much about music itself," he said. Once he got the box ready that he needed for that shipment to Australia, he took a little stroll amid quaint side streets. Some of the houses are Victorian and Edwardian in style well over 100 years old. Many are painted in an array of bright colors, yes some in pink and purple, with a rainbow flag on display. He walked to Thorough Bread & Pastry cafe on Church Street - one of the spots he likes to have coffee, not far from his home-office. He cherished his moments out and about in the neighborhood. "Some times I get so busy, there are days I don't get outside before the day ends." As someone who lives in one of the most popular neighborhoods in San Francisco Mascioli feels fortunate to live in such a place. He does not overlook the fact that the Castro is a neighborhood and not just a visitor destination. "Real people really do live here," he said. He pointed out a few vacant store fronts were businesses have departed due to the economic recession. "That shop there was Saratoga Chocolates, they left after only a short time and that over there that was a nice little cafe to have coffee because it had a fireplace," said Mascioli. "I miss that place," he said. Even the cafe were he went to chat with this reporter at one time had been Just Desserts a local specialty bakery. "now it is Thorough Bread & Pastry," he said. Despite it's Mecca-like status that attracts thousands of tourists each year, The Castro is still vulnerable. "I worry when residents like myself are not able to patronize the local businesses as much as I like to; it really has an impact upon the neighborhood," he said. Regardless of day to day ups and downs, good economy or a recession, Mascioli is determined to stay, He relishes the wonderful business opportunity to collect and share music, especially vintage stuff. Local cabaret singer Bill Cooper often goes to Mascioli to find a recording. Cooper has performed in venues all over the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in New York City. His show; "You're Soaking in It" was a triumph at the Metropolitan Room three years ago, thanks in part through the help of Mascioli. "To be able help someone like Bill Cooper is part of the rewards of the job," said Mascioli. San Francisco may not be New York with the Broadway stage in its midst, yet despite its provincial aspects San Francisco still has some remnants of a night life. "There was a time when this city was dotted with places for live entertainment just about everywhere," said Randy Wallace, who also once owned a local record store - many years ago. Now in his 80's he is retired. Wallace has great affection for music, especially Jazz, the Great American Songbook and Big Bands Era. He is happy that Mascioli is making old music available to new audiences as it seems younger generations these days get most of their music from downloads off of the Internet. Wallace noted that at one time people could just go anywhere to enjoy music performed live by a band or orchestra; "and almost every bar in town had a piano with a singer," he said. Mascioli who has been in San Francisco since the 1970's became acquainted with all the places around town that had live performers and music. "Live music was always around, until rock and roll took over. Then things began to change," said Wallace. Wallace also noted that places like the Hungry I and the Purple Onion had once featured then-unknowns like Barbra Streisand and comedienne Phyllis Diller. Now superstars, they are among some of the great talents that got their start in San Francisco. "The 60's is when music changed and musicals and Broadway went info a decline," said Wallace. With top composers like George & Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Richard Rogers, "music then had more melody and lyrics were coherent," said Wallace. While Wallace might have less of an opinion of music today, Mascioli sees the talent in more contemporary music like The Beatles. While The Beatles are not Cole Porter, Irving Berlin or George and Ira Gershwin, "The Beatles were composers in their own right and much of their music holds up." It too is referred to as a classic," said Mascioli. Mascioli has lots of Beatles music on CD. "I think that is one of the neat things about technology today, so much of the really old music is available on disk and can be accessed by so many movies on video" said Mascioli. Mascioli noted how many orders he gets are for songs now on CD. "Not much call for stuff on vinyl these days. Yet I have it if people want it," he said. "Michael is wonderful. I am quite a collector," said dancer/choreographer Jack Moore. Like Wallace, Moore is from the generation that listened to music on 78's, 45's and 33 LP's, Moore now has CDs thanks to Mascioli. Moore noted that purchases arrive by mail well packaged and "he guarantees everything." "I am so surprised where Michael finds these things," said Moore. A transplant to San Francisco from New Jersey, Mascioli got engrossed in music while at Temple University. "I got into various shows and concerts for free as a writer for the school paper," he said. This is when his passion for music; all sorts of music began. "It sort of crept up on me, I would go to a show or a concert, write a story for the paper, but then discover an entirely unknown style or genre of music; at least to me at the time," said Mascioli. Each article took him from show to concert about town. He became enthralled with the music of Bette Midler, Manhattan Transfer and the Pointer Sisters long before they "hit the big time." Performers like these were introducing audiences of their time to music from the past, only re-packaged as it were. Midler's very first hit was "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" a popular song from WWII, She won a Grammy Award for "Best New Singer of 1973." "Before attending those shows I was just into the music of my peers, like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles etc.," said Mascioli. Once settled in San Francisco, Mascioli made the rounds to all the night spots. He wrote critic reviews for the San Francisco Sentinel - back then in the 1970's a pioneering publication and the only officially gay newspaper in the City. "I would go to all the places like "The Venetian Room, The Purple Onion, The Plush Room at the York Hotel, etc.," said Mascioli. I would write up a review. "Today there are so few venues for local talent to perform," he said. "The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko is really the only prominent venue we have now for live entertainment," said Mascioli. Octavia Lounge on Market Street not far from the Castro had open mic on Sunday nights it closed. And, Enrico's in North Beach would feature singers on Friday's it just closed this year. Still there are efforts by local performers like Linda Kosut, Lua Hadar, Carol Luchenbach and Kathy Holly to name a few that manage to create a venue such as putting on a show at a restaurant or cafe - turning it into a performance space - even if only briefly. Mascioli hopes more live entertainment in San Francisco will make more of a resurgence despite the recession. He is happy to help singers find the songs on CD that they need.
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