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January 13, 2013

It's A Blue Day In San Francisco When You Lose A Brown

Vivian Brown and Marian Brown atop Telegraph hill in 1996.

California has a long association with all things “brown.”

The California state flag features a North American brown bear (grizzly).

Los Angeles is the home of the once famous Brown Derby restaurants.

San Francisco native Pat Brown was the 32nd governor of our state.

Pat Brown’s son Jerry Brown was the 34th governor, and he’s currently our governor (39th).

Amos Brown was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1998.


Vivian Brown and Marian Brown and the Bay Bridge 1994.

Willie Brown represented the city for 30 years in Sacramento, and was the Speaker of the State Assembly for 15 of those years. When he retired and left the state capital, he returned to San Francisco and spent the next 8 years as our Mayor.

San Francisco is also the home of two iconic living landmarks named Brown, those inseparable identical twins, Vivian and Marian Brown.

I call them living landmarks - because they often walked all over the city, and everyone took their pictures. They always dressed identically in public, and created a stir wherever they went.
The Brown twins were featured in print ads for Macy’s, as well as other businesses and local banks. They were cast in over 25 television commercials, and were local celebrities who loved the attention they received from tourists and local residents alike.

Vivian Brown and Marian Brown in fur coats 1990.

Sadly --- Vivian Brown, 85, who was 8 minutes older than Marian, died this past week.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Vivian was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Vivian Brown, half of the twin sisters who became celebrities by going everywhere together in San Francisco in prim, matching outfits, died Wednesday night.
Brown, who was 85, died peacefully in her sleep at an assisted care facility in the city, said Barbara Farber, director of development for Jewish Family and Children's Services, a charity that helped support Brown and her sister over the last year.
Brown suffered from Alzheimer's disease, her twin, Marian Brown, told The Chronicle in August, when the pair were facing their first extended time apart in decades. Vivian Brown fell in July and was admitted into doctors' care, where she remained until her death.
Marian Brown is mourning the loss of her sister, Farber said Friday.
"She's as you would expect - it is a very sad time for her," Farber said. "It is even more difficult for her because she's a twin and this was someone she's been close to all these years.


Vivian Brown and Marian Brown in leopard skin coats 2008.

I got to know Marian Brown when I first arrived in San Francisco. I used to have private voice lessons (singing) at the San Francisco Music Center, every Saturday afternoon. The Brown twins were taking piano lessons, and my voice lesson and Vivian’s piano lesson took place at the same time, in studios that were right next to each other.

When my lesson was taking place, Marian would sit outside my studio, and she’d listen to me sing. My lesson was 50 minutes long, and we’d chat when I was finished.

Marian always complimented me, whether I was good or dreadful. She always smiled, and every week she’d say my voice reminded her of a great crooner from a bygone era, and I’d ask “who Bob Dylan?”

We’d laugh, and then she’d fill me in on what she and Vivian had been up to that week.

When we heard silence, which meant Vivian’s piano lesson was over, she would whisper goodbye, and that was my signal to leave.

I’d wave to Vivian every week, but I never got to know her.

One Saturday I showed up for my lesson, and the Brown twins weren’t there, and I never saw them at the music center again.

Once in awhile I’d bump into them downtown, and Marian would always ask Vivian “do you remember Bob Dylan?”

Marian and I would laugh, and Vivian would say “Hi Bob.”

I haven’t seen the Brown twins in years, and I had no idea that Vivian was ill. Vivian’s passing is like losing a cherished city landmark. I hope that Marian is healthy and holding up, and emotionally OK.

I’m sad that Marian is hurting, and am sorry that she lost her beloved sister.  The Brown twins brought lots of style and laughter to our eccentric city, and there’s no question that they were a positive influence, who left an indelible mark on everyone they encountered. That’s why they will be remembered always.  

RIP Vivian.



straight talk in a queer world.      jiveinthe415.com              
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