Interviewee Bill Knight at Pay 'n' Save
Interviewees Jack Strang and Steve Fleming at Café Flore
Interviewee Mr. Bill of San Francisco (running for Governor of the State of California)
Interviewees Sandy and Rick Mitchell in Concord, California
Interviewee Stefanie Hylton at the German Oak. She also took on the camera and interviewed people from behind the bar.
"Xmas Balls" was the first true documentary made by Sutro Tower video, and the first video that was anything other than organized/disorganized short vignettes. It was taped in San Francisco, California and Concord, California, and a television excerpt from "Good Morning, America" was used that was a recorded holiday greeting card from "The Farm" near Mediapolis, Iowa.
Xmas Balls was created during the last days of the reign of King Ronald I, Produced entirely between late October or early November through December 1989. It was released about two weeks after Xmas (I believe). The video featured a number of interviews with San Francisco and Concord, California, citizens, as well as novelty musical/video/fantasy numbers, most of which were greatly enhanced during the 2005 revision and re-mastering of the video. It ended with a more poignant segment known as "Class Class" which was video contrasting struggling homeless people with those from opulence in the city.
Unlike the ensuing "Carmel Knowledge," the original footage of Xmas Balls was retained so the re-edit created a much nicer end product.
A lot of Xmas Balls was filmed while imbibing in Paulaner beer at the German Oak Restaurant, that was on Market Street in San Francisco throughout most of the 1980s and a bit of the 1990s. Some further video was taped at Western Scooter Distributors in the Bayview section of San Francisco on Quint Street (where I once worked). Also a number of sequences were taped in Union Square and downtown in San Francisco. Some segments were at whatever location I was at where someone on the street would talk to me.
In 1989 not everyone was used to being taped for video, as so many are today since the advent of phones and cheap still cameras that also take video. People often seem a bit more reticent and nervous about their newly found stardom in Xmas Balls than would be common today.
In the remaking of the video a few years back, my entire perspective on what was important about it had changed since 1989. Originally I loved the fanciful, cynical and often funny segments I put on the tape between interviews. In the interim a lot of people's whereabouts were lost through moving, death, or unknown circumstances, and what they bothered to say sixteen years earlier was much more interesting than it was to me at the time.
It's still plenty satirical, as I just could never make an xmess video that wasn't.
Mr. Bill of San Francisco
Bill Knight (Pay 'n' Save and 1987 retrospective on Ord Street)
Michael Lusk (German Oak and his apartment)
Jack Strang (Café Flore)
Steve Fleming (Café Flore)
Rick Mitchell (Concord)
Sandy Mitchell (Concord)
Cathy Hennessy (trying not to be on video several locations; at home from 1987 retrospective)
Michael Hennessy (Ma Tante Sumi, the Castro, at home from 1987 retrospective)
Stefanie Hylton (German Oak)
Dennis Brumm (German Oak and in Concord)
Lise (last name not remembered, German Oak)
Maria Beer (her apartment, Ma Tante Sumi, the Castro)
Walter Schwrtzina ("Waggi" - German Oak)
Dietmar Wolf ("Didi" - German Oak)
Anne Engelhart (German Oak)
Nina Van der Gelder (German Oak)
Werner Kraus (German Oak)
Frank Ahern (with Werner Kraus at the German Oak, but not interviewed)
Paul? Hagen (brother of Cathy Hennessy - 1987 retrospective)
Ken Harlan (1987 retrospective)
Bob Remensperger (Western Scooter)
Greg Remensperger (Western Scooter)
Michael Cuellar (Western Scooter)
Willie Griffin (Western Scooter)
Claudia Escalante (Western Scooter)
Unknown woman at a Union Square toy store
Unknown drunken man at the German Oak
Unknown employee at Café Flore
Unknown employee at The Sausage Factory
Two unknown employees at Ma Tante Sumi (cook/waitress)
Unknown employee at The Santa Clara Market
Unknown man on the street whose Edwardian home was decorated with xmas lights all year, as put up when it was last painted
Unknown employee of the Castro Theater
Unknown UPS truck driver and practicing Christian
Unknown man on the street originally from New York
Three unknown women at Pay 'N' Save
Haight Street skewered Santa and surroundings (2005 version only)
Ratty the Reindeer (don't ask)
Frosty the Icebox Snowman
Joseph Bill the Sailor
Mary Sally Marionette
Zippy Claus/Zippy Christ*
*The appearance of Zippy the Pinhead in Xmas Balls as both the baby Jesus and Santa Claus should not be construed as a reflection upon any of Zippy's personal beliefs.
"First of all, my name is Mr. Bill of San Francisco, California. I'm running for office of governor of California."
"Here's an orange now, doesn't that look appetizing?!"
"So, you're an American? You're a German-American?"
—Cruisy inebriated guy at the German Oak
"We just got a little spontaneous this evening and decided to go get our Christmas tree. We wanted to get our money's worth out of the whole thing."
—Woman shopping with her friends at Rite-Aid
"I love Christmas! I'm going away, I'm going to Florida for Christmas"
—Perky waitress at Ma Tante Sumi
Videos with an asterisk (*) are available for viewing courtesy of the Internet Archive.
The Detaxilification of Quemalt Aite (1992)
(sketched out: never produced)
The Last Time Dennis Saw Iowa (2005)
(see also: "Red Meat and Red Jell-O")
Sturm in der Deutschstunde (1992)
A Tour of San Francisco (1987)
(the very first "movie")
►Xmas Balls (1988: 2005)*