The 400 block was abuzz yesterday afternoon, as rock star Lenny Kravitz and his entourage made a brief stop in the neighborhood.
The “Are You Gonna Go My Way” singer, pictured above with Rooky Ricardo’s owner Dick Vivian, was drawn to the neighborhood entirely by chance.
Earlier in the day, he had been shopping at Torso, a vintage clothing store at 272 Sutter Street in Union Square. During Kravitz’s visit, a song called “Check Yourself”, recorded in 1968 by Debbie Taylor, came on.
“It was a sound he had never heard before,” recalls Vivian.
It turns out Torso was playing one of Rooky Ricardo’s mix CDs, a compilation dubbed “Emotional Wrecks”.
Vivian has created about 70 different CDs, composed of obscure tracks he pulls from old 45s from his extensive collection.
Of “Check Yourself,” the song that caught Kravitz’s attention, Vivian says, “It’s gritty, gritty, gritty. This is as gritty as you can get.”
When the shopkeeper told Kravitz where the music had come from, he and his entourage headed for Rooky Ricardo’s to check out the music shop for themselves.
Kravitz and a group of six others spent roughly 45 minutes in the shop, Vivian tells us, listening to music and chatting with Vivian and his colleague Matt Osborne, who runs Glass Key Photo in the space. Vivian gave Kravitz 10 of his mix CDs, and Osborne sold him a Polaroid camera.
“He was so happy, very soft-spoken and mellow. He couldn’t have been nicer,” Vivian says.
He also respects Kravitz’s ability to recognize something special about the Debbie Taylor track.
“I love that a musician of that stature would hear something like that somewhere and know that it’s different.”
While Kravitz was in the shop, Wing Wings co-owner Lisa Shin came over with some brown sugar and black pepper biscuits. Kravitz apparently enjoyed the biscuits so much that, despite reportedly having dinner plans later that night at The Slanted Door, he stopped by Wing Wings before leaving the neighborhood and sampled some items from their menu. Shin tells us he especially seemed to like their Angry Korean wings.
“He was super sweet and down to earth and friendly,” Shin says.
Kravitz is in the Bay Area for a concert tonight in Oakland at the Fox Theater, after which he heads to other west coast venues before heading to Asia and Europe on a world tour.
For Vivian, Kravitz’s brief, unscheduled visit to the Lower Haight won’t soon be forgotten.
“It was a great scene. Very high energy. People in the store got excited, and nobody was weird or rude… It was one of those moments when the store felt really… special.”