There might not be much overlap between the people who will flock to the Bay Area for the America’s Cup in 2013 and those who want to immerse themselves in the nostalgia of the sex, drugs and rock and roll era.
But Bob Freeman wants his waterfront restaurant in Sausalito to be the nexus between those crowds.
After landing approval from the Sausalito Planning Commission last month, Freeman and his partners closed Horizons restaurant this month for a six-week renovation that adds an upstairs dining deck and significantly expands the building’s outdoor, America’s Cup-friendly seating.
“With the America’s Cup coming around, this is going to be the place to be,” Freeman said.
And how does Freeman plan to harken back to the crazy, hazy days of yore? He’s simply flipping the switch on the name, changing it from Horizons back to the Trident, the Kingston Trio-owned restaurant that, along with the famed Record Plant in Sausalito, drew dozens of the most celebrated musicians in the world to Marin in the 60s and 70s.
“The people who lived that era are getting a little long in the tooth, so if it was going to happen, it ought to happen soon,” Freeman, a Sausalito resident now and back then, said of the name change. “They’ll come back and they’ll tell their kids. There’s a whole built-in audience that will get a charge out of it being the Trident again.”
Two members of that built-in audience are especially thrilled about the Trident's return. Real estate agents Eduardo Gutekunst, a Mill Valley native who now lives in Lucas Valley, and Tiburon resident Mark Lomas both worked at the Trident - as a busboy and dishwasher, respectively. The pair recently merged their individual efforts to write a story about their years at the Trident. The result is a movie treatment they hope to get in the right hands.
Gutekunst said there are plenty of people that might be appropriate, from his father’s old contacts in Hollywood to some of the renowned musicians who came to Marin in the 60s and never left.
But there’s one person in particular that might be the best fit of all: , the legendary Marin comedian and Hollywood actor who was a busboy along with Gutekunst at the Trident in the early 1970s.
“He is the ideal person to get it to,” Gutekunst said.
But neither Lomas and Gutekunst is still in touch with Williams and they vow to respect his privacy and aren’t looking to drop it on him unsolicited. For now, they're working as many channels as possible.
Gutekunst said he has some remarkable memories of Williams at the Trident, including regular post-work gatherings around the kidney-shaped employees' table.
“Robin would use that period to pick someone out of our group and just suck them into one of his routines,” he said. “He would leap up onto the back rail of the booth and start acting like a chimp and start grooming people and pulling invisible lice out of their hair.”
Gutekunst also recalled Williams and actor Christopher Reeve crashing his wedding reception in the building in 1983 while looking for Trident manager Lou Ganapoler – a brief appearance Gutekunst and his new bride missed as they were in the kitchen thanking the chef and staff for helping with the event.
Gutekunst began working part-time at the Trident at the age of 16. His father owned Ondine, the upstairs restaurant that Freeman now runs as a private events space but intends to reopen as a restaurant in some form.
Gutekunst, whose family lived in Tam Valley for 10 years and Mill Valley for another 10, remembers when the Trident morphed from a jazz club featuring the likes of Mill Valley resident Vince Guaraldi into a fern-laden flower power hub.
“It transformed from a jazz club with a bunch of starched, bow-tied bus boys to a place where you could wear anything you wanted,” said Gutekunst, who started working there in 1968 at the age of 16. “The women waitresses were the main attraction. And it was an eclectic group of women.”
After leaving the Trident in 1979, Gutekunst spent most of his career in the computer graphics and animation business, including a 10-year stint with Discreet Logic, which later became Autodesk Media and Entertainment.
He had always wanted to write a nonfiction tome about his years at the Trident, hoping to interview as many people from that era as possible, especially those who were “schmoozing with rock stars and politicians and athletes more than I was as a busboy or a bartender,” he said.
Lomas, who maintains a robust website focused on the history of the Trident, had a screenplay focusing on the women of the Trident in mind, and the two started collaborating on a possible film concept. Gutekunst focused on a story that read like a Robert Altman-esque movie with more than a dozen intersecting storylines, while Lomas's storyline focused on three women at the Trident who held a common bond but whose lives were on very different paths.
They landed on a hybrid of the two, a story about two Trident waitresses “out exploring the edge” but weaving it with tales of a number of the main Trident characters, including Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber and Ganapoler.
The story incorporates “a lot of the insanity” and “massive amounts of drug and alcohol abuse” by both patrons and employees that was going on back then, Gutekunst said. That insanity featured regular visits by a who’s who of rock history, from David Crosby and Santana to members of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, who reportedly had a regular table. Concert promoter Bill Graham famously held a pair of legendary private parties for the Rolling Stones.
Freeman is excited about the film project, particularly as he seeks to reconnect the restaurant to its storied past. Although it has been more of a tourist trap than a hippie haunt in recent decades, the inimitable woodwork and colorful décor of the Trident remains.
“It definitely has legs,” he said of the film concept.
Freeman said the renovations, which include an electric awning system for the upstairs deck, will give him more seating flexibility during high-volume days like America's Cup races. He and Horizons co-owner Ron Davis have also brought in former Michael Mina sous chef James Montejano to revitalize the menu.
Freeman said he began thinking of changing the name back to the Trident after he did so for one day a few years ago as part of a benefit for the Sausalito Historical Society. The event drew more than 175 people, many of whom came in hippie garb, a clear signal to Freeman that there was still plenty of love for the old Trident. He said tourists will continue to flock to the restaurant because of the location, regardless of the name.
“That will go on whether it’s called Harry’s Shoes or the Trident or anything else,” Freeman said. “The idea is to get the locals to want to reconnect with the place.”