Column: Comic in DC crosshairs is from 909

Comedian Larry Willmore speaks at the 102nd White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2016. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Comedian Larry Willmore speaks at the 102nd White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2016. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday’s column starts with an item about the buzz-worthy White House Correspondents Dinner, where Larry Wilmore roasted the president and everyone else. Wilmore, who took Stephen Colbert’s place on Comedy Central, grew up in Pomona. I’ve also got a half-dozen Culture Corner items and more.

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Restaurant of the Week: BC Cafe, Claremont

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BC Cafe, 701 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at San Jose), Claremont; open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily

Drive by BC Cafe any weekend morning and you’ll see people standing in small groups outside, waiting for a free table. It’s a big-breakfast spot, with roots dating to 1959 in Pomona, where it was named Breakfast at Carl’s, before moving north and shortening its name at some later point, the ’80s or ’90s.

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The name is somewhat confusing, incidentally. The owners attempted to brand the place as Kickback Jack’s, with a cartoon mascot of a Jimmy Buffett-like jackrabbit, but that’s only stuck at the second location, in Rancho Cucamonga. The website for both is KickbackJacks.com. But a change of the Claremont sign lasted a couple of weeks before the BC Cafe name was hastily restored.

I’ve eaten at both locations but primarily at Claremont’s, although not for years. For my birthday in March, though, I decided to treat myself to banana pancakes there.

BC was just as I’d remembered, even if the Howard Johnson’s behind it is now a Knights Inn. On a Monday morning, there was plenty of seating. The breakfast menu is extensive. They also have a variety of smoothies, not to mention a variety of milkshakes, on a beverage and desserts menu.

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I got one pancake, plus egg and bacon ($9.03). (You can get two pancakes with egg and bacon/sausage for $11, or the two pancakes alone for $9, but two would have been too many.) The sides were fine and the pancake very good, with bananas cooked right in, as I’d recalled, rather than placed on top as an afterthought, as at most restaurants.

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Figuring I ought to try them for lunch too, I returned a few weeks later, at about 1 p.m. There’s a sizable menu of sandwiches, burgers and salads. There’s also something called the “dirty” menu for both breakfast and lunch, where all the items have “dirty” in their names. It’s evidently less healthy items, although that’s muddied by “dirty kale Tuscany salad,” which hardly sounds like an indulgence. The print version is poorly designed and really should be rethought. Also confusing: The back of the staff T-shirts promote “dirty donuts,” but they’re not on the menu that I could tell, and I forgot both times to ask about them.

I ordered off the specials menu, a half Frisco baguette ($8.89), which is a roll with chicken, onions and mushrooms, all grilled. What is “Frisco” about this sandwich is unknown; it’s a chicken Philly without cheese. It came with fries, plus soup or salad.

There was a problem here: The first soup I ordered wasn’t available, and as for the second, the server returned and reported that they’d all been sitting for a while without heat and that she wouldn’t serve them. She recommended a salad, which I got, and which was fine. This may be a fluke, but it doesn’t say much for the kitchen. It does, however, say a lot for the server.

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Naming issues aside, the sandwich was quite good, and I don’t know how I would have eaten the full version. Besides the salad and fries, there was a cute little cup of tapioca pudding (awww), a pickle slice, an orange slice and a teensy box with two pieces of Beechwood gum. Such a deal.

So, BC Cafe has awfully long menus, the sort of thing that leads to suspicion of overreach. Except both my meals were really good.

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Column: New heart, new life, same spirit

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Allen Callaci was dying of heart disease at only 46 when he qualified for a heart transplant. Four years later, he’s doing well and has just published a memoir about the experience. The story is in my Wednesday column. Above, this is the six-inch stoop that seemed almost insurmountable in the days after his return home. You can listen to an interview with him on KSPC here.

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Reading Log: April 2016

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Books acquired: “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto.

Books read: “Heart Like a Starfish,” Allen Callaci; “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto.

Only two books this month, neither one very long, but there are two unusual aspects for me: 1) both are local and 2) both were published in 2016. Who says I can’t mix it up?

“Heart Like a Starfish” is a memoir about a librarian/rocker’s heart transplant (at age 47) and his recovery (coming along excellently). It’s no Lifetime movie tie-in: Callaci, who lives in Claremont, purposely jumbles the timeline and he works in plenty of references to his passions, which include Springsteen and Star Wars. He’s a friend, one about whom I’ll be writing in my column, and this is published by my own publisher. But it’s pretty good.

“Empire” is a photo book about the Inland Empire by native son DeSoto, a professional photographer and artist, and published in collaboration with Riverside’s Inlandia Institute. The photos emphasize nature, desert and the less-lovely aspects of the Empire: dead grapevines, river washes, an auto scrapyard, the Salton Sea. I can imagine many people flipping through it and thinking, “What the hell?”

But I could appreciate his viewpoint, his single-frame photos and his panoramas, and his essays are arguably as strong or stronger than the images, as the longtime Napa resident recalls his San Bernardino boyhood. He writes of grid streets, stucco boxes, smog, asthma, mountains, canyons, the electrical feeling before the Santa Anas blow and the vineyards and orchards that were replaced by big-box stores, warehouses and parking lots.

“No place I have experienced,” he writes in the introduction, “offers the full range of elements that compel and inspire — the vast public works, the neighborhoods both grand and beat down, the air fragrant with citrus and acrid from smog and industry. Cool pine breezes waft off the snow, and hot blasts of wind are scented with creosote. It is the Empire. It is everything.”

Many photographers, by the way, can barely spell, so to have one in DeSoto who writes better than me is, frankly, discouraging. I may have to quit and go into retail.

Or maybe just sit home and read. As this two-slim-book month attests, my reading life is in a kind of lull. I’m 100 pages into a 500-page book, and 160 pages into a 300-page book, with hopes of finishing both this month. (Both are from the 20th century and have nothing to do with this area, putting me back on familiar ground, in a weird way.) Over the weekend I read a total of about 10 pages, in between CD and Blu-ray booklets, newspapers and comic books, all of which are reading but none of which count. Matters improved Monday, when I read 40 pages. Maybe I’m back on track.

How about you folks? How was your April, and did you read anything good? Or at least more than 10 pages over the weekend?

Next month: two books, if I get off the dime.

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Tribute in purple

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Flowers and a candle were placed on a ledge outside Claremont’s Rhino Records by a fan to accompany the poster in the window, turning the whole thing into a makeshift, and touching, memorial. The singer (and so much more) died April 21. That day, the Prince bin quickly emptied as people snatched up the CDs in stock. Fans filled the space in the P section with flowers, another sweet touch. The interest was even greater than when David Bowie died in January.

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Restaurant of the Week: Joey’s BBQ

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Joey’s BBQ, 3689 Riverside Drive (at East End), Chino; closed Mondays

Joey’s, established in 1978 by a couple of transplanted Texans, had a mini-empire at one point in the ’00s, with locations in Rancho Cucamonga, Pomona and Upland, but those have closed, in that order, leaving only the original in Chino.

I enjoyed many a meal at the Pomona Joey’s but had never been to the original, and didn’t even know where it was. When a friend suggested eating there, I was all for it.

It’s off the beaten path on the western end of the city, an area I’d never seen and which feels somewhat country. It was strangely thrilling, as if I’d driven through a wormhole into an alternate Inland Valley. This visit was after dark, increasing the mystery factor. I’m interested in returning during daylight hours for a better look, although I wonder if the sun will reveal a much more prosaic view. (I drove home up East End, itself alternately rural and old industrial.)

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Joey’s occupies a corner and it’s a neat old wooden building, a kind of roadhouse, said to date to 1929, with a giant smoker out back. The interior has a Texas mural and several dining rooms. (I didn’t get a good look at the mural due to tables of diners in the way, but it wasn’t bad.)

They smoke their meat over mesquite charcoal here. The menu has salads, a range of barbecue (beef and pork ribs, brisket, ham, tri-tip steak, turkey and chicken), steaks and sandwiches, with a range of sides and, for dessert, peach cobbler and bread pudding.

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I got a half-order of St. Louis-style pork ribs, a dinner that came with two sides, from which I chose a baked potato and red cabbage slaw ($23.50). This was good, tender barbecue, and the sides were tasty too. I ate it all and could barely breathe.

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My friend had an 8-ounce tri-tip with baked potato and potato chips ($19); she loves the tri-tip but the highly touted chips were a letdown.

The place has a lot of character, and a walk around afterward showed a fenced-in patio with picnic tables, strings of lights and a small stage for performers, with cowboy music taking place on weekends in warmer weather, I’m told. Looks like a fun place and I’ll be back.

(Joey’s might want to update its cash registers: My receipt still lists phone numbers for Upland and Pomona.)

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’47 things’

Pomona College put together a list for its seniors of “47 things to do before leaving Pomona,” basically a local and Southern California to-do list, given that many students are from out of state and may never, or rarely, return. And 47 is a college in-joke.

It’s a cool list; click on the hyperlink above to see it. Depending on how you count, I’ve done about 27, if you allow, for example, eating at Donut Man (No. 45) but not at midnight.

I’ve never been to Joshua Tree National Park (No. 1, ulp) or taken the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (No. 40), or ordered from the In-N-Out secret menu (No. 10), the latter perhaps because I operate strictly on the up-and-up. Somehow I don’t see myself hitting the slopes (No. 12), catching a wave (No. 13) or playing broomball (No. 42), whatever that is.

What do you think of the list and how do you rate?

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