Aubrey About Town: San Francisco Celebrates Former Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr.’s 90th

Happy Birthday Mayor Brown!
Spring kicked off a month-long celebration of our beloved former mayor of San Francisco, friend to many of us, and now nonagenarian, Willie L. Brown, Jr., as he marked his 90th orbit around the sun.
Official festivities began on Brown’s birthday, March 20, with an afternoon of honoring him at San Francisco’s City Hall where San Francisco Mayor London Breed hosted an afternoon and where people who worked with Willie over his years in service could get together and reminisce.

Later that evening, his longtime friends and colleagues, Steven Kay and Victor Makras along with his wife, Farah Makras, were delighted to host an exclusive evening with 85 of his closest friends at the iconic Harris’ Steakhouse’s posh banquet room for an intimate dinner of filet mignon and baked potato, followed by birthday cake and root beer floats (WB’s favorite!)

Victor Makras, San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., Steven Kay, Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

He later confessed to me that he prefers pie over cake—sweet potato being his absolute favorite—but I already knew that and am sure to bake one for him every year he and Sonya come to our home for Thanksgiving. Though by day a real estate mogul, Victor made the perfection of WB’s birthday his passion project and took to the task to personally select every aspect. No detail was overlooked to make his friend’s birthday extra fabulous. From the beautiful tablecloths, napkins, and stunning floral arrangements to the printed menus and the chic, custom-engraved crystal keepsake trinket boxes that guests took home to commemorate the auspicious occasion, every detail was perfect.

Mayor Brown’s Birthday Dinner at Harris’ Restaurant San Francisco, Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

Farah and I proudly joked that Victor may have a new calling in event planning: it was truly beautiful in hues of red, the birthday boy’s favorite color. Not only speaking for myself and Ed, but I’m also sure I can speak for all of us guests that everyone in the room felt special and cared for. I’ve always believed that love is in the details, and Victor Makras proved this sentiment that evening!

Governor of California Gavin Newsom, SF Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., Attorney General of California Rob Bonta, Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

The room was filled with love and tears of adoration for the beloved former mayor, and it was a who’s who of generational San Francisco. Illustrious guests included Willie Brown’s longtime partner, socialite Sonya Molodetskaya; Governor of California Gavin Newsom; California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis; San Francisco Mayor London Breed; former SF Mayor Art Agnos and his wife, Sherry; event designer Riccardo Benavides; Carolyn Chang; David and Mary Beth Shimmon; Attorney General of California Rob Bonta; former manager of the (San
Francisco) 49ers, Carmen Policy and his wife, Gail Policy; CEO SF Giants Larry Baer and his wife, Pam Baer, who presented a custom baseball jersey to the joyful man of the hour that read “BROWN” with the number 90 on the back.

SF Giants Larry Baer presenting a custom “Brown 90” jersey to Mayor Brown, Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

On Thursday, March 28, the parties honoring “da mayor” (a term of endearment dating to his time in office) continued with an exclusive luncheon at SF’s famous Sam’s Grill. The afternoon’s hosts, Jo Schuman Silver of SF’s famed and now defunct variety show Beach Blanket Babylon, and lavish event designer extraordinaire Stanlee Gatti (whom I’ve often been compared to) brought a bit of tongue-in-cheek whimsy to set the ambiance. As guests pulled up to Sam’s Grill, they were greeted by valets wearing yellow fedora hats that read “Here’s to Willie!” on the hatband (hats were also given to guests to keep) to honor Willie’s love for the fedora, his iconic accessory. He arrived in a cashmere fedora in navy blue.

Stanlee Gatti, Jo Schuman Silver, Mayor Willie Brown

As they made their way up the yellow carpet, guests were greeted by a larger-than-life photo op cardboard cutout of Willie dressed as a king and wearing a ermine cape and crown. They sat at one long table adorned with yellow sunflowers. Guests were amused by a performance by Beach Blanket.
The afternoon’s guests included Governor of California Gavin Newsom, Paul and Nancy Pelosi, SF Mayor London Breed, and California Academy of Sciences trustee and philanthropist Penny Coulter (wife of billionaire businessman James Coulter), just to name a few.
On Saturday afternoon, Willie and I met for lunch at Neiman Marcus’ Rotunda restaurant (a Saturday tradition) to continue the birthday celebration with cheeseburgers and French fries and a huge strawberry ice cream sundae with a candle in it for Willie! We needed the sustenance for the evening’s big event just hours away.

Bimbos 365 Club: San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., Farah Makras, Aubrey Brewster, Sonya Molodetskaya, Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

Willie Brown’s birthday gala was a San Francisco affair to be remembered. The elegant, sold-out ($1000+ per plate), black tie dinner at the swanky Bimbo’s 365 Club benefitted the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service. His youngest daughter, Sydney Brown, (who takes after her pops in both charm and a love of politics and service to her community) took to the stage in a stunning, metallic, art deco embellished black mermaid gown and led the room in a sweet rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” as the birthday cake was presented. She introduced her father to the stage.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – March 30 – George Marcus and London Breed attend Willie Brown Birthday Part at Bimbo’s 365 Club on March 30th 2024 at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco, CA (Photo – Ando Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography)

The room gleamed with love and joy, and it seemed as if everyone the former mayor ever met was there. To WB’s surprise, 39 members of Willie’s family flew in from around CA and the country to join in celebrating the nonagenarian, including his brother James L. Walton, Tacoma, Washington’s first African American city manager, who flew down from Washington to join the merriment. Willie’s guests sipped on festive libations and dined on delicious braised short ribs and ice cream sundaes catered by McCalls before they danced the night away to classic, old-
school R&B, disco, and pop covers by the stylings of Grammy Award®-winner, singer, and songwriter Narada Michael Walden. And y’all should’ve seen me spinning around like a banshee to the late Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” to everyone’s surprise—sans the fringed dress, of course! Some of the night’s 300-plus glamorous attendees included WB’s longtime partner, socialite and style influencer Sonya Molodetskaya; WB’s daughters, Sydney, Robin, and Susan Brown; his son, Michael Brown; San Francisco District Attorney Brook Jenkins; Steven Kay; Brenda Wright; ABC7’s Carolyn Tyler (retired); California State Controller Malia Cohen; Assistant U.S. Attorney of the U.S. Department of Justice Annemarie Conroy (whom Ed and I became quick friends with—she’s fabulous!); Denise Bradley Tyson; David and Mary Beth Shimmon; owners of Kokkari Estiatorio (Willie & Sonya’s favorite haunt); and George and Judy Marcus.
For more photos and guests not mentioned in the events in this article, check out