The Tip Post

Chapter 14: Genesis and true meaning of “just the tip”

Duncan Channon, the advertising/design/consulting firm, formerly of Marin County, first heard of the Adam Grant Building and, yes, the Tip from the one man who knows it all, a freelance advertising copywriter by the name of Grant Montero.

Montero is not only a distant relative of Ulysses S. and Adam Grant, he is the great-great-great grandson by her first husband of Maria Montero-Sanchez, Captain Plumpot-Brambley’s wife. A master’s candidate in US history at Princeton, where the hotel registry for the Tip is centerpiece of a 19th Century California collection, Montero was intrigued by the wild stories surrounding the saloon and soon was pursuing the story himself. In the process, he would be astonished to discover his own multiple connections to the Tip, after which it seemed “inescapable,” as he put it in his preface, that this colorful history would form the basis of his masters thesis, “Just The Tip: Alcoholism, Sexuality and Decadence in Early San Francisco.” (Which is precisely the basis of this website entry.)

When executive creative director Parker Channon mentioned to Montero, his go-to freelancer, that Duncan Channon was considering a move south to the city and was looking for a building with “character,” Montero instantly replied that he had just the place. “Maybe more character than you even bargained for.” Whereupon the copywriter spun the short version of his tale for the instantly impatient Channon and then sent over a copy of his thesis. The DC partners were immediately on the phone to Sealane, insisting that they not only see the 14th floor, but the Tip on 15 as well.

It was not clear that the Sealane representative on the phone had ever even heard of the Tip, let alone seen it. And the moment the prospective tenants and the Sealane guy creaked open that dusty door to reveal the storied room — now barely visible behind a dense skein of cobwebs — it was clear that the next chapter in the story was about to be written. Above the bar was the name “The Tip” and beneath it, in barely legible Latin, the motto: “We never give you the shaft.”

The DC guys were in love.

Actually, they were probably in love from the moment they finished Grant Montero’s book. And over the next six months, like modern-day (if way poorer) Mickey the Millionaires, in the face of apopleptic financial advisors and sobbing significant others, the three — P. Channon, A. Berkenfield and R. Duncan — would maniacally pour their company’s and then their own fortunes into this magically bewitching place high atop the old Adam Grant.

And so it was that on 29 March 2008, a man in a bunny suit clipped the satin ribbon across the doorway and “The Tip on 15,” as the new logo outside had styled it, was re-opened for business in its 221st year.

Inside, the vast throng of guests marveled at the tufted-leather bar and silver-edged mirror, the moonroof and flocked wallpaper, the “wine cellar in the sky” and the viticultural best of France, Italy and Spain. Indeed, Mickey Haff would have felt right at home. And as the debauchery commenced, as the drinking turned into dancing and nudity and bizarre sex and more drinking, so would Nigel Langhorne and Spanky and the high-living Lord Lucky, the heroic Adam Grant and his drunken dad Ulysses, Ivanovich the bartending blacksmith and maybe even the man who erected the original residence on San Somme and surely never imagined what it would become — the ex-pirate Plumpot-Brambley, back from the sea looking for the best damn time in the whole damn town.

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