By Jackson Scarlett
Inspired by the release of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and the mega-monsters-versus-robots madness of Kaiju Big Battel, I decided to imagine what it would look like if San Francisco’s most famous landmarks were called upon to do battle for our survival, and who would win. Provided nobody knows Godzilla, it looks like we might have a fighting chance. Check out the grudge matches below.
Alcatraz Island vs. Sydney Opera House
Though apparently not secure enough to contain Sean Connery in The Rock, Alcatraz held tight to some of the biggest baddies to walk, shoot, and stab in the continental US, from Machine Gun Kelly to James “Whitey” Bulger, before it shut down in 1963. Newly discovered mess menus from the island suggest that it may have had the best food in the US prison system. Although it pushes through about the same number of visitors a year, 1.3 million, the Sydney Opera House doesn’t enjoy the same universal acclaim: it’s under constant assault for the shoddy acoustics of its main stages. Its original architect, Jørn Utzon,fired mid-construction, called the project “Malice in Blunderland.”
Hard Time Coming Your Way: once the Rock gets a hold of you, it never lets go. It’s easier to die than to escape, so says the FBI, at least. But with food like that, who would want to leave?
Three-Shell Shock: like a porcupine, the Opera House ruffles its iconic shells and launches them at its opponent. Compare the impact to the sticker shock on the final product: the Opera House came in $95 million over budget.
Coit Tower vs. Leaning Tower of Pisa
Built in 1933 from money endowed to the city by noted fire chaser, gambler, and pioneering cross-dresser Lillie Hitchcock Coit, our city’s largest fire-hose nozzle turned 80 this year. Boasting stunning views of the city from Telegraph Hill’s highest point, the Marxist murals inside Coit stunned as well, so much so that mid-century censors destroyed one. The Tower of Pisa also has a complicated history with labor: if construction hadn’t stopped for nearly 100 years and given the foundation time to settle, it wouldn’t be leaning; it would be falling. Like the fight to right the Leaning Tower, which is actually starting to lean back due to “rescue” efforts, including excavations, counterweights, and frozen rods, the restoration of Coit Tower is an ongoing battle in local politics.
The NIMBY Nose Lift: If you didn’t grow up in SF, at some point you’ve probably asked, “What does Coit Tower actually do?” Why, it does what every good San Franciscan does: silently sits in judgment of everyone around it.
Staycation: the Italians abscond for vacation for nearly the full month of August every year, which is also the Tower of Pisa’s M.O. Its best offense is a good defense; if it sees trouble coming, it takes a break – sometimes for years.
Lombard Street vs. Arc de Triomphe
Lombard, the “crookedest street in the world,” has a total of eight hairpin turns and a rollicking speed limit of five miles per hour, and is presided over by a group of concerned citizens actually called the Crooked Street Task Force. It’s also home to some of the priciest real estate in the city, with notable past residents including the cast of MTV’s Real World. France’s gargantuan triumphal arch cuts a mean silhouette on the city’s skyline, but the real battle is between Lombard and the 13-spoked roundabout surrounding L’Arc, famous for some of the gnarliest traffic jams in the western world. Bill Cosby once joked that all the flowers on Lombard were planted for each person who died in a car crash on their way down its 27% grade; the Arc prefers plaques.
The Bohemian Squeeze: an 18-inch Burmese python can constrict with 12 pounds of pressure per square inch – hard enough to squeeze popcorn money out of a deadbeat dad. Imagine how hard a 400-meter snake can squeeze.
Vichy Victory Lap: Savate, the French variation on kickboxing, is typically done with the boot on. First a spin on the roundabout makes foes dizzy, then one of the Arc’s four 50-foot-wide “boots” delivers a crushing blow. Ouch.
Arc de Triomphe
The Painted Ladies vs. Mount Rushmore
San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies have appeared in more than 50 movies and TV shows, from the sitcom that spawned the Olsen twins to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Before the “colorist” movement splashed them with every hue of the rainbow, all SF Victorians were a uniform battleship gray, painted with surplus Navy supplies. Still resolute in their grayness, South Dakota’s massive presidential busts actually went unfinished in 1941 due to a lack of funds, and carry a less impressive Hollywood resume, having appeared in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and a handful of other titles. Interestingly, the same American Indian Movement that once occupied Alcatraz took Rushmore in 1974. They renamed it “Mount Crazy Horse.”
Have Mercy!: the six rainbow residences join together to form “The Full House,” a robot powerful enough to smash an A-frame in a single step and worth nearly $250,000 in brokers’ fees. You’re in big trouble, mister.
The Filibuster: the earth below shakes as the huge stone teeth of the presidents start to chatter and rocks shoot ceaselessly from their voluminous mouths. Rumor has it their combined powers can stop the political process indefinitely.
Grace Cathedral vs. Luxor Hotel
Gorgeous Grace Cathedral is our city’s best attempt at a Texas mega-church, but one with a whole lot more sophisticated trappings. It houses three organs, hundreds of stained-glass windows, Keith Haring’s final work, and not one, but two, labyrinths. While Grace’s exterior takes a page from the French Gothic tradition, the Luxor tackles ancient Egypt. But those who make the pilgrimage to Sin City adhere to a different worship schedule. Vegas’s second-largest hotel features a host of restaurants and stores, a recreation of King Tut’s tomb, a huge Sphinx, and nightclubs featuring appearances by Britney Spears, Criss Angel, and other dubious celebs. Not to be outdone, Scream costars Courtney Cox and David Arquette were married at Grace Cathedral in 1999.
Eye of God: like a Cyclops that runs a penny candy store, Grace’s massive stained-glass central window is always staring out at you, especially if you’re staying in the Fairmont Hotel across the street.
Up Yours!: Remember that scene in Independence Day when the alien ship detonates the White House with a huge blue beam of light? The Luxor’s attack is like that, only upside down, and maybe with Wayne Newton playing in the background to make it really hurt.
Golden Gate Bridge vs. Tower Bridge
The Golden Gate, SF’s most photographed and most frequently destroyed (in film) landmark, stays safe from damage by ships on account of its trademark paint job, a variant of International Orange, against the best wishes of the US Navy, which wanted it striped in black and yellow. The longest suspension bridge in the world when construction finished in 1937, it has since dropped to number 11, but it’s still holding on to #2 worldwide for suicides, with an estimated fatality rate of 98%. Iconic Tower Bridge, often confused with nearby London Bridge by visitors, is far from falling down. Standing at a heavyweight 213 feet high, the combination suspension bridge and drawbridge replaced one of the world’s first underwater subways.
The Death Toll: leave your Fastrak at home. Once the steel cables of the Golden Gate wrap around you, you’re done for. Don’t worry, Marin isn’t as pretty as everyone says it is.
Looking-Glass Shuffle: Tower Bridge’s rather silly, ornate towers are the architectural equivalent of Lewis Carroll’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Add in their big brother, the Tower of London, and you’re in for a bit of “play” you might not like.
Golden Gate Bridge
Transamerica Pyramid vs. Empire State Building
It’s a grudge match between our city’s most beloved Futurist icon and the Art Deco giant, which lords over the city that all of our best-looking friends eventually move to. This one’s for all the marbles. Our quartz-covered behemoth has withstood earthquakes, is built on several thousands of dollars of loose change, and has passed hands more times than a dollar bill. New York’s champion has weathered attacks from King Kong, terrorists, and, most recently...bedbugs.
The Fog Chopper: detaching at the middle, the Transamerica Pyramid spins like a drill, jabbing the opponent while its tiny wings cut through our city’s cold, wet fog, and shoots the fog forward like an icy wall. Good riddance!
The Poke: the Empire State Building just, like, pokes and stuff.
I know what you’re saying: “The Poke?” Really? That’s right. The Poke. You didn’t think we’d let New York win, did you? Bay Areaaaaaaa!!!