San Francisco Loses Beloved Twin Vivian Brown

The Brown twins are as close to San Francisco royalty as exists in this century

A cable car rumbled past the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square.

Doorman Laban Wade, decked out in his bright red beefeater suit watched it pass, gazing down Powell Street as if searching for a ghost.

“Terrible loss for us,” Wade said shaking his head. “Terrible loss.”

Searching his memories he could still see the Brown twins, Marian and Vivian. walking the Union Square streets in bright matching outfits, pausing to wave to anyone who noticed them.

“The one thing that caught my eye was how well dressed they always were,” remembered Wade. “And how mannered and respectful they always were.”

Vivian Brown died in her sleep late Wednesday night at an assisted living facility in where she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Word of her death circulated quickly around the city. Prompting Mayor Ed Lee to declare the city was “heartbroken.”

“She will be tremendously missed,” said Wade who saw the sisters daily. “We’re just praying for Marian, that she will carry on.”

Vivian Brown was the older of the two sisters -- eight minutes older-- she was fond of saying. She and her sister moved to San Francisco more than 40 years ago from Michigan.

They were always seen walking together, decked out in fashionable matching outfits, greeting visitors and locals with unison hellos.

“They’d wander all over town extremely well-dressed and cheerful,” said former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

The twins often appeared in advertisements and commercials, serving as unofficial ambassadors for the City by the Bay.

The late San Francisco columnist Herb Caen often mentioned the twins in his column, bestowing on them the kind of status reserved for the most revered icons.

“This city is made up of icons. This city is made up of historical spots,” said Brown.

“The Brown twins represented a part of that.” Vivian’s death left an absence in the many haunts she and her sister frequented downtown.

In Scala’s restaurant in Union Square, a small bronze plaque inscribed with “Brown Twins” sat over table 54.

“Saturday 7 p.m.” the sign read – referring to the twin’s standing.

“It’s almost like they’re stars,” said Scala’s pastry chef Timothy Nugent. “So you almost feel like ‘Can I say hello? Can I not say hello?’ And they will say hello first so it doesn’t matter.”

A picture of the twins was taped to the window of Uncle Vito’s pizza on Nob Hill where the Brown sisters dined nightly on twin pizza slices and red wine. Workers in the pizzeria said Marian Brown continued to dine there without her sister.

Marian didn’t answer calls at her Nob Hill apartment and guards said she wasn’t granting interviews.

But in the streets of Union Square where the twins would turn heads, the absence of the colorful twins in matching leopard fur coats and hats, spoke volumes.

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