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Obituary: Kathi Kamen Goldmark '71

Kathi Kamen Goldmark, 63: A beloved San Francisco literary impresario and country-rock singer, most famous for founding the Rock Bottom Remainders, a notorious band of authors that included Stephen King and Dave Barry on guitar and Amy Tan on keyboards. Died Thursday, May 24, 2012, at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center after a long battle with breast cancer.

In the 40 years since she arrived from New York by way of Los Angeles, Ms. Goldmark had been a literary escort, author, songwriter, musician, and for the last eight years the producer of the Bay Area variety radio show “West Coast Live .” She also ran a regular jam session at El Rio , a neighborhood bar in the Mission. Most famously, Ms. Goldmark was the founder and guiding light of the Rock Bottom Remainders , a notorious band of authors that included Stephen King and Dave Barry on guitar, Amy Tan on keyboards , and Matt Groening , Dave Marsh , Greil Marcus , Joel Selvin , and Roy Blount Jr. as the Critics Chorus. “She loved getting groups together and breaking down the wall between the performers and the audience,” an emotional Tan said Thursday from the hospital. “With Kathi, there was no separation between the band and the audience.”

Kathi Kamen was born Aug. 18, 1948, and grew up in and around Cold Springs Harbor , New York. After graduating from Antioch College in Ohio, she came to Los Angeles in the early 1970s with boyfriend Jimmy Hodder , who had been hired as the first drummer with Steely Dan . Eventually she landed in San Francisco, where she got a job driving book authors to media interviews. This is how she met Dave Barry, who flew in from Miami to promote one of his books. “If you didn’t have something to do, she would take you around and show you something fun,” Barry recalled. And when it was over, she always promised to keep in touch -- and she did. “If you met Kathi once, you were never not going to be in her orbit,” Barry said.

At a bookseller’s convention in Anaheim in the early 1990s, Ms. Goldmark got the idea to put together a band. The Rock Bottom Remainders played the convention, and went on to tour. A book on the experience was published, with Ms. Goldmark as co-author. “She was our social secretary. She put the signs up in the halls,” said former Chronicle music critic Selvin, the backup singer. “Kathi was a sparkplug in San Francisco. She knew everybody and had enthusiasm to go.”

Ms. Goldmark’s first marriage, to pedal steel guitarist Joe Goldmark , ended in divorce. The Rock Bottom Remainders went on, with replacement parts. When keyboardist Barbara Kingsolver couldn’t make a gig, guitarist Dave Barry offered up his brother Sam. Sam and Ms. Goldmark were married three years ago.

Ms. Goldmark wrote songs. A favorite was “That’s a Lot of Heartache for a Guy.” She also wrote a novel “And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You,” and was co-author of “Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now” (with her husband Sam Barry) and “The Great Rock & Roll Joke Book” (with Dave Marsh .) In 2003 , Sedge Thomson hired her to co-produce his public radio program “West Coast Live “ which is based in San Francisco and broadcasts nationwide. She booked talent, served as a backup singer and kept things running during showtime every Saturday morning. It was her dream job, she told Thomson .

“Kathi was a connector, and our show is about connecting people,” said Thomson , the host of West Coast Live which Ms. Goldmark produced from 2003 until 2011, when she became too ill to continue. “She was den mother and she worked with everyone with warmth and kindness and was ready to hand out a kazoo at a moment’s notice.” A 2007 San Francisco Library Laureate, Kathi was the winner of the 2008 Women’s National Book Association Award . Survivors include husband, Sam Barry of San Francisco, their three adult children, Tony Goldmark of Los Angeles, Daniel Barry of New York and Laura Barry of San Francisco; mother, Betty Kamen of San Francisco ; and brothers Paul Kamen of Berkeley, and Michael Kamen of Georgetown, Texas .

A memorial service is pending. “Her express wishes are that it would be a party with live music,” said her husband.