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Old 11-02-05, 07:22 PM   #1
Adam Gertsacov
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Hat OBIT: The Human Jukebox has played his last song.

Grimes Poznikov -- Wharf's famed 'Human Jukebox'

Kevin Fagan, SF Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

In the days before schizophrenia stole his wits, Grimes Poznikov played music on "The Mike Douglas Show" and was lauded by journalist Charles Kuralt as one of the most popular entertainment attractions in San Francisco. It was the 1970s and early 1980s -- and Mr. Poznikov, "The Automatic Human Jukebox," sat at Fisherman's Wharf in a refrigerator box playing songs for cash.

He was a very good musician by all accounts, a skill he always attributed to growing up in a house where everyone played an instrument and his mother was a locally famous singer.

But that was in the old days.

By the late 1980s, Mr. Poznikov's mental illness made him so erratic he could no longer perform, and he began sleeping in the streets. And that's how he died, from alcohol poisoning, on Thursday. A passer-by discovered him lying on a sidewalk near the corner of Caesar Chavez Street and Highway 101. He was 59.

"He was brilliant, but always missing a few cards in his deck," said his sister, Jenny Predpelski of Overland Park, Kan. "From the time he could talk, he could play any instrument from piano to trumpet and drums, and he was a very bright student.

"But somewhere along the way, he decided he wanted to be a hippie. His music career was good with the jukebox act, but after he started to go downhill about 15 years ago, we just sort of lost him."

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