Sad split for City’s famous Brown twins


The petite, adorable, iconic Brown sisters — known for their identical outfits and sugar-sweet smiles — are no longer the inseparable pair they’ve been for decades.

In a piece sure to well the eyes of anyone who has met the chipper twins strolling around Nob Hill or Union Square, the Chron’s Sam Whiting breaks the touching news that Vivian Brown — the older sister, by eight minutes — is suffering Alzheimer’s and is hospitalized at Davies Medical Center after a fall last month.

Younger sister Marian now lives alone in their Nob Hill apartment, and still dons one-half of the matching outfits the sisters are so famous for.

Now 85 years old, the sisters have long ago stopped receiving money for appearing in ads for companies like IBM, Dell, AT&T, and Virgin Atlantic.

Like so many other seniors in today’s tenuous economy, Marian Brown scrapes by on Social Security. Her savings is squirreled away to pay for a burial and funeral just the way the sisters want it: Side-by-side.

Marian takes a taxi from her Nob Hill apartment to Davies twice a week to visit Vivian. She heartbreakingly told the Chron:

“We don’t look much alike anymore.”

A YouTube video by user William Morris captures a classic conversation with the gracious twins inside the Nordstrom at the old San Francisco Centre in 1997.

The twins chat shopping, Hawaii, London and Richard Branson with a group of British tourists. They also share what brought them to The City:

“This used to be a very dressy city. We moved out in here in 1970. Women at that time wore hats and gloves.

That’s what made us want to move here in the first place. On our first vacation here we fell in love with it. And I said I want to be a part of that city, it looks like it’s going places.”

Forgive us if we can’t identify which of the twins is speaking. We’ll always think of them together anyway, so perhaps that’s apt.

Support for the twins and Vivian’s care is being handled through the San Francisco Emergency Fund managed by Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

Barbara Farber, director of development with the agency, told the Chron help is coming in for the sisters:

“We are grateful for the donations that have been made and are making sure the twins are being helped.”

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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