August 29, 2014

The Columnists’ Hall of Fame

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:37 pm

crop of cronkeit two

President Obama’s candid admission “We have no strategy,” also described the situation as the deadline for this week’s column approached. A plethora of topics were under consideration. As we struggled to settle on just one topic for this week’s column we recalled that one San Francisco based columnist used to occasionally resort to a catch-all column style that he called “clear the desk top” and so we decided to pay homage to Art Hoppe by imitating his shtick and sweep a bunch of disparate topics into our Labor Day end of the week roundup.

If the Russians had waited a few more days they could have launched their incursion into the Ukraine on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, which might have gotten them better (and more sympathetic?) play in the world’s media.

We’ve seen news reports that state that the beheading of an American reporter has produced a wipeout for America’s reluctance to send troops back to the Middle East. A news report that cites a source for that conclusion (such as “according to a poll conducted by the New York Times”) is a news story. A vague conclusion (such as “most Americans now think”) is pro-war propaganda.

Has Obama offered to ignore the Russian incursion into the Ukraine in return for being given a free hand for dealing with ISIS forces inside Syria?

Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam to report on the Tet Offensive in early 1968, after his special was broadcast LBJ was reported to have said: “If we’ve lost Cronkite, we’ve lost the war.”

A Viet Cong representative commenting on the conflict said: “It has already lasted for more than twenty years. We can hold out much longer. Eventually the American people will tire of the war, and will turn against it. Then the war will end.”

Can George Bush’s “Forever War” refute that logic or will a new American President have his Cronkite moment?

In the last week of August of 2014, America’s TV audience saw a mother’s emotional plea to spare the life of her child. America’s network pundits predicted that the plea will convince American mothers to be stoical if troops go back to Iraq. Nothing is said on American TV about what a similar affect the thousands of collateral damage deaths of women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan might have on the citizens in those countries.

Is it possible that the American mother’s plea might have an unintended consequence on the ISIS leadership and accelerate their rush to punish the next journalist?

Could America’s lack of bipartisanship eventually disintegrate into a permanent perpetual state of mutual distrust and animosity that will eventually become as fully entrenched in American society as is the Sunni vs. Shiite division is in most countries in the Middle East (or to use a newly revive trendy old word: the Levant)?

In an effort to take the pulse of the USA, we have recently availed our self of an opportunity to wtch some cable TV news. When Megan Kelly talked about Obama going to Rhode Island for some fund-raising, she did a moue and rolled her eyes. It was so adorable but it made us wonder: “If Obama has lost Megan Kelly is the war lost?” and also: What happened to the “fair and balanced” style that ignored any criticism of Dubya when he took more and longer vacations?

If she gets all hot under the collar about that perhaps she needs to take the ice bucket challenge on air?

That, in turn, reminded us that we have been waiting to see next month’s Playmate of the Month dousing some member of management (Hef himself?) as part of this summer’s publicity fad, which would also illustrate the concept of the high school coach’s advice to “take a cold shower!” We fired off an e-mail to a fellow on the Playboy masthead asking how long we were going to have to wait to see photo evidence that that magazine is hip to the bucket challenge.

Our efforts to recall which columnist had used the “clear the desk top” shtick had caused us to do a roll call of the great columnists who had at one time or another called San Francisco their hometown. That list, in turn, convinced us that if the National Society of Newspaper Columnists ever decided to establish a brick and mortar Columnists’ Hall of Fame, it would have to be located in Fog City.

Hunter S. Thompson and Ambrose Bierce are perhaps the best known of a long list of writers who churned out columns while being residents of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some naysayers might want to nominate the Big Apple as the appropriate location for a hypothetical Columnists’ Hall of Fame and we would reply: “Other than Walter Winchell and Pete Hamill who else has been a famous Manhattan columnist?”

It’s hip in Hollywood to call a telephone “an Ameche,” because Don Ameche played Alexander Graham Bell in a film back in the Golden Age.

There is a bar in Frisco called “The Philosophers’ Club” and that caused us to wonder if it would be worth while to open a gin mill (there are a massive amounts of synonyms for the word “tavern”), fill it with photos of famous columnists, and call the bar “The Columnists’ Hall of Fame.”

Smoke filled bars and newsrooms are a thing of the past. Aren’t actors permitted to smoke at work if the scene calls for indoor use of cigarettes (such as shooting a film noir set in the Thirties)? If that is so, what about declaring a watering hole a location shoot for a movie and paying the customers a $1 stipend for working as extras. Maybe students at a local film school could provide a crew that would work for peanuts? (Would they actually do filming for a student documentary project?) Thus they could have one more nostalgia laden nights in a place where extras and the actor playing Sam Spade could light up a Fatima (or other brand) cigarette (wasn’t it hip slang back in the day to call them fags?)?

Speaking of the good old days, the Berkeley Public Library has a copy of John McMillian’s “Beatles vs. Stones” book and we are enjoying it immensely. A concise review will be included in future column.

We saw “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” this week. It scored high on the 3G meter. Girls, Guns, and fabulous fast cars that require high octane Gasoline are Hollywood’s sure fire formula to please the male audience.

If a columnist, who doesn’t smoke and doesn’t drink, misses smoke filled bars; was it the right move to legislate them out of existence?

We hope that the NRA will step in and get the Uzzi kid (or her parents?) a book deal and some lucrative speaking fees and perhaps a guest appearance on Letterman’s TV show.

CORRECTION: Last week we reported that movie director John Waters had done a book promotion at the Beat Museum in San Francisco. Just as famed San Francisco columnist Herb Caen used to cover goofs, we must quote Ricky Blane’s (Humphrey Bogart’s) line in Casablanca: “Apparently, we were misinformed.” It turns out that Waters and his friends were just visiting the famed tourist destination and where not there to promote Water’s new book “Carsick.”

[Note from the Photo Editor: Has any columnist ever inspired a brand name for a beer?]

Janis Joplin has been quoted as saying: “Beatniks believe things aren’t going to get better and say, ‘The hell with it,’ stay stoned, and have a good time.”

Now the disk jockey will play Jack (Dragnet) Webb singing “Try a little tenderness,” Leonard Nimoy singing “I walk the line,” and William Shatner singing “Rocket Man.” (They are all available on Youtube.) Now we have to fact check the claim that San Francisco’s ten most famous citizens were all fictional characters. Have a “Do I feel lucky?” type week.

crop Let's Party

July 11, 2014

San Francisco values proliferating

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:27 pm


crop of Hometown touristsIn mid-July of 1939, few Americans had international events on their minds. A century ago, by mid summer, the war to end all wars was inevitable. Fifty years ago, as the class of 1965 prepared to start Senior year, only worrywarts were concerned about the future of South Vietnam. To some, ignoring this summer’s tense world situation may seem foolhardy, but for the connoisseurs of nostalgia, a whimsical innocuous column about a holiday weekend in San Francisco (AKA Fog City) seems mandatory.

“Carsick (John Waters hitchhikes across America)” became available as an autographed new item at Pegasus Books in Berkeley at the same time that a high school classmate called and said he had bought that book and thought we would enjoy reading it, so we’ll read it and review it after he sends us his used copy. It will be the latest installment in a literary genre that has fascinated us since Jack Kerouac went on the Tonight show to plug his latest endeavor titled “On the Road.” (Do you remember: Marilyn Monroe was also on that episode?)

The World’s Laziest Journalist has, like Ricky Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), been to both Casablanca and to Paris France. We prefer Paris. Going on the road usually is made to sound like an impulsive lark.

Our illusions of grandeur have been taunting us with some delectable possibilities for going on the road this month or next. Bastille Day, July 14, is like the overture for the festivities that will accompany the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris that will be happening there next month.

Realizing that we can’t just run out onto the center field in Yankee stadium for the opening day game, we decide to do a bit of “Spring training” by paying AC Transit the senior fare that would get us to San Francisco to see “What’s the haps” there on the Forth of July weekend in 2014. Is it just a co-inky-dink that one of this summer’s new songs is “I’ve got a lot of Travelin’ to do” by Willie Nelson? Or is it a sign? (Because of the line “I can’t forget the sh** you’ve put me through,” you’re never gonna hear that song on the radio.)

Recently the news reported the results of a survey done to find the best hamburgers in America. Sam’s Pizza in the North Beach area of Frisco serves burgers that have been proclaimed by a cable TV food critic as one of the top three in the world. Since chain burgers were the only eligible candidates for selection for the newsworthy survey. Nothing like stacking the deck in favor of the people known as corporations, eh/

Whist in the vicinity of the Beat Museum, we stopped by. Full Disclosure: our goal of becoming one of the guest lecturers there is rapidly approaching “scratch that off the bucket list” status. More Full Disclosure: Since the Beat Museum doesn’t charge admission to attend an installment of their guest speakers lecture series and since that means we shouldn’t expect a speaker’s fee, our agent is rather skeptical about being enthusiastic about this career opportunity (some time this fall?). Hangfire! If we get a good column from the experience; why not give a go?

We encountered a wide variety of tourists in the North Beach area over the Forth of July weekend. For a family from Melbourne, a trip to Fog City, where it was a cloudless day with balmy temperatures, was a chance for them to get away from the howling winds and deep snow drifts of the Australian Winter. Later we learned that FBi radio down under was going to give a listener a trip to up to Iceland in the Northern Hemisphere were it is time for a summer vacation. (Google hint: FBi radio. [Note the lower case is used for the last letter.])

On Sunday, of the July Forth weekend, we decided a return to Golden Boy tavern was a good lunchtime decision. We arrived at opening time and had a few minutes to chat with the bartender slash pizza slinger duo known as Lisa Pizza and Killah K. (Is she a Jerry Lee Lewis fan?) Then when the clock struck noon, things got too hectic to hold a conversation. (We shouldda asked what ever happened to the ubiquitous tavern pastime called “Liars’ Poker”? It seemed to be everywhere in the Sixties.)

Recently at Pegasus bookstore, we noticed copies of “Another Great Day at Sea,” by Geoff Dyer, which tells about the author’s experiences aboard the U. S. Navy aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush. It is one of the best sellers for the summer of 2014. If the Dyer book is brand new, why did it sound “old hat” to the World’s Laziest Journalist?

Ernie Pyle, who wrote a book of road adventures titled “Home Country,” became a Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent whose name was synonymous with coverage of the soldiers and Marines who fought WWII. Pyle had included a chapter titled “Life on a Flat-Top,” in his last book, “Last Chapter.” We pulled out our copy to refresh our memories of Pyle’s version of life at sea. Pyle gives only veiled hints as to the ship’s name: “She was known in the fleet as “The Iron Woman,” because she had fought in every battle in the Pacific in 1944 and every one to date in 1945.” Subsequently, we did some fact checking online and found out that Pyle was referring to CVL 28, the Cabot.

Recently Dan Saltzstein wrote an article for the Sunday New York Times Travel section that looked at San Francisco through the eyes of a noir mystery fan. Our default viewpoint is from the eyes of a Beat writers fan. While we were gathering material for this column, we spotted some people doing the Go-car tour of Fog City. We asked them where they were from and they said they lived in San Francisco.

An ambitious writer would find plenty of material to review for inclusion in a book about the history of column writing in San Francisco. America’s (the world’s?) oldest radio station is just part of The City’s history. Much to the consternation of the World’s Laziest Journalist, Bruce Bellingham has authored a book about being a Herb Caen wannabe in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Dang!)

No one challenged the accuracy of Don Sherwood’s claim to have been the greatest disk jockey of all time. If you find world events unavoidable, then you might like to know what part Frisco played in the history of the United Nations. Did the music world have a category just for “the San Francisco sound”?

San Francisco values, which seem to cause great distress for the conservative pundits, seem to be becoming ubiquitous in the USA. “We don’t wear our hair long and shaggy like the hippies out in San Francisco do.”

In “Bellingham by the Bay,” Bruce Bellingham wrote (on page 12): “Later the White Line sent bills to the families of the musicians (on the Titanic), demanding payment for the players’ uniforms.”

Now the disk jockey will play Tony Bennett’s “I left my heart in San Francisco,” Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair),” and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to love.” We have to go back to reading “The Dain Curse.” Have a “save water, shower with a friend” type week.

crop of 3 Dot J column


April 25, 2014

Beatniks, Hippies and computer geeks

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:27 pm

Nerd Life

While the whole world waits for Vladimir Putin to heed President Obama’s urgings to pull his troops back from the Ukrainian border, management has requested that this week’s column ignore the possibility of a foreign policy disaster and write one that features innocuous items and so it came to pass that the World’s Laziest Journalist was awarded a one day all expenses paid excursion to San Francisco to gather material and do some fact checking. We haven’t heard conservative talk show host Michael Savage for quite awhile but he used to be terrified that San Francisco values would metaphorically do to America’s collective code of ethics what the black plague did for Europe’s population of peons a few centuries back. With the proliferation of gay marriages and the growing success of the legalize pot movement, he must be much more frantic these days.  We thought a walkabout look at his hometown might be fun.

Last Sunday, the advocates of legalized marijuana gathered around Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park and expressed their view on the topic by committing the infraction of smoking pot. Fifty years ago when the Jefferson Airplane, the Hair soundtrack album, and Santana were all the rage, pot was a hot topic. Some folks thought that life in prison for one joint in Texas was excessive and that using Agent Orange wasn’t.

We headed right for the North Beach area that was home to the beatniks and hippies. We squeezed into the Space Between art gallery and learned from artist Chris Farris that a local political dispute was going global. A petition critical of efforts to put a fence around Huntington Park (Google hint: Huntington Park fence petition) has drawn responses from around the world. The board of Supervisors has indicated that only local

registered voters should be counted as valid signatures, but the petition posse maintains that in a city that is saturated with tourist attractions and visitors from far far away, the opinion of someone living in Ulan Bator (formely Urga) should also count.

Speaking of going global it seems that Smart Car tipping (the urban equivalent of cow tipping?), which got started in San Francisco, is showing up elsewhere and is rapidly becoming a trendy world wide prank.

While walking from the Little Italy section towards Fisherman’s Wharf, we noticed La Rocca’s Corner bar, which promotes itself as the “Home of Rugby in San Francisco.” We ducked in and, knowing that restrooms are always for “customers only,” inquired if someone who knows who the All Blacks (New Zealand’s highly regarded rugby team) are could use the rest room. The bar tender said “sure!” Since he had a great radio voice we decided to linger and buy a glass of ginger ale and chat.

We were informed that local legendary columnist Herb Caen wasn’t the universally admired personality that he claims to have been. Our bartend told the story about the time the columnist went into Harrington’s and ordered a drink, Caen’s bar tender (now standing in front of us) informed him of the price and he responded “I’m Herb Caen.” After being charged for the drink, he wrote derogatory remarks about the bar and advised his readers to patronize a nearby competitor. (And you thought columnists were inconsequential?)

We asked if locals, such as the barkeep and the owner, objected to “Frisco” as the slang term for Fog City and were informed that during WWII many soldiers (such as the owner’s father) from San Francisco were assigned the nickname “Frisco.” They shrugged their shoulders and said “We don’t care.” They added that the only person who objected to the sobriquet was Herb Caen who was from Sacramento. They added a vulgar assessment of the man who claimed the title of “Mr. San Francisco.” It is our understanding that Caen recanted and sanctioned the moniker very late in his life.

We saw what is allegedly the world’s only steam powered motor cycle at the Musee Mecanique.

As we headed back to the BART for transportation back to Berkeley, we encountered a group of adults in pirate attire. They were playing a game (at noontime on a regular working day) and while we were urging them to read our online columns to impress our editor with our popularity, they spotted Batman and went running after him like (dare I say it?) bats out of hell. We had not gone a block further when we encountered a pack of cats playing the same game.

If San Francisco is going to become a bellwether for the USA, perhaps we will have to do some future columns that examine the wider implications of the fact that voter subsidies for professional sports team owners may have met their Waterloo at San Francisco’s recent Embarcadero arena fiasco.

The San Francisco and Oakland football, basketball, and baseball teams are playing cities off against each other in an effort to get the biggest and best deals from their hometown. If San Francisco can’t come up with new economic advantages and incentives, well then maybe San Jose can.

As long as the teams stay where they are, the wheeling and dealing doesn’t matter to team fans and the political wonks have enough on their plates already and don’t have the time to read up on the political backroom strategies needed by anxious politicians who want the sports fans who are registered voters to stay content.

Rent affects all Golden State tenants and San Francisco’s battles over the Ellis Act might change the game completely. Hence it makes sense for groups such as the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Association to read up on and be well informed about the changes to the Ellis Act that are being urged by San Francisco landlords.

The mid term elections are a bit more than six months away and the Presidential election is about two and a half years down the road. Long and intricate assessments of the local stories can not be used for the entire intervening time frame at a time when skim reading is gaining popularity. Run more than one extended analysis of the problem and it is very likely the regular readers will become bored and restless.

The World’s Laziest Journalist will have to intersperse team moves, rent control, and fencing off public parks with more frivolous items such as asking: “If Golden Boy’s pizza isn’t proclaimed the best, then why is it the most popular?” (Could the locals bar’s genial atmosphere be the answer?)

We understand that our alma mater has an chapter of the alumnae society based in San Francisco and that makes us wonder why in the era of computer doesn’t the college website have a way to list all the class members of every year’s graduating classes with an asterisk by the names of each class member who is known to have gone on ahead to the great lecture hall in the sky? That, in turn, makes us wonder: Do the underachievers live longer? Does some institution of higher learning need to do a study on that very question?

The hopes for finding survivors in the Korean boat tragedy are fading rapidly but didja know that after the U. S. S. Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor rescue workers reported that responses to their banging on the pipes were heard until after New Year’s Day?

We picked up the latest copy of SF Weekly that asserts on the cover that smartphone theft is “a billion-dollar part of the business model” for the various companies associated with that product.

In addition to the challenge of keeping the audience amused and entertained until the electronic voting machines deliver the indisputable election results to a world wide audience breathlessly awaiting the loser’s concession speech, the World’s Laziest Journalist makes an effort to take photos that will draw more eyes to the weekly example of gonzo punditry.

[Note from the Photo editor: Some of the participants in the 4-20 festivities embraced Scott McKenzie’s decades old advice: “If you’re going to San Francisco, wear a flower in your hair.”]

While we were looking for items to use in this column, we learned that there was a search/contest that was looking for stories using just 10 words or less. (Google hint: gothamwriters dot com forward slash tenwordstory) Their contest was inspired by the legend that Hemingway won a bet about such a short story. His entire story will serve as our closing quote: “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.”

Now the disk jockey will play Apogee Sound Club’s song “Norfoked,” Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” and Moby Grape’s “Trucking Man.” We have to go see “Finding Vivian Maier.” Have a “Decisive Moment” type week.

April 17, 2013

Ernie Pyle or Herb Caen?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:19 pm

San Francisco named a street for a famous local columnist

[Note: The annual task of writing something to be posted honoring National Columnists’ Day on April 18, which was the day that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific Theater of  WWII, is always a challenge because the intention is to keep the tone lighthearted and upbeat but this year, because it falls at a time when the national mood is very somber, we will, after a moment of silence, proceed with this year’s installment, for the same reasons that Boston will hold their marathon again next year.]

A hint of scandal for this year’s America’s Cup Races in the San Francisco Bay area will provide us with a chance to examine how two of our favorite columnists might take different approaches displaying their unique styles to the task of informing their readers of the looming potential for an economic blunder with dire implications for the taxpayers in the town Herb Caen dubbed “Baghdad by the Bay.”

While preparing to write this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists Day posting to mark the day which honors both war correspondent Ernie Pyle and the vocation of being a columnist, we decided to focus this year’s effort on legendary San Francisco scribe Herb Caen who served in the Army Air Force during WWII.

Pyle wrote from the point of view of the G. I. in the foxhole, while Caen, in his civilian phase, preferred to let his audience participate vicariously in his life as a flâneur, a boulevardier, and a bon vivant, who hung out with and traded gossip with “the swells.”  Caen’s first effort was published on July 5, 1938, and ended with his last column in 1997.

Obviously if both of them were still alive and churning out words, they would both take very different approaches to the growing grumbling about the Americas’ Cup races scheduled to be held later this year on San Francisco Bay.

The race’s lawyers seem to have outwitted the ones working for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and so the two parties signed a deal that, upon closer reading, will leave the citizens liable for a large financial shortfall.

We assume that Caen would look forward to rubbing elbows with the “swells” who will conduct the races and hold the accompanying “invitation only” parties and maybe he would also describe the spectacle as seen from a private airplane flying overhead.  Isn’t it logical to conclude that Pyle would side with the taxpayers who can only use binoculars to see some (three?) sailboats on the bay?

Caen’s pioneering approach to celebrity journalism made him a star in the ranks of columnists.  He coined the word “beatnik” and quite often his witty way with words won him a mention in the monthly “towards more picturesque speech” feature in the Readers’ Digest.

Caen was a staunch supporter of iconoclastic wit and provided a continuing source of publicity to Lenny Bruce for his pioneering efforts in the realm of “sick” humor.

In addition to honoring and remembering Ernie Pyle each year, the day is also intended to draw attention to the career of being a columnist, which in the Facebook era should make Pyle the Patron Saint of Facebook, since the mission statement for a columnist is essentially the same motivation for churning out the keystrokes for a Facebook page, i.e. tell the world what you are doing and thinking.  Ernie Pyle, Herb Caen, and Bill Mauldin all have a Facebook page.

Can a Facebook blurb make or break a restaurant?  Once, many moons ago, Caen wrote a blind item blurb about a restaurant that incurred his wrath.  After it was published, the owner of another restaurant that fit the vague description of the offending culprit, contacted Caen’s office and begged him to explain that their restaurant, which had suffered a consequent crippling of their usual business level, was not the one that folks should boycott.  He immediately cleared up the misperception.  Can a Facebook writer have that big of an impact on a community?

The fact that Caen’s style of quick verbal jabs was dubbed “thee dot journalism,” because he used the punctuation of three dots (called an ellipse) to separate items, preceded the Internet phenomenon of catering to an audience with an attention span that demanded items with the complexity level of a bumper sticker and that should endear him to the new generation that operates with a self imposed 130 word limit.  For example, isn’t just the fact that Anthony Grafton wrote a scholarly book, title “The Footnote a Curious History,” enough information for a great Herb Caen-ish column item?

A fellow who went AWAL from a military hospital, three weeks after the liberation, and went into Paris with a nurse who spoke French told us about going into a fine restaurant and ordering a “once in a lifetime” meal.  When the fellow asked for the bill, management considered it a matter of honor to refuse to let the sergeant pay for the meal.  We like to think that Ernie Pyle, if he heard about it, would have devoted a full column to that incident.  He would (we assume) have compared and contrasted the best that Paris had to offer with the famed K-ration that the GI’s often disparaged with very salty language.  (If the disk jockey is alert he will play “Moose Turd Pie” as part of the “outro” music at the end of this column.)  Herb Caen, who served in WWII, was a gourmet who savored fine meals and shared his enthusiasm with his readers.

Many Facebook entries include a snapshot of a meal.  Would young folks appreciate the subtlety if an Ernie Pyle wannabe posted a photo of a K-ration being served?

Once, according to an anecdote provided by one of Caen’s contemporary rivals in the realm of column writing, the two competitors for the right to the title of “Mr. San Francisco,” were out cavorting in some fog city bars after WWII.  They became a bit rowdy and a rookie policeman started to arrest them.  They simultaneously asked if the youngster knew who he was trying to arrest.  He didn’t know and didn’t care.  He led them down to the local station.  When the trio entered, the desk sergeant began to laugh boisterously and asked the newcomer:  “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?”  Case dismissed!

The San Francisco Chronicle would, when Caen was on vacation, run a box on the front page above the fold saying “Herb Caen is on vacation” to cut down on the number of complaints from people who would call and bitch about not being able to find that day’s installment of the column simply titled “Herb Caen.”

Once, back in the season when the Oakland Raiders won games when George Blanda would kick a last second field goal, a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune rushing a “starter” copy of the day’s publication, noticed that at the beginning of the lead story, the words indicated that the story was about the will a local celebrity had written “after” he died.  The ME had a “Stop the presses!” moment and the word was quickly changed to “after” and one of the typesetters was given a stern lecture about the rule that only editors could change copy.  The incident was quickly forgotten until the next week when the secret goof-up was prominently mentioned in Herb Caen’s column.

According to Barnaby Conrad, in his book “The World of Herb Caen,” the Frisco phenomenon produced enough columns of approximately 1,000 words (about three takes) that Caen’s lifetime total would verify this boast: “If laid end to end, his columns would stretch 5.6 miles from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

At the height of his popularity Ernie Pyle was read by approximately 3 million readers nationwide.

Facebook posters might note with extreme envy that in his prime, Caen received 45,000 letters a year.  Isn’t a fan letter better than a quick “like” click?

Herb Caen wrote:  “If I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven. He looks around and says, It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.

Now the disk jockey will play the “Vertigo” soundtrack album, the “Moby Grape” album, and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealist Pillow” album.  We have to go reread Ernie Pyle’s very gruesome and lugubrious columns written on the Normandy Beach (as foud in the Random House book “Ernie’s War: the Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches” edited by David Nichols) immediately after the D-Day Invasion.  Have a “soldier on” type week.

April 5, 2013

“Free lunch, total wisdom, and full coverage . . .”

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:33 pm

The face on an Oakland threshold

After receiving a tip that some Phd’s are staying in a local shelter, and rejecting the possibility that it’s unlikely that a Republican majority United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) would issue a game changer liberal ruling, and wondering if some third party countries might be goading North Korea into a hostile action against the USA, why would a teetotaling columnist think that a new gin mill for journalists in the Oakland area would make the best topic for a new column?  The oil spill in Mayflower Arkansas isn’t getting any media mentions so scratch that off the possible topics list.  Updates on the nuclear plants in the Fukushima area of Japan won’t interest anybody but the treehuggers.  Kim Jong Un seems to have spoiled the news value of sequester cuts because there seems to be plenty of money available for Obama to do some “saber rattling” type diplomacy.

In a media market that has been inundated with analysis of the Gay Marriage issue, the fact that we have not encountered any commentary that points out that it is very unrealistic to expect a ruling from a conservative majority SCOTUS that would hand the liberals a “walk off grand slam” ruling and since there has been a surfeit of punditry that tries to keep a “think it through, Agent Utah,” outcome shrouded in a veneer of “anybody’s guess” mystery, writing a column with a tone of predestined inevitability seems like a waste of time and effort.

What good would it do to point out that some nefarious country with an Eddie Haskel type sense of humor might think it would be amusing to goad the leader of North Korea into renewing hostilities on the Korean peninsula because that would make it more difficult for the USA to resort to some of the “all options are on the table” solutions to the task of preventing Iran from manufacturing WMD’s?  Didn’t the USA show that they could successfully handle the challenge of a two ocean war back when FDR was President?

The possibility of doing an article about finding people with Phd’s in shelters located in close proximity to a world famous University might have some potential for landing a long and arduous assignment from the editor of the New Yorker magazine but doing all that work just to get a column for the Internets that would be just three e-takes long, seems a bit too Pollyanna-ish for the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Didn’t we already mention the New York Times writer who now lives in People’s Park?

The Don Quixote challenge of starting a new establishment that will gain a place on the list of the mythological watering holes for word slingers – now that’s worth writing about.

To write about that topic, wouldn’t the abstaining columnist have to have some first hand knowledge of places such as Hurley’s bar in the Rockefeller Center area of New York City where Frank McGee would huddle with his co-workers while members of the staff of the AP’s New York Bureau gathered at a separate table nearby?  Check.

Wasn’t The Keg near the Santa Monica Evening Outlook a legendary drinking place?

Wasn’t the hotel in liberated Paris, called the Scribe, the setting for some amazing feats of alcoholic consumption?

Didn’t the war correspondents in Saigon gather at the Hotel Continental each evening to watch the artillery shelling of the city’s outskirts?  Were journalists permitted entry into the Purple Porpoise bar in Vientiane Laos, if that city actually existed?

We noticed in the New York Times Arts & Leisure Section for Sunday March 31, 2013, an article about a new Broadway play titled “Lucky Guy,” which is based on the life of Mike McAlary who was a columnist with “high-octane swagger” who (reportedly) did cartwheels when “closing time” was announced at the bar where he happened to be imbibing.

Gonzo Journalism is starting the second half of its first century according to the way one of the founding fathers, Tom Wolfe, sees it, so the summer of 2013 might well be a time when America is awash in nostalgia for Gonzo journalism and that means that the idea of starting a new place in Oakland that will be gathering place for writers who grew up believing that they had to “go where the action is” has merit.  Do folks outside the Oakland area know that Lake Merit isn’t a lake?

The Tribune Tavern, which will be located on the ground floor of the Tribune building in downtown Oakland, has opening day scheduled for April 10th.  Wouldn’t the journalists who covered Saigon have preferred a bistro on the top floor?

There is one tavern in Oakland where police tend to gather and talk shop talk.  Journalists tend to “let their hair down” when they are among their own kind.  Motorcycle enthusiasts tend to go to biker bars.  So gin mills may be an example of the old folk wisdom “water seeks its own level.”

While traveling in Australia a few years back, we noticed that the smoking and drinking table found at most of the hostels where we stayed tended to attract the most loquacious of the travelers staying there and so we often found the best conversations at those gathering places even though we do not smoke or drink liquor.  Perhaps a non drinker can hold his own in this new watering hole where columnists should be welcome.

Speaking of the legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen and the fact that National Columnists’ Day is rapidly approaching, a recent Chronicle front page story detailing the attempt to assemble a list of San Francisco bars that are culturally significant makes all of Caen’s Bay Area fans a bit sad that he isn’t alive and fighting to augment that effort with a campaign to establish a “Gin Mill Hall of Fame” for the legendary bars that are gone but not forgotten.

What kind of chatter makes a journalists bar interesting?  About forty years ago, in a bar in a state known for gambling, a crusty old reporter told about the time he was a rookie who went with the old hands to a bar for a bit of liquid refreshment.  The journalist with a “white belt” level of experience got into a lively discussion with a veteran sports reporter about the legendary race horse “Man o’ War.”  The two had differing ways of speculating about the Triple Crown winner that couldn’t be settled until the bar tender jumped into the conversation and very emphatically said what the horse would have done under the hypothetical circumstances.  When the bar tender was asked “What makes you so certain?,” he replied “Because I was his trainer.”  That, in turn, led the young tenderfoot journalist to a high profile series of freelance articles about horse racing.

Realistically, when the Tribune Tavern opens, we don’t expect to find anything that we can use in a query letter to the assignment editor at Scanlon’s Magazine, but maybe we will stumble upon a source who can tell us if the “scientists” at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory (ACTF) have made any progress on their investigation into the possibility that “they” can use a dormant wifi connection to hack into laptops that are turned off and look at your private photos and read your e-mails.

Speaking of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, we heard a recent radio news story that informed listeners that a recent Pew Research Center effort produced data that indicates that some classic conspiracy theories are gaining new adherents.

If journalists gather at the new Oakland location, maybe we can track down some facts to confirm or deny the rumor we have heard that preliminary work is being done in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory’s Planning Department to build a wing to house a Conspiracy Theory Hall of Fame museum.

Sometimes when journalists talk among themselves they come up with new story ideas via the “catalyst” phenomenon.

Will the most cynical journalists look at the cheating teachers scandal in Georgia and start to wonder if doctors get commission checks (or free junkets to the Bahamas?) from pharmaceutical companies when they exceed a certain number for prescriptions of a particular medicine.

Most journalists who have spent any time observing humanity in a bar know that President Obama, in his war of words with Kim Jong Un, is rapidly approaching a tough decision that cause bar room brawlers to realize for both leaders it’s time to either throw a punch or shut up.

Hunter S. Thompson’s philosophy for journalists was “Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage . . .” and that brings to mind the old question:  “How can you tell if someone is a journalist?”  The answer:  “He is the guy who goes up to the free food, starts shoveling it into his face and, with a mouth full of food, asks:  ‘Where is the Hand Out?’”   Hand Outs are prewritten news stories that save lazy journalists (moi?) a lot of time and work.

Journalists can only take so much of official BS.  How many toasts will be inspired by a society that continues to foreclose large numbers of homes while the local radio urges the listeners to save more money?   As an old coworker used to say:  “My car payments are driving me to drink.”

[Note from the Photo Editor:  We used a photo of a bit of artistic decoration from Oakland but not from the one that hasn’t opened yet, because we thought that the quaint example, of a nearby establishment’s threshold, of art for bars would help set the tone for this column and it gives us a chance to make a literary allusion to the “face on the barroom floor.”]

In issue 111 of Granta magazine, on page 210, Richard Russo wrote:  “After World War II, about the same time men stopped wearing hats, women stopped wearing gloves.”

Now the disk jockey will play Slayer’s “World Painted Blood,” the Celtic Cowboys “Kiss My Irish Ass,” and a ditty titled “The Alco-hall of Fame.”  We have to put on our Gonzo disguise and go incognito to cover this new place in Oakland.  Have a “there’s no ‘there’ there” type of week.

June 8, 2012

“For whom the UCB Campanile Tolls”

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:35 pm

If a columnist can’t write like Hemingway; maybe he can write about Hemingway?

“He was an old detective who worked alone out of an office on Santa Monica Blvd. and he had gone eighty four days now without a client.”

If Ernest Hemingway interrupted efforts to cover Occupy Madrid and came to Berkeley and was told by the street people that their ranks were swelling because a local (several?) hospital(s) were dumping indigent patients on Shattuck Avenue, how would he react? Would he raise funds for and write and provide the narration for a documentary film titled The Berkeley Earth? Would he write the best of all his novels and title it “For whom the UCB Campanile Tolls”? Would it delineate the exploits of a fashionista who joined the ranks of the legion of destitute victims of home foreclosures who were struggling to put an end to the economic domination of the work force by the one percenters? If he did that would he be vulnerable to charges of exploiting the panhandlers for his own fame and fortune? Since Hemingway has been dead for more than 50 years, he won’t have to deal with these hypothetical challenges. What about the legion of Hemingway wannabes? How should they handle the issue in his stead?

To a high school student the prospects of studying long and hard to become a lawyer or doctor who would work relentlessly for 50 weeks of the year just to be able to afford a better vacation paled in comparison to a career that would require a fellow to go to far away exotic locations, meet the movers and shakers of the world, and then write it up for fabulous sums of money. The life of a writer errant seemed like a more appealing vocational decision. Positive proof of the lopsided nature of the choice might be evident when the latest copy of LIFE magazine arrived in the mail box containing photographic evidence that such an escape from tedium was possible. For a kid who hasn’t yet experienced the much desired rite of passage known as passing the driver’s license test, the chance to travel the world for pay held a hypnotic allure.

Growing up in Scranton Pa., offered a basic binary choice: you could go to work in the coal mines (literally or figuratively) after high school, or (if your parents could afford it) you could go to college and then get a job in coal mine management, marry your high school sweetheart, and have bunch of kids. The fact that Scranton became the setting for a fictionalized look at the absurdity of working in “The Office” would only become apparent much later in life.

In the Fifties, the ticket out of what Fred Allen called “The Treadmill to Oblivion,” was to become: a rock star, a movie star, one of Mickey Mantle’s teammates, or learn to type as the first step on the Hemingway wannabe road to fame and fortune. In high school, given the choice of two more years of Latin vs. learning to type, a young man didn’t need “Papa” Hemingway by his side to make the call.

The grim reality that Collier’s Magazine would, after 1957, no longer be available to subsidize sending the next generation of Hemingways to far away places with strange sounding names was irrelevant because at the same time that they folded, a young writer named Jack Kerouac was demonstrating that if you subsidized your wanderings, you could always recoup the bankroll by publishing the results in book form.

After college, books about Hemingway began to appear. Heck if you couldn’t write like Hemingway, you could always write about Hemingway. Using that logic had its drawbacks because that would indicate that eventually some writers would be writing about this Kerouac fellow who had, by the Vietnam War, faded into obscurity. It was worth noting, however, that this beatnik fellow made more appearances on “The Tonight” show than Papa Hemingway did.

The torch had been passed to a new generation of writers and guys like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson were generating scads of publicity for inventing “new journalism,” which some (sour grapes?) critics dismissed as repackaged and relabeled examples of the Hemingway formulae “Veni, vidi, escribi.”

Unfortunately, reading novels such as “Goldfinger,” “The Big Sleep,” and “The Maltese Falcon,” meant that when it eventually came time to enter the “Good Page of Bad Hemingway” contest, this columnist would submit something that sounded like: “He was an old detective who worked alone out of an office on Santa Monica Blvd. and he had gone eighty four days now without a client.”

Hemingway’s name was synonymous with hunting and fishing but if the A. E. Hotchner or Carlos Baker biographies mentioned that Papa supported conservation, this columnist didn’t notice such passages. Sure he was glad to lead the wolf pack of writers (called the War Tourists) to the cause of the workers in Spain, but did he ever say anything about the retched treatment that was given to Native Americans?

All the Hemingway aspirations had been safely tucked away in the recesses of the World’s Laziest Journalist Memory Archive until we began to read books such as “Gellhorn” by Caroline Moorehead and “The Women Who Wrote the War” by Nancy Caldwell Sorel at about the same time that we began to cover the Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Berkeley, and Occupy UCB stories. When we got the chance to see a screening of “Hemingway and Gellhorn” at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, we were fully aware of why the plight of the ordinary citizens objecting to high tuition, home foreclosures, union busting, and layoffs sounded so very déjà vu.

Authorized biographies provided a stealth introduction to spin. Reading the Gellhorn biography by Caroline Moorehead, copyrighted and published in 2003, recently, it was a bit of a shock for a Hemingway wannabe to learn that Mr. Macho consistently delivered shabby treatment to the women in his life.

If he were still alive, the newer books revealed that the Nobel Prize for Literature winner would also be a leading Souse and Louse of the year award. Does the Modern Drunkard online site even give such an award?

Is the new HBO film a variation on an old existentialist trick? While he was a POW, Jean-Paul Sartre staged a play that was about the history of ancient Greece. The Germans running the POW camp didn’t notice that it was also a metaphor for their heavy handed methods for governing an occupied country.

There is an old saying that those who forget history are bound to repeat it. How many young folks in the United States know what the issues that sparked the Spanish Civil War were? If Rupert Murdoch will not permit any disparaging words about the US during the Bush Era, could a film about a tempestuous love affair between two writers covering the Spanish Civil War actually be a clever way to slide the topic of the age old struggle between the wealthy (and their lackeys – the politicians, the police, the press, and the clergy) against the wage slaves past the old biddies delivering Murdoch’s rules for living on the Fox New programs?

Disgruntle slaves have always infuriated the plantation owners by their lack of gratitude via the “Oliver Twist” question: “Please, sir, may I have more?”

Back in the Thirties, Ford shot strikers and Chevrolet caved in to their demands and ever since then, it’s been a continuing struggle for the landed gentry to regain the upper hand.
Which automobile company response to strikers would Hemingway have endorsed?

In the biography “Gellhorn,” readers are informed that the only time Martha Gellhorn ever saw Hemingway cry was when he learned that a Franco victory in the Spanish Civil War was inevitable. After Tuesday’s election results in Wisconsin, we wonder if another Fallangist victory (no matter how well it was disguised) would still get the same result. Would Hemingway see a Republican domination of the US Presidential Election in 2012 as another fascist victory? Would Hemingway notice similarities between the causes of the Occupy protesters and the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War?

Hemingway loved bull fights because of the ritualized ceremony’s pageantry (a High Mass for sadists?) and that makes us wonder if Papa would note the similarity to the paradigm script for modern controversial wedge issues in American politics. When a controversial wedge issue is decided by the voters, the electronic voting machines must always decide in favor of the conservative program. The bull must die even if a relief matador (from the bull pen?) has to be brought off the bench.

Would Hemingway be intimidated by the prospect of being called a “conspiracy theory lunatic”? The fact that unflattering criticism did seem to wound a man who was being called the greatest writer of the century and that he worked tirelessly to build and protect his image indicates that he might have been vulnerable to such a threat.

If Spain is going to have to endure austerity measures, will it hurt only the workers or will the wealthy also suffer? Would Hemingway (and Gellhorn?) rush off to cover the impact of austerity on the average citizen in Spain (if they were still alive)? Regardless of what the banks do, won’t the glitterati attend this year’s “Running of the bulls” and won’t it be held on schedule?

Reading about the long list of journalists who were alarmed about the possibility that the struggle of workers in Spain against the Falangists was a prediction that eventually and inevitably the USA would be forced to participate in a European war against fascism, and then reading about the frantic scramble to get an assignment to cover the European phase of World War II, only makes a columnist in America all the more aware that Journalism in the states today bares a remarkable resemblance to the paucity of news available to Germans during the Hitler era. Reading or listening to foreign based news was strictly verboten. Reading or listening to a non conservative point of view in the USA today is just about as foolhardy as listening to the BBC in Berlin was in 1943. (Google hint: “gray and black radio propaganda”)

Friday, June 8, 2012, is World Ocean Day and it isn’t hard to figure out how Hemingway would celebrate it, but that causes us to wonder: If the Gulf oil spill kills off all the Marlins would Papa attack the company responsible for the atrocity against nature?

Hemingway tended to see life in terms of a prolonged boxing match, so we like to imagine that if he were still alive, he would enthusiastically urge the Liberals in Wisconsin to get up, take a standing nine count, and then plunge back in the fight by starting a new effort this weekend to collect signatures for another recall move against Scott Walker.

Somewhere along the way, the Dionysian approach to writing new columns about a variety of topics, in the Herb Caen manner, began to appeal to the World’s Laziest Journalist more than the Apollonian formula of spending months of pounding out a novel.

Consequently, to put it in the terms that would be understandable to someone who read extensively about the exploits in the old West of the U. S. Cavalry, the World’s Laziest Journalist tends to approach the world like an Indian Scout rather than like an egotistical general.

Santa Monica had to contend with the rumor that some cities were giving their charity cases a one way Greyhound ticket to “Skid row by the sea,” and Los Angeles had a scandal about patients being dumped on Fifth Street, so if the rumors about increase in the size of the Shattuck army of panhandlers is true, other writers can do the extensive amount of reporting that the topic will require; meanwhile this columnist will start checking the logistics for tackling other topics such as this year’s Running of the Bulls or the 24 hour sports car race at Le Mans.

In “Death in the Afternoon,” Ernest Hemingway wrote: “There are two things that are necessary for a country to love bullfights. One is that the bulls must be raised in that country and the other is that the people must have an interest in death.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Frankie and Johnnie,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “I wish I was 18 again,” and the Plimsouls’ “You cant judge a book (by its cover).” We have to go see if LIFE magazine wants to assign us to write “The Dangerous Summer on the road to the Hemingway Days in Key West” story. Have a Botellazo free week.

April 17, 2012

Living legend columnists are a dying breed

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 8:18 pm

On the island of Ie Shima, on April 18, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed in action and that is why that date has been selected by the National Society of Newspaper Columnist to be designated as National Columnists’ Day.

After a few years of writing about Ernie Pyle for National Columnists’ Day, it grew a bit challenging, and so the focus for our annual column for that occasion was expanded to include homage to other famous columnists from the past such as Herb Caen and Walter Winchell.

For a columnist named Bob Patterson, who was born and raised in Scranton Pa. and now lives in Berkeley CA, to celebrate National Columnists’ Day by writing this year’s installment about a columnist, scalawag, and rascal named Bob Patterson, who was raised about a hundred years ago in Berkeley CA, is a daunting challenge. In order to produce a column that doesn’t sound like a noteworthy example of shameless über-egotism and crass self-promotion, we will refer to the writer from the past by his pen name of Freddie Francisco and note that the facts for this column were contained in the “exposé” story Freddie Francisco wrote about himself for a weekly newspaper named “The City of San Francisco” in their August 10, 1975 issue.

Francisco revealed that during the Twenties Patterson landed a $47 a week reporter’s job on the New York Graphic and when he began to work the police beat Freddie/Bob was offered a $100 a week bonus from a Prohibition entrepreneur who wanted a phone call tip whenever the Prohibition agents left on a raid. That stunt got him fired. His confession relates that subsequently Freddie/Bob went to work for the fellow who had supplied the tip bonuses.

In the early Thirties, Freddie/Bob moved to Japan. To augment his pay while living there Freddie wrote about the forbidden topic of Tokyo’s notorious Yoshitwara district. That got him another pink slip and deportation status on the same day that he contracted malaria.

Freddie quickly transitioned to the staff of the China Press in Shanghai.

Freddy/Bob arrived in Shanghai between World Wars. Freddie described his reactions thus: “It was fine, fine, fine; Patterson decided to stay forever, and maybe three days over.” It took only two months for him to get the assignment of writing a daily column he dubbed “The Dawn Patrol.”

During Freddie’s stint in Shanghai, he gathered enough human interest stories to fill a thousand novels, if he ever retired from journalism.

In describing the conduct of a battle between rival houses of prostitution, he informs readers that the madam with seniority hired coolies to defecate on the front steps of the rival location just as the evening was about to begin.

One kindly Shanghai mortician used to offer free services to indigent Americans who died far from their native land. He also, Freddie reported, paid for shipping and interment back home in the USA. Customs started digging up the opium laden coffins before the morticians’ associates and then the concept of the altruistic motivation went up in smoke (as it were).

Freddie got to visit at Madame Sun Yat-sen’s home, thanks to Andre Malraux.

Freddie wrote a book about the glory days in Shanghai. When the book was republished in the USA, the American publishing firm gave Freddie the run-a-round rather than residuals.

In the 1975 article, Freddie glossed over the time line and ignored certain gaps in the narrative saying only that when it came time to apply for a job at the San Francisco Examiner, that “Sing Sing doesn’t provide irresistible references.”

Back in the day when Frisco was home for very memorable gin mills such as “The Fly Trap,” “Mark’s Lower Bar,” and the “Home That Jack Built;” Freddie/Bob became good friends with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, and the two gathered material by going bar hopping together. Feddie/Bob conceded that his arch rival was “a shade faster because of fancier footwork and better streamlining.”

Once, after the two purchased some toy machine guns and participated in some late night frolicking, they were apprehended by two rookie policemen and the columnists indignantly inquired if the youngster knew who they were trying to arrest. When they arrived at the station house, they walked in and the watch commander broke into a hearty laughing fit and finally managed to ask the two patrolmen if they knew who it was that they were trying to arrest. (Case dismissed – on the spot.)

Freddie pushed the boundaries and got in hot water with management when he used the word “poontang.” He was forbidden to use that word ever again and the top proofreader was charged with making sure the embargoed word was banished forever. In a description of a party that included a list of forty names, a mysterious guest named Poon Tang was listed and won Freddie a wager for a double sawbuck.

In a dispute about running a story about a business man and a bimbo, Freddie asked about using that information in the paper. His boss, out of concern for the fellow’s wife, replied “Forget the story and give him a call so he knows that we know.” Freddie elaborates the result: “Max dumped the doll and stayed away from expensive poontang from then on until coffin time.”

Freddie was involved in a plot that involved hush money for his prison record and he spurned the chance to cover it all up. His termination was reported to the readers in a box on a subsequent Examiner front page.

Freddie/Bob reports that he then went into business with “Honest” Luke Carroll playing poker on various passenger liners sailing the Pacific. The company that owned the vessels eventually stopped selling tickets to the two card players.

Freddie/Bob bummed around the Journalism Industry and picked up some writing assignments in Hollywood, but then: “In 1967, Patterson felt homesick for the Examiner and asked them for a job.”

In 1960, the Examiner had suffered some humiliation when (according to the Freddie exposé) Bud Boyd “was discovered (by Ed Montgomery) to be writing a wilderness survival series from the comfort of his living room.”

A few years after rejoining the Examiner staff, the rehired Freddie/Bob scored some exclusives from China; the newspaper’s managment didn’t take kindly to allegations that the scoops had been penned in Hong Kong and not the interior of China. It was time for another front page box informing readers that Freddie/Bob had been fired again.

A copy of the Freddie/Bob story was located in the San Francisco Public Library and other sources indicate that Freddie/Bob’s story didn’t end there. Due to a law suite, Freddie/Bob was suspended from writing assignments but was kept on the payroll at full pay until the legal matter could be clarified. (Some guys have all the luck?)

Like Elvis, Jim Morrison, and James Dean, Freddie Francisco (AKA Bob Patterson)’s death was well reported in the Bay area many years ago. The World’s Laziest Journalist intends on holding a brief memorial service on National Columnists’ Day for Freddie Francisco. Since one of the legendary Frisco bars, the Gold Dust Lounge (Est. 1933), which got fond mentions from Herb Caen, is in immanent danger of closure now, perhaps we will hoist a glass of diet cola in Freddie/Bob’s honor there as our celebration of National Columnists’ Day. What’s not to like about a fellow who loved traveling the world, having good times, and then writing about his own adventures? Putting it on the expense account could only have been putting frosting on the cake.

Freddie Francisco’s lead for his exposé provides an apt closing quote for this column: “Bob Patterson, erstwhile San Francisco Examiner newsman, China expert and scoundrel is a very misunderstood man. He is misunderstood by his critics, by two former wives and by at least one god-fearing and red-blooded former employer who recently fired him on the front page.”

Now the disk jockey will play “On a slow boat to China,” the soundtrack album from “The Lady from Shanghai,” and the Flatlanders “My wildest dreams get wilder every day.” We have to go over to San Francisco and look for some very old books. Have a “stay out of jail card” type week.

January 27, 2011

1816 Flashback?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:43 pm

A volcanic eruption of Biblical proportions is often cited as the cause of the unusual weather experienced around the northern hemisphere in 1816, which is often called “the year there was no summer.” If, as some of the cutting edge conspiracy theory advocates are alleging, the summer of 2011 does a repeat of its 1816’ disappearing act, because of the Gulf oil spill, pundits will eventually get around to haggling over the topic: “Did global warming start with the volcanic eruption in 1815?” This columnist would like to ask that question now, and move on (dot org?) to something else for this summer.

While doing some fact checking about the wagering on various candidates who might be the successful candidate for the Presidency of the USA in 2012, we came across the curious bit of information that one of the overseas bookies is giving a thousand to one odds for bets that Laura Bush will be the winner.

Is it true that only the best journalistic hot dogs cover the Frankfurt Book Faire?

Has any columnist laid claim to the boast “the pundit other pundits read first”? Did Freddie Francisco use that line? If so, would he be gracious enough to let us “borrow” it in the Internets era? Didn’t Ambrose Bierce write a San Francisco based column before he went AWOL? Isn’t there a conspiracy theory that suggests that Bierce sneaked quietly back into “Baghdad by the Bay,” and did ghost writing using Freddie Francisco as his nom de plume?

One of the items included in the wrangling over the city budget in Berkeley CA is some quibbling about the use of medical coverage for city employees who want sex change operations. Maybe if Rush Limbaugh mentions that in a future broadcast, he’ll attribute the tip to Freddie Francisco?

Will the efforts to orchestrate a boycott of Rush’s sponsors work or will it come off looking like a Chinese fire drill? Wasn’t the very first boycott over an Irish matter?

Speaking of Oprah, we wonder: Will Qantas now move on our suggestion that they use bargain fares to lure Netroots Nation into holding one of their conventions in Sydney? Heck, bloggers could go to Sydney in January of 2013 and then come back and hold a second one somewhere in the USA in July and, then it would be the year with two summers, for those who attended both events.

We’ve lost our copy of “Naked is the best disguise,” by Samuel Rosenberg. As soon as we find a replacement copy (there are beau coup good used book stores in Berkeley) we will start to write a column on his conspiracy theory that philosopher Fred C. Nietzsche was the real life identity of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty.

Why do polar bears (Ursus Maritimus) get all the publicity? If global warming is more than a figment of the collective mind of the scientific community, then why don’t penguins get some attention? If the ice cap in the northern hemisphere is in danger of melting away, then won’t the other one melt too and leave the penguins (Aptenodytes patagonica) homeless too? If the Southern ice cap isn’t going to melt, why not just send the polar bears down there?
Do the luxury hotels in Antarctica tout surfing on their fine beaches or do they stress the skiing experiences available nearby?

Speaking of San Francisco, that’s where the True Oldies Channel (TOC) has their home office. One of the top features of the TOC is their daily selection of a sentimental song as the cheesy listening song of the day. You want schmaltz? You wanna do a Boener blubber scene because of a song on the radio? We urge our faithful readers (all dozen of you) to e-mail in this suggestion: Elvis’ “Old Shep.” Tell Scott Shannon (the TOC’s answer to Emperor Norton?) that you got the idea from Freddie Francisco.

Did you know that San Francisco has two official songs and that (the last time we checked with the city clerk) Berkeley doesn’t have even one? We’ll have to see what the official city song is in Concordia Kansas. Do they have two like Frisco? Or have they been as lax in that department as has Berkeley?

Did you just ask for some political punditry before we fade to commercial? Our latest bit of fact checking indicates that the current odds regarding JEB as the winner of the 2012 Presidential Elections are forty to one.

In “Don’t Call It ‘Frisco” (Double Day & Co 1953 hardback page 195), Herb Caen wrote: “Books that are banned in Boston are best sellers in San Francisco, and their merits are argued hotley in the finest salons.” Did he really mean to use just one “o”?

Now the disk jockey will play Fred Astair’s “Mr. Top Hat” album, Paul Evans song “Seven Little Girls (Sitting in the back seat with Fred),” and Freddie and the Dreamers album “Fun Lovin’ Freddie.” Now, we gotta go get tickets for the Porchlight showing of the film “Brushes with Fame.” Have the kind of week that only Munro Leaf could chronicle.

Powered by WordPress