Thursday, April 3, 2008
Happy Birthday Herb Caen !!!
24 points if you know who the hella I'm talkin' bout !!
Here I have stolen a great essay about SF and Herb.....I used to start to many Sunday morns and lazy afternoons reading the Chronicle.....Herb made me fall in love with SF, and even tho I've been places and lived elsewhere....it's SF.
It's like your first kiss, your first crush, your first "best" sex.....There may be more, But None other......Oh, That's what my ring says: vous et nul autre
One of the best articles from the SF Chronicle, reprinted here without permission. It's about Herb Caen and his city, and mine.........
Started at the old Bardelli's, where Caen loved the crash of dice cups in the eternal game of boss dice. Caen liked to lunch with people like Dapper Dave Falk, demon suit salesman, Elmer Robinson (he called him ElMayor), or George Christopher, emeritus politicians, loved to walk into that dining room like a king in his court. Gone, all gone, like the Emporium, killed off on its 100th birthday in 1996, like the wondrous Woolworth's store at Powell and Market. Bardelli's folded in 1997, the year Caen himself died. Now the place is Johnny Foley's Irish House, packed on a Wednesday night, but different from the old place as night and day. No dice, for one thing. No politicians. No Dapper Dave. No suits. No Herb Caen. His picture is on the dining room wall, in a place of honor, the only non- Irishman there. "I'd like to think he would have liked this place," said owner Martin Connolly, hopefully. The real heart of Caen's world was in North Beach. Caen liked cable cars. "Simply nothing like them," he wrote 23 years ago. Back in the later Caen period it was impossible to ride the cable cars. What would Yogi Berra say? "Nobody rides them. They're too crowded." Tourists, squealing as if they were in Disneyland By the Bay. But now, tourism is in the Dumpster, and there is room. What would Caen do if one came along with empty space on the running board? "I leaped buoyantly aboard," he wrote in a 1979 column. "I couldn't resist." A half-full car came rolling up Powell the other Thursday, carrying a cargo that would delight an old columnist: a glowering woman going home from a shopping trip downtown, a young man pretending to be bored, three little girls from somewhere west of the Golden Gate, only a handful of tourists. The usual sounds from the crew: "Fares! Who's got fares? Look out! Hold on!" and the car went clunking up Nob Hill and into the past. Got off at Jackson, walked through Chinatown, peering down the dark alleys. Caen always thought them mysterious. Up Grant, down Broadway to Enrico's in North Beach. Caen loved to sit outside at Enrico's, sometimes with people like William Saroyan, John Steinbeck, maybe some other famous guy. Often with Barnaby Conrad, the bullfighter and restaurant man Caen called "Barnabull." They are all gone - Conrad to Santa Barbara, the others to the big column in the sky, but inside Enrico's the other Thursday was Tony Serra, famous lawyer, surrounded by people, holding court. There was Millie, the old lady who will take your picture with a Polaroid camera for $5. Types out of a Caen column. "Hello," we said to the parking attendant next door, "Did you know Herb Caen?" No, he said, he was sorry. He did know Francis Ford Coppola, though, and did we know that the president of Afghanistan's brother owns a restaurant down the street? A scooplet. Caen was serious about making the rounds: Sometimes he referred to himself as "Mr. Nite Life." He sat in on drums at the Saloon on upper Grant, looked in on five or six places a night: Maybe Tosca, Spec's, Capp's Corner, the Washington Square, Dante's, Moose's. In the old days, the lower bar at the Mark, the St. Francis Hotel (He called it "The Frantic"), The Palace (never the Sheraton-Palace), Trader Vic's. Places like that. After that a nightcap, usually at the Gold Dust lounge at Powell and Geary, downtown. He was a great believer in nightcaps, and corny live music and the Gold Dust still has both. But it was more than bars. On other occasions, Caen would catch a show, go to a party or two, take in the opera, check out a new restaurant. "Tosca," the opera, appeared in his column almost as often as Tosca, the saloon. You could check it out. Caen was above all a newsman, always looking. The column was his stage and his world, and the readers were the audience. The show always had to go on. "He was afraid he would miss something," said Ed Moose, the restaurant man. "He had this saying, ÔAround the corner something is happening, and I don't want to miss it.' That's what drove him." "He was out every night," said Moose. "If he took a night off, we didn't know it." Yet he showed up every morning at the paper, 9:30 sharp, to produce the column, 1,000 words a day for 58 years, more than anybody before or since. A good column, he thought, had 24 items in a good mix. In a typical year, he dropped 6,768 names. "He had stamina," said Moose. He also was the ultimate reporter. He wrote paeans to the fog, the bridges, "the daily ride on the city's ever-revolving carousel," but he saw the other side of the city, too. "I find myself pounding the filthy pavements almost daily. And I am struck by the loneliness, by the lost souls shuffling around by themselves or standing in homage to catatonia on a windswept corner of nowhere . . . "I try to remember the words of my late friend Elmer Peterson, who lived on Sixth St.: ÔJust look around, not straight ahead.' The Ôgood' people look straight ahead as they move through those districts. They don't want to see the highly visible truth, they don't want to hear the calls for help . . . you may have to feel something, give something, think about the unthinkable - the dark side of Baghdad-by-the-Baydream." ". . . Up here (on Nob Hill) the dream city lives, almost unreal in its beauty. Only a few blocks down the hill, the other city festers and boils. The truth can be evaded and delayed, but for how much longer?" Caen wrote that 12 years ago. Caen was fond of Washington Square, the heart of North Beach. Of all the places in the city, it seemed this would change least. But the old Washington Square Bar and Grill, where Moose got his start in San Francisco, turned into the Cobalt Tavern, where everything is a shade of deep blue. Caen was a regular for lunch and sometimes dinner at the old Washbag. The new Cobalt doesn't do lunch. That's no surprise. The long lunch of Caen's day, the rolling of dice for drinks, the leisurely afternoon talk, is over. And it was only yesterday. On the other side of the square is Moose's, sort of a shrine to Caen's city: good food, good music. Caen's portable typewriter - an Olivetti - is on the wall, and a picture of Caen's last New Year's Eve, the great man with Moose, with Ann Moller Caen - "the lovely Ann," he called her, with His Willieness, the mayor, and Nancy Pelosi, the congresswoman who is now the Democratic whip. The whip? He would have loved that. One gets the feeling that Caen has just left and will be back shortly. But that's an illusion. Has the city changed since Caen left? "Yes," says Moose. "It's more fragmented. It doesn't have the man with the magic wand to tell people where's a good place to eat, where to go tonight, who's a good guy and who's a bad guy, and why San Francisco is the most wonderful city in the world." "We've lost that," Moose said. "Herb Caen gave us who we are." Has the city changed? Well, for one thing, Caen's not here anymore.