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My fiftieth post! The big 5-0! My oh my that’s a lot of love. I think this milestone calls for something BIG, like those old Mad magazine collectors’ edition Super Specials.ss011I’d like to do a listicle, and it should definitely be San Francisco-based…something that will make those Bold Italic folks regret not hiring me when they had the chance (i.e., before I went to law school, which was likely before the website even existed). 50 best burritos in SF? So cliché, probably done before, and now not as special because of that whole Nate Silver thing. 50 best record and/or bookstores in SF? Could be fun, but I really only ever go to two stores from each category. 50 best murals in SF? Great idea, but I don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough to pull it off (although if you have any interest in the murals of San Francisco, I highly recommend this site).

I think I’ll go with something that will appeal more to the history buffs than the hipsters, more to the natives than the naives, and more to the intelligentsia than the no-common-sensia. And since a quick Google search reveals that nobody has done this before, I now present to you, in alphabetical order by first name, the definitive list of THE 50 GREATEST SAN FRANCISCANS OF ALL TIME!!!* Yes, it’s a damn long list, and this post is thus far longer than any I have posted before, so don’t feel like you need to read through all 50 at once.

*Note: I’m using a broad definition of the term “San Franciscan.” Somebody need not be born in SF to be a “San Franciscan”—if San Francisco was a significant location in his or her life, that’s enough to make this list.

1. Al Robles


Al Robles was a brilliant poet and a powerful community organizer who was instrumental in the fight to protect the International Hotel, the last bastion of San Francisco’s once large Filipino population. When Robles witnessed the “urban renewal” that was destroying the black community in the Fillmore, he galvanized low-income Filipinos to protest and resist the development of Little Manila (Jim Jones was a key ally of Robles in this battle, but he sure as hell does not make this list). Eventually, the bad guys won: all residents of the I-Hotel were evicted by the end of 1977 and the building was razed in 1981, with much of San Francisco’s Filipino population being shoved into Daly City. Today, the non-wealthy residents of San Francisco continue to be threatened with eviction, and the poets are fleeing the city in droves for cheaper pastures. In times like these, San Francisco needs another Al Robles.

2. Alice B. Toklas


Leave it to San Francisco to name a street after the culinary mastermind who invented the pot brownie—Alice B. Toklas’ true claim to fame, beyond being Gertrude Stein’s lover. Further, San Francisco’s ultra-liberal LGBT political group is called the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club (not to be confused with the more centrist Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club). You don’t see a “Gertrude Stein” street in SF or Oakland…apparently the Bay Area values pot over poetry.

3. Andre Nickatina


Although the Bay Area at large produces a fair amount of hip hop hits, most of the rap talent is concentrated in Oakland (and then of course there’s E-40 in Vallejo). However, at least one hip hop star did come out of SF proper, from the Fillmore district at that (okay, RBL posse came out of Bayview, but they were pretty much a one-hit wonder). I’m not the biggest fan of all of Andre Nickatina’s songs, but he was prolific enough that there are a few gems here and there.

4. Ansel Adams


Ansel Adams grew up in the Western Addition, and supposedly broke his nose in the 1906 earthquake as a young boy, giving it that crooked shape that lasted the rest of his life. Obviously we all know and love Adams for his photographs of Yosemite—honestly, I’m on the fence as to whether the Sierras are more beautiful and majestic in real life or through the lens of Adams’ camera—but he also took some pretty stunning pictures of the San Francisco Bay.

5. Bill Graham


If it weren’t for Bill Graham, then the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin never would have reached the heights they did. Some people may argue that this would have been a good thing, but to hell with those people.

6. Bill Russell

Bill Russell

There was a time when defensive players were recognized as the lynchpins in successful basketball teams. There was also a time when the University of San Francisco had a successful basketball program. On top of that, there was a time when black players were not welcome in sports or in certain parts of country. Bill Russell was instrumental in bringing about the first two of these eras and crushing the third. Sadly, USF’s basketball program has never been as dominant as it was during Russell’s tenure there, but believe me, they still talk about him north of the Panhandle. A lot.

7. Bruce Lee


Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco. Therefore, San Francisco wins.

8. Bruno Mooshei


I love Zam Zam, and will often take friends or dates there for a late-evening martini. Sadly, I missed going to what was then called Persian Aub Zam Zam during the reign of Bruno, the Soup Nazi of martinis, who was apparently a bitter, hippie-hating, straight-laced one-man unintentional comedy show for nearly 50 years. If you ordered beer, he’d kick you out. If you tried sitting anywhere but the bar, he’d kick you out. If he didn’t like the way you dressed, he’d kick you out. But if you managed to stick around, you’d get a delicious martini for $2.50. That’s the kind of quirkiness we need more of in present-day San Francisco.

9. Cosmic Lady


If you mention “Cosmic Lady” to anybody who lived in San Francisco in the 60s, I mean, anybody who was cool who lived in San Francisco in the 60s, he or she will inevitably smile. Cosmic Lady was the personification of the ultra-consciousness of the era, of the time and place where people realized it was time to question all of the bullshit. She’d stop strangers on the street to ask, “Are we civilized yet?” I really want to start doing that, but I’m a little too self-conscious. Damn you, society and corporate job!

10. Dave Righetti


Truth be told, I go the idea for this post when I was at a Giants game a few weeks ago and Dave came out to talk to Lincecum on the mound. It occurred to me that all of the success the Giants have had in my lifetime has come from their superb pitching (when the pitchers are on, of course), and this excellence on the mound can be attributed in great part to an excellent pitching coach. So although I could have chosen Willy Mayes (really more associated with NY Giants), Juan Marichal (never won a World Series), Barry Bonds (too controversial), or Buster Posey (too young, too soon), the San Francisco Giant to make my list is Dave Righetti.

11. DJ B. Cause


I have a love-hate relationship with mash-ups. On the one hand, Bootie SF, which is basically a bunch of white people getting really excited when they realize that they recognize which songs are being mashed together, makes me kind of nauseas. On the other hand, DJ B. Cause’s mixes of soul and disco with Hyphy are insanely dope. After the second Night of the Remix came out, DJ B. Cause was doing “first funk Fridays” at the Elbo Room and I saw him once and bought him a drink. I was totally star-struck and awkward.

12. Dick Vivian

Dick Vivian

When I first started going research for my Haight Street Muffin Man Tour, I interviewed Dick, owner and proprietor of Rooky Ricardo’s Records, because a friend told me that he was friendly, and most other people I tried to interview had no desire to speak with me. Since that interview, I have gone into Dick’s store nearly every week for records and, more often than not, some kind of therapy. I encourage everybody to go to his store and learn why it is that human beings truly love music. And if you don’t believe me, read this article GQ ran about Dick and his store. One note: when you walk into Dick’s store, don’t you dare utter the word “awesome.” That kind of language is not tolerated in Rooky Ricardo’s Records.

13. Emmett Grogan


Emmett Grogan is one of the founders of the Diggers, a radical group of improvisational actors and other hooligans who decided that capitalism was a crock of shit and attempted to do away with the antiquated practice in the Haight-Ashbury of the late-sixties. The Diggers threw concerts in the Panhandle and distributed free food every day—hungry hippies could eat for free, as long as they were willing to walk through a giant yellow picture frame known as the “Free Frame of Reference” in order to receive their meals. There were several other founders of the Diggers (including Peter Coyote and Peter Berg), but Grogan made the cut for this list because he is the founder memorialized on the “Anarchists of the Americas” mural on the side of Bound Together, the Haight Street anarchist book collective.

14. Francis of Assisi


Francis of Assisi never actually made it to the New World, let alone northern California, but we did decide to name our town after him so I think he makes the cut for this list. Francis was a rich spoiled brat who, after suffering an injury in combat, decided that he would devote his life to helping the poor. He’s pretty much the most charitable saint in the canon and it’s no coincidence that Jorge Mario Bugoglio, who is pretty much the best pope ever, chose “Francis” as his papal name.

15. Frank Chu


If you go down to the Financial District on any given morning or weekend afternoon, you’ll probably find a handful of men holding signs packed with gibberish that seems to be preaching awareness of some odd conspiracy, but make no mistake, there is only one Frank Chu, harbinger of doom wrought by the aliens of the 12 galaxies. Apparently (or at least according to Wikipedia) Frank was an accountant before he quit that humdrum life for the exciting world of eccentric protest. Makes sense.

16. Harry Callahan, a.k.a. “Dirty Harry”


I’m not going to say that the size of a man’s gun is directly proportional to the size of his wang, but if that axiom has ever been true, it was with relation to “Dirty” Harry Callahan. I know he’s not a real person—but I don’t believe there’s a rule that all entries on this list must be real people, is there? I always loved the end of the first movie when Dirty Harry chased the bad guy into Marin, because when I was little I would watch it and say, “whoah! There’s a bad guy in Marin!” I’m from Marin, by the way.

17. Harvey Milk


My favorite Harvey Milk anecdote (which I stole from Season of the Witch by David Talbot—required reading for anybody interested in SF culture) is from a debate in his 1977 race for supervisor against Rick Stokes, a very conservative gay man. Rick Stokes said “I’m very concerned about Harvey Milk. One time I was outside his camera shop, and a man and a woman walked by with their child, and Harvey used a profane word…I don’t want to be referred to as the gay candidate for supervisor. I want to be known as the candidate who happens to be gay.” Milk then stepped up to the microphone and said, “Fuck that shit, motherfucker! I’m gay!” 

18. Herb Caen

herb caen

Beyond the overly-repeated “heaven” quote and that quip about LA in the picture above, Herb Caen had plenty of other choice reflections on our fair city. Here are two I particularly like:

“Old San Francisco – the one so many nostalgics yearn for – had buildings that related well to each other.”

“A city is where you can sign a petition, boo the chief justice, fish off a pier, gaze at a hippopotamus, buy a flower at the corner, or get a good hamburger or a bad girl at 4 A.M. A city is where sirens make white streaks of sound in the sky and foghorns speak in dark grays. San Francisco is such a city.”

19. George Moscone


He got high with the Haight Street hippies in order to prove that he had street cred, and then he became the most liberal mayor San Francisco had ever seen in a time when San Francisco, believe it or not, was actually not all that liberal. Much to the dismay of SF conservatives, Moscone appointed women, racial minorities, and gays to a number of city commissions and advisory boards, and an uncommonly soft-on-crime cop as police chief. Yes, he also appointed Jim Jones as chairman of the SF Housing Commission. Mistakes were made.

20. Hibiscus (George Harris)

Layout 1

You’ve seen the famous photograph of George Harris inserting flowers into gun barrels, but Harris went on to do even greater acts, transforming into Hibiscus and founding the Cockettes, one of the premier drag acts in the psychedelic San Francisco of the 60s and still today. Hibiscus was an early victim of AIDS in 1982, back when the disease was still referred to as GRID (gay-related immune deficiency…yes, they really called it that), but his memory (and the Cockettes) lives on today.

21. Inez Burns


Inez Burns, nee Brown, came to San Francisco from Philly in the early 1900s with her mother after her parents separated. She had an unwanted pregnancy and, although abortions were illegal at the time, met an elderly physician named Dr. West who was willing to perform the procedure. Seeing a market from the practice, Inez had Dr. West teach her the part of fetus removal and opened up an abortion shop in the Lower Haight. To make a long and very interesting story short, Inez Burns soon was the proprietary of the most successful abortion mill in California, performing up to 30 abortions a day and pulling in $50,000 a month—over $600,000 by today’s standards—while (allegedly) servicing such high-profile clients as Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth.

22. Janis Joplin


I know she was from Texas, but can we please claim her as one of our own? Living out of 122 Lyon, giving impromptu concerts with Big Brother and the Holding Company in the Panhandle, sharing her bed with Country Joe McDonald and half of the Haight-Ashbury (as the old saying goes, “everybody knew Janis, or knew somebody who had slept with her”), Janis Joplin was the ultimate flower child. Also, go back and listen to your dusty old Janis records—the girl had serious pipes.

13. Jay and Ron Thelin


If you go to 1535 Haight Street today, there’s an establishment called “Big Slice Pizza,” which was formerly “Fat Slice Pizza” (I assume that there was some dispute with the original Fat Slice in Berkeley that led to the name change). But before pizza, for a very brief time (less than 2 years in fact), the storefront was home to the Psychedelic Shop, the world’s first-ever head shop, which sold art and literature related to psychedelic drugs as well as drug paraphernalia. There was also a back room where you could buy (and take) acid, although I only know about this from the accounts of friends and relatives. The Psychedelic Shop may have been the most important business in the entire hippie movement, and it was run by the Thelin brothers, Jay and Ron. I can’t do them justice in this measly paragraph, but I highly recommend reading this interview with Jay to get the full story.

24. Jello Biafra


It bothers me that, with all of the renewed discussion about wealth inequality in San Francisco and the roles that tech newspeak and addiction to electronic devices play in our everyday lives, there is no Dead Kennedys equivalent in the year 2014. The city has pretty much (d)evolved into everything that Biafra stood against in the 70s. He’s probably rolling in his grave—even though he’s still alive.

25. Jerry Garcia 

jerry garcia

Let’s get something straight—I’m not a huge Grateful Dead fan. I’m more of a medium-sized fan; I’ll listen to my American Beauty record every now and then, but I’m not lining up for tickets to RatDog or Phil and Friends or Further Festival or whatever the hell the remaining members of the Dead are doing these days. However, I know if I don’t include Jerry Garcia on this list, I’m going to get all sorts of angry “oh my G-d how could you include Janis and the fucking Residents on this list and not include any member of the Grateful Dead!!!” type of emails, and I just don’t want to deal with that.

26. Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice

There are a number of cities have multiple professional sports teams, but that, in the end, choose one sport above the others. New York is definitely a baseball town. From my experience, LA is a basketball town. Apparently Detroit has tried to brand itself as a hockey town (although a friend of mine from there is vehemently opposed to the notion, saying that Detroit has always been, and will always be, a baseball town). Since the 80s, San Francisco has been a football town, largely due to the brilliant play of number 80. I will echo what many others before me have stated: Jerry Rice was the Greatest Football Player of All Time. It is truly an honor to have him associated with my fair city.

27. John McLaren


 If you ever enjoy Golden Gate Park, you have Mr. McLaren to thank, as he helped design the park and then presided as its superintendent from 1887 until 1940. When he took the job, McLaren declared that there would be no “keep off the grass” signs in the park. John McLaren displayed rare longetivy—the city wanted him to retire when he turned 70 but he stayed on for another 23 years because he was a badass crotchety old man.

28. Joshua Norton (“Emperor Norton”)


When Joshua Norton first arrived in San Francisco from South Africa in 1849, he was wealthy with inheritance from his father and prepared destined to expand his fortune. After a misinformed investment in Peruvian rice and a subsequent legal battle left him bankrupt, he did what any Horatio Alger-following American would have done: he exiled himself from the city for two years, then came back, declared himself Emperor of the United States, issued orders to disband the U.S. Congress by force, and became a celebrated hero in a city that embraces eccentrics. Patrolling the streets in an ornate uniform donated by military officers in the Presidio, Norton was beloved by all in the city, and although he was penniless, he was often invited to eat at the fanciest dining establishments San Francisco had to offer. Norton’s greatest accomplishment (in my humble opinion), more than dreaming up the idea for a bridge and tunnel system connecting San Francisco to Oakland, was issuing the following imperial decree: “Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word ‘Frisco,’ which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars.”

29. Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Recipe For Happiness Khaborovsk Or Anyplace 

One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.

One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.

One fine day.

30. Magnolia Thunderpussy

Note: I was unable to find any photos of Magnolia Thunderpussy, so admittedly I have no idea what she looked like. If anybody has a photo of her, please hook me up! 

Born Patricia Donna Mallon, Magnolia Thunderpussy was a prominent SF burlesque dancer and radio personality who, among other things, set up a bakery on Haight and Masonic in which she sold eroticly-shaped desserts (and yes, she is the namesake of Magnolia). She had that free spirit, razor-sharp wit, and raunchy sexuality that makes me nostalgic for San Francisco of the 60s (even if I wasn’t actually alive at the time).

31. Marc Beniof

beniof No matter what your feelings on tech are, I think we can all agree that the few who have made billions from tech should, not out of obligation but out of the kindness of their hearts, partake in philanthropy. Marc Beniof certainly feels that way, donating $200 million to children’s hospitals in SF and Oakland and developing the 1/1/1 model in which companies donate 1 percent of their profits, equity and employee hours to bettering the communities they serve. He’s doing his best to get other high-up tech types in the Bay Area into the giving spirit…I really hope they listen to him.

32. Marian and Vivan Brown


When I was an undergrad there were twin sisters a couple of years below me who lived together, were almost always seen together, and often wore matching outfits. A lot of students described them as “creepy” and/or “weird.” And yet, nobody ever said anything about Marian and Vivan Brown, who were seen together around San Francisco in matching outfits for over 40 years. Why not? Because the Brown twins were freaking adorable and you always felt special when you’d see them in person, that’s why not!

33. Mark Twain


Mark Twain never said “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”—this is a common misattribution. However, he did launch his writing career in San Francisco (where he wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”). He also coined a plethora of brilliant quotes. The one that most speaks to me is: “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

34. Mel Blanc

mel blanc

Seriously though, how the heck did one dude voice Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Elmer, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Pepe Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety, Sylvester, and Taz?

35. My Grandfather


Note: I know I have a better picture of my grandfather somewhere, so this one will likely be updated.  Or not, because I’m lazy.

When the Contemporary Jewish Museum opened in 2008, there was an exhibit on “Jews of San Francisco,” in which a large swath of wall was covered in a collage of photographs of well-known members of the San Francisco Jewish Community. Featured there was a picture of my grandfather, in his Sunday jacket (tweed with leather elbow patches—no irony intended) helping a child hang a pomegranate in a sukkah. That photograph really said a lot about my grandfather. I mean, he really loved that jacket. If you haven’t read the piece I wrote about him yet, I highly recommend it.

36. My Grandmother


I’ve mentioned my grandmother a few times in this blog—she was a world-renowned poet and translator of Israeli legend Abba Kovner, she attended the first reading of “Howl” (unconfirmed) and was friends with Gary Snyder, and City Lights still carries more than a few of her poetry collection (I think). Although she composed the bulk of her printed ouvre in Jerusalem, she got her start in San Francisco. In fact, her first poetry collection was entitled “The Floor Keeps Turning,” a reference to the pendulum at the California Academy of Sciences. Check out this letter George Oppen wrote to her upon reading it.

37. Nancy Pelosi


I loved it when she said, “today we made history. Now, let’s make progress,” although it got kind of old after she repeated that sound bite for the sixth time during yet another interview. Still, you gotta love Nancy Pelosi—I mean, she keeps Ghiradelli chocolate in her desk drawer in Washington! I know a lot of people who don’t like Nancy Pelosi, but they’re pretty much all men who are afraid of women.

38. Pablo Heising


Ten years after the Summer of Love, the Haight was pretty deep in the dumps, and Pablo Heising, nostalgic for the glory days of one of the most storied neighborhoods in the city, started the Haight Street Fair to remind people about peace, love and understanding. The street fair craze took off, and now every single neighborhood in the city tries to emulate it. Heising was dubbed the “Mayor of Haight” and ran the fair for 29 years until he died of a heart attack much too young at 61.

39. Penn and Teller


My parents saw Penn and Tyler at the Phoenix Theater when the two were just beginning their collaboration, and then took me to see them at the Golden Gate Theater years later during the “Refrigerator Tour” (in which they introduced “MoFo the Psychic Gorilla,” if you remember that particular bit). Up through about 2008 I think I had seen all of their movies and TV specials, read all of their books, and were generally pretty well-versed in all things P&T. I should probably catch up on what they’ve done in the past 6 years soon—apparently they’re now doing the ol’ “catch the bullet in your teeth” trick both ways.

40. Phatima Rude


What qualities do you look for in a drag queen? Should she be beautiful, provocative, abrasive, deep, gritty, shocking, repulsive-yet-magnetic? All of these adjectives can be used to describe Phatima Rude, to whom I was recently introduced via a documentary made by a dear friend of mine. For those of us living the privileged life in the corporate world, Phatima Rude reminds us that San Francisco once was, and should still be, a refuge for people who don’t quite fit in anywhere else.

41. R. Crumb 


Every man in my generation remembers that day that his father, or his perverted uncle, or a friend who had a perverted uncle, first handed him a book of Zap Comix, R. Crumb’s comic creation inspired by his living in San Francisco and having a front-row seat to its counter-culture. After meeting Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat, and a multitude of amazon women performing various intriguing sex acts on caricature-like men with giant, highly-detailed cartoon shlongs, his life was forever changed.

42. The Residents


I know that The Residents is a band and not really a singular “San Franciscan,” but I would argue that they kind of operated as a cohesive unit. I remember when a friend with much more obscure (and therefore “cooler”?) musical interests than I played me the Eskimo record when we were 13 years old. The walrus hunting scene (or whatever the hell that was) gave me nightmares for weeks. The best thing about the Residents is that, 45 years later, we still do not know for certain the identities of the men behind the eyeball masks. Sometimes when I see an older, weirder gentleman on Market Street, humming to himself, I like to think that he just might be a Resident.

43. Richard Brautigan


There are a few poets on this list, because poetry is an intrinsic part of San Francisco and if you don’t agree than I don’t want you in my town. I didn’t include Allen Ginsburg because even though he did first read Howl in San Francisco, let’s face it, he was a New Yorker through and through. Anyhow, here’s a little sampling of Richard Brautigan, one of my favorite San Francisco poets:

The Pumpkin Tide

I saw thousands of pumpkins last night
come floating in on the tide,
bumping up against the rocks and
rolling up on the beaches;
it must be Halloween in the sea 

44. Rose Pak 


It’s pretty awesome that the most powerful political force in San Francisco for the past decade is this badass, cigar-smoking little old Chinese lady. Since the 1980s, Rose Pak has fought for the rights of Chinese immigrants, protecting old Chinatown (and its poorer residents) from evictions and development while helping Asian-Americans move forward in city politics (although she would deviously deny it, many attribute the fact that the mayor and 5 out of 11 supervisors are Asian to some of the workings of Pak). I just wish she’d do a bit more to whip her boy Ed Lee into shape…

45. Dr. Rupert Blue


Little known fact: San Francisco was hit with the bubonic plague—twice. Once from 1900-1904, when it was confined mainly to Chinatown, and again in 1907-1909, where it was city-wide. To combat the plague, Surgeon General Walter Wyman dispatched Dr. Rupert Blue to San Francisco. Holed up in a Lower Haight (woohoo!) house affectionately known as “the Rattery,” Blue developed a system for tracking the outbreaks and educating the public that eventually drove the plague out of the city forever. It’s a fascinating story and I encourage you all to read more about it. For his valiant efforts, Dr. Blue was rewarded by being appointed the fourth Surgeon General of the U.S.

46. Thea Selby 


By now, you may have noticed that people associated with the Haight (Upper and Lower) have disproportionately high representation on this list. What can I say—I play neighborhood favorites. Thea Selby is a Lower Haight political leader, and if you’re anything like me, you probably agree with her political views: pro-public education, pro-environment and biking, pro-public transportation, pro-small business, pro-affordable housing, etc. I’m only a little bitter that I tried to get her to give me an interview when I was planning my Haight tour and she rejected my advances through three different channels. I’m sure she’s a very busy woman.

47. Tony Bennett


Although Scott McKenzie’s 1967 hit was the anthem for the Summer of Love, the true theme song for the city was written and sung by Tony Bennett 5 years earlier. I don’t care if Tony was actually a New Yorker and never lived in SF. When the Giants win, they play Tony’s song, and they even made a bobblehead in his honor.

48. Vince Guaraldi


Back when North Beach was an Italian neighborhood known for its hoppin’ jazz clubs, an Italian-American named Vince Guaraldi played jazz there. Go figure. As a former (although not that great) jazz pianist who loved old Peanuts comics and cartoons, there was no way I could leave Guaraldi off this list. Reading his Wikipedia page, I was clued into the fact that he did a cover of Eleanor Rigby, which is so darned incredible that I need to link it here.

49. Virgina Ramos

tamaleYou probably know her as the Tamale Lady (and admittedly, so did I, until I Google’d her real name just now), but Virginia Ramos is a true SF icon, and her tamale cart is an institution. I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve eaten some of the best drunk food humanity has to offer, including pizza in NY, danger dogs in LA, kebabs in Sydney, and 7-11 fried chicken in Tokyo. These are all delicious, but when I’ve had 5 pints of IPA in the back of Zeitgeist on a freezing San Francisco summer night, there is no delicacy more tempting than one of Virginia’s chicken tamales, served hot in the husk and doused in hot sauce.

50. William Sleator

william sleator

Young adult science fiction seems to be a perennial hot genre, and as far as I’m concerned, William Sleator is the best YA Sci-Fi author who has ever been or will ever be, and House of Stairs might be the greatest novel in any genre on the subject of the human condition. Sleator grew up in San Francisco, and when he was a kid his dad taught him how to navigate the city by driving him to a random location, pushing him out of the car, and telling him to find his way home. And this was before iPhones with GPS and all that. Kids today are too darn spoiled.

So there you have it, folks. If you actually read all fifty of the entries, then you are a true trooper and I respect and love you. It’s important that we recognize that San Francisco is not a great city due to its geography or its weather (that’s for damn sure), but by virtue of its amazing, inspiring, creative, and eccentric inhabitants of the past, present, and hopefully future that have put their hearts into creating magic in the city.