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was published on July 5, 1938, in The San Francisco Chronicle.

I didn't read that one in real time.  Not born yet.  But I did eventually become one of his many devoted readers in the Bay Area and beyond. When that fresh Chronicle was un-rubberbanded, the coffee poured, and the chocolate doughnuts near to hand, Herb Caen's column was the first thing I turned to.  And still today, 17 years after his death, when "news breaks" local or not, I often ponder: "What would Herb make of this?"

Hard to explain to those of you would didn't grow up with him as the voice of San Francisco (or "Baghdad-by-the-Bay" as he called it many, many years ago, for its timeless mystique) how influential, funny, and colorful he was--and how much the City by the Bay misses his point of view.  And he was one classy gent, with his fedora and his loyal Royal (that's a typewriter, for you young'uns.)

From The Chronicle archives:

The first Herb Caen column

On his first day as a columnist 75 years ago, Herb Caen established the format that would make him San Francisco's most popular journalist and a civic treasure. OK, so he might not have been using his three dots on this particular day, but he still had tons of items - everything from references to President Franklin Roosevelt to a little rant about palm trees on Treasure Island. . .

                                It's NEWS To Me

Says Herb Caen

Personal Note

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. Today, here we are. This probably adds up to something or other, but we don't quite know what; isn't very important, however you look at it.


FDRooms and Rumors

This department is more than a little entranced to find that two of our more important hotels are in a veritable fever of anticipation over the arrival here this month of our great and good President, Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

These befuddled hostelries are the Palace and the Mark Hopkins. The Palace has a presidential suite ($35 per day). It's the only presidential suite west of Chicago. The Mark has no presidential suite, but has Manager George Smith, a member of the State Democratic Committee. This fact is supposed to be important, politics being what they are these days.

Neither hotel has received any reservations yet, but both are watchfully waiting for them, both filled with near-optimism, both a little worried that they'll miss out on a great publicity and prestige bet.


Incidentally, the presidential entourage will be more than a little impressive. Surrounded, as he is, by watchful G-men and assorted flunkies, the President will require some 40 or 50 rooms on two floors of the lucky hotel.

The G-men, they tell us, will be ensconced above, below, to the right, and to the left of the presidential suite, their gimlet eyes trained to keyholes, transoms, corridors, windows. We don't know whether a staff of super-house detectives is going to reassure the average patron, but that's the way matters stand; let the weak and wayward fall where they  may.

Incidental Note: When Mrs. Roosevelt was last here, she lodged at the Mark; paid her bill in cash with her very own hands, Manager Smith reports.


Civilization's Mad Rush

Our month slightly ajar, we stood at Eighth and Market yesterday and watched a woman leap lightly and gracefully aboard a moving street car, all the while smoking a cigarette.

Thus did all the institutions of our age tremble and totter, thus did man lose one of the last of his "inalienable rights," the right to hop on street cars in motion. We almost dare not ask - "What next?"


Big Event

We had fondly believed that San Franciscans were pretty well inured to the glamour of Hollywood's stars, but the other night Mayne Morris, a clear-eyed product of San Francisco schools, arrived for a weekend and we must report a little disappointedly that native aplomb was lost hopelessly, perhaps never to be regained.

Females, old and young, fluttered excitedly in his wake, some murmuring, "Ooo, isn't he pretty!" and others grumbling, "Gosh, I hoped he would be taller."

When the cognizant Mr. Morris paused in the Palace lobby to talk to two female acquaintances of local origin the word was swiftly passed around that they were Rosemary and Priscilla Lane; in no time at all a gawking crowd gathered.

Later, at the St. Francis, we were excitedly informed that Mr. Morris was in the French Room, wining a scintillating Hollywood darling - "probably Danielle Darrieux, but I'm not sure." Pencil eagerly poised, we peeked in. The darling was identifiable as Lucile Johnson, who sings with Jan Garber's orchestra.

An unfortunate victim of all this flurry was an innocent chap named Jerry Bundsen, a press agent by trade. His is the great good fortune to resemble Mr. Morris, and as he sat dining quietly in the Palace's Rose Room, he was approached by a flustered dowager.

"Pardon me," she cooed breathlessly, "but you ARE Wayne Morris' brother, aren't you?" Mr. Bundsen demurred gracefully. "Oh," she said, obviously taken aback. Then - "But I told my daughter you were and she's all excited. Would you do me a great bit favor, please? Just smile and wave at her - like this?" And, she waved her truckin' finger in the wind. Mr. Bundsen cleared his throat, smiled, faced the gurgling daughter several tables away, and waved his finger with a good deal of natural rhythm and grace. "Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Morris!" shouted the dowager, and back to her table she scuttled.


Painful Thought

On clear days, when Treasure Island is plainly discernible from the mainland, we look somewhat dolefully at the palm trees which have magically arisen on its surface. We don't like to believe that this is a concession to the Easterner's idea of California, an idea planted and nurtured by the Chamber of Commerce of Southern California. Come, all ye fogs!

Hard to say what Herb would have made of the Internet Age. I'd sure love to know.  
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But what a guy--and with the chutzpah to make his debut right after The Fourth of July!!
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Many of us will never forget you, "Mr. San Francisco."

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