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Posts Tagged ‘Walter Cronkite’

My 100 Favourite San Francisco Quotes


If the number of views is the true gauge of success, then the most popular of the two hundred posts I have submitted on this blog has been “My 50 San Francisco Quotes”. I’m sure that it is pure coincidence that it happens to be the one that contains fewest of my own words.

Moving swiftly on, and building on that success, I have now expanded it to 100. And with no more ado:

  1. One day if I go to heaven…..I’ll look around and say “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco”. (Herb Caen)
  2. San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave. (Rudyard Kipling)
  3. You know what it is? (It) is a golden handcuff with the key thrown away. (John Steinbeck)
  4. East is East, and West is San Francisco. (O. Henry)
  5. San Franciscans are very proud of their city, and they should be.  It’s the most beautiful place in the world.  (Robert Redford)
  6. If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco.  If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life……San Francisco is a world to explore. It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure. It is a city in which the spirit can know refreshment every day.  (William Saroyan)
  7. Every man should be allowed to love two cities, his own and San Francisco.  (Gene Fowler)
  8. Of all cities in the United States I have seen, San Francisco is the most beautiful.  (Nikita Kruschev)
  9. I prefer a wet San Francisco to a dry Manhattan. (Larry Geraldi)
  10. The cool, grey city of love. (George Sterling)
  11. I never dreamed I’d like any city as well as London.  San Francisco is exciting, moody, exhilarating.  I even love the muted fogs.  (Julie Christie)
  12. I don’t know of any other city where you can walk through so many culturally diverse neighbourhoods, and you’re never out of sight of the wild hills.  Nature is very close here.  (Gary Snyder)
  13. I’m proud to have been a Yankee. But I have found more happiness and contentment, since I came back home to San Francisco than any man has a rigo deserve. This is the friendliest city in the world. (Joe di Maggio)
  14. San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.  (Paul Kantner)
  15. The ultimate (travel destination) for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco.  It’s a perfect 72 degrees, clear, the sky bright blue.  I’d start down at Fisherman’s Wharf with someone I really like and end with a romantic dinner and a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.  There’s no city like it anywhere.  And, if I could be there with the girl of my dreams, that would be the ultimate.  (Larry King)
  16. The port of San Francisco……is a marvel of nature, and might well be called the harbor of harbors….And I think if it could be well settled like Europe there would not be anything more beautiful in all the world” (Juan Bautista de Anza)
  17. Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart.  You want to linger as long as possible.  (Walter Kronkite)
  18. The Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I’m here. (Billy Graham)
  19. San Francisco can start right now to become number one. We can set examples so that others will follow. We can start overnight. We don’t have to wait for budgets to be passed, surveys to be made, political wheelings and dealings…….for it takes no money……it takes no compromising to give the people their rights……it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression. (Harvey Milk)
  20. There’s no question this is where I want to live.  Never has been.  (Robin Williams)
  21. San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world…I would probably rank it at the top or near the top.  It’s small but photogenic and has layers…You never have problems finding great angles that people have never done.  (Ang Lee)
  22. When you get tired of walking around in San Francisco, you can always lean against it.  (unknown)
  23. It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time. (Jack Kerouac)
  24. There may not be a Heaven, but there is San Francisco. (Ashleigh Brilliant)
  25. I have done more for San Francisco than any of its old residents. Since I left there it has increased in population fully 300,000. I could have done more – I could have gone earlier – it was suggested. (Mark Twain)
  26. I find no objection to turning Hollywood into a suburb of San Francisco, the most photogenic city in the world. (Mayor Joseph Alioto)
  27. The City that knows how. (William Howard Taft)
  28. San Francisco is the only city I can think of that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful. (Frank Lloyd Wright)
  29. You wouldn’t think such a place as San Francisco could exist.  The wonderful sunlight here, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes.  Beautiful Chinatown.  Every race in the world.  The sardine fleets sailing out.  The little cable-cars whizzing down The City hills….And all the people are open and friendly.  (Dylan Thomas)
  30. (San Francisco) is a rich, lusty city, rippling with people, with movement, with girls in summer dresses, with flowers, with color; one of the great and wonderful cities of the world….the great seaport of the Pacific now, one of the great naval bases. Through it have poured a million men…..And the sea is always just on the other side of those hills. (James Marlow)
  31. I certainly was surprised to be named Poet Laureate of this far-out city on the left side of the world, and I gratefully accept, for as I told the Mayor, “How could I refuse?” I’d rather be Poet Laureate of San Francisco than anywhere because this city has always been a poetic center, a frontier for free poetic life, with perhaps more poets and more poetry readers than any city in the world. (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
  32. In all my travels I have never seen the hospitality of San Francisco equalled anywhere in the world.  (Conrad Hilton)
  33. San Francisco! Is there a land where the magic of that name has not been felt? (Clarence F. Edwards)
  34. Your city is remarkable not only for its beauty.  It is also, of all the cities in the United States, the one whose name, the world over, conjures up the most visions and more than any other city incites one to dream.  (Georges Pompidou)
  35. It’s a mad city, inhabited by insane people whose women are of remarkable beauty (Rudyard Kipling)
  36. Somehow the great cities of America have taken their places in a jythology that shapes their destiny: money live sin New York. Power sits in Washington. Freedom sips cappuccino in a sidewalk café in San Francisco. (Joe Flower)
  37. I was married once – in San Francisco. I haven’t seen her for many years. The great earthquake and fire in 1906 destroyed the marriage certificate. There’s no legal proof. Which means that earthquakes aren’t always bad. (W.C. Fields)
  38. It is a good thing the early settlers landed on the East Coast; if they’d landed in San Francisco first, the rest of the country would still be uninhabited.  (Herbert Mye)
  39. What fetched me instantly (and thousands of other newcomers with me) was the subtle but unmistakeable sense of escape from the United States.  (H.L. Mencken)
  40. The City of San Francisco (the metropolis of the State) considering its age, is by long odds the most wonderful city on the face of the earth.  (G.W. Sullivan)
  41. Any one who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me. (Anthony Boudain)
  42. There are just three big cities in the United States that are “story cities” – New York, of course, New Orleans, and, best of the lot, San Francisco. (Frank Norris)
  43. You have in San Francisco this magnificent Civic Center crowned by a City Hall which I have never seen anywhere equalled.  (Joseph Strauss)
  44. A city is where you can sign a petition, boo the chief justice, fish off a pier, gape 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 dark grays – San Francisco is such a city. (Herb Caen)
  45. Caen’s San Francisco may not be the city we remember, but it is the city we want to remember. (Mayor Willie Brown)
  46. Of all American cities of whatever size the most friendly on preliminary inspection, and on further acquaintance the most likable. The happiest-hearted, the gayest, the most care-free city on this continent.  (Irwin S. Cobb)
  47. No city invites the heart to come to life as San Francisco does.  Arrival in San Francisco is an experience in living.  (William Saroyan)
  48. God took the beauty of the Bay of Naples, the Valley of the Nile, the Swiss Alps, the Hudson River Valley, rolled them into one and made San Francisco Bay.  (Fiorello La Guardia)
  49. I always see about six scuffles a night when I come to San Francisco.  That’s one of the town’s charms.  (Erroll Flynn)
  50. San Francisco is a complex town that lets you be yourself, that accepts you even if your family doesn’t. No matter how uncomfortable your own skin feels, you can move to this city, discover who you really are, and plant your feet on the ground.  (Jack Boulware)
  51. San Francisco, open your Golden Gate, you’ll let nobody wait outside your door, San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one, saying I’ll wander no more. (Gus Khan, Bronislaw Kaper, Walter Jurrman)
  52. San Francisco! – one of my two favorite cities.  There is more grace per square foot in San Francisco than any place on earth!  (Bishop Fulton J. Sheen)
  53. I don’t think San Francisco needs defending.  I never meet anyone who doesn’t love the place, Americans or others.  (Doris Lessing)
  54. There are a thousand viewpoints in the viewtiful city. (Herb Caen)
  55. San Francisco has always been a haven for misfits and weirdos. I’m both of these, which is why I came here. (Michael Franti)
  56. I think San Francisco is the best place in the whole world for an easy life. (Imogen Cunningham)
  57. San Francisco is perhaps the most European of all American cities. (Cecil Beaton)
  58. San Francisco is Beautiful People wearing a bracelet of bridges.  (Hal Lipset)
  59. I have always been rather better treated in San Francisco than I actually deserved (Mark Twain)
  60. It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attraction of the next world. (Oscar Wilde).
  61. Every city on earth has its special sink of vice, crime and degradation, its running ulcer or moral cancer, which it would fain hide from the gaze of mankind…..San Franciscans will not yield the palm of superiority to anything to be found elsewhere in the world. Speak of the deeper depth, the lower hell, the maelstrom of vice and iniquity – from whence those who once fairly enter escape no more forever – and they will point triumphantly to the Barbary Coast, strewn from end to end with the wrecks of humanity, and challenge you to match it anywhere outside of he lake of fire and brimstone. (Colonel Evans)
  62. If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, if you’re going to San Francisco, you’re gonna meet some gentle people there. (John Phillips)
  63. San Francisco is the greatest…the hills…fabulous food…most beautiful and civilised people.  (Duke and Duchess of Bedford)
  64. The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest hearted, and most pleasure-loving city of the western continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of refugees living among ruins. It may rebuild; it probably will; but those who have known that peculiar city by the Golden Gate, have caught its flavour of the Arabian Nights, feel it can never be the same. It is as though a pretty, frivolous woman has passed through a great tragedy. She survives, but she is sobered and different. If it rises out of the ashes it must be a modern city, much like other cities without its old atmosphere. (Will Irwin)
  65. I love San Francisco.  It would be a perfect place for a honeymoon.  (Kim Novak)
  66. San Francisco is a breathtakingly beautiful city, with lots of great contrasts between dark and light, often overlapping each other. It’s a great setting for a horror story. (Christopher Moore)
  67. Now there’s a grown-up swinging town.  (Frank Sinatra)
  68. 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 High Misdemeanour, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars. (Emperor Norton)
  69. If civil disobedience is the way to go about change, than I think a lot of people will be going to San Francisco (Rosie O’Donnell)
  70. I don’t like San Francisco.  I love it!  (Dorothy Lamour)
  71. “Queen of the Pacific Coast! Fair city whose changing skies for half the year shower down mist and rain, and the other half sunbeams of molten brass! Metropolis of alternate sticky mud and blinding dust! In spite of these and more thou art a city of my heart,  O Ciudad de San Francisco!” (T.S. Kenderdine)
  72. Two days in this city is worth two months in New York.  (Robert Menzies)
  73. I’m just mad for San Francisco.  It is like London and Paris stacked on top of each other.  (Twiggy)
  74. I fell in love with the most cordial and sociable city in the Union. After the sagebrush and alkali deserts of Wahoe, San Francisco was Paradise to me. (Mark Twain)
  75. San Francisco is poetry.  Even the hills rhyme.  (Pat Montandon)
  76. San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every house a poem, every dweller within immortal. This is the whole truth. (William Saroyan)
  77. I love this city.  If I am elected, I’ll move the White House to San Francisco. Everybody’s so friendly.  (Robert Kennedy)
  78. I like the fog that creeps over the whole city every night about five, and the warm protective feeling it gives…and lights of San Francisco at night, the fog horn, the bay at dusk and the little flower stands where spring flowers appear before anywhere else in the country…But, most of all, I like the view of the ocean from the Cliff House.  (Irene Dunne)
  79. San Francisco is really fun and liberal, and it’s my kind of politics. It’s like being Jewish in front of Jewish people. (Elayne Bossier)
  80. I love San Francisco and Brighton has something of San Francisco about it. It’s by the sea, there’s a big gay community, a feeling of people being there because they enjoy their life there. (Brian Eno)
  81. We’re crazy about this city.  First time we came here, we walked the streets all day – all over town – and nobody hassled us.  People smiled, friendly-like, and we knew we could live here……Los Angeles? That’s just a big parking lot where you buy a hamburger for a trip to San Francisco……And the beautiful old houses and the strange light.  We’ve never been in a city with light like this.  We sit in our hotel room for hours, watching the fog come in, the light change.  (John Lennon and Yoko Ono)
  82. The extreme geniality of San Francisco’s economic, intellectual and political climate makes it the most varied and challenging city in the United States (James Michener)
  83. But I would rather be with you, somewhere in San Francisco on a back porch in July, just looking up to Heaven, at this crescent in the sky (Robert Hunter)
  84. I have seen few things as beautiful as a 6.30 am lift-off from San Francisco International Airport in the autumn. From above, the rippled fog layer laps against the shores of the foothills like a voluminous cotton ocean (Eric Chang)
  85. San Francisco is a city with the assets of a metropolis without the disadvantages of size and industry.  (Jack Kenny)
  86. Isn’t it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there? (Herb Caen)
  87. San Francisco is one of the great cultural plateaus in the world….one of the really urbane communities in the United States…one of the truly cosmopolitan places – and for many, many years, it has always had a warm welcome for human beings from all over the world.  (Duke Ellington)
  88. The Golden Gate Bridge’s daily strip tease from enveloping stoles of mist to full frontal glory is still the most provocative show in town (Mary Moore Mason)
  89. No visit to the United States would be complete without San Francisco – this beautiful city, center of the West, very well known for its beauty and the place where the United Nations was born.  (Queen Sirikit of Thailand)
  90. To a traveler paying his first visit, it has the interest of a new planet.  It ignores the meteorological laws which govern the rest of the world.  (Fitz Hugh Ludlow)
  91. Cities are like gentlemen, they are born, not made.  You are either a city, or you are not, size has nothing to do with it.  I bet San Francisco was a city from the very first time it had a dozen settlers.  New York is “Yokel”, but San Francisco is “City at Heart”.  (Will Rogers)
  92. God! I loove this city! (Herb Caen)
  93. This is the first place in the United States where I sang, and I like San Francisco better than any other city in the world.  I love no city more than this one.  Where else could I sing outdoors on Christmas Eve?  (Luisa Tetrazzini)
  94. The San Francisco Bay Area is the playpen of countercultures (RZ Sheppard)
  95. I have seen purer liqors, better segars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier women courtesans here in San Francisco than in any other place I have ever visited. (Hinton Helper)
  96. San Francisco is gone. Nothing remains of it but memories. (Jack London)
  97. San Francisco may soon become the first fully gentrified city in America, the urban equivalent of a gated bedroom community…..Now it’s becoming almost impossible for a lot of the people who have made this such a world-class city – people who have been the heart and soul of the city for decades – from the fishers and pasta makers and blue-collar workers to the jazz musicians to the beat poets to the hippies to the punks and so many others –to exist here anymore. And when you’ve lost that part of the city, you’ve lost San Francisco. (Daniel Zoll)
  98. San Francisco is a city where people are never more abroad than when they are at home.  (Benjamin F. Taylor)
  99. It’s the grandest city I saw in America.  If everyone acted as the San Franciscans did, there would be hope for settlement of the world’s difficulties.  (Frol Zozlov)
  100. To this day the city of San Francisco remains to the Chinese the Great City of the Golden Mountains.  (Kai Fu Shah)

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Washington may have had its Art Buchwald, London its J.B. Morton (“Beachcomber”) and Dublin the mercurial Myles Na gCopaleen, but few cities can have been as fortunate as San Francisco in having a chronicler (no pun intended) as prolific, urbane and popular as Herb Caen who wrote in its daily newspapers about life in the city, for almost sixty years.  With more than 16,000 columns of over 1,000 words each, lifelong friend, author and restaurateur, Barnaby Conrad, estimated that if “laid end to end, his columns would stretch 5.6 miles, from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge”.

Herbert Eugene Caen was born on 3rd April 1916 in Sacramento, though he claimed to have been conceived on the Marina in San Francisco during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition as his parents spent the summer there “complaining about the cold”.

He joined the Sacramento Union as a sports reporter in 1932 on graduating from high school.  Four years later he was hired to write a radio column for the San Francisco Chronicle, beginning an association that was to last for 50 of the next 61 years.

On the scrapping of the radio column he persuaded the editor, Paul Smith, that he could write a daily column on the city, and  It’s News to Me duly debuted on 5th July 1938, appearing thereafter for six days a week.

When the U.S. entered the Second World War in 1942 he joined the Air Force, assigned to communications, and reached the rank of captain.  Returning to his Chronicle column, he continued to record and comment upon the foibles of local government and personailities.

Caen often referred to San Francisco as Baghdad-by-the-Bay,  a term he coined to reflect the city’s exotic multiculturism.  A collection of his essays bearing the same title was published in 1949, going through seven printings.  In 1953 he published the book Don’t Call it Frisco after an Examiner news item of the same name on 3rd April 1918 when Judge Mogan, presiding in a divorce case, stated that “No one refers to San Francisco by that title except people from Los Angeles”.  Emperor Norton had previously raged against the use of the term and issued one of his imperial proclamations to that effect.

However, a year later, Caen left the Chronicle for higher paid work at the San Francisco Examiner, for which he worked until 1958 when he was persuaded to return to his former employer on the promise of a better salary.  His “homecoming” column was published on 15th January of that year.

In 1976 he published One Man’s San Francisco, a fine collection of some of the best writing from his columns.  In 1988, the fiftieth anniversary of the column was marked by a special edition of the Chronicle’s “Sunday Punch”.  At the age of 75 he decided to slow down by reducing his output from six to five days a week!

Caen was hugely popular and a highly influential figure in San Francisco society.  He was described by the Chronicle as a “major wit and unwavering liberal who could be charming, outspoken and, at times, disagreeable.”

He called his work “three-dot journalism”, in reference to the ellipses by which he separated his column’s short items, all composed on his “Loyal Royal” typewriter.

His writing was imbued with a gentle, dry wit and an intimate knowledge of the politics, society and culture of his adopted city and the wider Bay Area. Hardly a show, party or any other significant event in San Francisco was complete without Caen’s gregarious presence, and his clever, sometimes acerbic, comments on it the next morning in his column.  Conrad said that “he seemed to know everyone in the world; he somehow made them honorary San Franciscans and let us, his readers, have the privilege of knowing them, too”.

His witticisms and plays on words would fill another ten features, but here are a few:

  • “the trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around”;
  • “I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there”;
  • “cockroaches and socialites are the only things that can stay up all night and eat anything”; and
  • “the only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever”.

The Bay Bridge was “the car-strangled spanner”, City Hall “Silly Hall” and Berkeley was “Berserkeley”.

Whilst many of his invented words have passed into history, others have become not only synonymous with San Francisco but entered the everyday language.  On 2nd April 1958, in a Pocketful of Notes, he reported on a party hosted by 50 “Beatniks” which spread to “over 250 bearded cats and kits”.  This is the first known use of the word.  And during the Summer of Love in 1967 he contributed more than anybody to popularising the term “hippie”.

In 1996 he was the recipient of a special award from the Pulitzer Prize Board which acclaimed his “extraordinary and continuing contribution as a voice and conscience of the city”.  On 14th June of the same year 75,000 people, including Walter Cronkite, Robin Williams, Willie Mays, Don  Johnson and Mayor Willie Brown who presided over the event, celebrated Herb Caen Day.

He espoused many liberal causes over his career, including a life long opposition to the death penalty.  He was also one of the first mainstream newspaper men to question the Vietnam War.  But it is to his beloved San Francisco that we return for one of his most passionate campaigns, namely to have the hideous and excessively busy Embarcadero Freeway, or “Dambarcadero” as he called it, demolished.  Success came, but from an unexpected source.  The Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 damaged it so severely that the decision was taken to pull it all down.  A three mile sweep  of the Embarcadero is now named “Herb Caen Way” in his honour.  The wide promenade is the most eastern street in San Francisco, curving round its northeast corner, proceeding along the waterfront, and ending near AT & T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, the team Caen adored.

Despite a terminal lung-cancer diagnosis, Caen continued to write almost until his death on 1st February 1997, though his output understandably shrunk over time. His funeral six days later was held in the Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, attended by 250 people with hundreds more outside listening to the hymns and eulogies over loudspeaker.

Caen had willed to the city a fireworks display which was given in Aquatic Park in front of Ghiradelli Square, concluding with a pyrotechnic image of a typewriter on the bay.  This tribute was attended by many of his friends and fans, who gathered on Herb Caen Way… on the Embarcadero, lit candles protected from the wind by dixie cups, and walked north along the waterfront to Aquatic Park.

And all this for a local hack!

John Steinbeck wrote that he “made a many-faceted character of the city of San Francisco….It is very probable that Herb’s city will be the one that is remembered”.

But the last fitting words should be left to Caen himself:

“One day if I go to heaven…I’ll look around and say ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco'”.

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