July 2, 2008
Apparently yours truly is the go-to source on non-conformity in historical San Francisco. That’s the way the SFWeekly is leaning, in any case. An hour of phone-schmoozing with intrepid reporter Lauren Smiley resulted in the following introduction to story about modern-day San Francisco kooks and characters:
In the beginning of our city’s love affair with odd ducks, there was Emperor Norton. A businessman in Gold Rush San Francisco who lost his pants on an investment in Peruvian rice, he re-emerged as a grand character of his own invention: “Emperor of These United States” and “Protector of Mexico.” He waltzed about town in a secondhand military uniform while newspapers printed his official edicts without caveat and establishments honored his fake currency.
If Los Angeles lionizes its celebrities, San Francisco has always embraced, or at least tolerated, its homegrown eccentrics. “I can’t imagine any other city in the world where [Emperor Norton] could have become what he became with the acceptance of the city,” says Richard Miller, an armchair historian who creates podcasts on San Francisco legends for his Web site, Sparkletack. “Some say all the loose nuts rolled west … people who hadn’t made it elsewhere, or just different from the average bears.”
Take a look at the rest of the SFWeekly’s article, and not just because of that little quote — Lauren hits all the high spots, from the Brown Twins (who refused to be interviewed by the Weekly without cash on the barrelhead) to Frank Chu (who could not be contained). The premise of the story is that there’s still hope for San Francisco … and in the long run, I’m sure she’s right.