I lived and/or worked in San Francisco for about 8 years (1976 to 1984). And like many San Franciscans I started every morning reading Herb Caen’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s weird, but Herb Caen made you feel like we were all part of something. Part of this big, fantastic club that was San Francisco. You really felt like you were living in this special place back then. This golden city. Of course we had this smug sense of superiority that may or may not have been warranted. But mostly we just felt grateful that this place existed, and that we could be a part of it.
When I was a bike messenger in the 1980s I sometimes delivered letters to Herb Caen’s office in the Chronicle building on 5th and Mission. It was like he had his own private wing of the building. And he was important enough to merit that. I heard that when he switched from the Examiner to the Chronicle, he took something like half of the Examiner’s circulation with him. Ha ha. . .. . I never saw Herb Caen himself, just dealt with his legendary secretary. But the door to his office was open and you could sneak a peak into where he typed up his column every morning. And it was like being in the inner sanctum of San Francisco. Like going to see the Wizard of Oz himself.
Herb Caen actually even wrote some nice items about the S.F. bike messengers. Called us “whacky and wild and wonderful” or something like that. But that was Caen. He included everybody in his vision of San Francisco. From the top to the bottom of the society.