Friday, February 15, 2008

Willie and Me

In which we chat up a San Francisco icon

Last week I went and listened to former California State Assembly speaker and San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown, give a talk about his new memoir, Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times, at the Ferry Building.
I have always admired Willie for his style and aplomb and all he has done for this town. Sure, there are all sorts of shadowy allegations of back-door dealing and cronyism. Who cares? Willie has done more for the City and County of San Francisco than anyone. If it weren't for Willie:
  • There would be a massive freeway interchange in Golden Gate Park
  • There would be no Mays Field in China Basin, and the Giants would have skipped town
  • The Embarcadero (Herb Caen Way) would probably be just a noisy thoroughfare, even after the double-deck freeway was torn down, and not the sparkling, grand boulevard that it has become
  • The Ferry Building would still be a set of crumbling offices on the brink of being condemned
  • Union Square would still be a pigeon-and-bum-infested rat hole

And that's just for starters.

At 73, Willie still looks trim, dapper and spruce. His chat was full of energy and charm.
Next day I mentioned my encounter with a coworker. Turns out that another coworker's girlfriend is Willie's executive assistant, She was able to get me a half hour alone with the man a day later. You can bet I wore a tie for that meeting.

Look for more of my encounter with Willie on BNET in March.


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