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City of Lost Children 

Ghosts of magazines past

Wednesday, Mar 14 2001
Conventional wisdom says out-of-towner Tom Hartle and his Detroit-style city magazine will have a difficult time winning over fickle, neighborhood-centric San Franciscans. But considering the run of failed city mags attempted here by consummate insiders, maybe an outsider could shake things up in the right way.

On the other hand, one might argue that if local celebrity filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's millions couldn't sustain a successful publication here, whose could? His venture was called City of San Francisco (which most people just called City), and it lived and died in the 1970s. We also had another City, plus the original San Francisco -- itself different from San Francisco Focus, which would become the San Francisco we know today. SF also had a run (not to be confused with an idea for a new SF currently being peddled about town). Finally, there have been lots of zine-type rags published by local activists, subversives, and all-around jokesters. And who could forget Frisko? Plenty of us, apparently.

That last title was the work of infamous editor and scribe Warren Hinckle, the eye patch-wearing newspaper columnist of the Independent and the new Examiner. Frisko was purposefully named to irritate San Francisco's other legendary columnist, Herb Caen, who made it a crusade in his Chronicle commentary to dissuade people from calling the city by that moniker. Of course, Hinckle was looking for his own project after losing the editorship at Coppola's City of San Francisco. A 1996 SF Weekly profile of the man ("Hinckle, Hinckle, Little Star") describes a chaotic City where staff had to scour the town to find their editor and drag him out of bars at deadline. Still, it was a colorful and provocative publication that got national attention. Cover stories like "Why Women Can't Get Laid in San Francisco" often sold out. But as Hinckle famously burned through Coppola's cash, the magazine headed for extinction -- though not before the filmmaker pushed the editor into a swimming pool at one hot-tempered party.

Current San Francisco State University School of Journalism Dean John Burks also had a hand in editing -- and trying to save -- Coppola's City. Later he helped transform the KQED program guide, San Francisco Focus, into a real magazine. Focus was the precursor to today's San Francisco, which shouldn't be confused with the original San Francisco, itself dead in the early 1990s after decades of socialite ownership and mismanagement that ran the magazine into the ground.

Back in 1975, Burks made what could be now construed as a prophetic remark to Newsweek magazine. Its writer wanted to know why City had done a cover story on how to beat the collective malaise of the pre-disco, energy crisis-depleted, inflation-laden, Towering Inferno time. "When a service magazine is faced with an Apocalypse," then-Editor Burks asked the reporter, "what do you do?"

In San Francisco, it seems, you start a new city magazine.

About The Author

Joel P. Engardio


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

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