Dog Bites

An Anniversary for the Rest of Us

As we all know from slogging through the Chronicle's bloated, meandering, zillion-part "oral history" of City Lights Books, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the seminal gathering place for Beat poets. But Lawrence Ferlinghetti's literary sweatshop (Six-dollar-an-hour wages? Are you kidding, Larry?) isn't the only local cultural landmark celebrating an anniversary. And the Chronisn't the only paper in town that can whip out a tape recorder and transcribe quotes.

Here then is SF Weekly's oral history of the McDonald's at Third and Townsend streets -- one of the most iconic spots in SOMA. It was here that Clint Eastwood uttered perhaps the most famous line in American cinema -- "Go ahead, make my day" -- in Dirty Harry 4: Sudden Impact. It's been 20 years since that film vaulted Eastwood's words into the pop-culture lexicon, but fans and filmmakers still flock to the historic intersection seeking the remnants of Hollywood magic. And as our oral history makes clear, their pilgrimages have transformed the spot into a mecca in its own right.

SONDRA LOCKE, ex-lover of Clint Eastwood and his co-star inSudden Impact: I don't like Clint anymore, but I think everyone who was there that day will never forget the moment. Clint was waving around that big Magnum .44, making everyone nervous. He liked to shoot pigeons between takes. ... Anyway, we'd been drinking all night and, to be honest, most of the morning, and Clint is not a very talkative person even in his sober moments. When we arrived on set, he was a tad uncomfortable with the idea that he'd actually have a line that day -- he thought he was just going to be squinting. When it became clear that he would, in fact, have to memorize some dialogue, Clint went from uncomfortable to enraged. He insisted on speaking to the director, and everyone tried to remind him, gently, that he wasthe director. Poor Clint. He shot a gaffer before we could calm him down.

CLINT EASTWOOD, star and director ofDirty Harry 4: Sudden Impact: There was a Dirty Harry 4?

PHYLLIS POE, onlooker, 1983: I was standing across the street when they shot the "make my day" scene. I couldn't actually hear the dialogue, of course, but I could just tellClint was saying something cool. I remember like it was yesterday: The cops were holding back traffic, everyone was holding back Clint, and the whole corner smelled really, really bad -- just like it does today. As soon as Clint gathered himself, they got the scene done in one take. But the best part was, after the shoot, I got Clint to sign the Captain & Tenille shirt I was wearing. And I'm still wearing it.

EASTWOOD: I played who?

OTTO VON STROSTEIN, film historian: Not many people beyond myself know this, of course, but the line in the original script was actually, "Go ahead, monkeyboy, make my day." I don't know whether it was Clint's decision to excise "monkeyboy" -- I suspect it was -- but it's safe to say that had he left the line intact, America would not be the same today. Would President Reagan have used the line if it included "monkeyboy"? Would we see the phrase on bumper stickers, T-shirts, mugs? I think not. That's part of Clint's genius: He knows the power of dialogue depends on its simplicity, and when he says "make my day," he's really speaking to all of the societal, cultural, and political changes transforming the world in the early 1980s. "Monkeyboy" would have cheapened that message. Although, to be honest, it still might have sounded cool coming from Clint.

EASTWOOD: Wait a minute, wait a minute, I remember this Dirty Harrypicture you're talking about. I played a space cowboy, right?

BENNY STEVENS, manager of Bosco's Burger Barn (a McDonald's forerunner), 1983-85: This corner has always had a burger joint on it. When Eastwood and all those fancy-asses were here that morning, it was Mike's. Eastwood asked me if they could shoot on the sidewalk, and I said, "Shoot who?" I never knew Mr. Eastwood to ask permission for something like that. It took him a while to explain what he meant -- he speaks very quietly, as you know -- but once I understood, I agreed right away. He ate two of my burgers, too. It wasn't until the movie came out a few months later that people started dropping by, asking about Mr. Eastwood and the scene he'd shot here. I mostly told 'em to buzz off, unless they ordered a Coke. I got tired of it after a few years, so I closed the place down -- this corner was never the same after that movie came out.

TIMMY FEY, president, International Dirty Harry Fan Club: For the past 18 years, the International Dirty Harry Fan Club has held its annual convention in San Francisco. In fact, we hold an opening-night ceremony at the corner of Third and Townsend. I won't lie: It's mostly a bunch of 40-year-old accountants pointing plastic Smith & Wessons at each other, but the cops have gotten used to it, and the neighbors don't even seem to notice anymore. I actually live in an apartment across the street so I can look at this spot -- or, you know, come down and touch it -- whenever the mood strikes me. Unfortunately, many of our club members don't have that luxury, so the convention is really the one time during the year when they can stand in Harry Callahan's shoes. Except, of course, for those members who've bought his shoes on eBay ... I expect they stand in them most every night.

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