If comedy is indeed tragedy plus time, however, Brown will leave 'em laughing for posterity. Friend after friend recalled anecdotes of offensive, bourbon-fueled behavior invariably culminating with Brown being instructed to "Get the fuck out, H.!" But, always, these were happy memories, if not happy occasions.

The folks recalling these tragi-comedies were former supervisors, consultants, academics, political Svengalis, and other city luminaries. Brown's encyclopedic knowledge of local government and deep institutional memory got him through the door. But what kept him from being tossed out of it — for good, at least — was his oversize personality. "Am I boring?" he asks, needlessly.

"A lot of folks in public life value people with money or access or that sort of thing," says former Supervisor Chris Daly, a Brown "drinking partner and friend and sworn enemy." Other city politicos, however, "value people who are interesting."

Brown is interesting. And he shows up at events, whether you like it or not. And he offers denizens of City Hall constant feedback — whether you like it or not — forming a symbiotic relationship with the egocentric types who hold public office and are desperate for attention.

But, above all, the man is fascinating and unique in a town where that, itself, is growing unique.

Brown chalks up his arrest at a Ray Charles concert held at a Casablanca bullring to "Moroccans not appreciating public drunkenness." When asked for ID, all he had were his Navy papers. That wasn't good enough, and he was detained. Before long, a Swiss diplomat showed up and drove him at high speed back to Sidi Yahia in a huge Mercedes. The next day, the base's guards were forced to don Hawaiian shirts — Brown had inadvertently divulged the existence of a "secret base," he says. Gaudy apparel was now preferable to military garb.

So, that was one adventure. And now it's time for another. "I'm turning 70 and I only have so many years left," he says. "I think I'll go into abject poverty and misery and shit. But it'll be different."

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help

My first meeting with h. Brown, some years back at Chris Daly's "Buck Tavern", long since closed, didn't go so well.  He didn't like the way I was dressed and immediately accused me of being a federal agent, possibly someone investigating him.  I didn't take the insult well.  I responded by tipping his hat off his head.  He laughed.  It sort of went on from there.  

Over the years, however, I have developed a grudging admiration for him, sort of

If he does leave the city, I think we will be somehow less for it.  Even though I can go months or longer without seeing him, I will miss him.

David Elliott Lewis, San Francisco resident since 1984.


There's a very fine line between a groove and a rut: a fine line between eccentrics and people who are just plain nuts. -Christine Lavin

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.