The Diablo Guide: East Bay Pop Culture
Jimi Hendrix Rocked Here
Some big names on the pop culture landscape have called our part of the world home—although not all of them would get a return invitation.
1624 Milvia St., Berkeley
Famed beat poet Allen Ginsberg lived at this address in 1955, shortly after he wrote the seminal poem Howl. Ginsberg’s poem A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley is an ode to the house that once stood here. The cottage has been replaced with an apartment building, but the spirit of Ginsberg lives on directly across the street. A plaque marks The Poetry Garden, which was dedicated in 1999, on the second anniversary of Ginsberg’s death.
1943 Berkeley Way, Berkeley
Jack Kerouac lived in a cottage at this address with his mother in the spring of 1957, just a few months before On the Road was published. While here, Kerouac worked on Book of Dreams. Shortly thereafter, Kerouac’s mother grew tired of the place, so they packed up and headed back East. The cottage has since been torn down and replaced with apartments.
2603 Benvenue Ave., #4, Berkeley
Patty Hearst, the 19-year-old granddaughter of publishing baron William Randolph Hearst, was abducted from this apartment in February 1974 by a band of counterculture revolutionaries called the Symbionese Liberation Army. Soon, Hearst joined forces with the group, resulting in one of the most bizarre news stories of the century. Hearst ended up serving two years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin for her activities.
2628-A Regent St., Berkeley
Ted Kaczynski lived in this cottage back in 1968 while working as an assistant math professor at nearby UC Berkeley. He quit his job in 1969 and left for Montana shortly thereafter, where he would redefine himself as the infamous terrorist.
4145 Broadway, between 41st and 42nd streets, Oakland
In 1964, legendary martial artist Bruce Lee founded his second school at this address (the first, the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, was in Seattle). Now the Toyota dealership in downtown's auto row, it was the site of a legendary kung fu showdown shortly after Lee opened the school. Supposedly upset that Lee was teaching martial arts to Caucasians, master Wong Jack Man challenged Lee to a fight. Accordiing to witnesses, Lee overwhelmed Wong Jack Man in a matter of minutes, but Lee was unhappy with his performance. His dissatisfaction pushed him to develop his own style of fighting, which would make him world famous. Incidentally, Lee was born across the Bay in San Francisco, at Chinese Hospital, 845 Jackson St. A plaque in the lobby identifies the hospital as his birthplace.
It's Only Rock'n'Roll
The East Bay has been rocked by everyone from Jimi to Elvis to the Stones to Green Day.
Jimi Hendrix Llives in Berkeley
In 1944—back when he was named Johnny Allen Hendrix—the two-year-old Jimi lived with a family friend in a housing facility for military families at the corner of Martin Luther King Way and Derby Street in Berkeley as he waited for his father to return from the Army. Jimi returned to Berkeley for two shows on Memorial Day 1970, as seen in the classic film Jimi Plays Berkeley.
The King Comes to Oakland
Elvis Presley’s first western swings included a big show in Oakland on June 3, 1956. It took place at the Auditorium Arena (now called the Henry J. Kaiser Arena). Tickets cost just $2.50. When he returned to the arena on October 27, 1957, prices had gone up a bit ($2.75–$3.75). Elvis’s last East Bay performance took place at the Oakland (now McAfee) Coliseum on November 11, 1972, where he performed a memorable greatest-hits set for more than 14,000 fans.
Creedence Clearwater Revival Photo Op
The cover shot of Creedence’s fourth album, 1969’s Willy and the Poor Boys, was taken on the corner of 32nd and Peralta streets in Oakland. The photo represented the album’s hit single, “Down on the Corner.” Unfortunately, the corner was a bit too popular—the sign marking the Duck Kee Market was stolen in 1998. Founding member John Fogerty grew up in El Cerrito and played many Berkeley frat parties before breaking through into multiplatinum success.
The Rolling Stones at Altamont Raceway, Tracy
December 6, 1969, became one of the ugliest days in the history of rock ’n’ roll, as the West Coast Woodstock ended in violence. The festival, whose lineup included the Rolling Stones, Santana, and Jefferson Airplane, among others, was “policed” by the Hells Angels motorcycle club, who stabbed 18-year-old Meredith Hunter to death after he rushed the stage with a gun as the Stones played. The moment is the centerpiece of the Maysles brothers’ classic 1970 documentary, Gimme Shelter. The Altamont track is still open, but for racing, not concerts.
Metallica Lived Here
This is perhaps the ultimate heavy metal landmark of all time. The four hard rockers lived in the house at 3140 Carlson Blvd. in El Cerrito from 1983 to 1986, writing and rehearsing the albums Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets in the garage. You can catch the masters of metal when they open for the Rolling Stones at SBC Park in San Francisco on November 13 and 15.
Green Day’s Humble Beginnings
The Berkeley club called 924 Gilman Street has seen it all since it opened in the 1980s, from punk legends the Dead Kennedys to current punk-pop megastars (and owners of two Grammy Awards) Green Day, who first honed their chops here in the late 1980s.
Counting Crows’ East Bay Roosts
Lead singer Adam Duritz attended Head-Royce School in Oakland, while guitarist Matt Malley attended San Ramon Valley High School. Duritz studied English at UC Berkeley, but dropped out just short of graduation. Malley also thanks Peet’s Coffee in the liner notes of the group’s smash 1993 debut August and Everything After, which sold more than 10 million copies.
Inventions, Trends, and New Ideas
The East Bay has been the birthplace of many an idea. Some worked out pretty well.
2910 Derby St., Berkeley
Philo T. Farnsworth lived here when he invented television in 1927. A brilliant farm boy from Utah, Farnsworth had settled in Berkeley in the 1920s, but worked on his project in a lab in San Francisco. However, many consider this the “house where TV was invented” because Farnsworth is believed to have done much of his critical thinking here. The house is now privately owned.
China Clipper Flight Departure
In front of Building 1, old Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda
The inaugural flight of the fabled Pan American World Airways China Clipper took off from here on November 22, 1935, marking the beginning of transpacific airmail and passenger service. The Clipper, a Martin M/130 Flying Boat, ultimately reached Manila via Honolulu, Midway, Wake, and Guam.
Room 329, LeConte Hall, University of California, Berkeley
What is a cyclotron? Simply put, it’s a device that accelerates subatomic particles to the degree that they can smash apart atomic nuclei. Without it, the Nuclear Age might never have gotten off the drawing board. It was here, in the physics department, that Ernest Lawrence developed the machine in the early 1930s.
Formersite of Neptune Beach, western end of Alameda
It’s true—the Popsicle was first sold and enjoyed in Alameda. In 1905, an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson mixed flavored soda powder and water with a wooden stick and left it outside overnight. The next morning he realized he’d created something new. In 1923, Epperson was running a lemonade stand at Neptune Beach amusement park, and applied for a patent for his unique frozen treat. (The patent documents call the creation “frozen ice on a stick.”) First, he called it an Ep-sicle, which later became Popsicle, supposedly because his kids called it Pop’s ’sicle. Within five years, he had sold more than 60 million Popsicles. During the Great Depression, he created the twin Popsicle, which allowed kids to share one for a nickel. Epperson also invented the Fudgsicle and the Creamsicle. Today, Neptune Beach is the site of Alameda Point, formerly the Alameda Naval Air Station. No trace of the park remains.
The Oldies (but Goodies)
Here’s where to discover some nuggets—in one case, literally—of pop culture gold.
World’s Oldest Functioning Light Bulb
4550 East Ave., Livermore, (925) 447-9477.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum has requested this lightbulb when it burns out. In the meantime, it’s hanging on in Fire Station 6, having burned since 1901. Created by the Shelby Electric Company, the bulb was first installed at the fire department hose-cart house in 1901, then moved to the fire station at First and McLeod, and finally to its present site in 1976. Among its long-lived rivals were a bulb in a New York City hardware store that had been lit since 1912, but has since burned out, and a 1930 bulb in a bathroom at the Martin & Newby Electrical Shop in Ipswich, England, but it burned out in January 2001. You can visit the bulb Monday through Friday from 8 to 5.
The Wimmer Gold Nugget
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, (510) 642-3781, bancroft.berkeley.edu
On display in the administrative offices is the famed Wimmer nugget, believed to be the very piece of gold that started the California Gold Rush. James Marshall found the gold on January 24, 1848, during a routine inspection of a lumber mill he was helping build for John Sutter on the banks of the American River near the town of Coloma. Just minutes after discovering it, Marshall supposedly handed it to a colleague named Peter Wimmer. Wimmer sent it back to the cookhouse, where his wife, Elizabeth, boiled it in a pot of lye soap, and then recognized it as gold. Slightly larger than a pea, the famous gold can be seen during regular business hours. The Bancroft Library is currently being renovated, so call for visiting information.
Clark Gable’s Wheels
Blackhawk Museum, 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville, (925) 736-2280.
Frankly my dear, I don’t give a Duesenberg. Of the many incredible automobiles in the Blackhawk Museum, one gem for fans of classic Hollywood is the 1935 Duesenberg convertible coupe that was originally owned by Rhett Butler himself, actor Clark Gable. He drove this car during his romance with actress Carole Lombard. Following Lombard’s 1942 death in an airplane crash, Gable left the Duesenberg in Canada, hoping it would be sold and he’d never have to see it again. The car eventually found its way into museum founder Ken Behring’s collection.
Joe DiMaggio’s Boat
Martinez Marina, at the foot of Ferry Street, near Amtrak’s Martinez train station
Joe DiMaggio was born in Martinez on November 25, 1914. Today, you can see his Chris-Craft, the Joltin’ Joe, at the Martinez Marina. The boat was a gift to DiMaggio from the New York Yankees; it was presented to him at the end of the 1949 season, on Joe DiMaggio Day at Yankee Stadium. After retiring to the Bay Area, DiMaggio used this boat often for short trips with his then wife Marilyn Monroe. Years afterward, he donated the boat to the town. There’s a plaque on the boat detailing its history.
Caught on Film
Before Mrs. Doubtfire dropped her dentures into Pierce Brosnan’s glass at Danville’s Bridges Restaurant, the East Bay had already had its share of Hollywood close-ups. Here are a few.
The Tramp (1915) Charlie Chaplin made this classic and others at the so-called Hollywood of the North. Beginning in 1912 and for several years after, the cutting-edge Essanay Film Manufacturing Company was located in Niles. Chaplin regularly dined in Fremont at the Belvoir Springs Hotel. The hotel now offers 11 fully furnished units for extended stays. The nearby Niles Silent Film Museum (www.nilesfilmmuseum.org) helps preserve the historic film legacy of the area.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917) Mary Pickford’s silent classic used Pleasanton’s Main Street as a filming location.
Hell’s Angels (1930) Before Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed him in The Aviator, filmmaker and aviator Howard Hughes shot aerial sequences of Hell’s Angels above Concord and Oakland.
The Lusty Men (1952) Cult director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) shot part of this brawly western in Livermore. It stars Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward.
Days of Wine and Roses (1962) The shattering drama directed by Blake Edwards stars Jack Lemmon as a chronic alcoholic, who makes a stop at Golden Gate Fields in Albany.
The Graduate (1967) This classic starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross was shot at many locations in Southern California and the East Bay. Dustin Hoffman parks his red Alfa Romeo in front of UC Berkeley’s Theta Delta Chi fraternity house. Another shot features Hoffman on Telegraph Avenue, looking across the street toward Moe’s Books at 2476 Telegraph. And then there’s the infamous “backward” shot, of Hoffman driving on the top deck of the Bay Bridge—on his way to Berkeley.
The Candidate (1972) Starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle, the film featured several political rally scenes shot at the long-gone Island Auto Movie Drive In, located on Thau Way off Webster Street in Alameda. Today a subdivision occupies the site. Other scenes were filmed at the Alameda Penny Market and at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre, which showed The Candidate as part of its classic film series 30 years after the film’s release.
American Graffiti (1973) George Lucas shot one of the most memorable scenes of his paean to teenage life in the 1950s at Buchanan Field in Concord. Richard Dreyfuss gets on a plane during the film’s finale, only to catch one last, fleeting glimpse of the mysterious blonde (played by Suzanne Somers) he’d been chasing for most of the movie.
A View to a Kill (1985) Oakland’s Dunsmuir House, a 37-room mansion with 10 fireplaces, was featured in this James Bond flick starring Roger Moore. Cult classics Phantasm (1979) and Burnt Offerings (1976) were also shot here.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) Although much of Mrs. Doubtfire was shot in San Francisco, Berkeley and Danville played important roles in the Robin Williams hit. All of the swimming pool scenes were shot at the Claremont Resort & Spa, the soccer game between Doubtfire and the son was shot at the Richmond Marina, and Danville’s Bridges Restaurant was used for the famous denture-dropping scene.
Angels in the Outfield (1994) The Oakland Coliseum pinch-hit for Anaheim Stadium in this baseball fairy tale remake. While several minor shots were filmed in Anaheim, the Coliseum was the primary stadium featured in the movie, which starred Danny Glover and Christopher Lloyd. The foster home seen in the movie was shot at a building located at Douglas and Hale streets in Oakland.
The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) George Lucas’s company, Industrial Light & Magic, filmed at the Redwood Grove at Big Tree in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park to create some of the special effects for this film.
The Insider (1999)
Al Pacino played former television journalist and current UC Berkeley adjunct professor Lowell Bergman in director Michael Mann’s scorching take on the 60 Minutes/Big Tobacco cover-up. Watch for Pacino making a pay phone call outside Berkeley’s Cheese Board Collective early in the film.
Truth or Tall Tale?
Martinez: Home of the Martini
Martinez is definitely the hometown of baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, but it may also be the birthplace of James Bond’s favorite drink, the martini. The story goes like this. During the Gold Rush, a miner returning to San Francisco wanted to celebrate a recent strike. He entered a bar in Martinez and ordered champagne, but the bar was all out. Instead, the bartender recommended something called a Martinez Special. The miner loved it, and when he got to San Francisco, he ordered another. They’d never heard of a Martinez Special, so the miner recounted the recipe: one part very dry Sauterne wine and three parts gin, stir with ice, and finish with an olive. Word spread, and today we know the drink as the martini. A plaque marks the spot of the Martinez bar (at Alhambra Avenue and Masonic Street) where it was first served. Is the story authentic? Many think so. But perhaps you’d like to debate it—over a martini.
These spots are worth a visit to feel the vibe of the people that made them famous.
First and Last Chance Saloon
56 Jack London Sq., Oakland, (510) 839-6761
Considered to be writer Jack London’s favorite saloon, this historic bar, built from the timbers of old whaling ships, opened in 1883. London would sit here and listen to sailors’ tales, many of which later appeared in his books. Heinold and the saloon are referred to 17 times in his novels John Barleycorn and Tales of the Fish Patrol. (Other former customers of the tiny saloon include President William Howard Taft and writers Robert Louis Stevenson, Ambrose Bierce, and Erskine Caldwell.) Adjacent to the saloon is a portion of London’s 1898 Yukon cabin, which was moved to Oakland in 1969.
FDR’s Floating White House
USS Potomac, 540 Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland, www.usspotomac.org.
The USS Potomac served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential yacht until his death in 1945, and figures prominently in history. On Monday, August 4, 1941, four months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, FDR boarded the ship for what was supposedly a fishing trip and a visit to Martha’s Vineyard. The president, however, was covertly transferred to the USS Augusta the next morning to travel to Newfoundland, where he met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. During this top-secret rendezvous, the two world leaders forged the principles of the Atlantic Charter, which formed the Allied partnership during World War II and what Roosevelt called the United Nations, a plan for postwar peace. Opened to the public in 1995, this National Historic Landmark is a memorial to Roosevelt and the momentous times through which he led our nation.
The Pulitzer Winner’s Pad
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, (925) 838-0249, www.nps.gov/euon
Winner of four Pulitzer Prizes and the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Eugene O’Neill owned a primo piece of real estate in the hills above Danville. He and his wife, Carlotta, called their home Tao House, and lived there from 1937 to 1944. O’Neill wrote some of his most acclaimed plays, including A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Iceman Cometh, and A Long Day’s Journey into Night at Tao House. Now a National Historic Site, Tao House is well worth a visit. Reservations are required.