People’s Park

Jesus in Berkeley

Posted in People's Park, The Berkeley Scene on November 3rd, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
Nov. 2, 2013
Berkeley, Ca


At Elmwood-Halloween, I saw a costumed Jesus wearing a rag-mop.

Earlier, I had seen a more credible Jesus outside the Caffe Mediterraneum. It was Halloween. Then he was gone, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

I asked Julia Vinograd, Berkeley’s poet laureate, about my Jesus sighting.

She shrugged her shoulders saying, so what? “I’ve seen a lot of them,” she said.

I wondered if she weren’t referencing your typical 60s hippy.

Street kids told me Jesus was in the (People’s) park. One said, “the quest for Jesus is eternal.”

“He’ll miss the free meal,” I blundered. I added that Jesus didn’t need a free meal because he could make his own, but I was bluffing.

I found Jesus in the Food-Not-Bombs food line.

I found Jesus. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Berkeley’s Hate Man Abides

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue, The Berkeley Scene on July 15th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
July 13, 2013


He’s second only to Berkeley’s Pink Cloud, who claims to have been homeless for sixty years. A forty year veteran of Berkeley’s streets, Harold, died last year of complications from an untreated foot infection.

Yet Hate Man, 77, abides with nothing more than a sleeping bag and incessant smoking. He declines drugs and alcohol.

Although housed in the 70’s, Hate, as he is known to his “followers” has been homeless by choice for more than forty years, surviving by foraging food from Berkeley’s South Side cornucopian trash cans and trafficking in street-economics barter and “pushing.”

Pushing is a Hate Man ritual which pits your shoulder and velocity against his. The loser may forfeit a cigarette or an argument.

Hate founded Camp Hate in the 90’s at the Southeast corner of People’s Park when U.C.’s Sproul plaza, where hate became a campus landmark, became “nowhere…nothing happening.”

Hate Man at 77. Bring it on. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Wild and Bumpy Berkeley Week

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue, The Berkeley Scene on July 8th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
July 4, 2013
Berkeley, Ca


It was a wild and bumpy Berkeley Week. Even Bette Davis would be impressed.

First Berkeley watched forlorn Telegraph Avenue fight for its life, then came the rains to wash away all hopes. Bad weather haunted the first three Sunday Fests, but that bad weather was typical Bay Area summer chill and fog. Weather so good we didn’t know it until we lost it.

Then two days of rain broke rainfall records. Then came the heat. Highs were no more than 5-10 degrees above normal, but the duration of the heat wave set longevity records.

Fourth of July (ninth day of hear-wave) just short of 80, as predicted.

Several Bay Area cities opened cooling shelters; health warnings — issued.

Through this Job-like-plagues period Berkeley entreated its various gods (eg. Karl Marx).

Upward Teley Trend. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Posted in People's Park on May 5th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
April 30, 2013


Berkeley, Ca

Writing for seven publications, I am often expected to pitch a story.

I can pitch a thousand-word story in a minute or less, but no more than two minutes.

I learned to do this in Toastmaster’s International’s two minute extemporaneous “table topics.” I could do “War and Peace” in four minutes.”

How do I do it? Toastmasters just do it.

I struck out twice today.

One editor is drastically cutting back publication. Another wasn’t biting.

Event Poster. Photo by Ted Friedman.


Who Killed Beloved Berkeley Leader and Ate Her Ashes?

Posted in People's Park, The Berkeley Scene on August 8th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
Aug. 7, 2012


Berkeley, Ca

Berkeley activist Gina Sasso was leading protests against a controversial city attempt to ban sitting on business-district walks, when she died last May of pneumonia at 49; her friends wondered how a seemingly healthy young woman could die of “a cold.”

A bad cold, to be sure. Or was it bad medicine?

When we reported this story last year, we reported official cause of death from “bacterial infection in her lungs due to an auto-immune disorder that was never diagnosed.”

There was much more medicine in our story, and much more material for the lurid stories behind our lurid stories.

Small demo last year against sitting on Berkeley walks grew throughout the year and peaked at an incendiary public confrontation at City Hall. Gina Sasso, second from left got the ball rolling before she died. Sasso's 'best friend' Kathy is to Sasso's right. Sasso's husband, Mike Delacour, center. Angelina, Sasso's adoptive grandaughter, and Ann Fagin Ginger famous civil liberties attorney.

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Sunset Blvd. Meets Telegraph Meets People’s Park – the Movie

Posted in Film Reviews, People's Park, Telegraph Avenue on July 29th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

(from stories in Berkeley Daily Planet, and Berkeley Reporter)

by Steed Dropout and Joe Gillis
July 28, 2012
Berkeley, Ca


Open on overview of Berkeley’s People’s Park.

Over the scene we now hear sirens. Now camera moves to street sign: TELEGRAPH AVE. Dark, and more dark, but we can see through.

Reporter’s voice: Yes, this is famous Telegraph Avenue scene of bloody riots in the sixties…near the grizzly murder last week of a beloved People’s Park dog — Dude. Park regulars with nowhere else to go because they’re homeless are calling “their” dog’s death — Murder.

Voice Over: This is People’s Park. It’s 1 a.m. That’s me down there, the good-looking but so dead dog with all the screaming people going nuts over me. People’s Park was to have been my dream — like your swimming pools and backyard barbecues.

Joe Gillis, pictured here in Norma Desmond's pool, 1952, near Sunset Boulevard.
Gillis is dead.

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Dude Downed in Berkeley’s People’s Park

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue on July 26th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
July 25, 2012

Berkeley, Ca.


Dude had been shot in the shoulder and back; according to nearby witnesses who rushed to the scene after hearing the shots.

His dead carcass was removed by a university refuge-removal truck.

It was a grim end to a love story between Dude, a six-month old Shepard-mix puppy and Berkeley’s People’s Park, where he was known as “the sweetest dog in the park.”

The story began in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park where Dude and his new owner met and hit it off. Gus decided then and there to “adopt” the dog from a litter, for his side kick.

Just a boy and a girl and their dogs on Berkeley's Telegraph Ave, People's Park's living room. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Soul of Berkeley

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue, The Berkeley Scene on May 11th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 9, 2012


I’ve written numerous Berkeley Daily Planet pieces attempting to characterize ourselves. I’d like to stick with this idea, because I am fascinated by conceptualizing Berkeley.

How would you characterize Berkeley? Berzerkeley, People’s Republic, nut capitol of the state, where an urban legend has it that released mentally-ill patients are dumped here. A town dominated, often bullied by the university. A town of academics, or academic-posers, U.C. employees, students, and police.

Berkeley High town, home to a gourmet ghetto, a dangerous South side, dangerously close to everything the South side is not — the Elmwood. The West side makes danger palpable.

Two-department Cop town, in a high-crime town. Herds of police respond to calls downtown and on the South side. Minimum of two officers per call, says the chief, but we’ve seen gargantuan cop-ops around town.

A common occurrence, as Berkeley Police stand guard to protect privacy of a man being arrested for his own protection. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue for Dummies

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue on May 6th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 4, 2012


Berkeley’s Telegraph for dummies, and I’m the #1 dummy.

Recently dubbed the voice of Berkeley’s South-side by a well-known Teley property and business owner, I should have figured out what was ailing Telegraph’s troubled, famous Avenue by now. I’ve had a good thirty-five years to figure it out.

I remember the day, back in the Eighties, when Joji Yokoi, an artisan working out of an historic cottage near the Cafe Mediterraneum, announced in the Med that Teley was about to become a shopping mall.

Even then it was clear the avenue had lost its Sixties and Seventies hippy flavor. A close friend moved to Santa Cruz which still had that charm. I considered a move to Santa Cruz but called it off when I discovered that the sleepy little beach town and surfer center tucked itself in at 9 p.m.

That was then.

Now Teley businessmen tell me that they rarely see tourists drawn to
Telegraph. Old Teley is mostly gone and so are the tourists. Boobs from the burbs, who descend on the avenue on the weekends aren’t tourists. The boobs will always come.

I stand at the wind-whipped intersection of Dwight and Teley in front of Shakespeare’s books, which is named after the famous Paris bookstore owned by Gertrude Stein (and resembles it) as the mellifluous multitude of words of Al Geyer drown me.

Geyer, owner of a 1969 head shop up the street that is a living museum of the Sixties is telling me how and why the Ave may go mall. To make his point he takes me across the street to a new business — the Sock Shop. I had been there recently interviewing the clerks and welcoming them to the neighborhood.

Al Geyer outside Annapurna head shop on Telegraph, founded 1969.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Squatters Don’t Got Rights For Squat

Posted in Med Heads & Cafe Culture, People's Park, Telegraph Avenue on January 22nd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
January 20, 2012

Ray Gibson, a homeless man, who lives like a dumpster-diving king, dubbed by me in several stories as “the Mayor of Telegraph Avenue,” gave me the following “news story,” and I bought him a bagel.

Gibson: “I was approached by two Berkeley cops as I climbed the stairs to the old Wooly House [just off Telegraph]. They had no warrants, and questioned me aggressively about what I was doing there, and would not believe that I had permission — I’m managing the property for the owner.

The mayor at the Med. No photos, please. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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