We noted briefly yesterday that The Jinx subject Robert Durst and his suspected victim Susan Berman had ties to the Bay Area in the 1970s, with Berman writing for the Examiner and working briefly for KPIX as a producer. But now one of her former editors, local legend and pioneering gonzo journalist Warren Hinckle has come forward to the Chronicle with his own version of the SF chapter of Berman's life and career, having hired her to write one of the pieces that helped launched it and it's their cover story today.
Hinckle claims that he met Durst through Berman at some point in the 1970s in San Francisco, and that Berman was a fast and funny writer who could "really crank it out." She pitched a story to him about the woes of single ladies in SF's supposedly liberated sexual scene, and Hinckle published it in 1975 in the now defunct City Magazine with the headline, "In San Francisco, City of Sin, Why Can’t I Get Laid?" It was apparently inspired by Berman and some friends one night trying to pick up guys at the storied Washington Square Bar & Grill (now The Square Bar & Kitchen), and her conclusion was they guys were all "either gay or too timid." Berman would go on to write more such provocative pieces for New York Magazine in the late 1970s, and to write books about her father David Berman's mobster past in Las Vegas, like her 1981 book Easy Street which is out of print and, notably, following the HBO documentary on Durst, now selling for upwards of $130 on Amazon.
But the most notable quotes in the piece come from Hinckle and former Examiner coworker Larry D. Hatfield, who said he often had lunch with Berman. Hatfield says, "Susan was a very talented reporter. She was also very weird. She was very smart, had a great sense of humor and tended to like oddball people."
And Hinckle adds, just for sensational color, regarding meeting Durst through Berman, "Durst was crazy as a loon, very odd in a city of odd people. Durst was virtually moonstruck, wandering in a haze of I don’t know what. I was kind of scared of the guy. I thought he might try to kill me."
Another good read regarding Berman is this 2001 feature article from New York Mag that starts to theorize about Berman's mob-style murder in her Beverly Hills home on Christmas Eve, 2000, quickly making the connection to Bobby Durst. Berman had been working on projects connected to the history of the Las Vegas mafia at the time which led even her close friends to believe that the mob could have been responsible for her death. But the most chilling detail comes from her best friend Kim Lankford an actress who appeared on Knots Landing in the early 80s and who appeared in The Jinx talking about Berman's death. Lankford says Berman was in the habit of talking to psychics, and that week before Christmas she had just seen a new one in L.A. Lankford says she told her, "She told me I was going to die a violent death and that there'd be a gun involved."
Maybe we shouldn't discount all psychics?