There are plenty of adoring quotes about San Francisco from beloved writers, entertainers, and politicos, but a few negative remarks about our fair city made by a loathed historical figure, Richard Nixon, are making the rounds these days, courtesy of a new biography of the thin-skinned, duplicitous president. The Chronicle's Leah Garchik drew attention to Nixon's words in her column yesterday, and his antipathy towards San Francisco and San Franciscans generally is perhaps as much cause for civic pride as favorable quotes from more respectable figures would be.
The book is Richard Nixon: The Life by John A. Farrell, which was published this year and was the subject of a a recent review in the New York Times comparing the "media-hating" president to our current political leader.
"Homosexuality, dope, immorality generally — these are the enemies of strong societies," Nixon said. "The upper class of San Francisco is that way.. It's not just the ratty part of town. The upper class in San Francisco is that way. The Bohemian Grove, which I attend from time to time — it is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine, with that San Francisco crowd.I don’t even want to shake hands with anybody from San Francisco. Decorators. They’ve got to do something ... but goddamn it we don’t have to glorify it.”
It bears noting that the remarks aren't newly discovered, just newly re-circulating. Their origin is a 1971 Nixon tape, released later than most, but as rancid as any. They were first published in a 2000 Harper's Magazine article as part of a longer quote about Nixon's trips to Bohemian Grove.
What's Bohemian Grove, all you non-Bohemian Club members ask? That secretive society meets at its Post and Taylor headquarters and hosts summer retreats in monte Rio, near Guerneville. It was named for its original focus on artists, but opened to businessmen and political leaders soon became a hub for off-the-record deal making in California. Nixon was granted honorary membership, but he apparently didn't think too highly of his fellow, more bohemian members, nor of San Franciscans generally. The feeling's mutual, pal.