B U R E A U   O F   P U B L I C   S E C R E T S


San Francisco Fifty Years Ago

(Kenneth Rexroth’s complete columns for the San Francisco Examiner)



31. Here I Am [including remarks on James Huneker and Dave Brubeck]
07. New Forms of Art and Culture?
14. New Forms of Politics?
21. A Night Out in the City
28. Merits and Faults of the San Francisco Ballet
06. Beckett and Ionesco
13. Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and the Modern Jazz Quartet
20. Drama and Community [on the oratorio Queen Esther]
27. In Praise of Amateur Shakespeare [including an unorthodox interpretation of Hamlet]
03. Two Questions About Modern Life
10. Signs of Change in the South [on the civil rights movement]
17. Conversations with Southerners [ditto]
24. Flagstaff versus Phoenix
01. New Orleans versus Pittsburgh
08. Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman
15. The Execution of Caryl Chessman
22. The HUAC Riot
29. Signs of a New Youth Revolt
05. New American Poetry and Jazz
12. San Francisco Theater and Chicago Architecture
19. Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author
26. Slum Clearance? [critique of “urban renewal”]
03. Three Poets in the News [Pasternak, Frost, Supervielle]
10. Kabuki Theater
17. Poetry and Ballet
24. Ballet and Jazz
31. The Royal Danish Ballet
07. The Tao of Fishing
14. Riding in the Mountains
21. Upheavals in Cuba and the Congo
28. More on the Third World
04. The Circus
11. Lack of Imagination and Common Sense [plus remarks on Brecht and African sculpture]
18. Japanese Art of Grace and Modesty
25. Why I Like Opera [including remarks on Carmen and The Threepenny Opera]
02. Why I Don’t Like Jazz Festivals [plus remarks on Japanese sculpture]
09. Aida and Ornette Coleman
16. Governmental Clowning
23. An Astonishing Painting Prodigy [in a show of Japanese children’s paintings]
30. La Traviata and La Bohème
06. Style versus Pretension
13. Bruce Conner and the Royal Ballet
20. Matters of Taste
27. Mathematical Elegance and Classic Fiction
04. The Cost of Taking a Grant from the Ford Foundation [plus remarks on Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist]
11. Robert Duncan
18. An Appeal for Kenneth Patchen [plus remarks on race relations]
25. Christmas

01. Man at the End of His Tether
08. Little Theater [plus remarks on Lionel Abel]
15. Theater in San Francisco, Art in Chicago
22. Controversy About Cuba
29. The Attempted Assassination of Thomas Parkinson
05. Night Clubs and Jazz
12. Pacifica Radio KPFA [plus remarks on Pablo Casals and the Budapest String Quartet]
19. The Assassination of Lumumba
26. The Chicago Opera Ballet
05. The Peace Corps
12. More on the Peace Corps
19. Journalism and Talk Shows
26. The Black Muslims
02. More on the Black Muslims
09. King Lear
16. A Few Days in New York
23. New York Jazz Clubs and Genet’s The Blacks
30. Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

[At this point it shifts from once a week (Sunday) to two columns per week, Sunday and Wednesday.]

03. The Bay of Pigs
07. Mediocrity in Art
10. Atoms and Irresponsibility
14. A Delightful Spring Opera Season
17. The Population Explosion
21. A Marvelous Magic Flute
24. The Attacks on the Freedom Riders
28. Courage and Cowardice in the South
31. Summit Meeting
04. Urban Uglification
07. The Celebrity Elite
11. Nurturing Student Creativity
14. American Provinciality
18. Another Investigation of Campus “Subversion”
21. Interracial Casting
25. The Moiseyev Dancers
28. Government Is Not Business
02. The Meaning of Conservation
05. Morality Crisis
09. Hemingway
12. Sierra Camps
16. Sausalito Cuisine and Camus’s Caligula
19. The Berlin Crisis
23. Dangerous Bluster over Berlin
26. The Bizerte Crisis
30. The New York Ballet

02. Remembering the Spanish Civil War
06. Ballet and Opera
09. Who for Mayor?
13. Needed: A Master Plan for the City
16. A World of Refugees
20. The Two Cultures
23. A Geopolitical Easement [more on the Berlin crisis]
27. H.G. Wells’s “Open Conspiracy” [Aspen Humanities Conference]
30. Breadth of Vision versus Narrowness of Interest

03. Gracious Music at Aspen
06. The Russians’ Real Goal
10. Comments on Cuisine
13. Anachronistic Geopolitics
17. An International Business Conference
20. Negroes and Classical Music
24. An Atrocious New Opera [Blood Moon]
27. Boris Godunov

01. Odds and Ends
04. Fine Opera with Shoddy Decor
08. Rigoletto and Coltrane
11. Thoughts While Watching Fidelio and Nabucco
15. More on the Above
18. More Opera
22. Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance
25. Letters from New York and Florence
29. The Russian H-Bomb Test

01. Public Opinion
05. The Sick Comedians
09. The Fallout Shelter Craze
12. Henry Miller
15. The Kirov Ballet
19. Pablo Casals at the White House
22. The Kirov’s Shostakovich Piece
26. Milhaud and Chekhov

03. The Age of Inoffensiveness
06. Postcolonial Problems
10. Personal and Municipal Responsibility
13. Mandarin Ethics
17. Patronage, Personal or Governmental
20. General Strike for Peace?
24. Christmas Events
27. “Don’t Do as I Do . . .”
31. The Holidays We Need

03. My Choice for Man of the Year
07. The French Crisis
10. Urban Deterioration
14. Some Excellent Plays in New York
17. The Bail System
21. Drawbacks of New York
24. Proposal for an Arts Council
28. Better Theater at Home
31. The Disoriented

04. Jazz and Longhair
07. Back to Big Sur
11. Chinese Opera
14. A Wise Proclamation from Oregon
18. Some Racial Progress
21. Eskimo Art
25. The San Francisco Mime Troupe
28. Battered Children

04. Folkloristic Hokum
07. John Glenn
11. Loving Care for the Mentally Ill
14. Isaac Stern, Prokofiev, and a Lovely Harpist
18. Peter, Paul and Mary, and Eugene O’Neill
21. At the Matisse Opening
25. A Visit to Tucson
28. Generation Gaps in Tucson

01. Poetry and Song, French and American
04. Religion and the Enhancement of Life
08. Our Ailing Symphony
11. Golden Gate Park
15. Casals and Strindberg
18. The Lamentable Cuisine of Los Angeles
22. Splendid Ballet
25. The Atomic Arms Race
29. Damn Yankees and a Casals Oratorio

02. Social Integration
06. Shakespeare, Ibsen, Swan Lake
09. Juvenile Delinquency
13. Originality versus “Self-Expression”
16. The Constant Dread of a Hideous Extinction
20. The Spring Opera
23. Racial Bridges
27. Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers
30. [no column]

03. Can-Can and Dizzy Gillespie
06. Creativity versus Subliteracy
10. The Persistence of Pseudoscience
13. Elusive Educators
17. The Poetry Festival
20. [no column]
24. The New Frontier in Alaska
27. The Wealth of Alaska

01. Last Stand of la Vie Méditerranée
04. Patriotism
08. Packing in the Sierras
11. The Intermountain Country
15. Research for Peace?
18. The Aspen Idea
22. A Tribute to Darius Milhaud
25. Midwest Trying to Be French
29. Debussy
s Lovely Trio

01. Economic Dilemmas
05. American Poetry Since 1940
08. Utopia or Perish
12. Igor Stravinsky
15. The Tao of Politics
19. The Death of Marilyn Monroe
22. The Ineffectiveness of the United Nations
26. High Sierra Characters
29. Comfortable Confusion

02. Conservation and Wise Use
05. Classic Humor Becoming Politically Incorrect
09. East versus West in Art
12. Starved Infrastructure
16. Strindberg
19. The Continuing Appeal of King Tut
23. Church Architecture
26. Superb Verdi Productions
30. KPFA in Danger

03. Show Biz Plugs
07. Racial Discrimination and Resentment
10. Opera Too Light
14. A Flawless Twelfth Night
17. Shakespeare and Opera
21. To Each His Own Hula Hoop
24. Bolshoi versus Kirov
28. The Bolshoi Ballet
31. The Cuban Missile Crisis

04. A Very Official Poetry Festival
07. Why Not Abolish Market Street?
11. The Continuing Destruction of San Francisco
14. In Praise of Live Music
18. Bad Art, Fair Hamlet
21. The Glass Menagerie
25. Richard Nixon and Bertrand Russell
28. Thanksgiving in Yosemite

02. Heifetz, Hindemith, Mozart, Milhaud
05. Follies Foreign and Domestic
09. The Limits of Post-Stalin Art
12. Debussy and Stravinsky
16. White House PR
19. Ballet and Bartok
23. Brecht’s Philosophy
26. The Increasing Appreciation of Early Music
30. San Francisco’s Ballet School

02. The Turning of the Year
06. Plea for a Municipal Arts Center
09. Nuclear Power and Free Speech Radio
13. The Negro in Vogue Again
16. Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband
20. Contrasting Speeches by Kennedy and De Gaulle
23. Alienation or Frustration?
27. Moscow and the Chinese Communists
30. A Poorly Directed Macbeth

03. Stravinsky’s Mass
06. Classic Ballet and Chinese Theater
10. Who’s Backing De Gaulle?
13. Budapest String Quartet and Russian Opera
17. Academicizing the Avant-Garde
20. Theatrical Intercasting
24. The Chaos of Decolonization
27. Volpone and Ash Wednesday

03. Volpone and the Black Comedy of Humanity
06. The Film Elektra
10. The de Kaplany Verdict
13. Kandinsky
17. The Pan-Islam Movement
20. Foot in Mouth Politics
24. The Narcotics Problem
27. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’Or
31. The Season of Resurrection

03. The Debbil-Debbil Theory
07. Revolting Genet
10. Government and the Arts
14. A Monster Is Loose in the Human Heart
17. Protest of the Month Club
21. Superlative Ballet
24. John Handy
28. More Thoughts on Protest

01. The Gordon Lish Controversy
05. Pirandello and Offenbach
08. Art versus “Promotion”
12. A Cultural Cornucopia
15. A Century of Restraint
19. The Privilege of Community
22. An Appeal for Bay Area Cultural Coordination
26. A New Human Revolution
29. Two Civil Rights Events

02. Fictitious Images of America
05. The Death of Pope John XXIII
09. The Spring Opera
12. Self-Segregation Issues
16. An Impressive “Ballet ’63”
19. Performing Arts in the Parks
23. Planning and Preserving the City
26. The Power Elite's Dolce Vita
30. By the Waterfall

03. Planning the City’s Future
07. Silly Reactions to Four-Letter Words
10. Agriculture Issues
14. Bayard Rustin and the New Black Struggle
17. The Green Revolution
21. The Mime Troupe in the Park
24. Martians in the Ghetto
28. The Needs of the City
31. Summer Spy Season

04. The Chinese Theater
07. The Persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam
11. Three Cultural Losses
14. More on the Chinese Theater
18. Camping in the Sierras
21. Conservation Issues
25. What to Do with the Old Hall of Justice
28. A Wild Horse Refuge

01. Music in the Vineyards [and more on Chinese Theater]
04. The Campaign for Mayor
08. Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary
11. The Real Coal Mine Disaster
15. Diebenkorn at the De Young
18. A Master Plan for the City
22. Opening Nights at the Opera
25. [no column]
29. T.S. Eliot

02. Questioning Psychiatry
06. Superlative Opera
09. Declining American Power
13. The Taming of the Shrew and The Queen of Spades
16. The Wine Festivities
20. Invigorating the Cultural Life of the City
23. [no column]
27. [column missing from library copy]
30. Efficient Spending

03. Best Opera Season Ever
06. Frivolous Picketing
10. A Crisis of Leadership
13. A Loyalty Oath for KPFA
17. The Sickness Runs Deep
20. Labor’s Faltering Image
24, Superlative Theater [Lorca, Pinter, Chekhov]
27. The Web of Hatred [on the Kennedy assassination]

01. The True Mourning
04. Thoughts About Death
08. A New and More Satisfying Symphony
11. Redevelopment Dilemmas
15. The Challenge of Utopia
18. Ghosts That Haunt the Public Mind
22. Drama Pros and Cons
25. To Men of Good Will
29. An Impenetrable Maze

01. Resolutions and Habits
05. Misguided Ballet Funding
08. The New Mayor's Challenge
12. H.L. Mencken
15. The Miserable Twilight of Colonialism
19. The Greek Ideal
22. Troubles Around the World
26. Ballet Schools
29. Recognition of Red China

02. Neglected Parks
05. What to Do with the Fine Arts Palace?
09. Drug Addiction and Synanon
12. More on Race Relations
16. Symphonic Progress
19. Government by Celebrity
23. Ralph Stackpole and the Coit Tower Murals
26. Sex Education

01. Pennsylvania
04. Traffic Tangle in Golden Gate Park
08. Tom Jones and The Ginger Man
11. Civil Rights Action at the Sheraton
15. Ideas for a San Francisco Music Festival
18. More on Civil Rights
22. Trade Secrets of the Arts
25. Youth Problems Not Addressed
29. “Here Begins a New Life . . .”

01. Improvements for Golden Gate Park?
05. Blissful Indifference
08. Poverty in San Francisco
12. In Quest of New Opera
15. Examples of Local Poverty
19. A Scatterbrained Column
22. Another Poverty Scenario
26. The Enigma of Shakespeare
29. Divorce: Another Factor of Poverty

03. Planned Laissez Faire
06. Alcoholism and Poverty
10. Ideas for Replanning the City
13. Skid Row
17. A Backward Glance at the Season’s Arts
20. [no column]
24. Charles Mingus
27. A Cultivated Congressman
31. Spring Opera

03. Nehru and India
07. Interracial Marriage
10. The Goldwater Effect
14. Homosexuality
17. Library Architecture
21. Greeks and Buddhists in Afghanistan
24. A Drastic Solution for Market Street
28. Spring Opera and the International Repertory Theater

01. Feedback on Controversies
05. Arts Festival in Milwaukee
08. Milwaukee’s Public Philosophy
12. Mellow Milwaukee
15. [no column]
19. A Buddhist’s Request
21. On Church and Ecology
22. The Danger of Unanimity
26. Wedekind’s Lulu
29. The Harlem Riots

02. Pork Barrel in Harlem
05. The Invasion of Northern California
09. Culture on the Go
12. Disappearing Farmland
16. Descendants of the Heroic Negro Past
19. San Francisco Swimming
23. Wonder and Meditation in the Sierras
26. Community Planlessness
30. Mysticism, Ethical and Chemical

02. The Theater on Mt. Tamalpais
06. Riotous Despair
09. An Exemplary Church
13. Community versus Collectivity
16. On the Brink in Southeast Asia
20. Wagnerian Tartuffery
23. San Francisco Art Festival
27. What a Week!
30. James Baldwin’s Amen Corner

04. Rapport at the Opera
07. Ghettoized Youth
11. Opera and Early Music
14. Compulsive Demonstrators
18. Repressed Issues Coming Out
21. [no column]
25. Dealing with Social Problems
28. The Fall of Khrushchev

01. Intangible Values
04. The Kremlin’s Madison Avenue
08. Looking Back on the Opera Season
11. Post Mortem on Prop. 14
15. The Kirov Ballet
18. The French Communist Party
22. Answering the Correspondence
25. A Parking Problem
29. The Paucity of Patrons

02. Thanksgiving in Yosemite
06. The Vatican Council
09. The Depersonalized Campus in Berkeley
13. Wycherley’s The Country Wife
16. Intelligent Life on Mars?
20. The New English Liturgy
23. The Myth of Christmas
27. The Past and Future of This Column
30. Fine Ballet, Lousy Auditoriums

03. Stimulating Mail
06. Police versus Homosexuality
10. Inadequate Cultural Infrastructure
13. The Mafia Invasion of North Beach
17. Cultural To-Do List
20. Highways and the Future
24. A Great Week of Local Theater
27. Misdirected Education
31. A Theatrical Body Blow

03. San Francisco’s First-Rate Ballet
07. Our Deteriorating Theatrical Infrastructure
10. The Wrong Educational Priorities
14. Pussyfoot City
17. Proposals for Chinatown
21. Highlights of a Pleasant Week
24. The Assassination of Malcolm X
28. Education Beyond the Classroom

03. The Folly of Escalation in Asia
07. The Proposed New Culture Center
10. A Sense of Crisis Abroad
14. The Cold War in the South
17. Voluntary Provocateurs
21. San Francisco’s Cultural Divide
24. Gentle Thursday
28. Farewell to the Actor’s Workshop
31. Cleaning Up North Beach

04. More on North Beach
07. Factory-Style Education
11. International Plays in Our Little Theaters
14. In a Timeless Hurry
18. Easter and the Story of Job
21. Bob Dylan
25. Nostalgic Art Show
28. Ghelderode and Euripides

02. Civilized Visitors
05. Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
09. Contemporary Japanese Art
12. Cowboy Diplomacy
16. The Alienation of Youth
19. An Abundance of Events
23. The Generation Gap
26. An Outstanding Antigone
30. The Strategy of Peace

02. A Silly Plaza Design
06. War on Poverty at the Local Level
09. The Spread of Drugs
13. Escape from Theatrical Orthodoxy
16. The Demand for Education
20. Challenge to the City Clergy
23. California Living at Its Best
27. Disappointing Spring Opera
30. Letters from Readers

04. Wine — French versus Californian
07. A Great Romeo and Juliet by the Royal Ballet
11. More on Ballet
14. John Handy
18. Symposium, Sixteenth-Century Style
21. More on Wine
25. FSM’s Inconsistent Defense
28. And Yet More on Wine

01. An Atrocious Tennessee Williams Play
04. Natural Urban Renewal
08. Casting by Talent, Not by Color
11. Prophets and Profits
15. The Philosophers of Power
18. Negro Riots
22. What’s Ahead for the Negro?
25. Unlimited Responsibility
29. San Francisco’s Pitiful Patronage

01. After the Watts Riot
05. Two Books on the Berkeley FSM
08. More on Wine
12. A Promising Fall Season
13. The Quiet Center [At this point the columns started appearing Sunday and Monday, instead of Sunday and Wednesday.]
19. Performing Arts
20. The Latest News
26. A Minority of One [opera reviews]
27. Race Issues and the Arts

03. The Opera Lulu

The next column will be posted on October 3, 2015.





In January 1960 the San Francisco Examiner (a Hearst newspaper) offered Kenneth Rexroth a job writing a weekly column. He accepted. By May 1961 the column had proved popular enough that he was asked to do two and sometimes even three per week.

The association was an odd one. Although Rexroth was by that time a well-known figure in the Bay Area, he was known primarily as a political and cultural radical, and even (somewhat misleadingly) as “the godfather of the Beat Generation.” But he was willing to work for the Examiner as long as they gave him complete freedom to write whatever he wanted. They did so until July 1967, when they fired him after he wrote a particularly scathing article about the American police.

All told, Rexroth wrote approximately 700 columns for the Examiner. I am tentatively planning to post all of them fifty years after their original appearance. If all goes well and I don’t get OD’d with the project, it will be completed on June 22, 2017.

Normally I plan to post each column on the exact 50th anniversary of its original appearance. This means that during the upcoming year you can expect to find a new column here every Saturday. (Occasionally, depending on my schedule, I may post it a few days early or late.)

Needless to say, the columns vary widely in topic and interest. Some offer incisive commentary that remains astonishingly relevant on all sorts of general issues, social, political, cultural, urbanistic or ecological. Others are more dated, such as reviews of particular musical or theatrical performances. I think you will find, however, that his remarks about even the most ephemeral topics are full of amusing observations and perceptive insights, and that the ensemble constitutes a unique and fascinating chronicle of those eventful years.

I have silently corrected obvious typos, added an occasional comma that seems to be necessary to make the sense clear, and taken the liberty of composing new titles (the original titles were composed by Examiner editors and often do not give a very good idea of what Rexroth is actually talking about).

The contents are listed above. (In a few cases I have added additional information in brackets.) As a preview of things to come, you can also explore my earlier selection from the entire series: Rexroth’s San Francisco.

Ken Knabb
February 2010

May 2011:
In May 1961 Rexroth began doing two columns per week. So from this point on, you can expect to find a new column uploaded each Saturday and each Tuesday (give or take a day or two, depending on my schedule).



Table of Contents for “San Francisco Fifty Years Ago,” an ongoing project of posting all of Kenneth Rexroth’s columns for the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967). Each of the columns is being posted on the 50th anniversary of its original appearance. Copyright 1960-1967 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.

[Rexroth Archive]




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