A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 07, 2005
Baghdad-by-the-Bay (summary)
Herb Caen (1916-1997) coined the nickname "Baghdad-by-Bay" in his San Francisco newspaper columns. He was "Mr. San Francisco."

Neither the San Francisco Chronicle nor the San Francisco Examiner are digitized, but it's known that Caen was using the nickname from almost the time he first started, in the late 1930s.

I once wrote to Herb Caen and asked what he knew about "Audrey Munson," who is our "Civic Fame" and who was San Francisco's "World's Fair Girl" in 1915. I also asked him about "Baghdad-by-the-Bay."

He wrote back that he didn't know anything at all about Audrey Munson, but would ask around. He admitted that "Baghdad-by-the-Bay" was a borrowing from O. Henry's "Baghdad-on-the-Subway" stories about New York.

I will always remember that day in the early 1990s when Herb Caen wrote back to me.

I had solved "the Big Apple" in 1992. I had spent years and years writing to the New York Times, care of William Safire and Sam Roberts and Robert Lipsyte and Douglas Martin and dozens of others. I had sent a copy of Gerald Cohen's 1991 "Big Apple" book and copies of our "Comments on Etymology" papers. And no one was kind enough to reply. And no one in all of New York was even kind to me.

And then here was Herb Caen, from San Francisco, probably a greater writer than any of them, and he took the time to write back.

"That's because Herb Caen is a mensch," my friend told me.


27 March 1941, San Francisco Chronicle, pg. 11:
It's News to Me by Herb Caen
San Franciscana:
BAGDAD-BY-THE-BAY: The Skid Rowgues who defiantly cross Three street against the traffic signals - their dogged protest against The System.

19 July 1941, Reno (NV) Evening Gazette, pg. 4, col. 2:
They are a part of that unique atmosphere that typifies "Bagdad by the Bay" and that lures thousands of visitors there every year.

2 February 1997, Los Angeles Times, "Herb Caen Dies in Beloved 'Baghdad by the Bay" by Jennifer Warren, pg. 1:
Herb Caen, America's most enduring metropolitan newspaper columnist and the man who served as this city's social and cultural compass for more than half a century, died early Saturday of lung cancer. He was 80.

Caen died at Pacific Medical Center with his wife, Ann, at his side. He had been found to have inoperable cancer last April and sporadically wrote his column in the San Francisco Chronicle despite his failing health.

In recognition of the special place Caen held in his "Baghdad by the Bay," Mayor Willie Brown ordered the city's flags flown at half-staff.
(...)
Caen's stamina was extraordinary as well. In a profession where burnout is a common workplace peril, he kept going and going--shunning computers and pecking away with two fingers on his "loyal Royal" typewriter to the end. His first column appeared July 5, 1938, and he continued writing 1,000 words a day, six days a week, through the 1980s.
(...)
Although he was dubbed "Mr. San Francisco," Herbert Eugene Caen was born in Sacramento on April 3, 1916.

8 February 1997, San Francisco Chronicle, "Fond Farewell To the Bard By the Bay" by Carl Nolte, pg. A1:
San Francisco said farewell to Herb Caen, the man who loved it best, with a memorial service at Grace Cathedral yesterday that was sad and funny, that was informal and solemn, that made thousands laugh and many cry.

It was a celebration of what Mayor Willie Brown called "an extraordinary life . . . a marvelous, marvelous life."

Brahms and jazz, the Old Testament and what his son called "The Gospel according to Herb Caen" filled the cathedral, which was lighted by candles and the winter sun. There were eulogies from the mayor of the city, the editor of The Chronicle, a famous comedian and a man who wore a pillowcase over his head.

It was very Herb Caen, very San Francisco. "I've never seen anything like it," said Enrico Banducci, the North Beach legend. "Never."

Herb Caen, who had written his column for more than 58 years -- 18 million words, said Brown -- filled the cathedral, 2,500 people, standing room only. He died at the age of 80 a week ago today, and the memorial service atop Nob Hill was the centerpiece of a daylong commemoration of his life.


(OCLC WorldCat)
Baghdad by the Bay /
Author: Caen, Herb, 1916-; Brodie, Howard, illus.
Publication: Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1949
Document: English : Book

Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesBaghdad-By-The-Bay (San Francisco nickname) • (1) Comments • Saturday, May 07, 2005 • Permalink


Cyril Isaac Magnin (1899–1988) was the only semi-official “Mr. San Francisco.” The title has been informally used for heroes, local icons, and commercial purposes.

Posted by John Pilge  on  02/25  at  06:35 PM

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