H. Brown: Goodbye to all that, we hope

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Ah, that old school New Left he-man feeling
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS/FOG CITY JOURNAL

In an SF Weekly piece published yesterday, it was announced that progressive political blogger and gadabout H. Brown – an "irascible" man who has attained a specific sort of fame in equal measure for his political connections, his egregious sexism, and his unfortunate alcoholism -- was leaving San Francisco. Where’s he going? The article didn’t see fit to mention. It’s whatever. One can assume Brown’s destination is that netherworld set aside for those whose behavior was enabled by the old school boy’s club blinders of the San Francisco progressive movement, still worn at the dawn of the 21st century.
 
“Last Call For Know-It-Alls: Classic Specimen of Old-San Francisco Bon Vivantery,” the article was called. It was written by a man; if a woman had written it, the title might have been closer to: “I Just Bought an Evil Eye Necklace, Don’t Look at Me You Cursed Troll.”

Do I sound angry? In 2008 at a DCCC, Brown inquired at top volume and in front of an ex-President of the Board of Supervisors if I was the politician’s escort. When said political leader bailed on the situation, Brown interrogated me on camera about my knowledge of local politics. I wrote about it, most names omitted, for the Guardian. In the article’s wake, I received thankful and supportive emails from men and women across the San Francisco political scene. On his part, Brown sent out multiple emails about me to his prodigious correspondence rolls, one in which he shared an communique from his niece calling me an “ignorant cunt,” another in which he addressed an un-cc’ed me about the election night in question: “You tried to make up for your ignorance by wearing revealing clothing. I was mocking you. And rightly so.”
 
Nearly every woman in San Francisco politics has one of these stories. When a male politician was accused of any wrong against a woman, Brown could be depended on to dig through the Internet to find evidence that the victim had been asking for it. Those unwilling to suffer him had to opt out of the hobnobbing happy hours and salons in the homes of city leaders, at which Brown was a constant presence.
 
Ah, old San Francisco bon vivantery. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t have to care about Brown. You do have to care that this man was your Supervisor’s drinking buddy, that he took Speedo-clad swims in the Bay with progressive leaders. You do have to wonder about what that did to the strength of our political movement. And you might want to wonder about the dynamics behind ubiquitous bigots who are tolerated by people who should know better.
 
“If comedy is indeed tragedy plus time, however, Brown will leave 'em laughing for posterity,” wrote Weekly reporter Joe Eskenazi. “Friend after friend recalled anecdotes of offensive, bourbon-fueled behavior invariably culminating with Brown being instructed to "Get the fuck out, H.!" But, always, these were happy memories, if not happy occasions.”
 
None of these friends -- “former supervisors, consultants, academics, political Svengalis, and other city luminaries” – in Eskenazi’s article were women. (The writer, whose work on city issues I do appreciate, told me he did interview women, but apparently none of them said anything printworthy.)
 
Let’s remedy that now with a few female voices. Not coincidentally, most of these bourbon-fueled memories took place in ex-Supervisor Chris Daly’s since-closed Market Street progressive gathering spot, the Buck Tavern. None are happy.
 
“This was the first time I was introduced to H. At a benefit at the Buck Tavern I walked in and there were all these progressive journalists sitting around a table with him. He said ‘you’re the one with the great ass!’ He started asking me if I had family members he could date. I was standing there horrified, I just didn’t know what to say. I’m a mouthy lady, and even I couldn’t think of anything to come back with – not just to him, but to every other progressive journalist who was sitting there listening to him who laughed! I said hi to a few people, and then I left the event.”
- Laura Hahn, president of the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
 
“Really, I don't give much of a shit about one sad dude calling me a slut and a spy (for Newsom or Pinkerton Guards, depending on the year), but seeing some (not all) progressive men continue to put up with him was pretty demoralizing."
- Anonymous volunteer on several progressive political campaigns
 
“The confrontation started because I came in to wish [ex-Supervisor and then-owner of the Buck Tavern] Chris Daly a happy birthday and have a drink, and H. asked Chris ‘Who the hell is she?’ To which Chris said, ‘She's the President of the Harvey Milk Club.’ To which H began, ‘You're not even gay, are you?’ I replied, ‘I'm queer.’ ‘Queer?!’ he said, ‘What the fuck is that? Some Shona Gochenauer shit? You're not gay. I can tell you're not gay by looking at you. She doesn't know anything about politics. Look at her -- she's clearly just a vanity president.’ He said something about enjoying things because, "that ass isn't gonna last forever, sweetheart. They [the other patrons in the bar] are only standing up for you because they want to fuck you.’"
- Stephany Joy Ashley, ex-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
 
“As a purveyor of alcohol, I found that the man was a lawbreaking mooch and a pain to deal with.  As a woman, I found him pathetic, insulting, gross, or all three, depending on his mood. The first time I met him he cussed me out for an imagined slight in a way that was actually shocking -- and it takes a lot for cuss words to flummox me. For a time, I simply refused to serve him.”
- Siobhann Bellinger, Buck Tavern bartender
 
“H. is a bully and a sexist. If you want to look at why the progressive movement is failing it’s because it alienates youth, women, and people of color. Deifying somebody like him is shutting women out, the message is they aren’t welcome. It’s not separated from the fact that progressives are really faltering right now with no leadership and very little inspiration.”
- Debra Walker, artist and longtime activist
 
“His behavior symbolized the running joke amongst some progressive men that women were there for their own entertainment to be mocked and harassed with no one blinking an eye. FUCK. THAT.”
- Anonymous ex-City Hall aide
 
These women – and the progressive men who were their allies – were not laughing at the hijinx of a mouthy old man. But people were, and they will be at the party that will be held in honor of Brown’s departure and attended by member’s of our city’s progressive elite.
 
Supporters say the guy’s behavior was a premeditated mockery of San Francisco’s political correctness, that he was an actor in the grand tradition of political theater. But if he is remembered by generations to come, it will be as the embodiment of an age-old archetype: the dude that other dudes keep around because he says the shit they can’t say to people who aren’t them. After all, who can control their own id?
 
Eskenazi compares Brown to F. Scott Fitzgerald and notwithstanding that both are writers, I’d like to posit an alternative historical precedent for Brown’s passionate trolling. Remember Bobby Riggs, the proud chauvinist who taunted tennis legend Billie Jean King until she wiped the floor with him in the widely broadcast Battle of the Sexes match? Man, that guy should have been in politics.
 
Brown was allowed to establish through constant bullying both online and off that only men have the right to feel comfortable in our city’s high-powered progressive circles. As San Francisco continues to cozy up with its new moderate identity, I hope he is remembered less for being a bon vivant and more as a sign that our once-vaunted avatars of progressivism were spending too much time pounding double shots at the Buck Tavern -- while the world changed around them.

Comments

Even if so, there are probably many in SF. Wanna give your address, phone number, email, SSN?

Didn't think so.

Focus on the message and not the messenger.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

A hate filled name calling diatribe against the author for relating her and others' versions of their interactions with h. brown is easy to write anonymously.

To marke b, when is the change to the new more fruitful comment format coming?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

He called her out on waiting years before seizing this chance.

He called her out on not simply being a little tolerant and flexible - those well known progressive SF values.

He called her out on penning a nasty hit piece.

Maybe you should address the criticism rather than playing the PC card yourself?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

The commenter called her a sullen bitch and demeaned opinions because they came from "girls". You defend that? That's what I'm addressing.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

He said that that piece of writing came across that way.

It was, as noted, a cheap piece of PC card playing. I think she could have resisted the urge and given h. brown his day in the sun.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

Sure, not everyone writing here has a great sense of humor, but come on, isn't Steven T. Jones enough for you? His satirical pieces are at least as funny as anything Stephen Colbert does. I can't read a single one without cracking up.

Posted by Lydia on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

At least admit your own bigotry rather than hold on to some fantasy about a more quaint time.

Remember when everyone knew their place and didn't challenge injustice? Such a time probably never existed, but you would be happier there, alone, which is probably how you live now based on the hate and idiocy that you write.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

classic error to judge the morals of another time by the standards of today.

There were good and bad aspects to life back then, and there are good and bad aspects now. Claiming that we are somehow morally superior just because we were born later undermines the fundamental truth that age brings experience and wisdom.

Brown was the kid who saw the Emperor was naked. he deserves respect rather than cheap allegations of political incorrectness.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

put forth to excuse racism, misogyny and other indefensible behaviors. Seeing the naked emperor doesn't excuse playing grab ass or some of the other actions related in the article, if they indeed happened.

My 2nd grade teacher taught us that we can't judge badly the slavery era because, in your words, "it is a classic error to judge the morals of another time by the standards of today." As an 8 year old, I knew it was bullshit, and you should too.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

You should talk to those who actually study and teach history about this, rather than just try and convert every study of history into some trumped up liberal revisionism.

Our history is what it is and your ancestors played a big part in what happened. They would turn in their graves to hear how you disrespect them.

I repudiate your political correctness, and the victim mentality, identity politics and card playing that that encourages.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

are not universal to all cultures that have existed in human history, so the argument about ignorance because of previous times is garbage.

I don't care about you or what you repudiate. Everyone has the right to be an asshole I agree. But that right comes with consequences. Perhaps you can share with us what consequences you have faced.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

Telling the truth may ruffle some feathers and rattle some cages, but I can live with that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

Great parody of the misogynist cliche. Almost sounds as if you mean it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

SFBG falls too easily into cliched card-playing.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

Not for the reasons you think mostly. Although this was pretty good "Female progressives are generally a ragbag of frumpy, chubby middle-aged bad-tempered women with no wit and lightness of being. Sad but true. And Brown called it."

Women shouldn't have to put up with dude just because he comes from a "different era," I'm pretty close to fifty and if dude said what is claimed he said to someone I know there would be only one stern talking to. Making cracks about how many feminists screwing in a light bulb is one thing, his comments if true seem a little too much.

I guess the feminization of progressive culture is complete, the men can't handle a one of their own acting out, I suppose one need only look at the apologia for Mirkarimi.

What really made me laugh though is that a go-to progressive deflection is to attack a person for holding a position based on their race or noting a persons race when they don't agree with that person. An old white liberal is a sexist jerk, it must be because of his position of privilege as a white man. Throws a monkey wrench in all the lefts racialism and sexism theories that they project on the world.

Posted by Grist on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

@Guest - I'm over 50 and I have no patience for sexist bullshit, nor for excuses made for sexist bullshit. By the way, I think you'll find that "anyone over 50" includes an awful lot of people who aren't male.

Anyone who can't learn something -- at any age -- is by definition reactionary, not progressive.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 6:59 pm

ephemeral standards of today. Card playing will too go out of fashion. Just wait.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

"progressives"...

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

Progressives failed when they decided that economic freedom was less important that economic bondage of others to to subsidize their personal agendas. Now they are thoroughly reactionary children who deserve to be run over by buses..

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

been co-opted by a bunch of self-absorbed whiney parasites looking to get a meal ticket from the hard work of others.

I'd take h.brown's hardscrabble approach to liberalism over any number of so-called progressives who merely try and run envy up a moralistic flagpole and call it justice.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

Love how all the people coming to his defense are conservatives, while progressives want nothing to do with him. H is in good company.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

their comments about h. brown.

But most SF'ers are moderates anyway i.e. neither conservative nor progressive.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 6:31 am

Steven,

You backed David Chiu and ignored his sins. He was the swing vote in allowing 1,400 units of rent-controlled housing be destroyed at ParkMerced. 1,400 units!! That's more lost rent-control units than we lost in 10 years of Ellis evictions. He was your golden boy for the BOS and you ignored the fact that he co-founded (with Tim Dick) a firm they named 'Grassroots' and the industry calls 'Astro-turf'. They took $350,000 from the Republican National Committee in 2000 to help elect Bush. They were on both sides of the Yucca Mountains Nuclear Waste Repository fight and
they got caught. They had the original contract to represent the fundamentalist nut jobs in California's Prop 8 and only withdrew when David announced for supervisor They gave $50,000 to Dick Cheney's energy task force that studied the world's oil supply and laid the basis for the invasion of Iraq. You forget that?

Much more, Steven but I'm betting you'll do your usual cowardly bit and ban my comments after a day or so.

Hell, I understand why you won't debate me.

You know I'll kick your metaphorical ass in front of your friends.

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

But SFBG would rather focus on your arid, nuanced sense of humor than your acuity about the failings of the establishment left.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

Not many brains cell left huh?...and the ones that are left seem to be misfiring. Best to crawl off.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

@h. brown - So, in summary, a woman writes up a piece about your sexism. Your response is to ignore what she has to say, turn your attention to a man, and change the topic.

Gee, you really showed her.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 6:39 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

What does Steven Jones' supposed attitude to David Chiu have to do with Your boorish behavior?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 10:35 am

It was only a bruise!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

Bobby Riggs may not be an apt parallel. His pre-match bluster and shit-talking was a professional wrestler’s kayfabe, which was appropriate for the circus-like atmosphere of the event:
King entered the Astrodome in Cleopatra style, carried aloft in a chair held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed in the style of ancient slaves. Riggs followed in a rickshaw drawn by a bevy of scantily-clad models. Riggs presented King with a giant lollipop and she gave him a piglet named Larimore Hustle. -Wikipedia

And he was friends with King afterwards. I think it’s widely understood that he was playing a heel to further the cause.

Posted by Mariachi on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

Bobby Riggs may not be an apt parallel. His pre-match bluster and shit-talking was a professional wrestler’s kayfabe, which was appropriate for the circus-like atmosphere of the event:

“King entered the Astrodome in Cleopatra style, carried aloft in a chair held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed in the style of ancient slaves. Riggs followed in a rickshaw drawn by a bevy of scantily-clad models. Riggs presented King with a giant lollipop and she gave him a piglet named Larimore Hustle.” -Wikipedia

And he was friends with King afterwards. I think it’s widely understood that he was playing a heel to further the cause.

Posted by Mariachi on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

say that it isn't even close. The old curmudgeon would be twenty times as entertaining as the woman who managed to lose D6 dismally.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

I gotta go get likkered up, kick the dog and beat the wife before responding to these co-opted neo-liberals. Tough to get down to that level.
GO GIANTS!!!

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

I've had my disagreements with you in the past but the way you were treated by h. was abominable and good for you for calling out the misogynist bullshit.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

Testing out a protagonist is SOP. And by Caitlin's own admission, she didn't have a comeback, even though she self-identifies as "mouthy" (her words).

Some people let stuff go and some dwell on it for years, waiting and hoping for revenge.

The former are more noble.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

described herself as "mouthy."

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

Perhaps Caitlin can enlighten us as to what her telling comeback was?

I'd assume nothing, since she has clearly been waiting all this time to sling some shit back.

If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

I'm confused about your meaning of if you can't take it, don't dish it. Do you mean if you can't "take" inappropriate sexist comments then don't "dish" being physically present at an event that you're covering as a reporter?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

then either accept that or deal with it appropriately at the time.

Rather than, say, waiting patiently for years feeling all angry and bitter and resentful, and then wait for a moment when your quarry is vulnerable and then engage in some cheapskate PC shot.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

So in your estimation the fact that she wrote about it at the time (link in the article) is not dealing with it appropriately?

Is it not the burden of each individual to refrain from engaging in sexist behavior?

Or do you think the burden lies with the individual who is being insulted, loudly, in public, at her first aassignment to have a come back ready?

It is telling that a person can so easily find many quotes detailing his sexist behavior in a 24 hour turn around from a query on Facebook prompted by the article which praises him. H. Brown is a notorious sexist who was never rebuked in a way that made him stop and think. Nor did any of those people in power in the room (like the former President of the Board of Supervisors) stop his behavior at the time.

That's what this is about: not some contest of wits, but structurally supported sexism.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 6:51 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

So, just to clarify, if you're a reporter who writes about someone's sexist behavior you're a tattle tale. Is that correct?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

Caitlin should have had at it at the time rather then sneakily tried to be snide about it later. Guys know this stuff instinctively.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

when will they stop tattling on me?? Mommmmyyyy!!

Posted by marke on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

I effing love you Marke.
xoxo
D.D.

Posted by D. Disaster on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 1:07 am

Then again, you don't date them so can afford to be all sensitive.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 6:29 am

Hey guy,

I called you out and would like for you address what you think of Chiu's hand in destroying 1,400 rent-control units at Parkmerced. Speak to his company's biggest early clients, namely the Republican party and every right-wing homophobic fundamentalist Christian nut job group in the country. Hell, they had Randy Tate on their Board of Directors and his previous stint was heading the gay-hating, Christian Coalition.

You gonna respond, Steven?

Huh?

Huh?

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

Finally SF will be rid of your filth and degeneracy. And neither of those have anything to do with the fact that you're a smelly alcoholic, but rather than you treat women like shit and are a closet homophobe. So just get the fuck out of dodge.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

such bravery from a person ashamed to post their name to their comments lol

Posted by i. brown on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

You're a hideous old bully who especially enjoys targeting women, you got called out on it and your response is to bully some more. Pathetic.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

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