Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ex-NYT Reporter on Eating Garbage: Sniff It First

From Mark Fagin’s brief interview in the San Francisco Chronicle today with The Hate Man, one of those “colorful” street characters who populate Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue:

Q: Why do you like to eat out of trash cans?

A: It’s free. It makes your immune system strong. It’s risky and offensive to some people, but I’m cautious. I sniff it and don’t just eat anything.
How droll.

Only someone who hasn’t owned a business on Telegraph or walked to campus along it can interview an elderly, homeless, cross-dressing, garbage eater about his bizarre habits then write a twee feature about it.

Fagin’s fluff piece is being picked up all over the web, presumably because The Hate Man (real name Mark Hawthorne) was once a reporter for the New York Times. I guess that makes him interesting.

Here at First Nerve Manor, all it does is set off the siren on the Bogosity Meter. So I did a little scouting around.

Mark Hawthorne’s entire by-lined output at the Times (from 1961 to 1969) amounts to twenty stories and a letter to the editor. I’m not sure what was required of a successful reporter in the Sixties, but twenty stories over eight years doesn’t exactly sound like a burn-out pace.

Hawthorne’s first story, written when he was about 25 years old, was published on January 7, 1962. It is one of those “charmingly observed” pieces about the minutiae of urban life so beloved of the Times. It’s about doodles left by contractors on unfinished walls in apartment buildings under construction in New York.

His last, a page one report on Mayor Lindsay’s imposition of rent control on recalcitrant landlords, appeared on September 8, 1969.

In between he covered union strikes and a shakeup at the Democratic National Committee following the party’s disastrous 1968 convention in Chicago. In April, 1966, in “Long Hair and Sex Freedom: A Social Critic’s Proposals for Youth,” he reported on a talk at the Hotel Astor by proto-feminist Marya Mannes.
Miss Mannes called long hair on boys “far more virile and decorative than the crewcut,” and long hair on girls “infinitely more alluring than the teased, dyed, spray-glazed” styles of a few years ago.
Two months later, he interviewed Dallas neighbors and acquaintances of Richard Speck who had killed eight nurses in Chicago a week earlier.

In October, 1968, he wrote about student protesters barricaded inside the NYU library. On March 10, 1969 he was on the front page with “100 Barnard Girls Move into Columbia Dormitories,” a protest meant “to dramatize demands of students at both colleges for coeducational dormitory arrangements beginning next fall.”

Mark Hawthorne was the Times’ man on the scene for every sort of social disruption of the 1960s. That was probably enough to test anyone’s sanity. But Hawthorne, the future philosopher-bum of Berkeley, was more than an observer—he became a participant.

According to the Village Voice of October 23, 1969 (“Keeping a Vigil with the New York Times”) a protest crowd of 150 NYT employees in Bryant Park, most wearing black armbands and moratorium buttons, was addressed by Mark Hawthorne, Co-Chairman of the New York Times Employee’s Vietnam Moratorium Committee. The Voice describes Hawthorne as “thin and lively,” with a “flagrant moustache that covers his face like a thick rust-red vine.”

It also mentions a sign hanging from the window of the Times composing room on the fourth floor that reads “Hanoi Loves You.”

On August 4, 1969, the Times published a letter to the editor from their own reporter:
Even when [the North Vietnamese] scale down the fighting, we do nothing but continue bombing, burning and defoliating. Can no one stop our generals?
One more by-line and Hawthorne left the paper. By his own accounts, he was about 32 years old—an old fart by Sixties standards. He had missed the wave while reporting on it. He hit the streets in 1986 at age forty-nine.

Hawthorne was among a bunch of Berkeley homeless interviewed by CBS News last summer.
Mark Hawthorne, on the streets more than 30 years, was once a reporter for The New York Times.

“I was normal for 35 years and then I got bored,” Hawthorne said.
Riiiight. He was a Sixties wanna-be then he became a Telegraph Avenue garbage connoisseur. Living the dream.

Forget Kevin Fagin’s anodyne Q&A. For a real taste of The Hate Man in action try Sarah Mourra’s 2002 interview with him for the Berkeley student paper, The Daily Californian.
Perhaps the weirdest moment occurred when he politely urinated in a jar while simultaneously giving me a quote (I turned around for that part).
Lovely. Who’s up for doing the Sixties all over again? See ya’ in Peoples Park in 2050. We’ll do garbage.

P.S. March 3, 2011
Welcome, MetaFilter readers. A hat tip to Zarq for the link. Seems the East Bay can't get enough of The Hate Man. Re-reading Chris King's comment, his reference to "the fountain years" suddenly clicked for me. Of course I remember the guy who would stand in Ludwig's fountain c. 1973-4 and screeched about hate. (He was just as scraggly then but less gray.) Not surprised to learn from the East Bay Express piece that he lived in Barrington Hall for a time--just like Pink Cloud . . .


Anonymous said...

i think Hate
worked on the obits
for the times

and think that is why
there are not so many

there were like 17
years before 1986
in Berkeley

including the fountain years

Chris King

Avery Gilbert said...

Anonymous/Chris King:

Interesting. So Hate/Hawthorne was always part of the underground. So to speak.

He was after my time at Cal. As were you? I remember Julia the Bubble Lady, Pink Cloud, the Chemistry Professor(aka Man With No Face), and the guy in silver clothes selling acreage on the Moon.

Olfacta said...

While certainly not as colorful as Berkeley's crazies, we had a couple at UCLA -- Swami X, who was a left-over Sixties leftie who would rant most days outside Kerkhoff Hall, and a guy who went around in a general's uniform wearing a hat with a big plastic airplane on his head: General Something-Something. I don't remember, memory's not so good now.

Anonymous said...

It must be exhausting to be as angry and miserable as you are Avery. I guess we found the real "Hate Man."

Avery Gilbert said...

Tim Giangiobbe:

Oh, man, Barrington was a place unto itself even in my Student Coop days.

Your comment got me googling, and I found a guy who has blogged a bit about Barrington. He went to a reunion in 2009 and took a stunning photo of Pink Cloud who was also there.

Anonymous said...

Hate Man invented the “push”. If you needed a couple of cigarette papers & couldn’t afford the $.025, he would push for it. Standing shoulder to shoulder, you push, not with strength, rather, a mutual flow. If you convinced him that you were sincere enough, you received the papers. People rarely lost.
Also, when you spoke with the HM, until he got to know you, he would interrupt every 1 min. & demand that you say “I hate you”, then he would proceed. He was trying to establish the theory that before you can love someone, you have to admit you don’t trust them at 1st. May not be true, although he had a lot of friends . Ask the people at the Hate Camp.