Notorious SF: Joefire

Was Herbert Bass of San Leandro a Norton for the Internet era?

Notorious SF: Joefire (Feedback)

Dear Readers: I've heard from some Norton fans who were not at all pleased that I compared Joefire with the 19th Century ersatz emperor. I think it's fantastic that in San Francisco you can compare a man with a fake and a nut - albeit a beloved one - and people think you're trying to make him into a folk hero. But seriously, the principal similarity is in the fact that their respective illusions were justified or co-signed by a kind but willing City with its own agenda. - HD

JD, who writes via Yahoo says: "I was reading your commentary on Joefire, and I realized, he was pretty clearly a narcissist. Not to put him down per se, but just as an fyi to you (& interested others) to put his behavior(s) in perspective. The (cultivated & applied) charisma, the sense of mission, the disregard for inconvenient social/criminal rules, reckless behavior, surrounded by collateral damage... I mention all this since, as a journalist, you may notice a lot of these in the course of writing bio pieces, etc.; some N's are higher-functioning than others (not all N's crash and burn... though many do...) Here's an faq link as an fyi... Anyway, hope you find this interesting and helpful :) Keep up the good work!" - Dear JD: I think what concerned some observers is that folks with the kinds of profiles you and Matt Smith describe most often will eventually either implode or explode. It seems negligent to some that a major U.S. city would have given Bass such access to its leaders - who are, in this case, national political figures - considering Bass' unusual conduct. Many of the mourners appeared to be sincerely gobsmacked upon the discovery that Bass' posse of boyfriends and production partners in Joefire were all made up. But, others had received inappropriate email from Bass "associates" Joe-, Jordan-, and Joshuafire - and said it was obvious at the time that they were all written by the same author. (The -fires all made the same typos.) The photo above shows Bass lurking in the crowd during Newsom's innaugural address after, according to the Joefire journal, Bass had wrapped 'Jordan' in Bass' own jacket in the third row and gone to "network." Clearly, there was a problem. - HD

Others felt like LL, who writes via SBC, that the true lingering questions from the Joefire episode have more to do with the criteria for issuing press passes and the responsibilities of so-called Internet journalists. I couldn't agree more! As time goes on, I believe authorities who deal with online and traditional media outlets will have to ask, "Do we give a press pass to everyone who has an opinion page?" And, if not, why not? (In San Francisco, press passes are issued by the SFPD.) - HD

San Francisco AIDS Foundation
Stop AIDS Project
Black AIDS Institute

He was born Herbert Bass, just like his father, but he rechristened himself Eric-Allen and was later known as Joefire on San Francisco's political scene. According to his obituary, Bass briefly served in the Navy and was a graduate of Penn State. But San Francisco knew Joefire as the controversial political blogger who briefly made a name for himself with a muckraking pro-Newsom, pro-Bush web page and confrontational behavior that amused some and irked others.

Bass, who "lived by his own rules" according to friends, was sacked as a Newsom campaign volunteer. "Do you know how hard it is to fire a volunteer from a political campaign?" asked the official who fired Joefire. The same official said she had to "run interference when [Bass] got it into his head that he was having lunch with Kimberly [Guilfoyle Newsom]." Bass is credited with a city-wide email prank directed against then-mayoral candidate Susan Leal in 2003 and, according to his own writings, he set off a building alarm at the Commonwealth Club and was the subject of some restraining orders in connection with unrelated incidents. Bass made the pages of the Examiner when he claimed that Chronicle editor John Diaz called Angela Alioto a bitch in a public forum, though Alioto and Diaz denied that the editor used fowl language during a confrontation about the paper's coverage of Alioto.

However, despite a critical mass of anecdotes that were circulating about untoward behavior in Bass' past and present, the political establishment continued to provide access and a press pass to its odd propagandist.

When he died of AIDS, alone at SF General Hospital on Thanksgiving Day in 2004, City leaders mourned the gadfly they knew so briefly. Was there genuine affection for the self-styled Joefire, or had the political community unwisely promoted an unsavory character in exchange for a few lines in a blog? Either way, San Francisco turned out to pay respects and pick up the tab. What does this say about the City?

More >> Heart of the City 12/28/04.

Fact and fiction: Eric Allen Bass' Chronicle obituary.

Matt Smith (SF Weekly) reveals more about the secret lives of Joefire, including an embezzlement record and a documented psychological profile that confirms what many had suspected about Bass' mental condition. Smith also serves up some extended excerpts of eulogies and interviews with the man's friends and family. Oh, and that diploma from Penn State - they never heard of the guy.

Allen White (Beyond Chron) mourns his loss of White echoes the tributes of those who would call Bass a charismatic figure, though he admits, "I know nothing of his personal life." White is profuse in his praise for fellow Bass admirer Gavin Newsom for spearheading Bass' funeral arrangements. White's conclusion is similar to Matt Smith's. White writes, "What it all means isn't quite clear to me."

Adriel Hampton (Examiner) honors his friend, Eric Allen Bass.

Pat Murphy (SF Sentinel) writes, "Memory still fresh of Eric Allen Bass passing - our stinging bumblebee on the political scene - my gut echoes Newsom/Daly sentiment that so many people in politics are just awful... Toward the end of Bass' life, Bass and I averted our eyes from each other. We were a strong match, we both seemed to sense, for wielding people skills that had the feel of barbed wire. Yet, I needed my palm on his silenced cheek, knowing both of us could glisten a tear in the presence of goodness."

Last Updated: 12/31/04 13:56

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