Herb Caen, Emperor Norton & "Frisco"
The 6 September 1995 entry from legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen (1916-1997) included the following note:
This amounted to a late-in-life recanting of the Frisco Doctrine from the person who widely is recognized as San Francisco's modern theologian of anti-"Frisco" orthodoxy.
Almost invariably, in fact, those who champion the Doctrine today cite two authorities, Caen and Emperor Norton — not necessarily in that order — to buttress their position.
For decades, the famous injunction levying a fine of $25 against anyone "heard to utter the abominable word 'Frisco'" has been attributed to Emperor Norton. And — although we've seen no evidence that he ever wrote or said anything of the kind — it seems to be taken for granted that Caen must have caught the ant-"Frisco" bug from the Emperor.
So it's worth noting that, in Caen's little essay, "Don't Call It Frisco," which introduces his 1953 book of the same name — i.e., in the one place where one would expect to see Caen making his bows to Emperor Norton on this subject — the Emperor never comes up.
The Emperor doesn't even make the index to the book.
Caen concludes his essay by writing, simply:
More than than 40 years later, Caen revived "Don't Call It Frisco" as the title of a 3 March 1995 column that includes the passage most frequently cited today to sum up Caen's position:
But, again, no mention of the Emperor.
Herb Caen had his reasons for not liking "Frisco."
But perhaps they had very little to do with Emperor Norton.
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