The Ukiah Daily Journal

Herb Caen and “N”

- By Jim Shields

A supra talented, off-thecharts bright woman I admire, and who my wife Susan said was “big brain cool,” responded to my comment last week regarding Bruce Anderson, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Although I've known her for a long time, and was aware she was at one time a “big paper” journalist, she never talked about it much so I didn't press her on it.

Here's the resulting email thread between “N” and me, with Bruce also signing in at the end:

Hello All, Here's this week's Observer. I've written another chapter in the ongoing saga that is the closed Laytonvill­e Landfill. I've said forever, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

As always, check out Bruce Anderson's column. In some ways he's a revved up successor to Herb Caen, except Bruce doesn't freeload at bars and restaurant­s, and he stitches his column together with wicked wit and laugh-out-loud humor while actually making a point.

Hasta Luego, Jim

Ha! I just read the Anderson column start to finish — as you compared him to my old friend and colleague, Herb Caen.

Must say I learned something about the Marin Headlands being connected to the city shoreline way back when — fascinatin­g.

He's a good writer — but I do miss the old three-dot journalism that Herb employed. I got him a lot of his items and must say it was always a rush, even after twenty or more times, to be mentioned in his column. He was charming and funny and we exchanged dirty jokes all the time — something that I guess would be considered “harassment” these days.

And ah, I must admit, I was the recipient of many a “junket” back in the day when it was allowed. As one of the Society pages writers, it was almost hard to not get a free meal when we went out. The good old days … I was gonna write about them anyway, but hey, the paper never paid us much and a free meal was ok by me. Granted, Herb got paid a bundle I assume … and there you have it, three dots!

Never been called “big brain cool” before! Very funny, Herb would be proud! Remember Strange de Jim, one of the regular contributo­rs to Herb's column? Perhaps you are the new Strange de Jim!

Thanks Jim, this is fun — love you lots!

Xoxoxox, N

My Oh My, N,

So you were a ranking member of Herb's intelligen­ce gatherers and crypto-alter egos! Appears you knew him very well.

I only met him once. It was late at night in the late 70s at the Original Joe's on Broadway. It was a brief conversati­on but it led to us exchanging a half-dozen or so notes or short letters over the years. I've attached the final note I received from him. The references in his note won't make any sense to you, but they were about some things occurring when I was in the labor movement at the time.

We'll have to get together and reminisce. Herb was truly a single-model-break-the-mold genius. I always thought his humorist-journalist style could only have been nurtured and grown to perfection in San Francisco where his daily column mined all of the local happenings, insider gossip, political intrigues, the social going-ons of high society and blue collars, and everything spiced just right by his at-theready anecdotes and Herb-being-herb puns.

I still recall when San Francisco was called “a good union town.” And Caen was one of those who said it and meant it.

Thanks for re-kindling the memories, N.

Super Huge Hugs, Jim Ha! The old Chronicle stationary! I remember it well! I also knew his assistant who most probably typed up that letter for Herb's approval and had him sign it. I was working there in 1988, in fact I was probably just a few feet away when your letter was received! I could tell you lots of Herb stories … next time we are together for sure!

But I must say Bruce Anderson is doing a good job too — I like his style!

Even covering Society in the 80's, I always tried to get some humor in there. Couldn't let those rich folks get too serious about themselves!

Sure hope to see you soon Jim!

Xoxoxoxox, N

Thank you Jim, and more thanks to “N” for the Herb Caen look-back. It's humbling to even be mentioned in the same para as Caen, whom I, like everyone else, still miss. Bruce Anderson Thank you “N” for having fun with me, and for giving us a peek at one hell of a newspaperm­an who was one hell of an artist.

Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer's editor and publisher,, the long-time district manager of the Laytonvill­e County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonvill­e Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:

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