San Francisco has long stood as the birthplace of many things pop culture: television shows, movies, songs, fashion styles, lifestyles and everything in between. Popular culture wouldn’t be what it is today without the influences from the City by the Bay. Here is small sampling of San Francisco’s contributions.The Painted Ladies, as seen in the opening credits of the hit sitcom "Full House" — Photo courtesy of Spondylolithesis/iStock
The Beat Generation
The Beat Generation was a generation of poets and writers that congregated in San Francisco in the 50s, after WWII. The common thread among them was a feeling of being unsettled, unsure of what the world would become and how they would fit into it. The Beat Generation is widely known as the people who started the hippie movement, a collection of frustrated young people, many whom settled in San Francisco. Among the most famous beat authors was Jack Kerouac, known for writing On the Road. Today, travelers can learn more about the generation with a visit to The Beat Museum in San Francisco’s North Beach district.
Harvey Milk and the film Milk
Thanks to the efforts of a few key people, San Francisco is a now haven for persons of all sexual orientations, religions and lifestyles. Harvey Milk was one of the people who ushered in this culture of tolerance. A shop owner in the early 70s, Milk went on to run for election as an openly gay man. He was met with harsh opposition from the public and other officials, but he prevailed and was named a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978. He died of a gunshot wound just a few months later and today is memorialized by the city with a statue. His story was also told in the critically acclaimed 2008 film Milk, starring Sean Penn (a real-life resident of the Bay Area) as Harvey Milk.
“I left my heart In San Francisco”
It was 1961 when a little-known singer named Tony Bennett walked on stage at The Fairmont Hotel and first sang “I left my heart in San Francisco.” The ballad quickly became the anthem for the city and can still be heard on repeat over loudspeakers in high-end hotels today. The song’s title has also turned into a phrase often spoken by people who’ve left the city and yearn to return.
“Everywhere you look, everywhere you go. There’s a heart…” If you grew up in the 80s, you are most likely bobbing your head and humming along by now. Those three lines started the theme song to Full House, a television show filmed between 1987 and 1995 that followed a father (Bob Saget), his four daughters (including the Olsen twins) and their two uncles (John Stamos and Dave Coulier) all living under the same roof. Although it was filmed on a Los Angeles soundstage, the show was set in San Francisco and its opening credits featured a beautiful view of the city from Alamo Square Park with special attention on the Painted Ladies (a collection of pastel-colored, Victorian-style homes).
Bullit car chase
The steep hills of San Francisco were made even more famous thanks to Bullit, a 1968 film starring Steve McQueen. The movie is known for its car chase where McQueen’s character, which was based on Dave Toschi, a real-life homicide inspector famous for his work with the Zodiac killings, chased a killer in a Dodge Mustang.
Note: The “Zodiac killer” was a man (today still-unidentified) who was a serial killer in the late 60s and early 70s, killing at least five people and simultaneously sending letters to San Francisco press outlets.
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”
Popular soul singer Otis Redding was sitting on a dock in Sausalito, a small town on the San Francisco Bay, overlooking the water when he first thought of the lyrics for what would become “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” Redding would go on to record the single in 1967. Sadly, Redding died in a plane crash a very short time after the recording. The song was released the following year and topped the U.S. charts.
Bill Graham is synonymous with the history of San Francisco’s music scene. Graham, a rock concert promoter working in the city in the 60s and 70s, made famous what is now The Fillmore Theater in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood by introducing the world to acts such as Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Graham died in 1991 in a helicopter crash. The San Francisco Civic Auditorium, a live music venue, was renamed the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in his honor.
San Francisco lovers: what would you add to this list?