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Music, Mayhem, Murders, and Proms | A look back at 45 pivotalóand not so pivotalómoments that helped define the East Bay ethos, from politics and culture to crime and development. | By Mike Rosen-Molina

In 1970, the East Bay was a different world. Berkeley was a hotbed of anti-war protests and counterculture art, as hippies and anarchists made their voices heard on Sproul Plaza while posters advertising concerts by Jimi Hendrix and the Doors plastered walls on Telegraph Avenue. Race relations in Oakland, home of the Black Panthers and the Hells Angels, were dangerously taut. Across the bay, San Francisco was the Bohemian capital of the country, attracting dreamers and eccentrics from all over America. It was against these checkered backdrops that The East Bay Monthly published its first issue, going on to witness gay proms and domestic partner laws, firestorms and earthquakes, Rasputin and Amoeba. The East Bay has changed remarkably in those 45 years. To coincide with its 45th anniversary, The Monthly looks back at some of the major—and minor—moments, from art and sport to politics and entrepreneurship, that together make the East Bay what it is today.

1: People's Park Protests Begin
Berkeley free-speech activists envisioned the parking lot that would eventually become People's Park as a community meeting place, so when UC Berkeley started construction of a new sports field on the site in 1969, it set off a chain of protests that would eventually culminate in one of the most violent confrontations of the '60s. At the Berkeley's mayor request, California Gov. Ronald Reagan sent Berkeley police in to erect a fence around the park and clear plantings. On May 15, "Bloody Thursday," pro-park protesters clashed with police. The park continued to be a rallying point and symbol for Berkeley's counterculture for decades.

2: Altamont Free Concert Tragedy
The 1969 Altamont Free Concert was supposed to be the Woodstock of the West, but today it is more remembered for violence than for music. The Altamont Speedway between Livermore and Tracy played host to acts like Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and The Rolling Stones, but concertgoers clashed with members of the Hells Angels biker gang hired as concert security. During the Stones' performance, attendee Meredith Hunter rushed the stage with an unloaded gun and was stabbed to death by a security guard. The murder appears in the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter, which chronicles the disastrous concert.

3: Zodiac Killer Leaves a Mark
The Zodiac Killer, so named because of the name he used in taunting letters to members of the Bay Area press, terrorized the Bay Area and northern California during the early 1970s. Over the course of his short career, the Zodiac Killer attacked seven people, killing five, but still left an indelible mark on the California psyche with his mocking letters full of bizarre riddles and haunting cryptograms. The enigmatic murderer was never caught, and the California Department of Justice maintains an open file about the case.

4: Chez Panisse Opens Its Doors
Food advocate Alice Waters and filmmaker Paul Aratow founded Chez Panisse in 1971, hoping to capture the intimate atmosphere of French country cooking through locally sourced, organic ingredients. The eatery, a consistent media darling of local and national press, has become a Berkeley fixture known for its high-quality ingredients coming from area farmers, ranchers, and dairies. Chez Panisse chefs invented California cuisine, notably the California-style pizza and the goat cheese salad, and many have gone on to become acclaimed restaurateurs in their own right. Chez Panisse, and Waters, honored this fall with a National Humanities Medal at the White House, remain a locus for the Bay Area and national food activism.

5: Lucasfilm Is Born
In 1971, a young filmmaker named George Lucas founded his production company, Lucasfilm, in a San Rafael warehouse. The same year, Lucas released his first film, a surreal sci-fi experiment called THX 1138 filmed around the Bay Area. The company would later go on to create some of the most beloved and iconic films of the modern era, including American Graffiti, Labyrinth, and the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies. The company moved most of its operations to San Francisco in 2014, but the spirit remains.

6: Rasputin Music Is Founded
Several doors down Telegraph Avenue from Amoeba Music, Rasputin Music completed the Telegraph music scene. Founded in 1971, Rasputin saw the tail-end of the '60s underground revolution and carried the same spirit all the way through to the present day, helping to give the area south of Sather Gate its distinctive beatnik flavor. Now the largest chain of independent record stores in the world, Rasputin has 11 stores throughout the Bay Area and the state.

7: BART Begins Service
Looking to relieve traffic congestion on bay bridges, city leaders in San Francisco and the East Bay had discussed a futuristic underwater tunnel as far back as World War II. The BART system finally became a reality in 1972, when the 12-mile Oakland-to-Fremont track opened to the public after years of planning and building. From then on, BART's growing reach would forever cement the concept of the East Bay in the popular imagination.

8: Patty Hearst Kidnapped
The 1974 kidnapping of then 19-year-old publishing heiress Patty Hearst from her Berkeley apartment brought national attention to the left-wing terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. Even more shocking, Hearst was brainwashed into joining the group's cause and later seen committing bank robberies and other crimes. At her trial, prosecutors convinced a jury that Hearst was a willing accomplice, but her sentence was widely seen as unjust. Her sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter, and Hearst received a pardon from Bill Clinton in 2001.

9: Oakland Elects Its First African-American Mayor
Although one of the most racially diverse cities in the United States today, Oakland didn't elect its first African-Amerian mayor until 1977. Lionel Wilson, who had been Alameda County's first African-American superior court judge before running for election, served three terms as mayor, presiding over the changing city during some of its most tumultuous years. As mayor, he helped to diversify the city government as well as encourage a construction boom that changed the face of downtown Oakland.

10: UNIX Invented
In 1969, Berkeley electrical-engineering graduate Kenneth Thompson sparked the open-source revolution when his Bell Labs team first created the computer operating system, UNIX. But it isn't until 1977, when UC Berkeley computer sciences student Bill Joy publicly released the source code for a modified system called Berkeley UNIX, with the request that computer hackers test it out and suggest improvements, that open source really took off. Since then, open source has become, for many, one of the preferred ways to develop software and, for others, a passion and a way of life.

11: Domestic Partner Laws Are Born
In 1978, Berkeley became the first city in the country to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation as a protected class. One year later, Tom Brougham, a gay rights activist and city employee, was frustrated when his partner was blocked from signing up for city health and dental benefits because benefits were only available for married couples. Brougham pushed to create the city's Domestic Partner Task Force, which worked on creating a domestic partnership program for gay couples. Working with the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club and other activists, the task force drafted the country's first domestic partner/civil union policies, which would later serve as the model for similar policies around the world.

12: Jonestown Massacre Horrifies
Even before cult leader Jim Jones moved his San Francisco-based People's Temple to an isolated compound in the South American Country of Guyana, rumors swirled Jones was a brutal tyrant abusing his brainwashed flock. Congressman Leo Ryan, representing San Mateo County, defied officials to lead an independent investigation into these claims. While helping defectors escape, Ryan and his party were assassinated by People's Temple loyalists under Jones' orders as they tried to leave. Jones subsequently ordered his followers to commit suicide by drinking poison; more than 900 people died. Four-hundred unclaimed bodies from the tragedy are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, where many of Jones' followers were from.

13: What Killed the Dinosaurs
For years, the mass disappearance of the dinosaurs had puzzled scientists, until UC Berkeley scientists posited in a 1980 paper that the giant lizards might have been wiped out by a massive asteroid smashing into Earth 65 million years ago. Physicist Luis Alvarez; his son, geologist Walter Alvarez;and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory researchers Frank Asaro and Helen Michels first formulated the revolutionary hypothesis, which is today the accepted theory for the dinosaurs' extinction.

14: Super Rat Launches West Coast Rap
In its early years, hip-hop was considered a purely East Coast musical form, until 1981 when Oakland's Motorcycle Mike exploded onto the scene with his debut single, "Super Rat." On its face an upbeat novelty song about a talking rat, Super Rat actually communicated strong messages about the exploitation and disenfranchising of African-Americans. The success of Super Rat, essentially the first East Bay rapper, paved the way for a thriving East Bay hip-hop scene and inspired later musicians like E-40, The Click, and the "Godfather of Oakland Rap," Too $hort.

15: The Wave Gives Fans a Role
Although there is some controversy about who first invented The Wave—the ubiquitous audience-pleasing stand-and-sit rhythm game that ripples through the stands at sporting events—most sports fans credit professional cheerleader Krazy George Henderson, who first inspired spectators to jump out of their seats at a 1981 Oakland A's game at the Oakland Coliseum. Now a staple of any sporting event, The Wave continues to delight and annoy sports fans the world over.

16: Fire Scalds Caldecott Tunnel
One of the only U.S. tunnel fires involving the transport of flammable liquid, the 1982 Caldecott Tunnel fire killed seven people in the Highway 24 tunnel between Oakland and Orinda. A drunk driver hit the tunnel wall, blocking traffic and causing a bottleneck. A tanker truck hit one of the bottlenecked cars, spilling gasoline onto the road and starting several small fires, which eventually grew to a major fireball. The deadly event shocked communities on both sides of the hill.

17: Brower Founds Earth Island Institute
Berkeley native David Brower is widely seen as one of the fathers of the modern environmental movement. A mountaineer in his youth, he had a deep love for the great outdoors and the uncharted wild. He served as the first director of the Sierra Club and founded numerous environmental groups, including the Earth Island Institute in Berkeley in 1982. The Earth Island Institute continues to sponsor innovative environmental programs around the world, but is most well known as the leading certifier for dolphin-safe canned tuna.

18: Disarmament Action Day Protest
Thousands of anti-nuclear activists protested across 18 states on June 20, 1983, to challenge the Reagan administration's nuclear weapons program. The biggest demonstration of the day, and one of the largest anti-nuclear protests in U.S. history, took place in Livermore, where 2,500 people blocked access to the Lawrence Livermore Lab, where many of the country's nuclear weapons were developed. In all, 950 people were arrested, among them two members of the women's art and activism collective Nuclear Beauty Parlor whose members penned a synonymous protest song while in jail.

19: Necklace of Lights Relit
Today, the Necklace of Lights surrounding Oakland's Lake Merritt sparkles nightly, adding a cozy, romantic ambience for lakeside visitors. First installed in 1921, the lights went dark in 1941 when World War II energy shortages forced Oakland to cut back. The lights remained off for more than 40 years until they were relit in 1985 as part of a 10-year beautification campaign by the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club. And they've remained on ever since. A point of civic pride, the Necklace includes 4,000 lights strung along 126 lampposts. 

20: Berkeley Becomes Nuclear Free
Most Berkeley residents are used to seeing the nuclear-free signs posted at the city's borders, but it wasn't always the case. Berkeley citizens voted to become nuclear free in 1986, passing a law that allows the city to boycott or fine companies involved with nuclear weapons. The ordinance doesn't affect UC Berkeley, which in 1986 operated a reactor in the university's Etcheverry Hall for research purposes, but the ordinance continues to send a clear message about Berkeleyites' concerns about worldwide nuclear proliferation.

21: 924 Gilman Erupts
Founded in 1986 by punk 'zine creator Tim Yohannan, the Alternative Music Foundation, mostly known simply as "Gilman" for its location at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, is today one of the longest-running independent music clubs in the country. The club helped usher in the '90s punk revival. Punk bands like Green Day, Operation Ivy, Rancid, and The Offspring cut their teeth giving Gilman stage shows, and the club still remains a magnet for young, hopeful musicians throughout the Bay and the country.

22: Loma Prieta Earthquake Stuns Region
In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake sent shockwaves throughout the state. Thousands were injured and 63 people were killed. Oakland saw the highest death toll when a section of the city's double-deck Nimitz Freeway collapsed, killing 42 and devastating the city. After the earthquake, Oakland residents demanded that the freeway be rebuilt along a different route so that it wouldn't divide neighborhoods. A decade later, the rebuilt freeway skirted the edge of the city, and the freeway's former site is now a park. The earthquake also collapsed a 50-foot section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bay Bridge, killing a woman.

23: Take That, Giants!
The 1989 World Series is still remembered as the Bay Bridge Series—so called because the two rival teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's, came from opposite sides of the Bay Bridge. Game three of the series was notoriously interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake, and the series was postponed for safety concerns. But when the smoke cleared and the games resumed, the A's completed a four-game sweep against their crosstown opponents.

24: Huey Newton Slain
Huey P. Newton was shot and killed in 1989 in West Oakland by an alleged drug dealer. An African-American activist and revolutionary who had helped co-found the socialist revolutionary Black Panther Party 20 years prior, Newton was a controversial figure who frequently clashed with the establishment but remained a strong advocate for African-Americans' right to self-defense in the face of oppression. Newton first became involved in Bay Area politics while still a student at Oakland's Merritt College.

25: Nelson Mandela Thanks People of Oakland
Shortly after his release from prison for fighting South Africa's apartheid regime, civil rights leader Nelson Mandela concluded his first tour of the United States with an appearance before a standing-room-only crowd at the Oakland Coliseum in 1990. Mandela praised the Bay Area's long history of support for civil rights, recalling how Bay Area dockworkers had refused to unload the South African cargo ship Nedlloyd Kimberley in 1984 in opposition to apartheid. Attendees described Nelson's visit as "electric" and "unforgettable."

26: Amoeba Music Strikes a Chord
Amoeba Music has been a mainstay of Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue since it opened in 1990, keeping the area's bohemian vibe alive with an eclectic selection of new and used vinyl, audio cassettes, and CDs featuring anything the music lover can desire from skiffle to new wave to industrial. In an age of Amazon and eBay, visitors can enjoy the thrill of the treasure hunt as they peruse stacks of obscure ephemera. Amoeba has since opened additional stores in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

27: Firestorm Scorches Oakland Hills
In 1991, the long, dry California drought proved disastrous when strong, winds quickly turned a minor brush fire into a devastating firestorm that tore through the hills of Oakland and Berkeley. The fire burned 1,500 acres, destroyed thousands of homes, and killed 25 people before firefighters could control the blaze. The redesigned buildings that grew up in the wake of the fire were dramatically different from older architecture, changing the entire look of the region. Game designer Will Wright, who lost his home in the fire, later used the experience as an inspiration for his popular video game The Sims.

28: Emeryville Gets Amtrak Station
In the 1980s, Emeryville was mostly thought of as a polluted wasteland, filled with brownfields left over from World War II manufacturing. That changed as civic leaders and community activists came together to clean up the town as the decade closed, and the city's new Amtrak station, built in 1993, became a symbol of the city's rebirth. At the time, it was the first new station that Amtrak had built in California in 50 years and represented the end of the train's cross-country service, all the way from Pittsburgh, Pa.

29: Spouses Can Rape
Until recently, a partner who had been raped by a spouse had little protection in the eyes of the law; most U.S. jurisdictions assumed marriage always implied consent and had exceptions on the books making it impossible to prosecute marital rapes. California adopted a limited spousal rape law in 1979 but it only applied to forcible rape; in 1994, UC Berkeley lecturer Nancy Lemon led the push to expand the state's law to include all instances of marital rape.

30: Keak da Sneak Invents Hyphy
Oakland-based rapper Keak da Sneak first coined the term "hyphy" in 1994 to describe a long-existing Oakland music subculture. Growing out of the East Bay's clandestine "sideshows"—events where crowds gathered to watch dangerous auto stunts and racing—hyphy was a response to widespread dismissal in the music industry of Oakland's contribution to hip-hop music and culture. Known for its "hyperactive" fast-paced rhymes, big bass, and frenzied beats and dancing, hyphy caught national attention in the 2000s.

31: Hayward Launches Nation's Oldest Continuous Gay Prom
Founded in 1995 by Hayward youth counselor Ken Athey with support from Project Eden's Lambda Youth Project, the Hayward Gay Prom is the nation's oldest continuously running gay prom. They hoped to provide a safe space for LGBTQ youth, and, although initially met with controversy and protests, the event has endured to become a community legacy that now attracts attendees from all over California.

32: The Oakland Raiders Return
When Raiders co-owner Al Davis announced a he was moving the team away from its Oakland home to Los Angeles, he underestimated the love the city felt for its home team. Over the next several years, the city tried unsuccessfully to lure its prodigal team home; when talks broke down in 1990, some disappointed fans went so far as to burn their Raiders jerseys. But fans rejoiced in 1995 when, after over a decade in the City of Angels, the Raiders finally returned home. However, sales of the personal seat licenses designed to help defray the costs of the stadium renovation proved disappointing, and taxpayers still owe millions of dollars.

33: Oakland Defends Ebonics
In 1996, the Oakland Unified School District ignited a firestorm of controversy when it became one of the first school districts in the country to recognize African-American Vernacular English, or AAVE—commonly referred to as Ebonics—as a legitimate language. Opinions around the Bay and the country were sharply divided. Linguists supported the move as a step toward better understanding of the diversity of languages. The resolution mandated that some instruction be conducted in AAVE for students primarily familiar with the language.

34: Naked Guy Attends Berkeley
Nearly 20 years later, Andrew Martinez' legacy still lives on in Berkeley, where locals remember him as "The Naked Guy." Martinez acquired the nickname when, as a UC Berkeley student in the 1990s, he attended classes and lectures completely nude to stand against "social repression." Numerous arrests for public indecency failed to dissuade Martinez from his cause. His story ended tragically: Later in life, Martinez started showing signs of schizophrenia and ultimately committed suicide after being arrested in San Jose after a fight.

35: Riders Scandal Transforms OPD
Years before police misconduct became a hot issue in the press, the Riders scandal exposed corruption in the Oakland Police Department. The department ignored complaints that four veteran officers, dubbed the "Riders," flouted the law by planting evidence, falsifying reports, and beating suspects. A rookie cop blew the whistle on the Riders in 2000. One of the alleged Riders fled the country and remains a fugitive while the remaining three officers were acquitted, but the city paid $11 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging police abuse. The resulting civil rights case, Allen vs. City of Oakland, continues in federal court and has led to a number of still-ongoing reforms.

36: Pixar Is Animated
Originally started as part of Lucasfilm's special effects arm in 1979, the company that would become Pixar first created dazzling computer animation sequences for movies like Young Sherlock Holmes that came from Lucasfilm's San Rafael headquarters. The company later partnered with Disney to create its first fully computer-animated feature, the smash hit Toy Story. Developing a reputation as a creator-driven studio, Pixar went on to create beloved films like A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E. The company built a new studio in Emeryville in 2000, and, since then, Pixar's films continue to delight children and adults the world over with the Bay Area studio becoming a mecca for animation aficionados. The latest from Pixar, now owned by Disney, is Inside Out.

37: Gwen Amber Rose Araujo Murdered
Gwen Amber Rose Araujo was a Newark teenager who was beaten to death in 2002 by four men at a party after they discovered that she was transgendered. At trial, the defendants relied on the trans-panic defense, insisting that they acted in a state of temporary insanity after learning Araujo's identity. The case brought attention to systematic violence against transgendered people and eventually resulted in two California laws that limited and then banned the use of the trans-panic defense.

38: Wooo-Wooo, It's Bubb Rubb!
When KRON broadcast a 2003 story about a controversial auto fad in Oakland called whistle tips—which made cars' tailpipes whistle loudly as they drove—no one guessed it would spawn one of the first Internet memes. The reporter interviewed a whistle-tip fan who identified himself as "Bubb Rubb" and uttered the memorable quote, "The whistles go wooo-wooo!" Bubb Rubb's animated delivery, combined with the fact that the car nearly lost control as he and his girlfriend demonstrated their newly installed whistle tip for the camera, made him an Internet sensation and one of the first celebrities of the Web 2.0 age.

39: Berkeley Oak Grove Sit-in
When UC Berkeley planned to remove a grove of live oak trees said by some to be a site sacred to the Ohlone to make room for a new sports training center in 2006, environmental and Native-American activists protested by staging a sit-in. Mirroring the tactics made famous by Julia Butterfly, the protesters built makeshift sleeping platforms in the trees' branches and formed a blockade against construction. The university said that there was no evidence that the grove was ever considered sacred, and the protest drew mixed reactions from the Berkeley community. The sit-in lasted two years, making it the nation's longest urban tree sit-in, until the trees were finally cut down in 2008.

40: Chauncey Bailey Killed
Oakland Post's Chauncey Bailey was murdered in 2007 while on his way to work. The gunman later confessed he was angry that Bailey was investigating reports of financial corruption at Your Black Muslim Bakery. A 37-year print veteran who had been named Oakland Post editor only two months before his death, Bailey was one of the only U.S. journalist to be killed in the course of domestic reporting in decades. His death galvanized fellow Bay Area journalists to found the Chauncey Bailey Project to continue the work.

41: Berkeley Marine Corps Recruiting Protest
A Marine recruiting station that opened in downtown Berkeley in 2007 naturally drew attention in a city known for its history of anti-war demonstrations. Protestors picketed the station and the City Council drafted a letter calling the Marines "unwelcome intruders." In response, 2,000 protestors, both pro- and anti-Marine, gathered in front of City Hall, and state and national laws were drafted to deny federal funding to the city until it permitted recruitment. The controversy faded after the city council modified its language, but opponents of the recruiting station still worked toward removing the station from the city.

42: Cody's Closes
For more than 50 years, Cody's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley embodied the spirit that lured so many revolutionaries, bohemians, and nonconformists to the city. More than just a warm and welcoming respite for readers, the massive bookstore also led the fight against censorship and championed independent book sellers. In 1968, the store served as a first-aid station to help anti-war protesters under tear-gassed attack by the police and the National Guard. When the store was forced to shutter in 2008, it was truly the end of an era.

43: BART Cop Kills Oscar Grant
The fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer at Oakland's Fruitvale BART station on Jan. 1, 2009, sparked outrage around the Bay Area and around the world. The officer shot a handcuffed Grant in the back, allegedly by mistake as he intended to pull his Taser rather than his gun. Bystanders captured the incident on film, and the incident later led to both protests and riots throughout the city. Grant's death later served as the basis of the 2013 film Fruitvale Station.

44: Oakland Port Is Shut Down
In 2011, the Occupy movement swept across the United States and the world, as protestors sought to draw attention to income disparity and the corporate greed that had led to the recent housing crisis. In one of the East Bay's most visible Occupy moments, approximately 7,000 Occupy Oakland demonstrators marched to the Port of Oakland from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. The protest effectively shut down the busy port for the rest of the day, drawing attention to Occupy's complaints but also controversy over allegations of police misconduct during the protest.

45: Mythbusters Shoots a Cannonball
The story of when the television series Mythbusters—which investigates the veracity of rumors and urban legends—accidentally fired a cannonball through an East Bay home sounds like it could be one of the unlikely tales the show itself investigates. But it really happened in 2011. Series stars Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage were testing whether stone cannonballs could be as effective as iron ones when their homemade cannon misfired and sent a projectile sailing through a nearby Dublin neighborhood and through several houses.

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Mike Rosen-Molina is an East Bay writer and frequent contributor to The Monthly who loves history. He missed the moon landing, but he was a firsthand witness to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first video on MTV, and the New Coke debacle.

 

 

Alice Waters (photo courtesy US Gov); George Lucas (photo by APWIre, public domain); Patty Hearst (photo in public domain); Jim Jones (photo by Nancy Wong); Motorcycle Mike; Krazy George Henderson (courtesy krazygeorge.com; David Brower (courtesy Earth Island Institute); Operation Ivy plays 924 Gilman (photo by Acid Maniac); The Oakland fire was so hot it melted a windshield over a steering column (photo by SpiralA photography); Karen Klaber lost her home in the fire (photo by Charles Garland); Emeryville Amtrak (photo by Steve Brown); Gwen Amber Rose Araujo (photo courtesy FindAGrave.com); Chauncey Bailey (photo courtesy ChaunceyBaileyProject.org); A view after the bay bridge following rubble removal (photo by C. E. Meyer/ U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey).