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Drunk Fact Checking San Francisco Drunk History

With a San Francisco-set episode airing on Comedy Central tonight, we broke out the drinks and searched for the truth.

Drunk History is Comedy Central's series based on the Funny or Die webseries that brought us Michael Cera in a powdered wig and John C. Reilly as Nikola Tesla. Tonight, their episodes focuses on the City by the Bay and features besotted retellings about Patty Hearst, Mark Twain, and an abolitionist saloon keeper. As you might have noticed, here at San Francisco magazine, we love historical facts. And we also love drinking! So we decided to combine the two, and learn about the past while getting sloshed. Here, a transcript of our fact-check, plus our cocktail of choice for each segment.

Is Mary Ellen Pleasant Park really the smallest in San Francisco, and does she actually haunt it?
Accompanying Drink: The Ginger Gold Rush

Mary Ellen Pleasant was an African-American businesswoman who passed as white and became a prominent abolitionist before the Civil War. Her ghost is a character in the 1997 novel Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers. So, the ghost stories are really real, even if you prefer not to believe in the supernatural. Speaking of haunting, @unmarypleasant just popped up on twitter, probably in response to the show. Her namesake park really is known as the smallest in the city: six enormous eucalyptus blue gum trees down Octavia. Pleasant’s Octavia Street property once ran from Bush to Sutter, with a 30-room mansion and stables. As they say on the show, she ran shit. BTW, this drink is really strong.

Was Mark Twain really told the story of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" in a bar?
Accompanying Drink(s): The Mint Julep(s)

Kind of. But not at alllll like in this segment, an inexact interpretation of the story’s framing device. The narrator of the tale, like Twain, is an educated Easterner. Knock knock, he calls on the garrulous old Simon Wheeler who might know of the (perhaps fictional) Leonidas Smiley. Wheeler doesn’t know Leonidas, but spins a colorful tale about a (perhaps fictional AND probably unrelated) Jim Smiley who trained a jumping frog. Boring, amirite? The narrator leaves before hearing the end of the story—Wheeler’s digressions are too much for him. (OMG ARE WE DIGRESSING TOO? SO META!) Twain does claim in his Private History of the ‘Jumping Frog’ Story to have heard the tale in a bar. But he clarifies: It was solemnly told by an uninteresting nobody. If that’s all true, Twain DESERVES CREDIT+++++ for the story, which is more famous for its tone and bizarre narrator than its plot. It’s all like “frog jumps high, frog eats lead shot, frog can’t jump.” Heard it!

Was Patty Hearst a good person and stuff? And was she really that good-looking?
Accompanying Drink: The Irish Car Bomb

Bill Clinton gave Patty a presidential pardon—which means he thought she was hot. A self proclaimed “Urban Guerilla,” Hearst did include herself in the Symbionese Liberation Army, and they probably killed Marcus Foster, a respected black superintendent of Oakland schools. NO JUDGEMENT JUDGMENT JUD G MINT… but the judge found her guilty of the robbery. DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE US. WE LOVE YOU TANIA! 

 

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