"He will be a wonderful case study for future students of journalism, future students of publishing, future students of the political scene in this country," Boston University archivist Howard Gotlieb told San Francisco Weekly's Jack Boulware back in 1996.
Here are a few places where the curious might get an idea of what Warren Hinckle meant to journalism locally and nationally:
The San Francisco Chronicle: Muckraking S.F. journalist Warren Hinckle dies at 77: A comprehensive obituary by the Chron's Kevin Fagan.
The New York Times, 1969: "The Ramparts Story: ... Um, Very Interesting" (subscription only):
It was Hinckle's packaging and promotion that sold Ramparts. "I have no politics," Hinckle said recently. Then he added: "I hate magazines." His fascination was newspapering and he tried to run Ramparts amidst an air of continuing crisis, a sort of super-agitated city room. In the end, it was more like a wire service than a newspaper. The idea would be to wait past the deadline, descend into a bar, rip up all the copy and rush to a telephone to talk to some would-be correspondent holed up in Bangkok or Stockholm. On the spot, this lucky person could dictate his story to Hinckle who then would rewrite it. Everyone at Ramparts admired Hinckle's ability to rewrite stories, which he often did at 3 a.m.
Hinckle gained a reputation as a character as well. The millionaires who bankrolled Ramparts were always impressed by the way he spent money, taking them to lavish luncheons and entertainments and paying for the whole with their own money. Hinckle always flew first class on planes. ... Once he was stranded in Chicago during a domestic air strike, and refusing to take a train or bus to New York, instead flew to London and from there to New York.
Washington Post, 1981: "Two Partisan of the Post: Into the 1980s":
... At 42, Hinckle is still nagging the national psyche like Banquo's ghost at a Tupperware buffet. "I spend a lot of time in the ghettos," he says. "I hang out in very tough circles, in cop bars and garbage bars," and can report with ominous certitude that "there's gonna be civil war in this country within a decade," that in the urban jungles "they're stockpiling rockets." Apocalypse Wow -- all ending, he predicts, in redistribution of income: "The government's just gonna pay off" because "we cannot have 90 percent of the kids" in outlaw poverty: "They're just gonna whack out anybody they come across." Legislation by fear? "At least it's an honest motive."
SF Weekly, 1996: "Hinckle, Hinckle, Little Star" Part 1 and Part 2:
Warren Hinckle is many things to many people. He has been a public relations hack, magazine editor, muckraking reporter, columnist, procrastinator, mayoral candidate, con man, conspiracy theorist, and loving pet owner who recently held a pre-death wake for his ailing basset hound, Bentley, at Stars restaurant, feeding the mutt a final burger before the dreaded visit to the vet. Next to Herb Caen, he is arguably the town's most well-known newsman. ... But how did he get here? How does a one-eyed Irish Catholic son of a Hunters Point shipyard worker end up barhopping with senators and politicos, helping shoehorn mayors into City Hall?
Suck.com Q and A, 2000: "The Hinckle File":
... His credentials read like a dadaist version of "The Front Page." As editor of the seminal New Left and Gonzo magazines Ramparts and Scanlan's in the 1960s, Hinckle was largely responsible for the two most spectacular train wrecks in postwar journalism, and for bringing a sensationalistic, cant-busting sensibility to the comatose genre of left-wing publishing. His memoir of those two magazines, "If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade," is beyond praise as both a black comedy and a cautionary tale. He has worked for both San Francisco dailies and in ventures too numerous and varied to name.
On the Examiner and Chronicle, circa 2000:
Oh, these guys at the Chronicle and the Examiner are all just pipe smokers without the pipes. It's an insufferably middle-aged mentality. They're really boring people who put out a very boring product in a very exciting city. And, in fact, sales of the Chronicle are very low locally. They claim to have 400,000 circulation, but almost all of that is outside the city. And the Examiner I think is under 50,000 in the City. I mean, how boring can you get? You drop your newsstand price from 50 cents to a quarter, which they did a few years ago, and nothing happens? It's like dropping your pants and nobody looks.
The Chronicle was an interesting paper when Scott Newhall ran it in the '60s. He had wild columnists and crusades and stories. They cared about Western history and the environment, and there was a passion to the paper that people picked up on. So people would say, "What are they up to today?" At least it's interesting, rather than, "Oh God, do I have to look at that thing again?" That's the type of journalism I've always done. Newspapers don't yet reflect the freedom and range of opinion that you're seeing now on the Net, and we're going to start doing that.
When we were trying to liven up the Examiner, though, the problem we ran into was with the staff. It was like working with the fucking State Department. These people were so insufferably arrogant and full of themselves. Their idea of an important investigative story is the lead in the water in Tulare county and how that went on for 30 years, and in a seven-part story we will investigate how this went on. Sorry, I just don't think that's very interesting.
Q. Lead in the water seems to be a legitimate topic and a story people would want covered in the paper.
There's nothing wrong with a lead-in-the-water story. But all their stories are lead in the water. It's like, hey, don't you know there are real stories you can find? Or more interesting scandals? Or just make your own news if you can't find anything to report about.
"Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction," by Susan Cheever, 2009: This is an exploration of sexual compulsion. But the book's leitmotif is her marriage to Hinckle -- her third, his second -- and it offers a glimpse of the man apart from his public persona. Here's a passage in which she describes their wedding day:
I loved him for the way his mind worked, for the generosity that had unhesitatingly invited my anxious daughter on our honeymoon, and for his passion for helping those in trouble and those with few resources. I loved him for his searching soul, which always questioned authority whether it was President Nixon's or my mother's. ...
Bancroft Library, Regional Oral History Office: "Warren Hinckle: Journalist, Editor, Publisher, Iconoclast":
The dean of California historians, Kevin Starr, calls this 43-hour interview with journalist and iconoclast Warren Hinckle "rambling, discursive, opinionated, outrageous"—not surprising words given the reputation of the interviewee. Starr also recognizes this interview as a "brilliant first-person evocation of the life and times" of Hinckle—also not surprising given the broad range of topics discussed at sometimes great length and with often profound erudition in this interview.