Pablo Heising was one of those unique
San Franciscans who loved his corner of the city with a passion that
was a marvel to his thousands of friends.
He ran the Haight Street Fair for 29 years. They called him the
mayor of Haight Street, and when he died of a massive heart attack
at the age of 61 last month, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood knew it
had lost someone special.
"He was definitely a San Francisco character,'' said Supervisor Tom
Ammiano. "We need people like this who help set the context of the
city. He really made a contribution.''
The center of his world was the Haight-Ashbury district near the
Golden Gate Park Panhandle, and in the time of his life, the Haight
was the center of the counterculture of the 1960s. "He had a
romantic view of that era,'' Ammiano said.
He was one of those who still believed in what he felt were the core
values of those days: peace, and love, a good time and a deep
distrust of the established order. Mr. Heising, his friends said,
was open, honest, stubborn, a man with a flair for organizing who
would give away his last dollar.
"He was kind of a hippie at heart,'' said Gary Frank, owner of the
Booksmith bookstore on Haight. "He did a lot for Haight Street.''
He first got in the fair business helping Harvey Milk with the
Castro Street Fair, and then branched out to the Haight. In 2005, he
also helped set up the Asian Heritage Street Celebration in the
His main effort was the annual Haight Street Fair, which he helped
found in 1977. Mr. Heising wanted to recall the Summer of Love in
1967, with booths, arts, crafts and good times, much of it
associated with alcohol and other substances.
The fair drew from 50,000 to 80,000 people when it appeared, like a
mystical town village that surfaced every June.
When the fair first started, Haight Street had slipped badly from
the glory days of the Summer of Love. "The neighborhood was a
mess,'' said Lawrence Hultberg, who was there when the fair started.
"Stores were boarded up, and there were a lot of drugs and unsavory
Over the years, gradually, the Haight changed, and the fair helped.
Mr. Heising ran the fair with an iron hand. "Pablo would not always
display patience,'' said Hultberg. "Pablo was someone whose path you
would not want to cross.''
Yet, his friends said, his anger passed as quickly as a summer storm
in the mountains. "He mellowed with age,'' said Hultberg.
After all the years of running the fair, he had decided that the
2007 street fair would be his last. Instead, it will be a memorial
to him and his vision of the Haight, organizers said.
Mr. Heising -- whose real first name was Paul -- was born in New
York, moved to Los Angeles when he was a teenager, came to San
Francisco with the flower children in the '60s, returned to Los
Angeles for a year or two and came back to San Francisco to stay in
He worked at various jobs, lived in a commune, was backstage manager
for Bill Graham Presents, and went into the fair business. He lived
simply, read books by the ton -- mysteries, literature, books on
religion -- and was an expert on baseball.
"He was a driver, a hard worker in public, but he led a very quiet
life in private,'' said Slick Sarrow, who knew him for years.
He never owned a car. "He trod lightly on the land,'' said Hultberg.
The Haight gradually turned around and became gentrified, so much so
that Mr. Heising could no longer afford to live there. He came to
the Haight every morning for coffee, and on the Wednesday before
Christmas, his last day, he ordered a cappuccino at a cafe, only to
suffer a heart attack. "I think he was dead when he hit the floor,''
said his brother, Bruno.
Bruno Heising survives him, as do his two sisters, Barbara Beedle of
Valencia (Los Angeles County) and Linda Wegner of Atwater (Merced
public celebration of his life will be held on Feb. 25 at Kezar
Pavilion in Golden Gate Park. "It will be in the Buddhist tradition,
said Bruno Heising. "You shed a lot of tears until the tears of
sorrow mix with tears of joy and you can't tell anymore which are
This is where Pablo
Heising passed away on December 20th, 2006
This is the Cafe Cole
Coffee House (@ Cole & Haight Street) where Pablo would go every
morning while keeping an eye on the Haight, like a lion would to
his territory; making sure that everyone was alright.
The rainbow mural
which dates far back in Haight history was in jeapardy a year or
two back and Pablo used all of his powers and connections to fight
for it to be re-painted. The old mural was saved and here's the
result! If you zoom in on the far left corner, their's Pablo
sitting in his throne having a cup of coffee and looking at the