Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bill O'Reilly Hates Coit - Us, We Love It

The Onion and The Daily Show have long been my ideals for covering the dissecting much of the news of the day. Satire gets to truth much faster and accurately than boring analysis. So last night, I was greatly pleased to see Countdown with Keith Olbermann take the only sane and responsible route for discussing O'Reilly's call to arms against San Francisco.

He didn't invite a politician or regular "liberal" pundit on to whine, complain, or rant in outrage. He had a comedian, Mo Rocca, on to ridicule O'Reilly, which is all he deserves. Because O'Reilly is engaged in theater, theater is the only appropriate response. (My favorite part paraphrased -- Rocca: "I'm disappointed that Bill O'Reilly, an 'up by your bootstraps kind of guy,' would expect a sprawling bureaucracy like Al-Qaeda to blow up Coit Tower for him.")

Mo Rocca also made fun of O'Reilly's obsession with a phallic symbol, which reminded me of a story I'd heard of Coit Tower's history long ago. Lillie Langtry, a famous actress and adventuress, came to San Francisco and fell in love with its firemen, so she had Coit Tower built as an homage to their long hoses -- Coit Tower was actually erected as a phallic symbol and tribute to a horny woman's love of firemen.

Now, I could have sworn I heard this story from a University professor teaching the history of California. And that story of its origins stuck with me all these years, though I hadn't thought of it again until last night. This morning I looked it up and discovered it's not true.

A woman named Lillie Hitchcock-Coit was an avid fan of the firemen in San Francisco from the time she was a teenager, when she gained fame for jumping in to help tow a firetruck up a hill. When she died in 1929, she left money for the city to use for a memorial to the city's firefighters. It was the executors of her will who decided to build the tower, which was erected in 1933. It's also interesting to note that, even if they'd used her maiden name, the tower still would have a name to inspire a juvenile snicker.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the professor (on retrospect, he did have a sly look on his face when he told the story) was testing his students to see if anyone would bother to look up the story and correct him. I'm ashamed I never did.

Progressive Women's Blog Ring
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