2017-04-06 03:26:49 UTC
Berkeley’s homeless Hate Man dies at 80
By Kevin Fagan
Updated 9:17 pm, Monday, April 3, 2017
The Hate Man, one of the most colorful and endearing homeless people ever to hit the sidewalks of the Bay Area, has died at the age of 80.
His actual name was Mark Hawthorne, but he hadn’t called himself that since 1970, when he abandoned his job as a reporter for the New York Times after nine years and first took up residence on the streets of Berkeley.
Failing in health for the past year, he died of heart failure Sunday night at a hospital in Berkeley, according to friends who were helping take care of him.
Mr. Hawthorne sported a long beard, often wore women’s clothing, extolled the virtues of eating out of trash cans, and became a fixture in Berkeley’s People’s Park shortly after adopting a life outdoors. A gentle man, he engaged passersby in conversations about everything from philosophy to architecture on Telegraph Avenue and was a calming influence among the street’s other homeless residents.
He came up with his name, he once told The Chronicle, after deciding that honest communication can only be attained after acknowledging that hate exists between everyone.
He made a habit of talking to people only after they first said, “I hate you,” to which he would respond the same, often accompanied by a cheerful “f— you.” He also loved to do a “push,” in which he and the other person lightly pushed shoulders or hands with each other to get acquainted.
“There was nothing hateful about him at all. Eccentric, yes. But he was engaging,” said longtime friend Julie Sager of Concord, who met Mr. Hawthorne on the UC Berkeley campus 25 years ago and often visited him with her daughters for the conversation.
“He was very smart,” Sager said. “He’d talk about anything and everything, philosophy, people. And he loved talking about himself, which was fine, although he didn’t have an elevated sense of importance.
“He kept things calm on the street just by engaging with people with conversation. Even me, and I’m Miss Straitlaced.”
Asked by a Chronicle reporter in 2010 if he really hated everybody, Mr. Hawthorne laughed and said, “I do. But it’s a new way of hating. It’s about being straight with people. ... My idea is to be straight about negative feelings that we all have, which is what hate is, and then you can have a real conversation.”
Mr. Hawthorne was born in Washington, D.C., to a mother who was a schoolteacher and a father who was a reporter for the Associated Press. After earning a degree in English at the University of Connecticut, he served in the Air Force and then wound up at the New York Times in 1961.
He once told The Chronicle that he took LSD in 1970 and decided to hit the streets. After living off and on inside for his first decade in Berkeley, he began his permanent camping life in 1986. His one nod to indoor life was a storage space to hold his continuously growing 20 boxes of “dream journals.”
“He was sort of like a social worker for those who slipped through the cracks,” said his nephew Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, an art teacher in San Francisco. “He was a very caring man, and I feel like his death is the passing of an era in People’s Park.”
Mr. Hawthorne is survived by Ficks and another nephew, Prometheus Hawthorne Jones of Lafayette; and a sister, Prudence Hawthorne of Missoula, Mont.
Kevin Fagan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: ***@sfchronicle.com