By Dennis Rockstroh
So long. This is my last column for the San Jose Mercury News and another dozen dailies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It’s been a long time since 1973 when I walked into the Mercury News newsroom after reporting from places like Vietnam, Okinawa, Barstow, Thousand Oaks, Beverly Hills and Santa Paula.
One of the assistant editors asked the city editor, “What should we do with him?”
So I wrote my first obit.
From obits, they sent me to cover Cupertino, mental health, and then later Alameda County. In 1990 I was convinced to write a three-dot column for the Alameda County edition. A three-dotter is a bunch of small, newsy items connected by three dots that look like this … When I mumbled to my wife that I was going to be doing a daily three-dotter, she shot me a puzzled look and asked, “You have three daughters?” To her relief, I explained what a three-dotter was.
From the three-dotter, the column grew into a regular, and sometimes irregular, news column with a sometimes whimsical touch. I wrote about the things that popped into my head such as a list of the 10 best places Osama bin Laden could be hiding locally. Some readers learned for the first time about the Berkeley volcano crater. The column ran three or four times a week until the late 1990s when the editors decided it would run two times a week and my territory was expanded to cover Santa Cruz County. Then, in 2003, I was assigned the Action Line column which ran seven days a week.
So there had to be a favorite column, right? There was.
One day, my editor walked over and asked, “Whatever happened to the Carol Doda sign?” That famous or infamous sign of the legendary beauty hung larger than life in front of the Condor Club in San Francisco’s North Beach. Most noteworthy were the two blinking red lights on her chest. So I headed for San Francisco’s striptease neighborhood and carefully began my investigation.
It turned out that the sign had been removed in two parts. A man from Sausalito bought the blinking top part. But Carol Doda’s bottom was missing. I called her up and told her what I was doing. “I can’t find your bottom,” I informed her. And she replied without hesitation, “Well honey, I’ve been working out.”
So I’m done here, 70 years old and time to fade away.