"Spineless, out-of-town politicians named my bridge after San Francisco's most notorious influence peddler and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
Sounds like a business opportunity. Indeed, the one thing missing thus far from the sordid saga of the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bay Bridge was a mercantile element. And now that's been solved.
Bob Cooper, a man who once made puppets for George Lucas until being replaced by a computer and once tried to run one for San Rafael City Council until being told only sentient puppets may attain elected office has launched EmperorNortonBayBridge.com, a site hawking various and sundry items emblazoned with the moniker of San Francisco's most beloved drunken lunatic.
"Emperor Norton was a businessman," notes Cooper. "What was missing from this equation has been merchandise."
Well, that is the American Way.
In fact, Joshua Abraham Norton was not just a businessman but a speculator who lost a vast fortune in the rice futures market. This reversal affected him rather profoundly. In 1859 he declared himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico and spent the rest of his life shambling through San Francisco and issuing grandiose proclamations (among them the then-fantastic notion of erecting a bridge spanning the bay).
Cooper says he doesn't believe he's sold any goods yet, but he hasn't checked today. "People told me they were gonna buy some stuff."
People might buy more if his T-shirts actually displayed a picture of the bridge in question. Cooper acknowledges this point, and says he's working on it. "I wanted to get some really nice pictures of it."
But, he emphasizes, it's about Emperor Norton. "The name is what I want to emphasize at this point. That's what I'm trying to sell."