May 2010 cover with self portrait by Colette Calascione

The Monthly, (formerly known as The Telegraph Monthly, the Berkeley Monthly, and the East Bay Monthly) turns 40 in October and has put out an anniversary edition pondering the question “What Makes the East Bay Unique?

The magazine’s writers have asked 40 “local luminaries” for some of their favorite memories of the region. As you can imagine, those interviewed waxed about the things that make Berkeley and the East Bay a special place: the weather, the food, the zany politics, the cultural diversity, the tolerance of different races, religions, and sexuality. The responses aren’t on-line yet (the magazine seems to post articles the month after they appear) but are really interesting. It’s worth seeking out a hard copy of the October issue.

Here are some (slightly condensed) examples:

Michael Pollan, author and journalist: “I did a book event at Cody’s where a woman in the back kept jutting her hand in the air with a scary expression. I had been talking about agriculture, and specifically about pests – the various insects, diseases, and animals that molest crops. When I finally called on her, she leaped out of her chair. “I object to your use of the word “pest.” You should call them “associate species.”

Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor: “The first time I visited Berkeley was when I came here as a research assistant in 1968. I vividly remember getting out of my beat-up Volkswagon at the corner of University and Oxford and taking a deep breath. I had never smelled anything like it before – a combination of eucalyptus, marijuana, and tear gas. I’d arrived on a different planet.”

Alice Waters: We have unique places to gather – amphitheaters in a neighborhood, hidden places. Berkeley is the only place I’ve ever seen people sit out in a median strip as their own private park. That little space between the two lanes of traffic on Shattuck Avenue (near Chez Panisse), it adds something unimaginable, makes me smile.

Kris Welch, KPFA radio host: In 1974, I had just turned 29 and I walked into KPFA wearing my mother’s skunk fun coat and a dress I had made myself. Purple with red bunnies on it, and incredible purple-and-red eye shadow. The women in Berkeley then were wearing Army fatigues, no makeup, hairy legs. I walked up to the receptionist and asked, “To whom would I speak about a job? And she burst out laughing.”

Manda Heron, owner of Body Time: “We were the original Body Shop, and we opened in CJ’s Garage on Telegraph. It was an old garage converted to little shops, the epitome of the hippie ‘60s and ‘70s. The East Bay was a thrilling place to be then; things were shaking here.”

The Monthly was started by Karen Lance, who came to Berkeley from Miami in the late 1960s. She met and married Tom Klaber. Allan Coult, the founder of an underground paper who briefly served as owner of The Berkeley Barb, suggested to Karen and Tom that they start a shopper, according to an interview done by Paul Kilduff. They named it The Telegraph Monthly. It later became The Berkeley Monthly and is now known just as The Monthly (although its corporate name is still The Berkeley Monthly.) The magazine has its headquarters in Emeryville and has a circulation of 80,000. Karen Lance Klaber, 62, divorced her husband Tom in 1983 and has been the sole owner of the magazine since 1981.

The Monthly is well-known for using local artists to design its covers and for its high-quality journalism. The current editors are Autumn Stephens and Sarah Weld.

Happy 40th anniversary, The Monthly. Berkeleyside is just a year old and we admire your perseverance and tenacity.

Avatar photo

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...