Local icon and institution Ron Turner and his Last Gasp Publishing house got roasted by the Litquake organization and received their prestigious Barbary Coast Award for a lifetime of literary achievements this week.
Ron Turner is an almost mythological local character, and Wednesday night's roast did little to dispel that larger-than-life status.
Among the evenings revelations: He knew both Charles Manson and the Reverend Jim Jones of the People's Temple. He once smoked a joint with Lee Harvey Oswald. And he's on a first name basis with both Norman Schwarzkopf and Timothy Leary.
Back in the nineties he helped throw one of the most scandalous parties in American history. It was attended by all the local politicians who were forced to witness a satanic performance artist get a pentagram cut into his back with a knife before being sodomized with a strap-on Jack Daniels bottle.
Over the years this party has taken on a mythic status and led to an urban folk legend that the Forty Niners will never win a Super Bowl again as a result of this profane ritual. It's known as the "Curse of The Forty Niners."
The stories told over the evening seemed to keep lurching from the surreal to the scandalously hilarious. But many of the roasters, such as Burning Man co-founder John Law, kept bringing the focus back to the books Last Gasp has published.
Over his decades as a publisher, Ron Turner has created some of the most outrageous books in print: Horny Biker Slut Comics, Amputee Love, Virgin Sperm Dancer, the list of titles just goes on and on.
But Turner is also responsible for some of the most lovely art books one will ever see. Mark Ryden's Fushigi Circus and the three Hi-Fructose Anthologies are like perfect art objects of breath-taking beauty.
A long list of friends and cohorts lined up to take part in the roast, including such luminaries as author Susie Bright, painter Robert Williams and gossip columnist Leah Garchik. Bucky Sinister was the perfect roast host and he kept the hilarious barbs coming fast and furiously.
Comic artist Jay Kinney talked about Ron's role as one of the main underground comics publishers of the sixties, seventies and beyond. Charlie Winton, of Publishers Group West and Soft Skull Press, described their adventures in publishing.
One of the funniest parts of the evening was the Last Gasp Chorus where a group of current and former employees related some sidesplittingly hilarious personal reminiscences.
Michelle Schlachta told a series of stories involving a nude photo of Ron, a comic called Crack Whore, and a wild party at the Mitchell Brothers that was so funny it left me gasping for breath.
Even Ron's son Colin Turner raked him over the coals with comments like: "I think Ron is my dad."
Though the event was a roast, it wasn't particularly mean spirited. Almost every embarrassing personal reminiscence or barb was usually followed by a protestation of love and respect.
In fact, at times it seemed like more of a love fest than a roast, with some in attendance complaining to roasters, like iconic Dead Kennedys artist Winston Smith, that they were too kind. This is not really surprising because underneath his bizarre eccentricities Ron's really a nice guy, and no one can deny his truly great achievements as a publisher.