From One Typewriter To Another


There’s nothing like a fun local story to get your attention and when the name Tom Hanks is included, a big smile is likely to go right along with it. This was the case when I caught up with Gary Fiset recently. He shared just such a story with me.

If the name Fiset rings a bell, it should. Gary, an established promotion and marketing guru in the Bay Area, is also the son of the late great investigative reporter-turned-columnist Bill Fiset, who penned his daily column for the Oakland Tribune starting in 1956.

With the recent release of Hank’s book “Uncommon Type: Short Stories” coupled with his passion for collecting typewriters, Gary had an idea. “I always thought Tom Hanks would do a great job playing my father as a crime reporter,” he shared. With the release of the film “The Post” now playing in theaters, I suggested a Netflix series might be the way to go. Hint, hint.

As the rest of the story goes, Gary decided to reach out to “Mr. Hanks” via mail this past November. “My father was Bill Fiset, a reporter and syndicated columnist for the Oakland Tribune for 31 years and the SF News Call Bulletin before that,” he began.

Fiset’s family was thrilled to discover that Hanks’ new book had a character named Hank Fiset and they were hoping that Bill had been the inspiration since Hanks was “a local boy and might have been a reader of his.”

Understanding Hanks’ affection for typewriters (he has over 150 in his collection) Gary included a photo of his father’s “faithful Underwood which he pounded out hundreds of thousands of words for over 33 years.” Adding to the flavor of his letter, Gary addressed his envelope to Hanks with his father’s typewriter too. He included some old clips of Bill’s work as a front page crime reporter “that illustrate how rare murder trials were in the day” along with his obituary. On behalf of his family, he signed off with: “We’re all fans of your work and look forward to your emerging literary career!” Then off to the post office it went.

To the Fiset family’s surprise and delight, Gary received a letter in the new year that was typed on one of Hanks’ typewriter treasures. Penned on Hanks’ stationary, the December date was typed in classic red typewriter ribbon ink and the letter in black.

“Dear Gary Fiset,” he began. “I had played with the name Bud Fiset, in honor of my Dad (then we would have been some kind of step-brothers) but used Bud in another of the stories. Thus, Hank Fiset was born, and if you take the s off my last name, we still have some kind of relation, I guess.

“Thank you for the articles your dad wrote as a True Crime reporter. I only knw [sic] of Bill Fiset, the columnist. In the morning there was Herb Caen in the SF Chron, the afternoons were your Dad’s. I’d read both on some days.”

He went on to share how he never had his own paper route but would help some friends occasionally “deliver the afternoon Tribune and, ugh, some of the Sunday Morning heavyweights.”

He continued: “I’d pass through the city of Oakland with the Tribune Tower looming over our fair city, wondering if the famous Bill Fiset was at his desk right then…

“That underwood is a gem [Fro Note: ‘gem’ is typed in red]. Hang onto it, or auction it off for no less than a million bucks. That is a working man’s writing machine!

“Throw deep, Baby, as Kenny Stabler said …”

WEEKEND SCENE: Stanley Jordan Trio Friday, David Benoit, Marc Antoine Saturday, Brothers with Beats II, Special eFX All Stars Sunday at Yoshi’s Jack London Square Oakland, yoshis.comJai Uttal and Friends Valentines Celebration Friday, Mr. Sun Saturday, Dead Winter Carpenters, Rainbow Girls Sunday at Freight & Salvage Berkeley, www.thefreight.orgJim Cordiss, Friday, Saturday at Zio Fraedo’s Pleasant

Hill, www.ziofraedos.comJanice Maxie Reid Birthday Tribute to Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley Saturday, Ensemble Bizarria – The Vulnerable Wolfgang Amadeus (4:30 p.m.), Vocal Jam Session (7 p.m.) at California Jazz Conservatory Berkeley, cjc.eduAki Goes to Bollywood Saturday, Hillbilly Hootenanny Revue Sunday at Armando’s Martinez, armandosmartinez.com ... Mary Wilson (Sold Out) Friday, Saturday, Lucy Arnaz Feb. 23-24 at Feinstein's at the Nikko San Francisco, www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com.

COMEDY SCENE: Sinbad Friday- Sunday, Dennis Gaxiola (3:30 p.m.) Sunday at Tommy T’s Comedy Club Pleasanton, tommyts.comShawn Wayans Friday-Sunday at Cobb’s Comedy Club San Francisco, www.cobbscomedy.comZainab Johnson through Saturday, SF Comedy Showcase Sunday at the Punch Line San Francisco, www.punchlinecomedyclub.com.

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