An Ideal Reader

Reading about Bill in these homages, I only wish I’d known him better. To me he was always a guy I hoped to run into more often, but our circles just didn’t cross often enough. Reading these tributes, it’s really wonderful to know that the guy I knew glancingly was the same guy everyone else knew so well. Thank you to everyone who’s written so beautifully about him, and to your tributes I’ll add this anecdote, the result of which a few people might recall. It might explain how Bill ended up in full-page ads in the San Francisco Chronicle, c. 1994.

I started working at the SF Weekly back in 1992, and Bill quickly became my hero. He was the chief copy editor — I think that was his title — but in any case his job was to watch over and polish every word that went into the paper. Meeting him was a shock.

Maybe I grew up around a lot of slow-talking Midwesterners, but Bill was the sharpest, fastest-talking, most eloquent person I think I’d ever known. Everything that came out of his mouth was a bon mot. In fact, I don’t think I’d heard a bon mot until I met Bill. I had frequently read about people uttering devastating bon mots, but I did not personally hear the uttering of a genuine bon mot — astute and erudite and all that — until I met Bill Goggins, whose brain produced them with stunning regularity.

I only worked at the Weekly for a short while, but he and I kept in touch as much as one could in that era, before email was email as we currently know it. A year or so later, I was working as a freelance designer, doing in-paper promotional ads for the San Francisco Chronicle. The campaign we were doing at the time was predicated on the idea that when you opened up the paper, you learned a lot more than you expected to. (The campaign might have even been called, egad, “I didn’t know that!”) So we thought of what an ideal Chronicle reader might look like — a downtown reader in his late20s/early 30s who seemed professional and curious and very intelligent.

I called Bill, and asked him if he’d be the model. I think the conversation went like this:

Bill: You want me to what?

Me: You’re going to be in this ad campaign, where we show ideal readers enjoying and learning from the paper.

Bill: Really? That’s insane.

Me: Do will you do it? We’ll pay you $200.

Bill: Sounds good. Can I do it on my lunch hour?

Me: Done.

He laughed and agreed, and we did the photo shoot outside of the Weekly’s then-location on Brannan Street. He wore a white button-down shirt and khakis and stood on the sidewalk, reading the paper, looking intellectually enervated — not very difficult for Bill. The ad was in the Chronicle, a full page, about a week later, and ran periodically for months after that. I don’t even know if we realized, then, how strange it was that the copy chief for the SF Weekly was essentially selling the SF Chronicle, but San Francisco’s always been an all-boats-rise-together sort of town, so no one said a word about it.

Over the years I’ve run into Bill here and there. He’d be at this or that random party, or he’d be walking through Chinatown at midnight, on the way home from work. He came by 826 Valencia for events — his sister Aimee is a volunteer — and he was always the same Bill: generous and easy to laugh, exceptionally witty and warm. He was a good man, and I wish I’d seen him more and known him better.

My profound condolences to all those who knew and loved him.

Dave Eggers

Sad News

Not knowing Bill previous to July 30, 2006,
I am still reading and processing his beautiful
life story. We were together at the starting line in the
darkish and cool, wonderful San Francisco morning but strangers
and never met. The day had a great energy right from 4:45 am
even before the SF Marathon 2006 started.
I prayed while warming up, while starting to run that it would not happen.
WO was a good person with great family and friends
and through your sweet memories now I know Bill Goggins, W.O.
and feel his spirit as my wise brother, and feel our great loss.
Sorry it’s late in the first paragraph, Bill but just know this,
that you will be present in our hearts, Good Lord willing,
at the 111th Boston Marathon on April 16,2007.
I am the one praying again, starting to run again, with tears in my eyes,
and your memory, huge on my heart.
=== Todd Ryan Bib# 3242, 47 years old out of San Carlos

In Through the Out Door…farewell Bill

I worked with Bill for only one year, but he left a lasting impression. When I saw his name in the SFGate article about the marathon, my heart literally sank…I actually felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I was really hoping it was another “William O. Goggins.” Terrible, but wishful thinking nonetheless.

We clicked immediately. I was the brash and somewhat immature music editor who fought for my writers’ adjective choices and opinions. I drank a little too much at the company parties, and cursed a little too loudly in the office. Some found it annoying. Bill found it charming. He became like a big brother to me, and I often hung out on his desk, next to the big bolt and stacks of books, and bitched and moaned over some minor word change that had been made to my section.

He always gave me advice, but never without letting me finish my whole (and often long-winded) spiels. Bill had this way of looking at you as if you were the only person in the room…as if everything and everyone else moved in silent slow motion and you were the center of it all, loud and clear. He never tuned people out. I think Bill lacked the auto-pilot chip that many of us have, because every moment of everything he did seemed to be with great purpose and intent. Me…well, I can drive 10 miles and not even remember anything I saw on the way.

When I left WIRED and moved to Los Angeles, Bill sent me a very touching “farewell” email. I can’t remember exactly what it said, but the sentiment is something I’ll never forget. As corny as it sounds, he believed in me and wanted to let me know that. You see, I spent many days at the office waiting for the editors to realize they made a mistake in hiring crazy me. I always figured it was just a matter of time before the thugs came in to kick me back out onto the dot com street I came from. Bill let me know that wasn’t the case. And he was really the only person I wanted to impress in the first place.

I’m grateful that I got to see Bill last year, when I dropped by the WIRED office. He was getting ready to leave the magazine and pursue other projects, and he seemed happier than I’d ever seen him. He gave me a great, long hug and told me he was looking forward to some time off. He was as dashing and handsome and clever as ever, and I will always remember Bill that way.

Clare Kleinedler
Los Angeles

A true gentleman

I just heard the news about Bill 2 days ago and am still in complete shock. I only met him once 4 years ago when myself and two friends traveled across the USA — when we reached San Francisco Pat & Ute very kindly provided a meal for us. Bill was there too and was lucky enough to witness our pathetic Irish attempts at drinking tequila!! That one time made a lasting impression though. He seemed like a really lovely guy and a true gentleman.

Bill’s name actually came up in a conversation between my friend and I a few weeks ago. We were chatting about our time in SF and were remembering the night we had the meal with the Goggins that Bill sat in the trunk of the car while Ute drove us all back to San Fran afterwards and let us ladies sit in comfort!! If that’s not gentlemanly then I don’t know what is!!!

From reading the comments posted on this website it’s clear to see what an impression he made on so many people’s lives and although this must be a totally heartbreaking time for Pat, Ute & the rest of the family, I hope it provides some kind of comfort to see how loved, admired and respected he was. There aren’t many people who leave such a lasting impression.

I am so sorry for Pat, Ute & the rest of the family and my thoughts are with you.

Philippa Ekin
Northern Ireland

At the top of his game

WO was my cousin and I am so proud to share some of his genetic excellence.

He was a man for all seasons and so humble in his travels through this world. At family gatherings he would fade into the background and take in all that everyone had to say…when he could have entertained the entire group for hours with his repartee.

He was an old, wise soul, a kind and gentle spirit. I think he has somehow been selected for a role of universal influence which is so badly needed in this world, else why would he have been taken this soon?

Sharing in the celebration of his life was a gift I will always be grateful for. It was absolutely amazing to meet and hear from the many, many people touched by him in both profound and simple ways.

I choose to remember him at mile 21. Both feet off the ground, thumbs up, broad grin, at the top of his game and awash in endorphins. I am sure he left feeling satisfied with his performance in all aspects of his life.

He will be forever missed, but I take solace in knowing he was, and is, destined for great things. My condolences to all of you who share in the sorrow of his loss to us.

Susan Pemberton
Portland, Oregon

Frisko days

Many interns flocked through the door at Frisko magazine where I presided in my own benevolent tyrant way as founder and editor, but hands down, Bill Goggins is deeply etched into my mental hard drive. He was a bit older than most of the other interns there; many were FOC (fresh out of Columbia) or FOB (fresh out of Berkeley). The magazine was often their very first exposure to journalism.

I recall his seriousness, his polite demeanor, his good cheer. Had I a larger budget, I would have hired him in asap. When Frisko closed shop, I was happy to see that in time he landed at Wired. I then watched from afar as he climbed up its masthead. I was proud of his accomplishments. I often toyed with the idea of dropping him a line. I regret that I didn’t.

One incident bears sharing. Frisko was hosting a party at some swank San Francisco restaurant. The usual crowd was there–a mix of Pacific Heights types and dressed-in-black Soma hipsters. Bill walked up to me. He was with an older man. Bill said, “This is my father. I wanted him to meet you. I am so thankful and appreciative of working at Frisko.”

I was stunned. I wanted to thank him for providing the magazine with free labor. He was proud to be there with his father, proud to be affiliated with the magazine.

Of the dozens of interns who ever worked at Frisko, only one had the grace and class to personally thank me for the learning experience. That person was Bill Goggins.

Bill Katovsky

Bill and I – the odd couple

As we exist just now in a state of shock after having Bill taken away from us so absurdly I wanted to share a few thoughts about Bill, thoughts about my relationship with Bill that I never shared with anyone. Sorry but a lot of this is about me, that is my point of reference and how I can relate to Bill. I am sure you all have special memories of Bill an trust they will endure like mine will.

I only knew Bill for the last four years and did not know about huge pieces of his life. I did not know him during his youth, his college years, his married years and I did not know about his work in any respect other than he had a huge work ethic. I can only imagine the number of people he has impacted during these chapters in his life as he had such a strong impact on me in the last four years. Where it is true that we were very different people, we also shared some strong common threads….and I am not just talking about him being Irish and me Scottish hence an immediate comfort in calling each other pricks from the get go. I think that all said and done we shared a love of the ridiculous and a commitment to working hard and creating, at least in Bill’s case, a legacy.

Bill was a person to share speedy intelligent unintelligent rapid diversifying and connected thoughts with, his discourse additionally spattered with the huge wealth of knowledge and nouns that my mind, thought and life lack. My side of the bargain was held up by my speed of thought and Scottish twist. I was about to suggest that another technique of mine that I used to keep up with him was to lower the tone, but on further consideration I realized that he did this too. I remember Bill so excellently breaking taboos almost without so much as curling his lip to announce his pleasure at doing so…..that curl would soon happen though as he saw my appreciation for his efforts given away by my eyes. Bill loved our conversations and so did I. Bill loved the ridiculous as much as I do and I remember the gleam in his eye when he would see me across the room at a party, in a bar, at a gallery or just bumping in to him on the street. We both looked forward to what we were about to share with each other and knew there was mischief in the air. He called me Big Dog, and actually recently I called him Big Dog too; I think we both saw each other as people who command respect and that leads me to share something me that Bill said to me that helped me grow up a lot.

On Robert Burns night, on January 25th, 2003, Alex and I organized a traditional Scottish evening to celebrate the work of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It was a night that took a lot of preparation, thought, consideration, the learning of Scottish poetry, cooking, studying Scottish tradition and incorporating the many other cultures that make up our friends. It was a night of guest and host collaboration. It was a night of much Whiskey (Bill brought bloody Irish Whiskey with a sleekit smile on his face), a night of toasts, a night of culture and a night that ended up in the gutter, as Burns would have wanted. But what it was about this night that I want to share was something that Bill said. In one of the very many toasts participants were encouraged to make about whatever they choose, Bill said some words that helped me remember or even ignite a part of my character that many people did not know about. Bill, in a couple of impromptu lines, said something to the effect ‘We all know Daniel for his crazy ways, his desire to party, to drink and to be the fool but tonight we see that when Daniel puts his mind to something he can be a formidable force to be reckoned with. We all welcome this side of Daniel, thank you’. And you know it is true. Having gone through many changes when moving country, having to start again on all fronts, succeeding in many and failing in some, post split-up with girlfiend sheddng myslef of responsibility for anyone including myslef, escaping from reality for much of my life, trying to take it further than the rest, making friends and enemies on a daily basis, it took these few words to realize or remember that I have unlimited potential that should be used. I have been using much of my potential since that night. It was that night that we both realized that we loved the constructive sides of each others personalities as much as the fun loving destructuve sides. Thank you Bill for the helping hand.

Thinking about the ‘ridiculous’ I remember a great moment. At the Love parade a couple of years ago I found Bill, Jerome, Maru and a few other friends at the Last Supper Club in SOMA. I had pulled myslef out of the craziness of that day for a short while to come into these friends’ world, our worlds seperated by my choice to ‘party’ and lose control to a greater extent than they. I had gone to the Supper Club, wearing a sleavless fur coat and bell-bottom pants with fur stripes (and most prob a hat) for a pitstop before continuing the night in full force. I just needed a few Scotches to sober up and to get away from the music for a while. During that period of life I was also obsessed with core training and that night had decided a good way to train was for people to punch my stomach as hard as they can. Bill, with his strong mutually strong core and sense of humor took to this game like a duck to water. When every normal preson had lost interest in this game after a few minutes Bill did not, nor had I. He started with a very girlie punch (sorry girls), then progressively took bigger punches, followed by running punches, each time laughing uncontrollably on contact, the sound of flesh being beaten resonating through this trendy bar. Bill, summoning all his efforts, gritting his teeth while grinning insatiably took one HUGE punch, the force rebounding from my core back to him sending him flying to the ground. Still laughing he thought ‘Big Dog’. I thought the same of him.

Two months ago I dined with Bill, a more serious evening than the one in the Supper Club. We discussed where we were going in life, what we wanted; relationships, work, where to live and all that good stuff. I confessed to him that I am obsessed with what I earn. He concluded I was an asshole. He told me of his various plans which were then thoughts formulating. I told him he was an asshole. Then Whizz (my ex from 3 years ago) joined us cooincidentaly and we all caught up with an easy sense of comfort and familiarity. I drove Bill home that night, went down a one-way the wrong way, bloody pot head remarked Bill, he showed us the views from North Beach and made five quick final wise cracks as he got out the door. I still do not know what he meant. You see….. where I have only known Bill for four years, on a bit-part basis, I realized that night that there is a history between us. We both saw people come and go in each of our own and each others lives, we have seen each other embarc on new adventures, and during these times we had wise words and wise-cracks to offer each other to entertain, keep it real and help each other. I thank Bill for that. Bill was one of the most impressive men I have known. He was a nicer guy than I. Also, I think he got me which very few people do. I talked to him two weeks ago and I really look forward to talking to him again one day. I believe I will.

Thanks Big Dog

Daniel Newman
Monday July 31st 2006, one day after Bill passed away

Having known Aimee for years, it was by chance that I met Bill. Our good friend Nik Schulz had just moved into an incredible work space, that featured a gallery with regular showings curated by Paul Donald and his colleagues. (The spot across from Zeitgeist, above Scuderia). At one of those shows, we were standing around in a group, and Bill came over, immediately distinguished by his black skull sweater, and totally charmed the pants off of me. I couldn’t quite follow what he was saying, but he seemed pretty confident about it, flashing his sweet smile, and maintaining an extraordinary amount of eye contact.

After that eve, Aimee had to endure my year-long crush on her brother Bill, which brought us all closer together as the two became very central to our social circle. It was at this time that I got to know Paul as well, and helped spend his perk money at Bruno’s eating and drinking, and listening . . . to Bill.

One of the funny things about having a crush on someone, are the lengths to which you make a fool of yourself, unburdened by irrational lust. I can’t think of a better person to have spent all that energy on (except my husband, of course . . . are you reading this honey?) than Bill.

Much love to Aimee, and your family, and Paul Donald. We are here whenever you need us.
Stacey Lewis

“When I grow up, I want to be Bill”

I never had the pleasure of spending time alone with Bill – outside of work, of course, when I’d stand at his elbow, nervously watching him comb over a piece of copy I’d been reworking all day. If he found a snag, however small, I knew I could be there for hours into the evening and possibly have to face the wrath of fractious commissioning editor who would not want to change another syllable. If he signed off and gave me his signature grin (the one that seemed to say “Good work, scout!”), I’d feel palpable relief and have a little bask, because I knew however much of a perfectionist I was, as we all had to be on the Wired copy desk, Bill’s perfectionism was steely, rigorous, and consuming. Everybody there worked hard, but he worked harder, setting standards everyone around him strove towards – however frustrating and occasionally inscrutable his vision could be in the moment.

I worked at Wired on and off from 1995 to 2003. As the years passed, the vegetarian, colorful 20-something office gradually gave way to corporate, Niman Ranch brisket-eating 30- and 40-something hues, with endless staff changes. Throughout this, Bill never budged. Even in the beginning he had an authoritative and brisk, no-nonsense way about him that intimidated me slightly, but which I also admired and took comfort in. Because, well, Wired wasn’t always the warmest place to work. Many seemed too absorbed in their jobs to have time to get to know each other, and as a freelancer I often felt on the edge of things. But Bill was a constant genuine and respectful presence. His wit, dry enough to desiccate an ocean, provided comic relief that cut nicely through the ego-heavy atmosphere, forcing me to look up and laugh from behind my dictionary. By the time I left for good to move overseas, Bill was the last of the crew I’d originally started with, and the one I most regretted not getting to know better. The closest I ever got to confessing my long-held affection for him was telling our coworkers that when I grew up, I wanted to be Bill. I hope that got back to him.

Karen Eng
Cambridge, England

Bill and the boys at Alternative Press Expo 2002.

the force that through the green fuse drives the Goggins

Bill Goggins walked into my office sometime, I don’t know, around 1991, maybe ’92. He was applying for an internship at SF Weekly, where I was an editor at the time. (This was before it was a chain paper; don’t let me bore you with that story.) He had some experience at a public radio station, KALW I think, but he generally seemed like exactly what he was, an overqualified, incredibly smart guy who’d been working in restaurants, bumming around the bar scene and imagining a million futures for himself that never quite came into focus. He was a San Franciscan, in other words, or at least (as I should say) a San Franciscan of that era. Things have changed. I was only a year or two older than Bill, and I wasn’t far from being that kind of guy myself. I had half-accidentally fallen into an editorial position at a weekly freebie rag that was very slowly turning into something resembling actual journalism. And what the hell was I supposed to do with this kid? It was glaringly obvious that he was smarter and better educated than I was.

The editor-in-chief at the time, Marcelo Rodriguez, dropped by to meet Bill, and after Bill left, Marcelo looked at me and said: “He’s incredibly talented, but I can’t understand a fucking word out of his mouth. If you can figure out what he’s talking about, he’s all yours.” Marcelo and I betrayed each other later, as people will in the overly intense atmosphere of a tiny paper where everybody works too hard, but he was an outstanding judge of talent and I’ll always be grateful to him for that. Not on Bill’s account — Bill would have broken down somebody’s door, somewhere and sometime — but on mine. Because I got to work with Bill Goggins in that hothouse atmosphere for three years and become his friend.

I hardly know any of you who worked later with Bill at Wired, because I left San Francisco in 1995 (after New Times bought the Weekly). But it sounds like he already was the same irrepressible, hyperintelligent, hilarious, occasionally awkward and tremendously vital presence that he became at Wired, only in embryo. As anybody who knew Bill can testify, he could get on your nerves sometimes. He could be too intense. He lived every second in that second, wanting you to ride through that second with him, through some overtly obvious pun that had a deeply cynical second meaning and an almost utopian, invisible third meaning, past despair for the future of our planet to faux-crude admiration for a beautiful woman and an especially funny turn of phrase someone else had tossed off and barely noticed, concluding with a belief that Enlightenment wisdom would eventually banish the demons from our universe and a desire to go have a cocktail, or five. He once told me that he thought schoolchildren should recite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instead of the Pledge of Allegiance, an idea that still makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time. And later that night, or the next night or the one after that, we were at some stupid party in some stupid South of Market loft — yes, that was already a cliche, but perhaps a more exciting one in those days — and he informed me, with no doubt in his voice, that he and I were both going to drink five glasses of champagne. Not over the course of the evening, but right now. So we did. The official story about our relationship was that I was the mentor — I doubt I ever had a conversation with him where he didn’t address me as “Cap’n” — but of course with Bill it was very often the other way around.

But here’s the thing: Yes, Bill could be too intense. But I have known hardly anyone in journalism, ever, who was more selfless and less arrogant. With his verbal facility, fact-loaded brain and nuclear-tipped intelligence, Bill could have been a real jerk. But as an intern, he never complained about typing up and fact-checking the listings database (it’s a dreadful task that takes many hours, but it’s also the raison d’etre of every weekly paper). On his own initiative, he made a coffee run for the editors every morning. He not only seemed at peace with the idea that he had to “pay dues” despite the obvious fact that he could have done any of our jobs more efficiently than we were doing them, he seemed to welcome it. Of course he worked harder than anyone and became essential, and in three years moved from all-purpose intern to copy editor to running the A&E section. I can’t remember exactly when he became the go-to guy for headline copy, but I’d say that by the time he’d been there a year, he was writing half the heads in the paper.

By the time the Weekly got swallowed, Bill was among my closest friends. We worked together all day, and hung out several nights a week. I was the editor in chief, but he was the guy who helped me maintain a facade of composure and competence. We might have been too close. We knew an awful lot about each other’s private lives, and even briefly had the same girlfriend at the same time. You can read into that whatever you like. After the Weekly gang split up and I moved to New York, I pretty much let the friendship drop. I don’t exactly know how to forgive myself for that, but of course Bill never acted like I was a jerk. Whenever I saw him on either coast, or we checked in by email, the crazy-intense friendship seemed to pick up at the moment we had last left it, almost without a beat. The last time I hung out with him, he took me to the Mint on Upper Market and goaded me into a no-doubt amazing Karaoke version of George Michael’s “Father Figure.” I want to laugh and cry in the same second. Bill could.

I wasn’t surprised that Bill walked away from journalism, at least for a while. I felt even in the early days that it wasn’t clear what Bill should be doing: international law or psychiatry or reorienting the moral compasses of huge corporations or documentary filmmaking or TV standup or deep-sea diving or writing a book that would out-infinite Infinite Jest. All of those things, all of them, and more besides. Bill needed to live a thousand years and have a hundred careers. What was a few decades of sharpening copy, writing headlines, pistol-whupping the solipsistic minds of young writers, loving a wide array of friends all over the world and spending night after glittering night amid the lotus-eaters of San Francisco’s barrooms?

It breaks my heart that Bill is dead. None of us can stand it, or we wouldn’t be here. He didn’t get to do all those other things, which reminds us that we won’t get to either. His marriage didn’t work out the way he wanted, and I know in my bones how badly Bill wanted marriage and a family. (News flash: Things won’t work out for us the way we script them either.) But I also know in my bones that the prodigious sadness is ours, not Bill’s. I feel him sitting next to me as I write. His hairline has receded still more, as I’ve seen in recent photos. He gives me a shrug and that twitchy little wink, and cracks his knuckles. “Easy come, squeezy go, Cap’n,” he says. “Rattle my cage sometime, will ya?”

Bill was incapable, or almost incapable, of self-pity. He lived more in 43 years, most of them in one city, than most of us will live in twice that time. He lived more intensely in every hour of those 43 years than most of us ever do, except during sex, warfare or childbirth. He’s more alive now, two weeks dead, than Dick Cheney has ever been. Ted Hughes once wrote a poem about a lamb that died in infancy where he said that life could never get its attention. That wasn’t Bill’s problem. Life had his full attention. He was more full of life than anybody I’ve ever met. Maybe this is childish magical thinking, but I’ve been telling myself that the life force was so strong in Bill, so literally superhuman that his human body finally couldn’t contain it. I hold no fixed opinions on the big metaphysical questions, but the force that drove Bill Goggins was something big and primal and inextinguishable. It had to get out and go crashing around the universe, running far ahead of us down the dark Caltrain tunnel that leads from 16th Street to whatever that pinpoint of light is in the distance, laughing and smiling and dispensing great-bad puns along the way.

Andrew O’Hehir
New York
(andohehir -at-

Bumping Into Bill

I’m definitely one of those believers that people who remain connected to each other do so for reasons that span beyond our lifetimes. I wouldn’t say that Bill and I were intensely connected or ritually connected, but enough so that bumping into him was always special.

Bill (as we all knew) was a unique human being. He radiated the stuff that makes us glad we’re alive. I can never fully describe it…and I know better writers could get closer to it, but you know what I mean. He was the kind of person I looked forward to seeing at work at Wired, because regardless how stressed he might of been or if he was rushing by, he was always smiling, funny and so kind. This was a big plus for me in those heady days of Wired, because by the time Bill joined the magazine, there were a lot of very talented by totally egomaniacal types. He wasn’t one of them!

One of my most memorable encounters with Bill was bumping into him at a war protest in downtown LA in February 2003. I moved to LA 6 months earlier, and well, everything in my life really sucked. It was my birthday, and earlier that day I got in a phone argument with my mom about why I chose to spend my birthday at a war protest that she didn’t really understand let alone agree with. Not feeling particularly happy, I saw Bill on a corner and he turned, saw me, and immediately his face lit up. It’s like someone hired Bill to track me down and cheer me up. We hugged, caught up on things the way you do between hundreds of people bustling around and Martin Sheen on loudspeaker. The day got better.

The last time I bumped into Bill was at the Latin American Club about a month before his death. I had moved back to SF a couple years ago and missed the Wired reunion parties, so hadn’t seen Bill since LA. Paul Donald and Amy Johns were also there. “Hello beautiful!” was Bill’s reaction to seeing me, and I think I said something of the same back. Rarely do I hear that anymore! I loved him for just being a classic, charming and totally in the present guy.

Like a lot of others, I am deeply saddened that he died so young and so suddenly. I also feel that hell, if you’re gonna go, do what you enjoy. All my future runs are with Bill.

Kristy O’Rell

Immortal in my Book

I was deeply honored that Bill and Varese came up to Portland for my wedding last year on July 30th, 2005, exactly one year prior to Bill’s fateful run in the San Francisco Marathon.

Although we kept in touch and saw each other sporadically over the years (he visited me a few times in Germany, where I’ve lived the past 20 years, and I came to SF), most of my memories of Bill go back some 25 years when we were both 18-19 years old. I lived next door to Bill in a freshman dorm at Georgetown University. The first thing he said to me when we met was, “Would you like to engage in some stimulating interlocution?” “Say whuh?!” He was a gifted student who seemed to defy entropy and convert 100% of expended energy into results. He was also just a really fun guy to hang out with.

Early that year he “raided” my room one night by banging on the door and yelling, “Open up, vice squad!” It became a funny ritual: to bang on the other guy’s door, burst in, pantomime and yell out another creative variation on the “vice squad” theme: Dice squad, mice squad, rice squad…I think we ran out of rhymes after I flung open his door and began furiously scratching my scalp: Bill grinned, “Right…lice squad…”.

It sounds kind of nerdy now, but that same year I swaggered into Bill’s room and boasted that my “Merriam-Webster” was far superior to his “New Heritage”. He immediately picked up the gauntlet and we staged Dictionary Wars where one of us would try to find a word definition in our own dictionary that we believed there was no way the other dictionary could possibly match, much less, surpass it. It was a testament to the fact that words were to Bill as eighth-notes were to Mozart, and Bill had a competitive spirit in all things.

Although some exchanges with Bill were mundane, he would begin many a conversation by listening thoughtfully to your standard “PK4” opening, then develop a koan-like imponderable that would end with an “I gotcha!” raised eyebrow and tilt of the head, or if you were on the phone with him, a slight inflection in his voice, to let you know that he would be highly impressed if you ‘got it’ but not disappointed or condescending if you didn’t.

I visited Bill four weeks before the 1989 earthquake, when he was living just above Chinatown. We went to the Embarko and had a great time. Bill was one of the few people who could comprehend the humor and humanity of a strange 3:00 a.m. encounter I’d had that weekend in an all-night donut shop with an A’s fan who carried with him an old gym bag containing 25 years of hits, runs and errors on a thick stack of tattered and yellowed continuous paper print-outs. I told Bill the guy had an endearing, yet somewhat annoying, habit of repeating your name like a small child: “Hey John!..Hey John! Joooohhhn! Hey John!” Bill immediately added that character to his 999 other Mel Blanc voices. The perfect copy editor, Bill took the original and made it even funnier. I used to get abdominal cramps every time Bill launched into that voice.

Bill’s memory, of course, approached total recall. I once told him the same “funny thing that happened to me” twice within the space of two months. He listened politely until I was finished, then his face erupted into a Harpo Marx grimace. I said, “Oh, that’s right, that’s old news, isn’t it….” He jutted his jaw and responded in a faux Dirty Harry voice: “Yes…why don’t you live a NEW life…I’m TIRED of hearing about the OLD one….”

I spiritually believe, but of course cannot verify, that Bill is now in Heaven. It is appealing imagery to see Bill dining on “ambrosia” and making the universe roar with laughter at his wit, humor and verbal acrostics. Others may very well subscribe to some form of materialism whereby a few hundred gigabytes from among the terabytes of brilliant “memes” that thrived in his mind managed to survive the brutal eviction and now live in diaspora on paper and as memories in all of us, and that’s as immortal as it gets. I guess the latter alternative would be a bleak and despairing way to go out for those who never ‘made their mark’ during their brief lifetime. (Could that be the materialist equivalent of “not going to Heaven”? It’s a crying shame I can’t ask Bill, as I’m sure he’d be able to comment on that. ) But Bill had such a lasting impact on so many people’s lives, I’m very certain he’s having it both ways with the cosmos: he is “up there” in a soulful, spiritual sense and yet still very much “down here”, very tangible and real in our hearts and minds. I find that very comforting amid my deep sadness over his passing.

John Stilwell, Munich, Germany

Once a Runner

Our first few interactions did not go so well. Bill was a dashing young Wired recruit quickly working his way up to copy chief. He was confident and already knew his way around the office. He’d arrive each morning with a little fanfare, shaking hands and imparting jokes to editors along the row. He often wore a vintage bowling shirt and carried a razor-thin briefcase for effect. I was a lowly intern in charge of fact-checking the more fungible quadrants of the magazine. It didn’t enhance our early relationship that I insisted that a place in Ireland called County Clare was really spelled “Claire” — “You know, like the girl’s name.” A few days later, thinking that he was out of the office for a moment, I pulled out some dictionaries from Bill’s desk to look up a word. There were reference books and galley pages all over his usually immaculate space. Then, behind me, came a stern voice: “Hey, Junior? That’s not your playpen.”

Years later our rapport improved and I looked forward to visiting the spotless desk with the giant, industrial-sized bolt on it. (I think he liked to call it “a big screw.”) Bill had become my mentor in the office and running partner out of it. A few days a week, at around 5 p.m., he invented a terrifying and invigorating ritual. Bill found a break in the fence on the Caltrain track where you could enter the tunnel between 16th Street and run in darkness all the way to 22nd street. It was utterly black except for a tiny point of light at the mouth of the tunnel. It wasn’t dangerous; you could easily hug the cement wall if the San Jose was approaching. But the feeling was giddy and disorienting with only the sounds of crushed rock under our shoes. I couldn’t help imagining deadly snakes or mutant hobos laying in wait. I made Bill run in front for the reassurance of his silhouette.

The other day, I searched my old email boxes for vintage correspondence from my friend. I wanted to share a few:

Subject: Re: “Rituals of choice:”

outrunning the 6:20 pm Caltrain through the 16th-22nd Street tunnel;
a double shot of Odwalla with an Odwalla chaser

I’d look forward to our runs, but I’d even feel a little thrill during the workday to get an email from Bill, who by now had made it to deputy editor. He crafted even routine electronic notices into small literary events. More examples:

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 13:57:37 -0700
To: From:
Subject: BG, where

Unable to breach my primary care physician’s heavily fortified
voicemail system, I am attempting to get my hands on some antibiotics
by way of full frontal assault. Questions? Call California Pacific
Medical Center, Sinus Rebar Removal Unit: +1 (415) ### ####.

Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 14:39:30 -0700
Subject: Out of sight

Due to the convergence of circumstances beyond his control, a certain
editor will be squirted out of the office like a watermelon seed this
afternoon and not heard from again until Monday.

In the event that unnaturally large ants overrun your picnic, call #####, where a mechanically reproduced voice will greet you.

Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2000 14:44:32 -0700
To: From:
Subject: Out of the office Friday 18 August

Doing field research for a Best item on protective headgear.

Using my noggin,

Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2000 16:22:58 -0700
Subject: Grist: Cyburban outfitters

Today’s rhetorical question: Is anyone Netting the hipoisie, or is the much-ballyhooed bridge to the 21st century simply a direct link between Melrose shops and Michael Musto?

Even the signoffs in each email sparkled:

Down with the SelectScan Plus,

Taking off the VR gloves,

Trying to convert the Wired Phrase Generator to diesel,

Tightening the laces on my scuffed CKs,

Information gladly given, but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation,

Feeling your pain,

Staying thirsty,

It’s strange: for someone so prolix in everyday speech, Bill had an imperative for absolute economy in writing. He switched between modes at will. It’s like a guy who experiments with dangerous pyrotechnics on the weekend then goes to work as fire chief during the week. Bill wanted to make sure the opening paragraph of every short article explained exactly what was going on without messing around. He would constantly ask me to rewrite stories to answer his two pet questions: What is it? What’s the sell?

What is it? If it’s a story about a new supercomputer, the reader has to be on solid footing from the start. No fancy rhetoric. And the article needs to communicate what Bill called “the sell” right away. What’s the writer’s take on why the story is interesting or important here and now? Why do we care? As far as Bill was concerned, if you’ve delivered on those two questions in straightforward prose, you’ve done 90 percent of the job. Wordplay, jokes, or puns don’t belong unless they’re tightly connected to the subject of the article and further the reader’s understanding. Over and over, I heard those questions whenever I visited the desk with the giant rusty screw. When I left Wired to become a freelance writer, I began to type them on the top of each fresh wordprocessor page as a virtual Goggins standing over me. I still do this. Before starting a story, I type: “What is it?” and “What’s the sell?”

Not that I took to Bill’s advice right away. If Bill wanted to cut a joke in a story I was editing, I might say something churlish like, “Oh, so you want to take all the fun out of it, huh?” He never took the bait. Instead, I love the way he’d go through an elaborate silent not-me pantomime with his hands held out in front of him. “Oh, no, no my brother.” He’d say that, in general, he liked what I was trying to do but there were good reasons why the joke didn’t fit this time around. Besides it wasn’t what he liked or didn’t like, it was what the story wanted. One of the tools he used to explain editorial decisions was to personify the words themselves. I loved how he would explain a story’s silent needs and desires. “The lead wants to be about XYZ” or “The headline wants to achieve XYZ” It was a great way to make decisions appear impersonal and to defuse the heat of a disagreement. Bill never conceded an argument, but he was always willing to go through every step of his logic every time. And I was just one among many people imposing on his time. It was probably why he stayed at work later than everyone else.

Bill marked up galleys and proofs with an razor-thin black rollerball. His edits were precise, but had such flair at the same time. He’d usually put brackets around a passage or phrase that “wanted reexamining.” Then with a huge arced line to an empty spot on the page, he’d rewrite the section in neat, geometric script.

He intuitively understood the visual component of magazine editing. The headline or caption must work with the photo, illustration, or art on the page. This is often lost on word people. Some of Bill’s most salient, funny, perfect headlines came from reacting to the photo or layout. He was able to think backwards from what the reader would see when they had a fresh look at a new magazine page.

And he was a wonderful runner. When I moved away from San Francisco, he would update me on his races. We ran the Bay to Breakers together, and in one email he wanted to fill me in on his latest essay up Hayes street:

Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 11:19:21 -0700
Subject: When it runs, it pours

Caught a few wayward drops before leaving the pre-start line tortilla pit, soldiered up the Hill before charging head down into what became a downpour by race’s end; stumbled upon a house key in the grass at a sodden, soon to be washed out “Footstock,” and after tracking down the lost and found, packed my shivering ass onto the N Judah. (Started alongside a swell intern and her fiance, bumped into Basque buddy Vincent post-run, but slogged the great middleground by my lonesome.) Guess the whole damp affair was a karmic counterweight to the previous day’s dry Muslim wedding (though come to think of it, I was mixing some pretty wet Manhattans for the newlyweds at their hotel around 2:30 in the morning).

Trust you’re well (or, hell, even top shelf).

Staying thirsty,


I was lucky to have a few more chances to run with Bill last April when I made a visit to the city. Whether consciously or not, the routes he chose always had a blazing fast component and an exploratory, peripatetic one. One day, we traced an 8-mile route over to Pier 39. Following a course toward the Bay Bridge, he picked up the pace to maybe 6:30 for a mile then slowed down and jogged us through the inside of the Embarcadero Plaza food court, pausing at a few delis to explain what foods each counter was best known for. The next day he chose a route through Fort Mason to Crissy Field. I’ll always remember a shining moment running over the dirt paths across the field, winding through tourists and cyclists. Bill had notched up the pace so gradually that it wasn’t obvious that we were galloping at top speed. It felt transcendent, effortless, and only the fact that he ran beside me stride-for-stride staved off my panic and made it feel like we’d continue on like this for miles.

Bob Parks
Brattleboro, Vermont

If I wait here at the cafe long enough he’s bound to show up again.

Bill was amazing, funny and whip smart. And ubiquitous. For years I’d run into Bill at the oddest hours in the most random places. Not simply parties thrown by shared aquantainces (although there were plenty of those), but also bus stops, cafes, post offices, crosswalks…it got to the point where we’d see each other and just say “of course. You again!”

The last time I saw Bill was in June when he came to my band’s show at Bottom of the Hill, solo. I introduced him to my parents. He was so sweet and charming to them, as he was to everybody. Actually I think I ran into him about a week later at Cafe Roma, but I was late to meet a friend for lunch so it was a quickie. Just long enough to hear that he was really happy about some of the new projects he was working on.

I’m confused and unable to process the fact that this will never happen again. It’s really, really, really fucking unfair.

– Blake Robin

Of Hamster Mills, the Gogginator, and Proper Goodbyes

My friendship with Bill had a headquarters: Club One Yerba Buena. It was the only place we could run together. I’d lumber along on what he called “the hamster mill” for a mile or two. He’d start out with a long, upright gait, chatting about local politics or movies or work or baseball while settling in at a pace that few others would ever think of reaching on a treadmill. After 7 or 8 miles, he’d step off and approach the Gogginator.

The Gogginator is an ab crunch apparatus that Bill absolutely abused. (The term would later adopt broader usage, often referring to the final stage of copy editing at Wired — i.e., passing through the Gogginator — or even to the man himself.) He’d lay a towel over the padding and just pound the hell out of the machine. Up and down, up and down, up and down, a stack of weights giving way to his perpetual rocking, sweat flying onto the steel bars over dozens and dozens of reps. Bill’s metabolism may have been nearly as fast as his mind. But that’s not why he was in such great shape. In the gym as in the office, he worked harder than anyone else in the room.

Bill and I went through this routine several hundred times in the 5+ years we sat next to each other at Wired. Many of our Club One visits came in the evening. After winding down in the steam room, we’d walk out of the gym together and, before heading our separate ways, we’d inevitably stop for a pregnant moment on the sidewalk. There were no casual goodbyes with Bill, no see-ya-tomorrow punches on the arm or over-the-shoulder waves. He tried to make every parting meaningful. He’d look me straight-on with those bright eyes, ask about my plans for the evening, give me a firm, two-step handshake and a smile before wishing me well. Sometimes, I must say, it was a bit much. After all, I’d see him again in the morning, and at some point not long after that, we’d be back on the treadmills again. But that was how Bill did it. His style was often strange and awkward, but also endearing and funny and maddening and tortured and brilliant and confusing. And meaningful. And that also describes our friendship. I’ve never known anyone like him. I doubt I ever will again.

Our final goodbye came in late May, on my final day at Wired, as I prepared to leave the country for two months and start a new job. I called Bill at the last minute to tell him about my going-away party and, of course, he dropped everything to come. We spoke about what I considered to be a significant series of events in his life. I told him how happy and proud I was about these latest developments. He likewise congratulated me on my new opportunity, hugged me, and, referring to my departure from Wired, said something that I’ll never forget: You gave them more than they gave you. That’s a hell of a way to go out.

Now I have the kind of opportunity that I never imagined I’d have with Bill Goggins. I have the final word. I sat in the locker room at Club One today, sobbing at the thought of how Bill will never show up there again, wondering whether it’s time to cancel my membership, and baffled at how I could ever match his knack for meaningful goodbyes. And then I came up with the obvious answer: Bill’s words have always been better than mine; I’ll use his.

Bill, you gave this world so much more than we ever gave you. That’s a hell of a way to go out. — jo’b

Sorry I didn’t get the jokes

A lot of talented people passed through Wired heading in wildly different directions. Bill stayed put. I remember patting Bill on the shoulder once and nearly hurting my hand. The guy was rock solid, both physically, judging from his shoulder, and most certainly as a presence in the Wired office. He also had a bull-headed determination to get the job done — right.

Every. Single. Time. The man exhausted us all. (Oh, those nights working till 3 a.m.)

And then … that bewildering wit of his. I often had no idea what Bill was talking about, as his cultural references were frequently too obscure for my plodding brain to process in conversation mode (or in any mode). I didn’t mind, because I connected with him on the bull-headed-determination level. Bill sometimes scolded me, though, for not being opinionated enough. (Sorry Bill, I’m still not.) I wanted to scold Bill for not giving himself enough credit.

Bill spent a lot of time developing talent, getting people to work at a certain level. I told him once that he taught me much of value. He was down then for some reason — said he might go spend a few years smashing rocks or something (might have been that “Japan Rocks!” headline) — and he told me that I would have learned all that anyway. I don’t think so, Bill. There are some bits of wisdom that could have come only from you. What good fortune it was to know you.

Bill was a great editor, but he was a genius in headline writing. God that guy was good. I’ve never seen anything like it. At first I didn’t realize he was one of a kind. I thought all senior-level editors were like that (and that man, did I have a long way to go).

But here’s the thing about Bill’s headlines: they weren’t just clever, or witty. Like his editing, they were deeply sensitive to what the story was about. Bill was acutely aware of what the writer wanted to say — more aware than the writer was sometimes — and he was there to help.

Bill was there to help for a lot of us, and not just in work matters. Thanks, Bill, for being a friend and a mentor. Sorry I didn’t get the jokes.

Steve Mollman

Bill the Scribner

The first time I remember Bill as Bill (as opposed to simply having seen the cute guy with great posture around Wired) was at a seminar Louis had convened for Wired Ones to glean the wisdom of a futurist. The prognosticator spun out some long-boom fruitopian scenario, explaining how all the jobs we think of as boring or gross will disappear (robot maids!) and more and more people will be be happier and happier as way-new knowledge workers. As an editor at the perennially pessimistic Suck, I felt like the skunk at the extropian party until the cute guy with good posture leaned over and whispered: “Will there be a need for more futurists? Because that seems like a pretty good job to have.”

Bill went on to become one of my favorite Suck writers, both because I loved what he had to say and because he said it so well that I barely needed to touch it. His graceful prose left us all that much more time for the many, many martinis we consumed between 1996-99 at various dive bars that were known mainly to Bill and a few rumpled gentlemen with nicotine-stained fingers and half-shaded eyes.

After I moved East, Bill remained reliable — his banter sometimes required Bartlett’s and his jokes could send you to Google, but his friendship was as uncomplicated as his wit was knotted. I saw him almost every time I came back to San Francisco in these past few years and though our email and phone communiques were sporadic, our conversation never stopped; in fact, it seemed to fall into same rhythm starting with the sentence after “hello.”

As with most of us, I suspect my last few interactions with Bill will come to be the ones I run my fingers through the most, trying to pick out every sparkle of his gimlet eye. But the memory I’ll hold most dear wasn’t him being brilliant, it was him being kind, and how, on the last night of a long book tour, Bill was one of five sparsely distributed people in a very large room sitting down to listen to me.

I will always wish I got to hear more from him. — Ana Marie Cox [anamariecox -at-]

Running into Mailboxes

Those in New York City who adored Bill but like myself are unable to make it to Mill Valley for his memorial service Friday are welcome to join me in Central Park at 2 pm for a run of 2.2 or so miles — the distance Bill had left to complete the SF marathon Sunday.

The idea of honoring this way comes, I believe, from Rebecca Smith Hurd, a more recent colleague of his at Wired. I gather some of you will be running/walking the actual course he left unfinished when he collapsed in SF at 11 am Pacific — hence my plan to “join” you.

I will be at the 6th Av /59th St entrance to the park at 2 pm on the nose and should be unmissable as Jake Ward has said he’ll join. Jake stands six-eight (black hair), and I can get there on tip toes (six-seven, red hair). Despite our collective inseams, you should have no problem keeping up. Or, I’ll speak for myself and confess that the few times I ran with BIll he left me in the dust.

It has a been a difficult week trying to accept his loss. There are few people I can think of in my life who made me better, while asking so little in return.

Or made me laugh as hard (and at myself).

Or beat me to my own punchlines — and made them funnier.

Truly, the very first time I met Bill, just inside the door of the SFWeekly, I liked him. He rescued me from that moment when you’re so nervous you wish you hadn’t come.

Grieving with Jessie Scanlon Monday night, I realized he’d never failed me since.

Right off the top, one of my fondest memories of him is with you Evan, after Shoshana’s Readymade loft party two or three years back. We have hit the streets looking for more food and trouble, and Bill is running full-tilt into postal boxes and stacks of cardboard bundled on Soho curbs, pratfalling, clowning a bit extra for Shana’s benefit, no doubt. But really she’s just the excuse we need to be moronic for an hour or two and forget it all for awhile. We hadn’t seen each other in months to that point, but we were dancing, laughing, but also confiding the stuff you generally don’t want to talk about within moments of being reacquianted.

That is why I wish I could have made it to Cali tomorrow: Since leaving Wired, I’ve grown accustomed to his physical absense and fear I’ll miss him more later. It just isn’t right that he’s gone.

I will dig out some photos and billspeak for future posts.

– Brad Wieners

Running @ the mouth

Hello friends of Bill,

This site was originally the idea of Michael Grossman, a longtime friend and colleague of Bill’s, who suggested that Bill’s wide circle of friends might want a place to reflect on his life. Josh and I put it together, with the advice of Paul Donald and Jessie Scanlon, in the hopes of providing that. No one should feel obligated to write, of course; there is no agenda here besides celebrating Bill, and no real rules except those of general decency. Bill was a lover of spirited conversation and a master of wit, no doubt both will be found among his friends here.

It’s certainly impossible to capture the full measure of Bill’s qualities in a few lines. But hopefully what will emerge here in stories and recollections will reflect what I’ve seen around San Francisco this week: the indelible mark he left on just about anyone who entered his orbit.

I plan to write more later, but for now — and apropos of nothing, as Bill would say…I must have exchanged hundreds, perhaps thousands, of text messages and emails with him over the years. Yet I have no doubt that if you showed me any one of them, without his name attached, I would know instantly that he was the author. Each communication from Bill was carefully crafted in his warm and inscrutable style, drenched in the obscure, the self-deprecating, the hilarious, and the absurd. He had those particular, almost anachronistic phrases — “Yr pal, B,” or “Thoughts, with or without musical accompaniment, welcome,” or “Coordinating details to follow from a secure voice connection” — that marked the prose as his own.

The last text I got from him, on the Saturday night before the marathon, was no exception:

From: Goggins 9:38 pm 7/30/06

26 & change, brought to you by R. Chandler’s Sport Beans. “A

little trouble is my business.” Just me and my carbo loaded

feedbag. Come 5:35 a.m. I won’t just be running @ the mouth.