BY MATTHEW HALL
Daily Press Editor
Longtime Santa Monica Daily Press columnist Bill Bauer died last week.
Bauer was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and eventually passed due to complications from his treatment.
Bauer wrote a weekly column for SMDP, My Write, that chronicled his opinions about a variety of issues with a particular focus on local government. He earned a reputation as firebrand who would lambast the powerful in defense of the Santa Monica he loved.
Former SMDP editor Carolyn Sackariason hired Bauer shortly after the paper’s founding and said he was immediately on her radar to bring on board. She said his work could be a thorn in everyone’s side, including those he worked for.
“He believed in what we were doing and was the perfect disrupter,” she said. “Except when he would push it a bit farther than this editor was comfortable with. In his attempt to call politicians out — which he had a great knack for — some of Bill’s columns have caused me great consternation.”
She said he would mount a vigorous defense of his work, even over her objections.
“Such a troublemaker he was! I remember countless conversations I had with Bill, explaining how we needed to take it down a notch. So passionate he was, Bill always made the argument as to why whatever he wrote needed to stay in. Finally, a compromise would be met.”
Schoolboard member Craig Foster said Bauer always stood outside the system and that he took pride in his role.
“He took genuine pleasure in saying the things that everybody understood but few to none would say in public,” he said. “I’m not sure he changed the system. The political factors, the money, the power, the control, were very much too strong from a genuine outbreak of free thinking. But Bill was the public voice of the free thinkers, their lighthouse and their touchstone. Bill wrote what many felt. Bill questioned what many questioned. He made people feel sane when the system conspired to tell them they were insane. He seemed immune to the orthodoxy, to all the pressures to only say certain things, to accept the stilted, muffled political discourse. I respected him very much for that and appreciated the safe, sane spot he created for all of us.”
Bauer’s public persona was certainly prickly but his friends welcomed his social company.
“Life has its challenges and Bill’s passing is one of them,” said Darrell Goode Branch President NAACP Santa Monica Venice. “I met Bill many years ago when he joined my Karate class at Santa Monica College. He went on to become a brown belt in our Japan Karate Do Ryo Bu Kai association. Bill like many of our students became more importantly friends with a comradery built through training. It was always a pleasure over the years to run into Bill and discuss community concerns as we both had similar concerns about the wellbeing of the Santa Monica community. I will now miss those future run ins with Bill, however I will now still hold on to the value of our past association. I will remember Bill as good person and community advocate.”
Councilman Kevin McKeown was a frequent target of Bauer’s ire but he said the two were also able to discuss life outside politics.
“Bill and I discovered we both had backgrounds in college radio,” he said. “We recently spent an afternoon reminiscing about the days when music was our generation’s unifying message, and radio was the common ground we shared.”
Aside from his work for the paper, Bauer also spent years volunteering with the Santa Monica Police Department.
His coworkers at SMPD said he was known for his great humor, love of the city and a particular devotion to his weekly outreach work at 3 a.m. on Tuesday mornings.
“Bill was a stanch supporter of the police and the efforts they took in trying to address the humanitarian efforts they make in trying to address the long term issues of homelessness,” said Jeffrey Glaser, supervisor for the department’s Homeless Liaison Program Team.
“He did so with not only words, but through his actions of volunteering for the PD for many years on a weekly basis. Bill was part of the HLP team and will be missed by many throughout the department that he vehemently supported.”
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 9:30 a.m.