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Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times Hardcover – February 5, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780743290814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290814
  • ASIN: 074329081X
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brown, [b]lack, urban, flamboyant, politically adroit, is part hardworking politician and part legend. A political career [had] never entered [his] mind, when the teenaged Texas country boy arrived in San Francisco in 1951. Thirty years later, Brown became Speaker of the California Assembly, a triply historic event: he won with bipartisan support, was the first African-American to do so and served longer than any else in the position; then from 1996 to 2003, he was San Francisco's mayor. Brown's autobiography is a candid and fascinating how-to-succeed-in-politics, crammed with down-to-earth reality tips not common in civics texts. He advises how to dress, work a party and manage one's own scandals. But Brown did not achieve political power by merely window dressing and shares his mastery of the finer and lesser points of political strategy. He revisits the major controversies of his reign in the assembly and the successes of which he is most proud. The real Slick Willie, Clinton called him; Brown says simply, I'm unique. His always lively and often self-serving account is a candid tutorial for aspiring politicians and ordinary folk who enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how local (and sometimes national) government works. Illus. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Former mayor of San Francisco and speaker of the state assembly, Brown has had a long and colorful career. He takes readers on a whirlwind journey from his arrival in the Bay Area as a clueless teenage youth from Mineola, Texas, to the toast of the town, counseling visiting presidents and political hopefuls. Brash is an understatement of Brown’s recollection of political and sexual scandals, as well as political machinations and deal making, as he insists on telling nothing or telling the total truth. His personal philosophy: treat everyone with respect, always remain loyal, recognize luck and opportunity. He showed his mastery of seizing opportunity when he supported the gay rights movement as an extension of his civil rights law practice. As a larger-than-life political figure, Brown recalls the major political events of four decades—with himself at or near the center—and his relationships with political figures including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and George W. Bush. Throughout, Brown shows a commitment to personal principle and a love for his beloved state and city. --Vernon Ford

More About the Author

Willie L. Brown, Jr., has been at the center of California politics, government, and civic life for four decades. His career spans the American presidency from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush: he served in the California assembly for thirty years, fourteen-and-a-half of them as its speaker, and for two four-year terms (all that the law allows) as mayor of San Francisco. Today, he heads the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service, where this acknowledged master of the art of politics shares his knowledge and skills with a new generation of California leaders.

Customer Reviews

In politics, one may need to work in the future those defeated now.
LEON L CZIKOWSKY
I always thought that Willie Brown was amazing, but Basic Brown shows that he is far more amazing than I could have imagined.
San Francisco Anna-Marie
San Francisco during his reign as Mayor were some of the best years the city ever had.
Beth DeRoos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Strati G. Vourakis on February 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
You will not find many people with political views more opposite from Willie Brown's than me.

However, regardless of your political views, this is an excellent book for anyone interested in politics at all levels - city, state and national. I sure have enjoyed it.

Willie Brown has clearly mastered the art of power. If you have read books like Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power," then as you read Willie's book, you will recognize that Willie has mastered probably all 48 of those laws and then some that didn't make it into either book. As a master of the game of obtaining and exercising power, it would be very wise to listen to and learn from this man.

Willie also offers many fascinating stories about all sorts of incidents from recounting his experience the day George Moscone was shot to how he got Reagan to sign legislation legalizing abortion in CA. You get a really cool glimpse into some of what goes on behind the scenes.

Like him or not, he is a big part of California (and even national) history, and he has some great stories and advice. This book is particularly valuable for anyone looking to get into politics as he offers advice specifically for such folks.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but coming from an extremely politically conservative guy, I heartily recommend this book written by a pretty far-left man.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Beth DeRoos HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Maybe you have to be a Californian to truly appreciate the book and Willie Brown, but I hope not, because there is something so refreshing about a politician who walks his talk, owns his words and doesn't pretend to be something or someone he is not.

Yes, Da Mayor and former speaker of the California state government is flamboyant and classy and fun. Be he also never forgets where he came from and just how fortunate he is. And if I do say so he has some great advise or wisdom for those young people who are in public office or want to be, about being authentic, focused and not wishy washy.

San Francisco during his reign as Mayor were some of the best years the city ever had. He brought a vibrancy to the city and he brought much needed altruism and humanity to the city which is spelled out in the book.

Something the city and the state of California both dearly need again. And an example of why term limits aren't always good.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Willie Brown, the unshakable Speaker of the House in California and then Mayor of San Francisco is one wild and crazy guy. I'm sure his off the cuff remarks and detailed recounting of political shenanigans will anger about as many as they amuse, but for the casual reader this is a very interesting glimpse into the world of politics. I'll never read coverage about the simple passage of a bill again without wondering what went on behind the scenes. Willie Brown was a gift to San Francisco who only expects everyone else to be as proud of the City as he is. PJ Corkerey has done a fine job of capturing Brown's energy and wit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Troutman on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When I asked a Sacramento lobbyist if there were any good books on how the California legislature really worked, the only one he recommended was this one. It is telling -- though I suspect term limits, by making the legislators permanent amateurs has had an impact -- and it is entertaining. It is also disconcerting. It's clear that Willie Brown loves two things above all: power and Willie Brown.

He says that, "When I was coming up, I wanted to be just like Phil Burton: ideologically committed and superskillful at the game of acquiring and securing power." While my own political views overlap a good deal with his, I can't say that I feel the slightest camaraderie. There's not a half a sentence in this autobiography that indicates he ever troubled much about moral issues. He seems to have simply ran with whatever he picked up subconsciously.

Indeed, for all his liberalism, there is definitely a streak of patriarchal brutality to him: he spends a chapter on how much he loves his family but then ends by casually mentioning that he made sure all the property was in his name and not his wife's so she couldn't do anything to embarrass him. Likewise, he expected unquestioning obedience from everyone below him, swiftly punishing (his word) those who displayed independence and expressing glee at the bad end of anyone who ever crossed him.

A conservative reading this book would likely have the typical reaction people had to JR from the Dallas tv show in the 1980s: he's the man they love to hate. Brown reminds me of a local GOP operative I once interviewed. He was a nasty piece of work, but every Republican wanted to be his friend. They thought he could give them power, so they overlooked his sociopathic traits.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LEON L CZIKOWSKY on February 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the autobiography of Willie Brown, who spent 14 years as a powerful Speaker of the California House of Representatives. The implementation of legislative term limits would force him to leave office for the lesser important office of Mayor of San Francisco. While the last sentence was mostly facetious, it is interesting to note that many would rather have a long term career being a legislative leader over being a big city Mayor. As Willie Brown puts it, "I would still be Speaker today were it not for term limits, a destructive idea introduced by the mean-spirited wretches from Southern California who sought to deprive the people of San Francisco the right to reelect me as their Assemblyman." In a further irony, the "Gang of Five" state legislators who successfully fought to implement term limits included Gary Condit, who would be elected to Congress only to lose reelection over the scandal involving the an affair with his intern and Jerry Eaves who would later be convicted for taking bribes.

A chance meeting made the difference in Brown's political life. By standing in alphabetical order at Air Force ROTC brought Brown standing next to, and befriending, John Burton. Burton, himself later a U.S. Representative, was the brother of Phil Burton, a powerful San Francisco politician. Phil helped Willie Brown run for office. Brown lost his first state legislative election in 1962 by 900 votes out of 31,000 votes cast. Brown kept campaigning and was elected in 1964. Ironically, he would vote against Jess Unruh, his future ally, for Speaker.

Willie Brown admittedly is a colorful politician. One of his political adages was "old age and treachery will always outdo youth and skill.
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