“I was three when you died, so I never had the chance to know the legendary figure I hear so much about. My only memory of you is of your shoes in the hallway of our San Francisco apartment. All my life I’ve heard epic tales of the things you did, but I want to discover the man behind the mythical tales that people tell; to piece together the puzzle of this iconic and mysterious man and get the chance to finally meet you.”
Sarah Luck Gossage, Howard’s daughter 2015
THE SOCRATES OF SAN FRANCISCO is a feature-length documentary about Howard Luck Gossage, an eccentric 1960s ad-man who ran an offbeat agency out of an old San Francisco firehouse. Whilst infamous within his industry for groundbreaking and subversive ad campaigns, witty one-liners and a magnetic personality, Gossage was disillusioned with the world of advertising. Thus began one of the most prolific and influential mid-life crises of the 20th century.
Bringing together an incredible cast of characters in the ‘Salon’ that he created in the Firehouse, (John Steinbeck, Buckminster Fuller, Tom Wolfe and Marshall McLuhan were regular visitors), he set about his next madcap plan to change the world. Whether it was developing a clothing line with Picasso, hosting Ken Kesey when he was on the run from the law, or organising a fabulous party serenaded by a Mariachi Band, Howard would be at the centre pulling the strings. So why has everyone forgotten about this incredible place? Why does no one know what drew such diverse people through its doors?
The fact remains, that from his little Firehouse, tucked in the hills of San Francisco, Gossage not only reinvented advertising, but brought the father of the new media age to public attention; played a key role in the foundation of Friends of the Earth; and when his stride was broken in 1969 with his diagnosis of Leukemia, had begun to try out theories of a sustainable approach to economics on the Caribbean island of Anguilla.