A big bellied, dirty grey seagull waded through the puddles around the gas pumps in front of the Bolinas gas station on what was a drizzly autumn afternoon. Above the nearby pumps, perched precariously at an awkward angle, dripping wet, was a rusted chopper bicycle, complete with sissy bar and banana seat. The bike had served as the official vehicle of Dean Greenstreet, who was for 23 years the unelected Mayor of Bolinas. One of the most beloved, respected and colorful members of the tiny coastal town, Greenstreet died unexpectedly October 3rd.
Inside Scabelli's garage, fond remembrances of the Mayor were being shared by those within his inner circle. "We didn't even know his real name for years,"recalled owner Buck Meyer. We just started calling him Mr. Mayor-and it stuck. On another occasion, Meyer remembered Greenstreet insisting early on that he wasn't any kind of Mayor and to quit calling him by the title. "Okay, Mayor," said Meyer.
Meyer fondly recalled the Mayor as being slightly corrupt and said that he and others in town had been paying him off for years to avoid what the Mayor referred to as the permit process.
The legend of the Mayor actually started in 1974. The Mayor recalled during a 1994 interview that his political origins took shape at a party at his home then on the Little Mesa. It was an Aries party, the Mayor remembered. A group of young people which included Fritz Meyer and Eddie Hansen had crashed the party and were there with their friends. They thought I was the straightest looking dude they had ever seen. One of them said, "Hey-you should be our Mayor!" Greenstreet said he first laughed off the idea, suggesting they really didn't want him as Mayor. But the dye was cast the next morning when the Mayor walked past the gas station and the entire group of young people from the previous night's party saw him and shouted "Mr. Mayor!" and "Hey, it's the Mayor!"
The mayoral inauguration wasn't completed until a summer evening a few months later when the Mayor remembered one of his proudest achievements-setting the official land/speed record for Bolinas while being pulled through town by Eddie Hansen's truck-doing 53 mph down Wharf Road on a Big Wheel. The record was broken in the summer of 1994, during his 20th anniversary celebration as Mayor, when Greenstreet was clocked on a similar Big Wheel being pulled at 58 mph.
For more than two decades, Greenstreet would become world renowned as Mayor of Bolinas. While making a living pumping gas at Bolinas garage, the Mayor kept the dignity of the duty he had been charged with (and finally accepted) by providing assistance to anyone in need all the while responding to most situations with a huge belly-laugh. He was a friend to anyone, a father-figure to some and a scoundrel to any attractive female between around 18 and sixty. At a July 4th celebration a couple of years back, it was the Mayor who was the hit of the parade as he attempted to toss candy from the back of the tow-truck down the blouses of ladies along the parade route. It was the strangest thing to see, mused one local-all of these elderly ladies chasing after the Mayor with their blouses held open!
Greenstreet was interviewed as Mayor for dozens of newspaper articles, television and radio talk shows. One newspaper article described him as looking resplendent at his gas station office, with a slightly protruding beer-belly, a passage which the Mayor enjoyed and would repeat often through the remainder of his life.
Like a seasoned politician, he would spin folksy responses to interview questions, never wishing to assume responsibility for town policy and always observing the best wishes of anonymity for the reclusive community which had adopted him. On one occasion, however, Greenstreet did speak seriously to the media, and that was to champion a fund-raising drive for a former resident who was dying of liver disease at a distant hospital. Greenstreet received checks and mailed them to the woman each week.
Greenstreet was born March 3, 1931. He was married twice and left behind four children and three grandchildren. One of his sons, Bob Turner of Novato, recalled asking his dad several years ago about his life in Bolinas.
"Son," Turner recalled the Mayor saying, "the most important thing
in life is to be happy. And with my life here, I've found happiness."