Born in Perry, MO on March 6, 1946, William "Chili Bill" Eichinger came of age in Kansas City, MO. A forty-three year resident of his beloved San Francisco, Chili Bill left us for the final barstool in the beyond on September 6, 2013.
Adopted at six months of age by Gertrude and Marsh Eichinger, Bill moved from Nevada, MO to KC at an early age. In his teens, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout and was a middle distance track champion. Before Bill graduated from Westport High School in KC, he developed his love for jazz, blues, R & B and rock and roll. In the mid-1960's he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Percy Sledge, Garnet Mimms, Pattie Labelle and Wilson Pickett - to give a flavor of his musical appreciation. Later in the 60's, he was an on-air personality for KCJC progressive FM in Kansas City and had a late night rock show called "Barnacle Bill, the All Night Sailor".
Chili made the move to San Francisco on June 10, 1970. Early on he worked for the US Postal Service, in the wine industry and as a line cook. He drove a taxi for Yellow Cab for many years - an avocation that provided him with many stories to recount to his friends and patrons.
Bill was most widely known in San Francisco as a bartender's bartender. Among the fine establishments where he plied his trade were Vesuvio's in North Beach, Benders in the Mission and, for the past twenty-four years, Finnegans Wake in Cole Valley. A living encyclopedia of jokes, Chili could spread a laugh across the corner of a bar. And with his curmudgeonly streak, he could quickly wither a patron who had wandered too far from the Marina.
A connoisseur of all films and especially obscure martial arts movies, a reader of every literary genre and a loyal fan of the San Francisco Giants, Bill's interests knew few bounds. One was usually at a loss to challenge him at Jeopardy or Scrabble. His morning habit included coffee and the newspaper crossword puzzle.
Food played another major role in Chili's life. His food blog slogan said it all - "Eat to Live and Live to Eat". At www.thechilidog.net he amassed over five hundred entries on various restaurant adventures and food discoveries here in the Bay Area and around the U.S. - in just the last three and a half years. He is widely known for his San Francisco Chinese food odyssey. Bill aspired to eat in every Chinese restaurant in The City; he did so. At last count, he had four hundred and twenty three Chinese restaurants under his belt.
Never a hipster, Bill had his upper body tattooed long before it became "hip". On his left wrist, he had inscribed in Chinese (which he learned so as to better communicate in restaurants), "Water seeks its own level". Like water, Bill has reached that final point of stasis. He leaves his wide circle of friends with countless memories and the inspiration of a life well lived.
If you wish to honor Bill's memory, make a donation to the Sierra Club or your favorite environmental group - cwh.
A Remembrance Celebration/Party will be held at Finnegans Wake/937 Cole St./San Francisco on September 28th from 2pm - 6pm.