Beloved Berkeley ‘Hate Man’ dies at 80

hateman_juliankilchling_staff-copy
Julian Kilchling/Staff

Mark Hawthorne, or “Hate Man,” a locally famous Berkeley figure who lived in People’s Park and formerly wrote for the New York Times, died Sunday. He was 80 years old.

Hawthorne died about 6:30 p.m. at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center after suffering from lung problems, according to his sister, Prudence Hawthorne. Since moving to Berkeley more than four decades ago, Hawthorne lived mostly outdoors, practicing a philosophy that endorsed the open expression of negative thoughts, such as “I hate you.”

“He was my big brother,” said Prudence Hawthorne, who visited Hawthorne a couple times a year and kept archives of Hawthorne’s life. “I admired everything he said and did. I especially admired that he lived his life exactly the way that he wanted.”

Known by friends as “Hate,” Hawthorne attracted various followers over several decades, during which he espoused his philosophy known as “oppositionality.”

Mark Hawthorne, also known as ‘Hate Man,’ is a well-known Berkeley homeless man who has lived in Berkeley since 1973 and died on April 2, 2017.

Mark Hawthorne, also known as ‘Hate Man,’ is a well-known Berkeley homeless man who has lived in Berkeley since 1973 and died on April 2, 2017. Alvin Wu/Staff

Friends say he was a witty storyteller who valued honesty and fought against indifference. He mined trash barrels for food and sold cigarettes to gather spare change for coffee. He was known for cleaning up the park and looking out for other homeless people.

One of his defining inventions is a conflict-resolution method known as a “push” — in which two people press their shoulders against each other.

“You would have to push up against him arm to arm if you ever wanted something from him,” said his nephew Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who lives in San Francisco. ”That physical contact, I think, created an emotional one that was really the nucleus of People’s Park.”

Born in 1936 in Maryland, Hawthorne graduated with an English degree from the University of Connecticut and subsequently joined the Air Force. He and his wife at the time worked in Thailand with the Peace Corps and then lived, for a period, in New York. Hawthorne moved his way up from copy boy to metro reporter at the New York Times.

But in the early 1970s, Hawthorne sought a different kind of life.

“I just felt like a helium balloon in a room where I was bumping the ceiling,” he told The Daily Californian in 2002. “I thought, ‘This is it. This is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life. I’m bored.’ I guess you could call it a midlife crisis. I quit the Times, got a divorce and started being downward mobile.”

Hawthorne often wore skirts, his friend Tim Reeves said — it’s what first drew his attention when they met in 1996. In the 1970s, Hawthorne regularly stood on a fountain on Sproul Plaza and said, “I hate you” to passersby. For several years, he also held nightly “Hate Camp” drum circles on Sproul Plaza.

“I feel that there are thousands of people in the world that have met him,” Reeves said. “He insisted on living outdoors because that was the only place where he could be accessible to everyone.”

Tim Jaguar, a friend of Hawthorne’s since 1992, said Hawthorne tried to get local business managers to give him their leftover food, which he then shared. Whether splitting throwaway pizza or cold coffee, “Hate was always trying to give an equal portion,” Jaguar said.

The day after his death, friends of Hawthorne carried on his rituals of “pushing” and saying “ ‘ef’ you” to each other as they sat in his corner of People’s Park.

Offroad, who met Hawthorne more than 20 years ago on Sproul Plaza, explained that Hawthorne thought positive feelings didn’t need to be expressed — it was the negative ones that should be let out.

“He was about being direct with negative feelings. He wasn’t about being hateful,” said Beth Sager, who first met Hawthorne in the early 1990s. “He really cared about just about everybody he came into contact with.”

Hawthorne is survived by two daughters and two nephews, according to Prudence Hawthorne. No funeral services are planned, but nightly memorial gatherings are planned for 6 p.m. at People’s Park.

On Monday night, a small crowd gathered around a memorial display laid out on the ground of People’s Park: Hawthorne’s worn clothes and his bent umbrella, bouquets of fresh flowers, one cardboard sign with the words “I HATE YOU” and another with the scrawled-on note “I LOVE HATE MAN.”

Contact Melissa Wen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melissalwen.