The crowd starts filling the stools at Dobson’s by five o’clock each evening, emerging from the law offices and banking halls to line the narrow space within the walls of the old Spreckels Theatre Building. A founding partner of the place was Peter Aylward, the high-rolling lawyer who backed the political career of Roger Hedgecock. During his abbreviated term as mayor, Hedgecock, his cronies, and media hangers-on like Union columnist Tom Blair made Dobson’s the center of the town’s truncated political society.
In those heady days, Uvaldo Martinez, a hulking member of the city council, regularly held forth at the bar, flashed a city-issued credit card with which he purchased rounds for female companions. A few years later, one of these companions testified that while so brazenly spending taxpayers’ money, the councilman had also engaged in the less-than-civicly responsible practice of making suggestive motions with his tongue. Martinez subsequently pled guilty to the credit card violations and surrendered both the card and his job. He and his tongue rarely return to the place of their by-gone revelry.
The political passing of Hedgecock and Martinez removed the overt trappings of power from Dobson’s, but the lawyers remained. While Betty Broderick sat home alone, brooding over husband Daniel’s infidelity, he and the new blonde who was to become his second wife became fixtures at Dobson’s. After their engagement, the new Mrs. Broderick-to-be took her customary stool up towards the door and flashed her diamond ring to the knowing regulars. For the few months before her death, the former paralegal became the toast of downtown’s café society.
These days, the smartly dressed young blondes who slip easily into her old seat pay uncanny homage to the late Linda Broderick. Things will never change at Dobson’s, they will attest. Murder does not intrude into idle conversations that circulate around the liquor and cigar smoke. Talk of legal and sexual conquests permeate the Dobson cloisters, beguiling the freshly scrubbed young lawyers in their red suspenders who yearn to follow their elders into local legend. On some nights, city councilman Ron Roberts trades asides with friend and political mentor John Davies, once a young lawyer who lived at South Mission who now is one of the town’s senior statesmen.
The scandals of Hedgecock, Martinez, and Broderick, however, tarnished Dobson’s brass rails. Some of the old crowd hustled away to new haunts. Before his death, counselor Broderick was working on a new bar a few blocks away on Fourth Avenue, Reidy O’Neil’s, which has since become his symbolic tomb. A bronze statue of John Wayne as an Irishman marks the entrance. An etching of a grinning Broderick and his drinking buddies hangs nearby — an eternal audience to metallic conversations and off-key piano music.