James "Jim" Richard Marshall was a San Francisco projectionist and bartender who was involved with the bohemian/hippie scene and early Discordians, particularly Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley. He also knew Robert Anton Wilson and the real-life inspiration for The Midget, and contributed to Discordian works including Principia Discordia and The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
Marshall was born in 1943 to Max and Catherine Marshall in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He was raised with his brother Gary in Augusta, Kansas. With Guillian Marshall, he had three children, James, Jennifer and Morgan, and also had grandchildren.
He attended Wichita State University, then left the college and went to Texas to work for a short while on a fishing boat. He left Texas to move to the Bay Area, and lived much of the rest of his life in San Francisco where he was active in the 60s scene.
Career and Discordianism
Jesse Hamlin of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Marshall was “a masterly San Francisco movie projectionist and bartender known for his crusty wit, keen mind and reverence for craft.” He was also known for his timeliness and attention to detail.
He became friends with Greg Hill and the two talked about movie theaters. Greg and his wife Jeanetta Hill later started Cinema Rio Theater in Monte Rio with some assistance from Marshall. Marshall knew Robert Anton Wilson and Michael Arthur Quinn, real-life model for The Midget, when Quinn was a youth. He later worked as a bartender at the famous Vesuvio in San Francisco. He was likely introduced to Kerry Thornley there or at Mooney's Irish Pub by Hill. Marshall later became projectionist and sound manager at the landmark Castro theatre.
Hamlin said “Marshall was a familiar North Beach figure who worked at two of the city's landmark cultural establishments: the Castro Theatre, where with an artist's sensibility he projected films and managed the sound system for festivals and programs for 21 years, and Vesuvio, the storied Columbus Avenue bar where he'd spent the previous decade behind the plank, expertly pouring drinks for poets, musicians and other people who liked the bohemian vibe.”
He was very popular with customers in spite of, or because of, his gruffness and sharp wit. Artist Guillian Marshall said "Jim was intensely intelligent,....Everything he got into was a science that he studied intensely." Blues, rock and folk singer–songwriter Nick Gravenites, who had worked with Janis Joplin, named him "Mr. Warmth." Marshall also operated and tended in other bars in North Beach including the Coffee Gallery and Mooney's Irish Pub.
As a partner at Wumper's Ol' Man, he saw performers including Elvin Bishop who played there regularly and the then unknown Huey Lewis & the News. Marshall is featured in a 1975 City Magazine article titled “War Games in Pacific Heights." He is also mentioned in several books of that era, and made some contributions to Principia Discordia and The Illuminatus! Trilogy. He was interviewed for the Kerry Thornley website and issue seven of Intermittens Magazine.
He was an eclectic and something of a Renaissance man, with interests including military and space technology, motorcycles, politics, music, philosophy and of course bartending and films. While he claimed to know nothing about computers, he actually gave Greg Hill ideas for a solitaire game HIll created.
He used his intelligence to put his personal discord on the military establishment. While at Wichita State University, he became a frequent volunteer for psychological tests and studies. After he figured out how the tests worked, he purposely failed the Army's psychological exam and thus avoided the Viet Nam War draft.
Marshall enjoyed working more than retirement. While he liked traveling by motorcycle to visit his family, in 2011 he suffered an illness that he thought would be fatal. He died at home in 2012 of a heart attack at age 68.