The father of modern-day BASE jumpers was a classic San Francisco character. On a recent trip to the archive, I turned up decades-old photos and articles on Robert Niles, the unquestioned king of Golden Gate Bridge stunts. From The Chronicle, reporter Carolyn Ansbacher and photographers Bill Young and Bob Campbell were on hand, and Ansbacher interviewed Niles shortly after he was plucked from the water below the bridge. With a 10-cent cigar in his mouth and parachute on his back, he leaped and drifted 450 feet down to the bay below — almost twice the distance of his jump from the Golden Gate. Climbing to near the top of the tower took seven minutes and created a mile-long backup on the bridge. There was nothing intentionally vicious in what you did, but you endangered the lives of thousands of motorists that day. The former stuntman was charged with grand theft for stealing a lion, a Capuchin monkey and an albino ferret from a Los Angeles County zoo where he had worked. In his weekly column, From the Archive, he explores the depths of The Chronicle’s vast photography archive in search of interesting historical tales related to the city by the bay.