San Francisco Satire Lives in North Beach…And Wears a Funny Hat
The last time I saw Beach Blanket Babylon was nearly 10 years ago. I had just moved back to the U.S and I was staying in an S.R.O motel above a strip club in North Beach. Each night I would fall asleep to the soothing melodies of Lil Jon & Ludacris coming up through the floor boards from bellow. It was a weird time, but I was a 20-something and thought it was romantic to be living in squalor, in the neighborhood of Beat poets and San Francisco’s ‘laissez faire’.
At Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe one afternoon I met a young lady visiting from the Midwest, (let’s call her ‘Diane’) her mother had gotten food poisoning at fisherman’s warf, and she had no one to go to “this strange singing show with gay people in it”. First I thought, “wow, you have an incredible way with words Diane”, then I thought, “I wonder if Diane will be cool with my ‘living situation’ if it goes there,” or rather, “will Diane mind sharing a bathroom with some of my hall mates, who all seem to be either pimps or janitors of some kind”? Life’s little mysteries…
Fast forward a decade, (I no longer sleep 6 ft above a stripper pole) and my good buddy from New York is visiting, (for the purpose of this story we’ll call him “Tyrone”). I call ‘Tyrone’ my ‘big chocolate teddy bear’, because he is 6 ‘6’, the color of mocca, and everyone seems to want to hug him. (which is very annoying I might add, he hogs all of the attention when we got out).
Anyway, we decided to have a ‘classic North Beach’ night out. Which at 6 p.m. means; we’ll eat at an Italian restaurant, see a nice show, visit one old school bar, maybe visit a friend’s rooftop, and get a cab home. But by 12:30 a.m. you realize what you really meant was you were going to forget to eat dinner, visit 6 bars, see a nice show, eat a slice of Golden Boys Pizza in the park, and then have an odd conversation with someone named “Sapphire” who now wants you to see ‘her’ show.
Sorry, what was I talking about again?
Oh right, Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon. The BBB is a San Francisco staple, as far as I know it’s been running forever (1974) they say they’ve done over 15,000 shows which is a feat in itself. What’s most impressive is that this world famous musical revue continually evolves to reflect the times. You’ve got singing, dancing, and the most hilarious costumes imaginable, but many of them mimic and lampoon current pop culture, politics and stereotypes. You can almost hear them backstage exclaiming “wait a second, is Kim Kardisian’s fat ass in the news this week? No problem, we’ve got a couple beach balls, some tape, and get so-and-so to write some fresh lyrics…”
It’s the kind of cast that makes you really want to hangout with them afterward. The kind of cast you couldn’t picture out of costume or not having a good time. The venue (Club Fugazi) is classy and classic, beers are an incredibly reasonable $5, and the staff feels like they belong there, like they’re all part of some family behind the curtains. It’s old school, on point, and we laughed until our faces hurt. In particular when Michele Bachmann came out to sing a number, I almost lost my shit.
The performers all have pipes, comedic presence and of course the most amazing wigs you have ever seen.
I want to know what these people do on Halloween…what do they wear? And will they be friends with me? Can we form the greatest Bay to Breakers team in the history of the world?