Funny how “Happy Hour” gets happier as it progresses! I took a late afternoon, early evening “Happy Hour” visit to some of the local watering holes in the Chinatown – North Beach area yesterday with my brother Kevin. We visited some clubs with interesting pasts.
First stop, Red’s Place on Jackson Street, the oldest bar in Chinatown. I was lucky to find a vintage picture on the internet looking down Jackson Street from where Red’s is to get a match up, although, I had to stand closer to the middle of the street, (not a good idea in Chinatown) to get the Bay Bridge in today.
Next we stopped at the Vesuvio Cafe on Columbus in North Beach. This used to be one of my favorite hang outs in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The vintage picture is of Henri Lenoir, the owner of Vesuvio’s taken during the mid 1960’s (Collector’s Weekly)
Kevin sure was a hit with all of the pretty girls at Vesuvio’s. When he said, “Why don’t you girls take a picture with my brother now?” they all got up and walked out!
In 1965 Robbie Robertson, Mike McClure, Bob Dylan, and Alan Ginsberg posed near the City Lights Books side entrance in what is now called Jack Kerouac Alley between Vesuvio’s and City Lights. A girl named Adrianne, who was the perfect girl to meet at Vesuvio’s, a place for poets and dreamers, was kind enough to pose in the same spot for us.
The Explore North Beach website reads that 440 Broadway was a lesbian and male impersonator nightclub popular during World War Two called Mona’s. From their website, “Mona’s flourished during World War Two and the Korean War. It was a favorite with lesbians but even with servicemen as it was not off-limits.” The Cosmo Bar and Lounge now occupies the spot.
One of the places we passed but didn’t go in was the Saloon on Grant Avenue, reputed to be San Francisco’s oldest bar. It’s usually too crowded to get a seat. In 1986 a scene from Star Trek lV: The Voyage Home with “Sulu”, “Scotty”, and “Bones” was filmed here.
We didn’t go in the old Paper Doll Club either. In the 1952 film ‘The Sniper’ Arthur Franz shoots an entertainer who works at the club with a scope rifle causing her to crash back into her own marquee before dying. I guess it wasn’t “Happy Hour” for her! During the 1980’s and 1990’s I spent a lot of time here when it had been remodeled and was called ‘Silhouettes’ but it’s been closed up and for lease for some time now.
Finally, I ended up in the “Weepers Corner” at sunset at the Top of the Mark, crying about all of the money I spent. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts the interesting origin of “Weepers Corner”. During World War Two, wives, lovers, siblings, and friends would sit in this corner of “The Mark” and watch loved ones sail away under the Golden Gate Bridge to the Pacific Theaters of the war. Many, many of them never returned.