Gaylord's Cine-Bar / The Laurel Theatre

2111 Polk St. | map |
 

Opening: It debuted in 1970 as Gaylord's Cine-Bar, a gay porno operation. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for researching the dates on the venue as well as sharing this 1970 photo by Tom Gray.

It was on the west side of the street between Broadway and Vallejo. It closed as Gaylord's in 1970 and reopened as the Laurel Theatre in 1971. 
 

A 1971 photo by Tom Gray that's from the Jack Tillmany collection. Evidently it was still a gay venue as the Laurel. Ace Musto comments: 

"I went to see a film in 1971 at the Laurel Theatre on Polk St. with a small group to watch a screening the legendary gay classic 'Boys in the Sand' by Wakefield Poole."

Closing: 1971. The same year it reopened as the Laurel. 

Status: The building survives on the corner of Polk and Broadway. 
 
 

The building in 2021 as we look south toward Broadway. It has been reconfigured and renumbered a bit. Gabriella's Pizza, with the red awning, uses a 2109 address. The space this side of it, here seen as Fusion Poki, appears to have been the bay once housing the theatre. It's now numbered 2123. Photo: Google Maps

More information: Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.  

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The Latin Quarter

365 Broadway  | map |

Opening: April 6, 1963 as "The Rendezvous Spot of Latin Society." The building is on the south side of the street just east of Montgomery. The c.1969 photo by Tom Gray is from the Jack Tillmany collection. Jack quotes the October 21, 1969 San Francisco Examiner:

"A police problem from the day it opened..."

An April 6, 1963 ad. 
 
 

A July 10, 1965 ad. 
 
 

An October 1968 ad. 

 

A bit of October 23, 1969 news coverage. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for locating this item as well as the Latin Quarter ads. He notes:
 
"A major problem was its 'after hours' (i.e. 'Breakfast Club') operation, meeting the same kind of resistance as its predecessors met along Pacific Avenue a half century earlier. San Francisco's city fathers and mothers want those liquor cabinets locked, and the kiddies tucked in before 2AM and that is that."  
 

Another c.1969 photo by Tom Gray. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for sharing this from his collection. He comments: 

"I wish I knew the sequence of Tom's 2 photos, which came first. That's probably his car out front. The signage says it all."

Closing: Jack notes that the Latin Quarter faded into history about 1972.
 
Status: The building survives. It's now used as offices. 
 
 

The building in 2019. Photo: Google Maps

More information: Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.  

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The Moulin Rouge / Soul Train / Hippodrome / Stone

412 Broadway | map |

Opened: It's unknown when it first became an entertainment venue. The building has had multiple tenants and many different formats over the years. It was running as the Moulin Rouge from about 1963 until 1967. The club had a capacity of 700. 
 
The location is on the north side of the street just west of Montgomery. The On Broadway Theatre was across the street at 435 Broadway. 
 

A March 1964 view of the venue as the Moulin Rouge. It's an Alan J. Canterbury photo in the San Francisco Public Library collection.  

A matchbook from the Moulin Rouge era. Thanks to Harry Angus for sharing this on the page about the venue on his site Jerry's Brokendown Palaces. He notes that as the Moulin Rouge it was operated by Dave Rapken.
 

"Nudie movies from noon." Thanks to Harry Angus for locating this April 1967 listing from the Chronicle.

Later in 1967 it became Mr. D's, a name that was used until 1969. Harry notes: 

"Tony Bennett opened this room in 1967 when it was called Mr. D's, an elegant supper club. Sammy Davis Jr., had a modest financial interest in the venture. The owner was Joe DeCarlo, a talented and accomplished impresario, as well as U.S. Naval sharpshooter who served at Iwo Jima...
 
"The San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder says that this building was built in 1968. Maybe there was a fire? On June 12, 1968, Mr. D’s, San Francisco's newest supper club and touted as the largest, re-opened grandly with a classy, polished one man show by Bobby Darin, backed by a 23-piece orchestra."

Harry notes that performers during the Mr. D's era included The Righteous Brothers (June 1968), Tony Bennett (again, July 1968), Ray Charles (August 1968), Paul Anka (August 1968), Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas (January 1969) and Three Dog Night (November 1969).
 
By 1972 it was called The Seven Divinities. In the second half of 1973 it was The Matrix, a reboot at this new location. Harry notes that it was an operation of Peter Abrams, John Barsotti and Dave Martin. He lists notable shows in 1973 including The New York Dolls, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Iggy and The Stooges along with The Tubes. 
 
In 1974 it became known as the Soul Train, an operation of Oakland promoter Dick Griffey and Don Cornelius, host of the TV show. Richard Pryor recorded a live album at the club.
 

A 1975 photo taken by Tom Gray prior to the venue's reopening as the Hippodrome. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for sharing this from his collection. Harry Angus notes that the proprietor was Lewis Chin.
 

A May 14, 1975 opening day ad for "Bullshot Crummond." Thanks to Jack Tillmany for locating it. The show had a nearly four year run.
 

Matches from the Hippodrome. Thanks to Harry Angus for sharing the image.

It closed as the Hippodrome in early 1980. Later in 1980 it reopened as The Stone, an operation of Freddie Herrera and Bobby Corona.
 

The look as The Stone. It's a photo by Dave Hunter that was located by Harry Angus. 
 

 The logo for The Stone. Thanks to Harry Angus for the image.  

Harry comments that shows of note when it was The Stone included Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker (opening show, 1980), The Jerry Garcia Band (many shows, 1980-1987), Prince (1982), Wilson Pickett, James Brown, The Four Tops and The Temptations. The lease was later taken over by John Nady. 

The look of the building as The Stone in 1995 with "Bye" on the marquee. It's a photo by Keta Bill Selvin. Thanks to Harry Angus for locating it for the page about the venue on his site Jerry's Brokendown Palaces.   
 
Harry notes that the building was mostly empty for the second half of the 1990s. On March 15, 1999 it reopened as the Showgirls Cabaret
 
 
 
A 1999 photo from Harry Angus of the venue as the Showgirls Cabaret. 
 

The Showgirls Cabaret at night. Thanks to Harry Angus for the photo. 

In January 2000 it became Boys Toys. In By 2012 it had become the Penthouse Club & Steakhouse

Status: It's now an "adult entertainment club" called Vanity After Dark


The location in 2021. That's Montgomery St. on the right. Photo: Google Maps

More information: Thanks to Harry Angus for researching the dates and operators for the various incarnations of this location. See the page about the venue on his site Jerry's Brokendown Palaces for a more complete discussion of various performers who appeared here.

Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.  

We had lots of other venues using the Hippodrome name at various times. See Hippodrome 555 Pacific St. | Hippodrome 560 Pacific St. | Embassy Theatre 1125 Market St. | Union Square Theatre 160 O'Farrell St. The 555 Pacific St. Hippodrome was also for a time known as Moulin Rouge.

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The Improvisation Theater, Inc.

149 Powell St. | map |

Opening: November 1972. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for sharing the photo of this architecturally stunning entrance that was taken by Tom Gray.  It was in the middle of the block on the west side of the street between Ellis and O'Farrell.
 
Jack notes that this second-floor theatre space had been Lindahl's Academy of Hair Styling from 1964 to 1967. In 1969 had become the Walt Baptiste Yoga Institute.
 

This article about the Berkeley-based troupe's new San Francisco location appeared in the October 31, 1972 edition of the Examiner. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for locating it. The company was headed by Cindy Kamler and Carl Yorke.
 

A November 7, 1972 article from the Chronicle. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for locating it.

Closing: 1977. Jack comments: "After five years of what was apparently a successful and well supported operation, they faded into history in December 1977. In 1984 the site segued into the home of the San Francisco Health Club, later known as the Union Square Heath Club."

Status: The building survives but it's all now a Walgreens store. Until at least 2011 the upstairs had been Lori's Diner, using the 149 Powell address. 
 
 

The building in 2009. Photo: Google Maps
 

The building in 2019. The window in the center of the image with seismic bracing behind it was once the doorway immortalized by Tom Gray. Photo: Google Maps

More information: Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.  

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The Lyceum Theatre

809 Kearny St. | map

Opening: 1907. Jack Tillmany reports that it was running as early as January 1907 as the Lyceum Theatre with Adolph Hageman as manager. The first telephone directory listing for it was in the June 1, 1909 edition and it appears in the September 1909 city directory. In the city directories the Lyceum was using an address of 809 Kearny.
 
Although sharing some of the same footprint as several versions of the pre-earthquake Bella Union Theatre, this was new construction. The entrance on Kearny was near the location that had been used for the final version of the Bella Union but the Lyceum's auditorium was along Washington instead of being in the middle of the block as the Bella Union's had been.
 

The side of the auditorium along Washington and the Lyceum's entrance on Kearny can be seen in this  detail Art Siegel extracted from a photo on the Open SF History Project website. Art notes that he's dated the photo as c.1910 as we see billboards and a vacant lot beyond the entrance. Sometime around 1911 that lot would be the site of the Shanghai Theatre. Later it would be called the Kearny and, beginning in 1948, the Bella Union.
 

A closer look at the entrance. Note the swing-out sign saying "LYCEUM." Jack Tillmany notes that the upper left poster next door is also advertising the Lyceum. 

The c.1910 view that the details above were taken from. The patch of green just left of center is Portsmouth Square The side of the Lyceum is seen beyond on Washington St. It's a photo from the Martin Behrman Negative Collection of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On the Open SF History site it appears with this caption: 
 
"Elevated view northwest from the Merchants Exchange Building to scene showing much reconstruction and some buildings still in ruins. William Tell House, Mergenthaler Linotype (638 Sacramento), Chy Lung & Co. Chinese & Japanese Bazaar (676 Sacramento). Russian Hill at left, Chinatown (Dr. Ong Ting Shew Tea and Herbs, Dr. Chow Juyan Tea and Herbs) Portsmouth Square (with Lyceum Theater near Kearny and Washington corner), North Beach, Columbus Ave., St. Francis of Assisi Church (still gutted from fire), Bay in distance, Telegraph Hill at right. On Kearny: Dr. Field & Co's Free Museum, Lundstrom Hats, Harris' Loan Office, 615 Kearny, City Loan Office 621 Kearny, Hotel McDonough 706 Kearny. Streetcar on Washington near Kearny."
 

Shocking! An immoral show at the Lyceum in 1912. Thanks to Art Siegel for locating this article in the December 21 issue of the Chronicle. The December 21, 1912 Daily Alta California also covered the incident with their article "Lyceum Owner Guilty of Law Infraction." The story can be viewed on the California Digital Newspaper Collection website. 
 

 
A detail from image 35 of the 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. Thanks to Art Siegel for locating this in the Library of Congress collection. Kearny is running up the right. That's Jackson St. across the top.
 
The Lyceum's auditorium is shown along Washington St. as "Vaudeville and Moving Pictures." The building on the corner is shown as 801 to 808. 815 is the entrance to the Lyceum with Shanghai/Kearny Theatre shown as "Moving Pictures" and here given an 821 address. The white rectangle in the middle of the block was the location of the auditorium of the 1868-1906 version of the Bella Union.

"Chinese Johnnies Pest Chorus Girls in Theater." Thanks to Art Siegel for locating this story in the October 25, 1917 San Francisco Call:

"A policeman has been stationed in front of the Lyceum Theater at 809 Kearny street to chase away the Chinese Johnnies, who pester the chorus girls there. The dressing rooms are under the sidewalk, and the Johnnies have poked out the glass eyes in the walk and used the holes to slip in notes addressed to the girls."
 
The last city directory listing for the Lyceum was June 1918 according to Jack Tillmany's research. 
 

 
In September and October 1919 the theatre ran ads in L' Italia, an Italian language newspaper. Thanks to Art Siegel for spotting this ad for the Eddie O'Brien Musical Comedy Co. production of "A Trip To Paris" that appeared in the October 17, 1919 L'Italia issue.

Closing:  Perhaps 1919 was the end of the line for the Lyceum. The closing date is unknown. 
 
 

A later Sanborn map with the auditorium shown as a restaurant and the former Kearny entrance used as retail space. That's the Shanghai / Kearny Theatre shown as "Moving Pictures" with the 821 address. Thanks to Art Siegel for finding the building on image 35 of the map that's in the Library of Congress collection. It's helpfully dated as 1913-1950. 

Status: The entrance on Kearny survives and is now used for retail. The auditorium portion of the Lyceum has been demolished. There's now a new building on the site.



Looking east on Washington St., along the side of the Lyceum's auditorium. The door at the end of the building closest to us was the stage entrance. Thanks to Glenn Koch for sharing the photo from his collection, a post on the BAHT Facebook page. Glenn notes that the photo came to him with a date of September 21, 1923.  If that's accurate, the theatre was closed at the time. On the reverse it says: "Moving, Washington Street, San Francisco, Calif."



The view across from Clay and Kearny toward the Lyceum building in March 1924. It's a San Francisco Public Library photo that was once published with this caption: 
 
"Once the Center of Town - Here was the plaza of the new city of San Francisco, and near the corner you may see the front of the famous Bella Union theater and dance hall where 'Lotta' charmed the golden coins from the pockets of miners. At a later date Robert Louis Stevenson sat upon the grass at this spot, as many do now, and dreamed dreams. There is romance and appeal in this old picture, one of the most prized in the collection of the Pacific Gas and Electric company, through whose courtesy it is reproduced here."



Looking north/northeast in the 50s. It's a photo appearing courtesy of Jimmie Shein on the Found SF page "Portsmouth Square: The Plaza."
 


Around on Kearny St. That's what had been the Lyceum entrance on the left. In the center it's the Shanghai / Kearny Theatre, renamed the Bella Union in 1948. It's a July 1972 photo that appeared on the now-vanished American Classic Images website.  



A 1979 photo by Tom Gray from the Jack Tillmany collection. It appears on page 70 of Jack's book "Theatres of San Francisco."



The two former theatre buildings in 2012. Thanks to Bruce C. for this photo he posted on Cinema Treasures.



The buildings in 2015. Photo: Bill Counter



The Washington St. facade of the new building on the site. We're looking east toward Kearny. Photo: Google Maps - 2017



An aerial view of the property. Photo: Google Maps - 2018



Another Kearny St. view. The building in the center was the Lyceum entrance, currently using an 809 address. The World Ginseng Center building on the right is the former Kearny Theatre.  Photo: Google Maps - 2018
 
 
Possibly the Lyceum in the movies:
 

A shot from George Melford's film "Moran of the Lady Letty" (Paramount, 1922) that was spotted by Jack Tillmany. He comments:
 
"It might be the Lyceum Theatre. The movie was filmed in San Francisco around 1922, and used authentic outdoor locations in and around North Beach; nothing downtown or outside that neighborhood; the theatre was obviously the real thing, but only shows up for a few seconds in that one sequence. I've checked all the likely suspects, the Acme, the Flagg, and those on Broadway, but so far nothing quite matches up. Surviving photos are frustratingly sparse; many sites are still up in the air. So we will have to wait, I guess."

Gary Parks adds: 
 
"It's tough to call. I see how the sidewalk slopes a bit—just like it does on that street in the c.1910 Lyceum photo—though that specific little part is hidden in the latter image. But—in the image from the movie, there’s a pocket for—and the folded fabric of—an awning above the adjacent storefront. In the Lyceum image, I see no provision for either…though one can’t rule out that by the Twenties, one may have been installed there. The sidewalls of the ticket lobby are so smothered with posters in the Lyceum shot, I can’t get a read on what that wall looks like underneath. Still a little mystery, I’m afraid."

More information: See the pages about the Shanghai / Kearny Theatre next door at 825 Kearny and the pre-1906 theatre on the block, the Bella Union.  
 
Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.

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The Kearny Cinema

1030 Kearny St. | map |

The building is on the east side of the street between Pacific and Broadway. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for sharing this c.1976 photo by Tom Gray that's in his collection. 

Opening: Sort of hard to say. The building was the location of the original Il Trovatore Restaurant. It was a gradual slide in the 60s and 70s from restaurant to cocktail lounge with girls and movies to something branded as the Kearny Cinema.
 

Thanks to Jack Tillmany for locating this 1943 image by an unknown photographer. The Camel Club at 1034 Kearny was later the home of the North Beach Movie
 
 

It was called Bunny Simon's in 1966. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for locating this February 19 ad and the others seen on the page. He comments:
 
"Apparently it pioneered the concept of serving both boobs and booze, along with boots and bondage, which soon blossomed onto Broadway and became a North Beach way of life."
 
 

A March 5, 1966 ad.
 
 

It was next called The Jungle offering the Snake Dance and free movies. The ad is from March 29, 1969. 

"Vivid French Films." Later the venue was renamed the '69 Expo. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for sharing the 1969 photo by Tom Gray.  
 
 

An August 10, 1970 ad for the '69 Expo, an "Adult Theater & Cocktail Lounge."
 

A c.1972 photo by Clay Geerdes with the theatre still called the '69 Expo. Note that by the time of the photo the "Cocktails" word on the sign had been blacked out. 
 
 

"Movies $2.50 - Free Peek." It's a c.1973 photo by Tom Gray from the Jack Tillmany collection.
 
 
 
Rebranded as the Kearny Cinema. This ad is from August 18, 1974.

A 1975 photo by Tom Gray from the Jack Tillmany collection.
 
 

A December 5, 1975 ad.  

 

An April 30, 1977 ad. 
 
 

A May 7, 1977 ad.  Thanks for locating all the ads, Jack!
 
 

Thanks to Jonathan Orovitz for sharing this September 1983 photo he took.  

Looking south on Kearny from Broadway in January 1984. It's a photo by Jonathan Orovitz, one of eight North Beach night views he shared in a 2022 post on the San Francisco Remembered Facebook page. Thanks, Jonathan! 
 
On the left it's the North Beach Movie running "Hungry Slave Girls" and "Forced Submission." That's the Kearny Cinema beyond. On the right it's the Lusty Lady with the dark signage of the Palladium Club beyond. Jack Tillmany comments about the Kearny Cinema:
 
"Its identity as a film theatre seemed to fade away after 1984 after which it soldiered on as an adult video, magazine and toy store." 
 
Closing: As late as April 2011 it was called Kearny Adult Video. At that time they had signage in the window saying "Preview Theaters! See Any Movie!"
 
Status: The building's ground floor is now the home of a boutique called Secrets. It's been using that name since at least 2013.
 
 

Secrets as a tenant in 2021. The lower floor of the former North Beach Movie to the left is now home to the non-profit organization North Beach Citizen. Photo: Google Maps

More information: Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.  

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