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Saturday, August 15, 2009

San Francisco's Beach Blanket Babylon

click on photos to enlarge
SFO International, June 2009

I came across this exhibit at the San Francisco International airport when I was on my way to France 2 months ago (that's the Air France counter in the back), and it reminded me that I've never mentioned Steve Silver's acclaimed musical review, Beach Blanket Babylon, on this blog, which a huge omission on my part.

SFO International, June 2009

The Silver Anniversary Skyline Hat (above) is "15 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 29 feet tall. At 300 pounds, the brim alone required 60 yards of taffeta and 200 ostrich feathers." said Jo Schuman Silver, producer of BBB

Beach Blanket Babylon is a musical review that has been running in San Francisco for 35 years, and shows no sign of slowing down. Under the same premise (Snow White goes around the world to find her Prince), the cast pokes fun at celebrities, politicians, and current local issues of San Francisco. The events change every year, but the basic premise remains the same.

And while Snow White goes looking for her prince, there is music, singing, dancing, and incredible, colorful costumes.

The elaborate, beautiful, oversized hats are the signature of Beach Blanket Babylon and the hats alone, in my opinion, are worth the price of admission. My favorite hat is the huge one they show at the end, with the whole city of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, on top of it. Be sure to click here to see more hats and get some background on them.

The cast will make you laugh out loud but don't underestimate their talent; they can really sing (Renée Lubin especially comes to mind) and dance.

If you want to see the show, be sure to book your tickets early. People customarily show up outside the club an hour or two early to make sure they get good seats because there is no assigned seating, but don't worry, even if you don't make it an hour early, the place is not very big and you will see reasonably well from wherever you are seated.

They don't allow photography anywhere in the club and it's very difficult to find good material online, but I did find the cast of Beach Blanket Babylon singing "San Francisco" (from the 1936 movie of the same name) at the baseball park, right after the earthquake of 1989 that shook the Bay Area pretty badly at the time. You might enjoy this quick video, which also shows the city skyline as it was at the time (although the quality isn't the best).

UPDATE 8/18/09:

Thanks for the tip, PhotoADay. I didn't find anything when I first drafted the post a few weeks ago, probably because I was looking for the last act. Here's a clip of BBB that gives you just a little glimpse of the show (we don't want to reveal everything, now do we! :)


* * *

Links and Resources

Beach Blanket Babylon's official website here

Additional pictures and information about the hats here

A good review of Beach Blanket Babylon here

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Blogger AphotoAday said...

Well, now I know a heck of a lot more about BBB than I did earlier...   I've always wondered why they renamed (((or subtitled?))) Green Street, Beach Blanket Babylon, so now I guess I know why... (((was spooking around on that street just this morning)))

I also looked at two BBB YouTube videos -- I'm sure there are more (((I suppose people have been sneaking their video cameras into the theater)))

Thanks for the fine reporting, T.F.

And by the way, you have my deepest sympathy for what you're going to have to deal with on Monday with Bart out of service... Messy, messy, messy...

1:08 PM  
Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

I did the research for this post before I got sick and didn't find anything at the time. Sorry to see that people have been sneaking in cameras. One photos or two is OK but the show itself. I don't know about that.

I think it's best to experience a show like BBB in person. It's kind of a unique atmosphere, which people seem to enjoy very much. I've seen it 3 times and will probably see it again.

11:10 PM  
Blogger claude said...

Je me souciens très bien de cette chanson chantée dans le film sur le tremblement de terre de San Francisco d 'il y a bien longtemps, suivi par un immense incendie. Je crois me rappeler que c'était jeannette McDonald qui la chantait et c'était fort beau et émouvant.

12:07 AM  
Blogger from cali said...

Shortly after Jeanette McDonald sings a rousing rendition of San Francisco the earthquake takes place. The special effects are impressive for that era.
I really enjoy your posts with a lot of links because it gives me an excuse to return again and again. :-)

9:00 PM  
Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

Claude: C'est exact, c'est Jeannette MacDonald. J'ai d'ailleurs loue le film car il a la reputation d'etre excellent, meme apres toutes ces annees. J'ai vu la partie avec le tremblement de terre, et pour un film de 1936, c'est vraiment incroyable qu'ils aient pu faire des special effects aussi proches de la realité. Beach Blanket Babylon a chante la chanson au baseball park, car le tremblement de terre qu'on a eu en 1989 a fait vraiment tres peur a tout le monde, surtout avec le morceau de pont qui est tombe (je crois que le monde entier a vu cette photo!)

La chanson elle meme est l'embleme de San Francisco.

Fom Cali: you just said the same thing in English, so I won't have to translate ;)

I agree with you, the special effects in the 1936 movie are incredible, and very realistic. And of course, Jeannette MacDonald does a superb job with that song. I haven't seen the entire movie, just pieces on uTube, which prompted me to rent the movie (will watch it this WE).

1:32 PM  
Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

From Cali: PS, I added one more link ;)

1:33 PM  
Blogger from cali said...

I really should at least TRY to read the comments in French before I comment. lol!

Thanks for the latest link. It's nice to see the hats and costumes "in action."

2:43 PM  
Anonymous geneline said...

Super la video sur BBB. Pas facile sinon de trouver des photos live,...

2:13 PM  
Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

Geneline: pas facile, non, et j'ai pas essayé du tout d'en prendre (j'aurais peut-etre pu?), car franchement, je trouve que le spectacle vaut le prix d'admission et j'ai pas trop envie qu'on se mette à les copier ailleurs. Apres tout, le concept est unique, et puis c'est une entreprise locale, faut les plutot aider :)

From Cali: Let me know if you don't understand the French comments.

4:09 PM  
Blogger claude said...

J'ai oublié de dire que le mannequin a un truc en plumes sur la tête très impressionnant.
Je réponds à ta réponds concernant la farce à tomates.
du porc, du veau et un peu de beef.
1 oeuf, du cognac, du sel du poivre, le l'oignon, échalotte ail et persil.
Il ne te plait pas mon pousse-mousse Ours !!!

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anthony said...

As you know, I have recently seen the show. It was the day we missed each other because miss Tomato was not feeling too fresh... :-( Anyway, I have to say that, though the show was very entertaining, I was surprised about the fact that I did not get to see a lot of those extravagant hats the show is supposed to be famous for. Of course, there were a lot of hats, but they were rather simple, except during the last ten minutes of the show... Also, though I was at the back of the room, I had a clear view on all the action; the theatre was very small...

3:12 PM  
Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

Anthony, thanks for your visit and comment, as usual :)

Be GLAD we missed each other! I wasn't feeling my best in the afternoon of the parade, and just 3 days later, I became *very* ill and it went on for weeks! I'm still not 100% back to normal. Glad you missed that! :)

I've seen the show 3 times and I don't remember now if the hats were more elaborate in the past. I wasn't paying attention, to be honest, because I was having too much fun! :) The chairs are not too comfortable though, and next time I'll be sure to bring my pillow ;)

5:57 PM  
Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

Claude, desolee, je n'ai pas vu le commentaire. Le truc en plume, en fait c'est la base du chapeau. Toute la ville de San Francisco est sur le chapeau, comme tu peux le voir sur la premiere photo.

les dimensions du chapeau c'est "15 pieds de large, profondeur 10 pieds et hauteur 29 pieds. (1 pied c'est approx. 30 centimetres)

Le chapeau pese 300 livres (1 livre c'est environ 500 g je crois), la bordure seule a demande 60 metres de taffeta and 200 plumes d'autruce (les pauvres! ;)"

D'autres "chapeaux" impressionnants ici:


Bien sur, les chapeaux les plus lourds et les plus grands sont souleves mechaniquement par des systemes et des poulies et le chanteur en dessous.

Pour l'ours, bon il est mignon, mais c'est un peu rustique. Moi je prefere les loups, et les decorations American Indians, personellement, mais j'en ai tres peu a la maison, en general je prefere les trucs modernes. A bientot.

6:07 PM  
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10:48 PM  
Anonymous Florida Beach Cottages said...

You're really lucky coming across this exhibit. I love it when these things turn up. The spontaneity just makes it all that much more special.

3:30 AM  

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