Monday, January 21, 2008

Two North Beach Institutions

It had been over 20 years since I last saw "Beach Blanket Babylon," the only-in-San Francisco cabaret that spoofs modern culture. With my parents visiting, I decided to see how the show was holding up.

Beach Blanket Babylon has been running for over 30 years, so I probably last saw it during its first decade. The theme remains the same; the story of Snow White's efforts to find true love. About one-third of the show looked familiar. However, the majority of songs and skits were new since I last saw the show. The performance was completely up-to-date. There was even a musical number spoofing Hillary Clinton crying the day before the New Hampshire primary.

The singing is still good and the costumes are still zany. The satire is wacky and the hats remain the biggest you'll ever see. At least two of the performers, Val Diamond and Renee Lubin, were in the show when I last saw it. If you've never seen Beach Blanket, then I highly recommend seeing it on your next visit to San Francisco. If you've been before, you'll get a good laugh if you go again.

Beach Blanket Babylon performs at the Club Fugazi, 687 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd. (Green Street) in North Beach. Shows are at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday matinées are at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. and are the only performances that minors may attend.

While in North Beach, I decided to dine at another North Beach institution: North Beach Restaurant. I had never eaten here and figured, after living in San Francisco for 29 years, it was about time to give North Beach Restaurant a try. Walking into this restaurant was like time traveling back to the 1950s. Waiters were in tuxes and the menu looked like it hadn't changed since the restaurant first opened in 1970. While our waiter was very friendly and the food acceptable, I can't recommend dining at the North Beach Restaurant. There are far better Italian restaurants in San Francisco. Unfortunately, most of them are not in North Beach.

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