Sunday, December 2, 2012

Theatre 1839 (Temple Beautiful), 1839 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA


February 26, 1930, Photo property of S.F. Library

The former site of the synagogue for Temple Beth Israel, an early Jewish congregation in San Francisco, founded around 1860, which began constructing its fifth building at 1839 Geary in 1905, although its completion was interrupted by the April 1906 earthquake.

Next to the synagogue was the Scottish Rites (Masonic) Temple Building, known as the Alfred Pike Memorial Temple, at 1859 Geary, which dated back to the 19th century.

A remarkable photo exists from right after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, showing a damaged Beth Israel synagogue and the equally damaged Masonic Temple, with an empty lot where the future Fillmore would be built a few years later.
Although there were a number of different addresses on the block, these three buildings were the main structures on the block until the 1980s.(1)

On March 16-17, 1967, the building was used for a Benefit for The Church Of The Good Earth along with the People's Prison Symposium. John Sinclair was one of many speakers.

A brief article in the May 3, 1969 edition of Music Industry trade magazine Billboard notes that Bill Graham sold the Geary Temple next to his old Fillmore Auditorium to Western Addition Youth Group, Inc., a self-help for ghetto teenagers for $166,000, although another bidder was willing to pay $175,000.
By that time, Graham had moved from the Fillmore to the Fillmore West, a dozen blocks and a mile and half away.  In any case, the Billboard notice shows that Graham owned the Geary Temple, and that accounts for the abrupt absence of any shows at the Geary Temple from 1966 onwards.(2)
Temple Beth Israel was on the move as well, as its Congregation merged with another Congregation, becoming Congregation Beth Israel-Judea in 1969. The Congregation moved to 625 Brotherhood Way in San Francisco, where it remains today.
The Temple at 1839 Geary seems to have been temporarily used for other functions.[1]
“In 1972 the Temple was leased by a generous Polish refugee, Janos Kovak, who quit his job as a Bank of America executive to establish a music hall, art gallery and community center: it went by the name H.O.G. (House of Good). I was one of about a dozen who worked to prepare the place, later ran the sound system with the assistance of Prairie Prince, a talented drummer with the Tubes; he also air brushed fine infinite space wall murals in the entry and up the Florentine marble stairs.
We rehearsed, partied and did showcasing of groups including Sylvester of The Cockettes and later on disco fame, his backup singers the Pointer Sisters, the Doobie Brothers (they were just a beer bar band from the Peninsula), Lamb, which later split into Huey Lewis and the News and Elvis Costello's first recording group, some terrific jazz, and others just a blur now. The HOG never opened, although we came close getting the word just hours before opening with Norman Greenbaum, a group called One from a commune in the Upper Haight and the headliner: John Lee Hooker featuring Little John Hooker on Hammond Organ. When the police closed us down for lack of permit we talked to Reverand Jones next door about moving the show to his place (The People's Temple); he seemed interested but got cold feet when the police spoke to his people. The old Fillmore next door was then headquarters for the local Black Muslims, their fine bakery on street level, the meeting room upstairs. Hilgard Sternberg ran the stage, we were paid occasionally, the Cockettes hung out, we all saw the possibilities and we got to run a HOG tab up the street at Minnie's Can Do. Seemed a time of transition for all involved. Janos Kovak opened a fine bar on Haight Street shortly afterword of the Temple.”[9]

Although the venue had "festival seating" for the most part, probably different than its synagogue functions, the elegant ceilings and decorations were intact, and it was not only a beautiful building but beautiful sounding as well.(1)


Right next door, however, was the converted Alfred Pike Memorial Scottish Rites Temple, which by this time was the headquarters of Jim Jones's infamous Peoples Temple. Jones and his followers left for Jonestown, Guyana and their tragic mass suicide took place on November 18, 1978. While Theatre 1839 was not directly connected to those events, it did add to the strange mojo of the block.

Temple Beautiful
Theatre 1839 did arise as a performance venue, however, known as Temple Beautiful in early 1979 and hosting a number of punk rock shows. The Clash played their first SF performance (2nd US show) there as an underground show advertised purely through graffiti.
Why did the building stop being used for music after about 1980?

New Wave A Go Go
Not sure if this was the name of the venue or they may have just called it "1839 Geary" when the punks took over.

new wave a go go

1839 Geary

Duquette Pavilion
In the late 1980s, while driving down Geary Street in San Francisco, designer Tony Duquette discovered an abandoned and vandalized synagogue. He immediately purchased the building. After thoroughly remodeling and updating the structure [located on Geary near Fillmore where the post office now stands], Tony began creating a new exhibition named the Canticle of the Sun of Saint Francis of Assisi, after the patron saint of San Francisco.

The building itself was historic, and what Tony did with it architecturally was equally historic.
Before restoration
After restoration
When he found the building it was missing all of its windows, and the first order of business was to seal it up beautifully. Using his favorite material, cast resin, he created amazing inverted conch-shell windows in the two towers and replaced the original stained-glass main window with a creation made from Plexiglas, resin, golf balls, sliced plastic drinking glasses, plastic salad servers from Pic ‘n Save, and all manner of everyday items, which he found beautiful in their repetition.


The main floor of the synagogue would be home to the exhibition. Tony and his volunteer workers created beautiful fabric mosaic tapestries representing the teachings of St. Francis.


An 18th century figure of St. Francis was positioned at the center of the old altar, surrounded by a flock of Rajputani clay birds — perched in dead tree branches — to which he preached a sermon.
Giant faux malachite urns from an 18th century Austrian palace graced the sides of the stage, and behind those were the amazing 15-foot-tall gold-leaf Baroque trees that Tony had prominently displayed for years in his Los Angeles studio.
Above all of this was a giant copper sunburst made from the destroyed and discarded pipes of the building’s original pipe organ. All around the 80-by-80-foot room (and nearing the top of its 40-foot ceilings) ran a horseshoe balcony. It was on this balcony that Tony positioned his army of 28-foot-tall angels, with the 18-foot-tall Madonna in her pavilion holding court at the back. This entire ensemble was artfully hidden by a theatrical scrim, but when the lighting illuminated them from behind, the tableaux appeared and disappeared, to amazing effect.

Under the balcony Tony positioned various sculptures, furniture groupings and works of art.
For this celebratory environment Tony asked his friend Herb Alpert to compose the music. Charlton Heston recited a new poem by Ray Bradbury, and the whole place was set to computerized lighting.
In the basement Tony set up several party rooms and various gallery spaces.


The biggest of these galleries held an exhibition of his wife Beegle’s paintings. The exhibition, like Tony’s other exhibitions, was a brilliant popular success.
Tony Duquette with his goddaughter Liza Minnelli at the Opening of the Duquette Pavilion, April 24, 1987.(5)
Modesto Bee, August 27, 1988

Unfortunately, after being open only a brief time, the entire building — and all of its contents, including the majority of Tony’s personal collections and original works of art — burned February 16, 1989 as the result of an electrical fire.(4)
Modesto Bee, February 17, 1989

                 S.F. FIRE DESTROYS MUSEUM EMPTIES NEARBY CONCERT HALL
A San Francisco museum burned Thursday night, forcing the evacuation of neighbors and thousands of rock fans who were in the nearby Fillmore Auditorium. The fire at the Duquette Pavilion of St. Francis, a converted synagogue at 1839 Geary Blvd., quickly went to five alarms after it was reported at 9:19 p.m. Nearby buildings, including the Fillmore and the old Peoples Temple, were threatened but apparently undamaged. Some 140 firefighters and two dozen engines responded.(2)

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 damaged the Fillmore Auditorium, Temple Beautiful (1839) and the former People's Temple (1859), and all the buildings were damaged by fire. The Fillmore was fully refurbished, but the two other buildings were torn down.

After some time as vacant lots, the 1839 and 1859 Geary addresses are combined as a U.S. Post Office.




Jerry performed/rehearsed here on
Fall 1967 Grateful Dead (rehearsals)
"That fall [of '67] the synagogue next door to the Fillmore closed, and the Dead rented it as a rehearsal hall."(5)

1/12/77 Jerry Garcia Band
1/13/77 Jerry Garcia Band
7/29/77 Jerry Garcia Band
Bob Marley was at the Greek Theater and Willie Nelson was at the Circle Star Theater on this night.
7/30/77 Jerry Garcia Band
8/10/79 Reconstruction (Temple Beautiful)




1.)^Arnold, Corry, July 29-30, 1977: Theatre 1839, 1839 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA Jerry Garcia Band, 2009-11-18, Lost Live Dead, http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2009/11/july-29-30-1977-theatre-1839-1839-geary.html
2.)^San Jose Mercury News (CA),1989-02-17.
3.)^Arnold, Corry, 1859 Geary Blvd, San Francisco: The Geary Temple 1966-68, Lost Live Dead, 2009-11-17, http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/2009/11/1859-geary-blvd-san-francisco-geary.html
4.)^Goodman, Wendy and Wilkinson, Hutton, 2008-11, http://newfillmore.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/from-tony-duquette-a-magical-space/
5.)^McNally, Dennis, Long Strange Trip, pg. 228

12 comments:

  1. In '72 the Temple was leased by a generous Polish refugee who quit his job as a Band of America executive to establish a music hall, art gallery and community center: it went by the name H.O.G. (House of Good). I was one of about a dozen who worked to prepare the place, later ran the sound system with the assistance of Prarie Prince a talented drummer with the Tubes "white punks on dope"; he also air brushed fine infinite space wall murals in entry and up the Florentine marble stairs.
    We rehearsed, partied and did showcasing of groups including Sylvester of Cockettes and later on disco fame, his backup singers the Pointer Sisters, the Dobbie Brothers (they were just a beer bar band from the Peninsula), Lamb which later split into Huey Lewis and the News and Elvis Costello's first recording group, some terrific jazz and others just a blur now. The HOG never opened, although we came close getting the word just hours before opening with Norman Greenbaum "Spirit in the Sky: from Petaluma, a group called One from a commune in the Upper Haight and headliner: John Lee Hooker featuring Little John Hooker on Hammond Organ. When the police closed us down for lack of permit we talked to Rev Jones next door about moving the show to his place (The People's Temple); he seemed interested but got cold feet when the police spoke to his people. The old Fillmore next door then was headquarters for the local Black Muslims, their fine bakery on street level, the meeting room upstairs. Hilgard Sternberg ran the stage, we were paid occasionally, the Cockettes hung out, we all saw the possibilities and we got to run a HOG tab up the street at Minnie's Can Do. Seemed a time of transition for all involved. More info if interested, Dennis in Ohio

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    Replies
    1. Dear Dennis, It certainly has been a long time since The House of Good. I'm Sorry but I do not remember you. I was the sound man and booking agent for Janos from the get go until we closed after three years in operation. The operation worked as follows; Gene McCord and I would scour the clubs in town looking for good bands to book. We would ask them if they were interested in playing a "Big" venue, with two other bands. We would guarantee them 15% of the door. The best three shows were 1- The Annual Miss-Deameanor Contest with the Cockettes. 2- The Tubes, in their first show under the name The Tubes (Formerly "The Beans"). and 3-John Lee Hooker.
      The complement of people who ran the club were as follows; Janos Kovacks, Frank Chordas, Gene McCord, and Betty (Frank's girlfriend) and me, Mark Greenspun. There were only 6 of us. I do not remember you. Who are you? and, Do you know who I am? I spent every Friday and Saturday Night at the Synagogue for the entire three years we were in operation. You say your name is Dennis, Dennis what? The sound system at the House of Good was completely built by me from scratch. I was a base reflex Altec A7 15 " cabinet for lows, a "sweet 16" array for the midrange and a JBL sectoral horn for the high end. I built the sweet 16 cabinets myself. My mixer was an Altec. I had three power amps, one for the A7's one 400 watter for the midrange array and another for the high end sectoral horn. I also often doubled on Follow Spot. I mixed the John Lee Hooker show, The Tubes Show and The John Lee Hooker Show. Another notable show was John Handy and the Tabla player Shankar Gosh. Equalizing the sound system for the Shankar Gosh show was very difficult because Shankar was an audio perfectionist. Please let me know who you are.
      You seem to have a lot of facts from the time. I am writing a book about it, and am concerned that I do not remember you. I do not want to leave you out of the book.
      Mark
      Mark Greenspun
      mark@intercoms.net
      415-333-4056

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  2. This follow up today's earlier comment by me: the generous man who pulled off HOG was Janos Kovack (sp?). I understand he opened a fine bar on Haight Street shortly afterword of the Temple. I first met him on the day I bought a '62 Chevy on the Mendocino Coast and discovered it had carrots growing out of the back bumper; this at Kate Gowen's cabin in Philo where I was staying for a bit while picking grapes in Anderson Valley. Hilgard, myself and an art student named Sandy who had picked me up earlier that year in the midwest while I was hitchhiking back to S.F.; we three ran into Janos in line for the nickel admission to Midnight Movies at the Mitchell Brothers theater on a midnight Saturday. Janos told his friends, "that's the guy who had carrots growing out of the back of his car". The three of became involved with the HOG dream the next day. Those were different times. Dennis in Ohio

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  3. Dennis,
    Thank you for filling in that time frame. Feel free to email me at slipnut01@gmail.com.

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  4. Yes, I love the recollections. Please keep 'em coming!

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  5. You left out the entire period when Olufunmi rastas presented punk, reggae, soul and rock shows at Temple Beautiful. That was the period before the Jonestown deaths. I did poster art for the venue. When the Jonestown tragedy occurred, many thought we were a part of the Jim Jones organization, and no one any longer wanted any part of our efforts. Even some of my personal friends, who should have known better, actually told me "If you are part of the Jones thing, and want help, just tell me and I will l see you get help." Kind, but really was insulted at the time, and could not believe anyone could be so ignorant- either of me, or of what Temple Beautiful was all about. I have boxes of the posters that never got distributed, that I have had in storage since then.

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  6. Thanks Anonymous! Any chance you have posters from
    Jerry Garcia Band
    1/12/77
    1/13/77
    7/29/77
    7/30/77

    or Reconstruction 8/10/79?

    Please email me at slipnut01@gmail.com

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  7. Again referring to early 70's, I mistakenly recalled Janos Kovacks as Polish; he was, and I hope still is, Hungarian. Also, not to leave an impressions that disco tinged music was being practiced when we rehearsed Sylvester and the Pointer Sisters - this era predated that thumping fancy posing time; Sylvester worked most diligently on a James Taylor song about fire and rain and his guitarist had just left the Steve Miller band, who in turn had left off the blues entirely for commercial clatter. The Pointer Sisters often came just on their own to work on funky songs like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross's "Cloudburst" and a song they were making up about crossing the Bay Bridge in their old Volvo, they having just recently left their father's church (no secular singing, no dancing) and wow their cool and funky Goodwill throwback clothes that worked on their forms so well; just prior to this they had been the backup voices with Dave Mason at Winterland just across the way. Both those songs mentioned made it to their first album, an uneven collection, but one that showed off their vocal range and wide sensibilities. I followed Anita around like a drooling puppy; the girls paid myself and Hilgard a bottle each for our time (he got Southern Comfort, I a bottle of Johnny Walker). They were hot and were not yet commercial.
    If we had known the Dead had practiced there that would have been too much, especially in the days Pigpen was still the organ anchor of the outfit.
    Again, Dennis in Ohio.

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  8. You might find this original poster related to this address interesting:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1967-Haight-Ashbury-Intercultural-Event-handbill-Black-White-panthers-/111210044259?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19e4a29b63

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  9. Jeff, Thank you for that new information. I've added it to the Encyclopedia.

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  10. I spent 5 years at the Synagogue "Temple Beth Israel Judea", "1839 Geary", "The House of Good", "Temple Beautiful" "The Wickett Museum of Exotica" roughly from 1969 til 1974. I lived there as my house for two years (1972 and 1973). I ran a club there called "The House of Good" with Jasnos Kovacs, Eugene McCord, and Frank Chordas in 1969,70 and 71. Other people involved were Frank's girlfriend Betty and their friend Van. Also Jackie Ponewash often helped Gene and I book acts. When I lived there I was living with a gentleman named John Wickett. We called our "Persian Palace", "The Wickett Museum of Exotica". Our neighbor next door was Jim Jones, a preacher who was notorious for phony "faith healings", stealing peoples money and ultimately murdering his congregation. Whenever I spoke with Jim Jones, I could not shake the image of a "Used Car Salesman". I thought he was an idiot and could not understand why the Mayor and Supervisors liked him. He was an utterly phony man. Anyway, our place was a super cool. In 1973 Steve Wonder held a private party at our "House". He had just finished his concert at Winterland, doing "Superstition" and heard about our Super Cool Party House, 1839 Geary, just two blocks away from Winterland, and had to book it for the after party. That was the best party we ever had there. Or was it the 300 people sex orgy, or the 200 people one? Yes, at "The Wicket Museum of Exotica" we held some of the largest modern day sex orgies, every weekend. But that is a story in and of itself. While the Black Muslim Church was having their meetings on one side of us and Jim Jone's was "preaching" on the other side, we were all naked in the building in the middle having group sex with each other. What a scene it was and this blog is not big enough for the whole story, so I am working on a book. Mark Greenspun
    mark@intercoms.net

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  11. Hey, Dennis, I forgot Hilgard, Yes, he was stage manager. Hilgard had a great accent, I think it was Polish, but it was a pleasure hearing him talk. It wasn't the words he used it was the tone and accents in his words that were so intriguing. After we went belly up as "The House of Good" , Hilgard became a Cable Car Operator, and later was Supervisor. Janos passed away, Frank Chordas is somewhere in the East Bay, he was a Carpenter. He did all the construction like staging at the HOG. A guy named Paul Rat often helped us with shows. Do you remember him? I have done searches for Gene McCord, but no luck finding him. He had an amazing collection of Classical Music and his apartment on Dolores St. was filled wall to wall with classical records. I was going to try to get a hold of Hilgard Sternberg next. But with Janos gone, a reunion party would not be the same. Janos had a great accent too. His father was filthy rich. He owned Saxe Realty at the time. When our Synagogue on Brotherhood Way, "Temple Judea", absorbed the congregation at 1839 Geary "Beth-Israel", Rabbi Morris de-sanctified the Temple. Janos had a great idea , to make the synagogue a rock concert hall and give Bill Graham a run for his money. His father put up the $5,000 needed to install panic exit doors and secure a dance permit and building occupancy permit.
    We ran shows for 3 years, every Friday and Saturday Night.
    We would stay open till 3AM, we served no booze, we had no permit for that. We never made any money. Typical shows would be about 400 to 600 people paying $2-3 to get in. John Lee, The Tubes, The Cockettes, those shows were around $10. A typical night with three bands taking 15% each, and proceeds around $1,000. That left about $500 for Janos and the rest of us, most of it going to the PG&E bill and Rent. I think we were only paying $1,250 a month to Temple Beth Israel Judea. Still it left only $20 to $30 for each of us. Needless to say the job was mostly "volunteer". The sound system were things I had in my garage at the time. The only thing we splurged on was rental of a follow spot, for the bigger shows. $60 a night, that was a big expense. I did not have one of those in my closet. I did have a 16 MM film projector and reels of cartoons, laurel and hardy shorts, and Charlie Chaplin comedy routines. I would project these at most of the shows. Dennis, send me a link to your facebook page so I can remember who you are. The only person named Dennis we were intimately connected with at the time was Dennis Perron. Are you Dennis Perron?
    And if you are Dennis Perron, how are you buddy?
    I first met you when you ran the Big Top and and the Island Restaurant.
    Mark Greenspun

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