Over the past four decades, Beach Blanket Babylon has blossomed into an icon of San Francisco culture. With an endlessly revolving door of timely skits and towering hats, the California staple ranks as the world's longest-running musical revue, and now, in its 40th year, it celebrates over 15,000 performances for West Coast audiences.
Creator Steve Silver premiered Beach Blanket Babylon in June 1974 at the Savoy Tivoli, anticipating a short six-week run. Contrary to his conservative expectations, the show took up residence at Club Fugazi in 1975 and has remained there ever since. Silver's wife, Jo Schuman Silver, took over as lead producer in 1995 following her husband's death at the age of 51, carrying on the theatrical tradition he firmly established in the popular culture of San Francisco.
In honor of the show's 40th anniversary, 20 of the bulging bonnets for which Beach Blanket Babylon is famous — including the 29-by-15-by-10-foot Silver San Francisco Skyline Hat — will be on display at various locations throughout the Bay Area. A public celebration will be held at San Francisco's City Hall on Friday, June 6, with city and civic leaders joining the show's historical legacy for the commemorative event. Special guests will include Mayor Ed Lee, Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shults, former Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., Ann Getty, Dede Wilsey, San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomson, and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, among others.
Take a look at the photo timeline below to get a taste of Beach Blanket Babylon's 40-year history, covering everything from original Beach Blanket babe Annette Funicello to the most infamous VMA catastrophes of the past decade.
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