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article imagePurple Onion closes its doors

By Richard Mccallum     Sep 7, 2012 in Entertainment
San Francisco - The Purple Onion, known as a Beat Generation landmark and debut location for many great comedians and pop musicians will be closing its doors forever on October 1st.
If you are wondering what the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Smothers Brothers have in common besides an uncanny sense of melodic irony infused with cutting wit the quick answer might be The Purple Onion.
Located in swinging San Francisco's North Beach the intimate 80 seat basement cafe began it's beguine in the late 50's as a beatnik hangout cum coffeehouse.
Hep cool cats sported berets, beards, and cheap sunglasses while their cool chickie counterparts displayed daringly skintight hip huggers , black fishnet stockings in flat heels and Betty Page bobs.
The Beatniks habitually perused the latest Lawrence Ferlinghetti poems or Kerouac novel while enjoying strong espresso and nipping out to the parking lot to imbibe the "reefer". The style at the time was to show approval for spontaneous performances from their peers by snapping their fingers and murmuring expressions like "Way out man" or "cosmic".
The Purple Onions is historic as the debut venue for celebrated American poet Maya Angelou 's first public performance at 25 as a singer , where The San Francisco Chronicle raved about her "deep untrained vibrant singing voice".
The early 60's saw many important first tour performances from Barbara Streisand, Jim Nabors, Lenny Bruce, The Kingston Trio, Woody Allen, Phyllis Diller and Richard Pryor.
The Smothers Brothers debuted there and liked the venue so much that they recorded their debut smash for Mercury Records called The Smothers Brothers at The Purple Onion.
In the spirit of the times The Purple Onion became an important breeding ground for punk rock during the 90's where they booked ground breakers such as Guitar Wolf, The Groovie Ghoulies and BJM.
The 21 century saw the PO become the San Francisco venue of choice for Mort Sahl,Greg Proops,Todd Barry,Patton Oswalt, Robin Williams,Zach Galifanakis and hipster publisher/satirist Paul Krassner .
As a side note the barber in the building upstairs is the hairstylist for noted film auteur Francis Ford Coppola.
Good Night Sweet Prince!
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