Bimbo's 365 Club (© 2011, Steven P. Marsh)
Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? made a pilgrimage to the West Coast a couple of weeks ago. And this time, we were determined to hit a San Francisco music club we’d missed previously. It’s the supper club and music venue with the potentially provocative name: Bimbo’s 365 Club.
OK, we admit we weren’t put off by the name — it’s what Tuscan immigrant Agostino Giuntoli’s boss at a San Francisco restaurant called him because he couldn’t pronounce the kid’s name. (“Bimbo,” pronounced beem-bo, is Italian for boy.) Giuntoli was a smart guy, who apparently didn’t have any problem with the nickname. And it turned out to be a much catchier name for the nightclub he opened with Monk Young, his name-challenged s former boss, now his partner, in 1931.
We really didn’t know much about the place until the advent of singer Chris Isaak‘s Showtime network sitcom, The Chris Isaak Show. If you don’t remember the show, it ran from 2001-2004 and pretty much purported to be a fly-on-the-wall look at Isaak’s life in San Francisco — although the show was actually shot in Vancouver. One of the show’s most endearing and curious features was Isaak’s regular pilgrimage to Bimbo’s basement to visit Mona, who in the show played the club’s mermaid Dolphina, for advice about his love life.
The mermaid — created through projections, not real women in tanks of water — was and still is a feature of the real Bimbo’s. Mona (actress BobbyJo Moore) appeared nude on a turntable in the basement. Her image was projected into a “tank” in the club’s lounge.
We needed to see Bimbo’s and check out the mermaid. And luckily, it turned out that Laura Marling was performing there while we were in town. (Don’t be misled by the “365” in the club’s name. It comes from the club’s former address at 365 Market St. and doesn’t refer to being open every night of the year.)
Laura Marling and her band at Bimbo's 365 Club. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)
It was great fun. Laura Marling was awesome, delivering a confident, rocking set. And her opener, Alessi’s Ark, a singer-songwriter with one backup player, did a surprisingly lovely performance.
Alessi's Ark at Bimbo's 365 Club. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)
But we couldn’t find any sign of the “real” Dolphina. Sure, there was a statue in the swanky lobby. But we couldn’t even immediately figure out where the mermaid tank was based.
Before the evening was over, we finally — and to our slight disappointment — discovered that Dolphina appears only occasionally at Bimbo’s, projected into a faux aquarium that spends most of its time behind curtains on the back bar. The rest of the time, there’s a small aquarium with some fish in it behind bar in the retro-elegant lounge.
The club has a no-cameras rule that they did try to enforce, so we had to rely on crappy BlackBerry photos inside the place. But here’s the tiny fish tank that had to suffice on Sept. 18:
The resident fish tank at Bimbo's is behind the cash register in the cocktail lounge, providing a point of reference to show how small the tank is. (© 2011, Steven P. Marsh)
By the way, don’t forget to check out music from Laura Marling, Alessi’s Ark, and Chris Isaak, who has a new album, Beyond the Sun, a tribute to the classic recordings of Sun Records of Memphis, out this month.