A Strip Club Bids Adieu To It’s Saint

Jim giving a pep talk to some dancersJust a couple hours ago, while Willie Brown cavorted in the lobby with some ladies, and Sister Flora Fauna of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence proclaimed and invoked a chant to create a special state of sainthood for the deceased proprietor of the O’Farrell Theater, guests drank, ate and cemented the memory of notorious strip club operator Jim Mitchell into their personal histories.

Drinks were spilled, as were many stories, most likely tall tales…but none colorful or tall enough to meet the higher than high & wild standards he’d been setting in that same building since 1969. While he certainly had his political and professional enemies, all who’d have no problem deriding his morals & methods over the years…

As if anyone there ever gave a flying f*ck about any of that crap…

(especially the world’s youngest pole dancer…)
younglapdancer.jpg

Like any party held there over the years, the mood remained as festive as possible under the conditions. The women were gorgeous, the oysters from British Columbia were delicious, as was the gumbo, and the drinks at the usually dry theater were quite possibly stiffer than the d*cks for once, while the girls pranced & danced through the crowd.

It wasn’t quite the good ol’ days, but what ever is?

O 'Farrell during Vietnam

More observations & a few extremely rare pics from the deep innards and archives of the infamous O’Farrell theater after the jump…

This afternoon, the late Jim Mitchell , was finally serenaded into history by a New Orleans style brass band led by local tuba aficionado Ed Ivey from the stage of the theater opened by the two Mitchell brothers in 1969 on the corner of Polk and O’Farrell.

Here’s a pic of Jim from the set of an early 70′s skin flick offering a cast member a cigarette
http://sf.metblogs.com/archives/images/2007/07/jim-cig-actress-thumb.jpg

His friends and poker pals were like a crossroads of the 60′s & 70′s San Francisco counter culture , including characters like Hunter S Thompson, legal eagle Terrence Hallinan, comic gurus Ron Turner & R. Crumb and the town’s fave roly poly propagandist Warren Hinckle, the former editor of Ramparts.

Times changed, but the theaters’ customers have continued to come, ( some, uh, many times), even after the sad early 90′s murder case that sent Jim to San Quentin for the shooting death of his brother Artie.

Those who’ve passed through the door in the past decade include thousands of nobodies, and many somebodies as well, including bad tipping millionaires like Charles Barkley, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, along with dancer favorites like Slash, Andy Garcia, Marilyn Manson and even Sting who was known to bring his wife Trudy into the “private rooms” …

There were high times, plenty of high times, and many many low times as well…

For Jim it was indeed a paradoxical existence…

Part patron of the arts / a philanthropic businessman / a reviled figure / a porn king / a political rabble rouser/ a redneck rebel / a tyrant / a groundbreaking filmmaker/ a fratricidal white trash scrapper…

all in all, a man who did what he said, no matter the consequences, and whose death is an end of an era…

It’s certainly a long story, and I hope you’ll understand if I don’t have a ton of time to go into a million more details…besides everyone has their own version, even former Theater regular’s Charlie Sheen & Emilio Estevez who turned their personal knowledge into opportunity when they directed and starred in a cable TV film on the saga of the two Bros.

While the mainstream media have their own spin to sell ya, let’s just say this guy’s life was twice as dramatic and pressured as any story you’ve heard, and hardly can be neatly encapsulated as easily as this Channel 5 video piece here attempts to do…

What they don’t really touch on, or understand, is all the lives he touched in some way, most that lived anonymously within his wide sphere of influence. There were the dancers themselves, many were star attractions, and some less beloved who went on to drug addiction and into lawsuits against him, while others finished school, invested in real estate, or built outside careers as lawyers, nurses, writers or even competing filmmakers.

And how can we forget the humble pensioners that cashed their monthly checks at the theater for a dose of some indoor sunshine, some old timers whom actually died there in mid lapdance … fading out in their own sort of heaven/hell.

Beyond the many girls and some of those fragile patrons in Jim’s debt were a small army of lawyers, and legions of loyal minions toiling endlessly behind the scenes.

There are so many that helped with the sh*twork, ran equipment, counted Jim’s money, kept books, and dealt with the many day to day headaches. Random jobs abounded in Jim’s empire, from keeping pimps & ne’er do ‘ells out of the club, to perhaps even fetching Sushi for a scared lap dancer accidentally stabbed by a patron’s concealed syringe. No job outweighed the challenge of balancing egos & managing the potentially volatile & bitchy relations between competitive dancers that are apt to go into nuclear cat fight mode at his cathouse at almost anytime,

For years, Jim’s money kept his servants & soldiers fat & happy, or at least in many cases drunk, stressed & miserable. No one doubts though that Jim ultimately paid the cost to be the boss.

Ed Ivey's fat Tuesday Brass Band
Today, horns rang out, and a bass drum pounded and we all marched into the street, and ended the tale far quicker than his story could ever be told.

Definitely, the last of a breed, an infamous local legend, who was actually intensely private despite the glare of the prying public eye.

A hard working, hard playing kid from Antioch, who with his brother became an icon of both free-speech & paid sex, and left this world as a dark, complex and somewhat tragic figure who brought so many pleasure, but also broke his own heart, if not that of his family and friends…


here’s those pix I promised of inside the theater…

a few of the lifesize R Crumb drawings on the backstage wall

lifesizeCrumbs.jpg

Framed Dianne Feinstein artwork by Stanley Moscoso & R. Crumb for a broadsheet published during her crusade against the theater…

Dianne Feinstein

Today on stage as Sister Flora Fauna and crew usher Jim Mitchell into Perpetual Sister sainthood…

http://sf.metblogs.com/archives/images/2007/07/100_2939-thumb.JPG

And the brothers, Artie & Jim at right, in the editing room making Behind The Green Door circa 1970

Mitchell's Behind Green Door Edit Room

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