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RIP Dirk Dirksen


Howie Klein and Dirk Dirksen in younger days

Legendary Mabuhay Gardens' punk impresario Dirk Dirksen died in his sleep Monday night:

Born in Braunschweig, Germany, in 1937, he followed his father, a professor of aerodynamics, to this country in 1948. The family eventually settled in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey. He served in the Army as a public relations expert and made his show business debut in 1957, producing an all-night live television remote from a Wilshire Boulevard auto dealership featuring neophyte and amateur entertainers called "Rocket to Stardom." An unknown Lenny Bruce once appeared on the 12-hour weekly broadcast.

He attended San Jose State but dropped out to open a surfing business in Santa Cruz. He worked as a producer on an ABC-TV series about surfing and served as tour manager with acts such as Ray Charles, the Supremes, Iron Butterfly and the Doors. He also managed the 1968 presidential campaign of comedian Pat Paulsen.

He moved to San Francisco in 1974 and, two nights later, stumbled into the Mabuhay Gardens. He started presenting late-night events at the club featuring Les Nickelettes, an all-female guerrilla comedy troupe. Whoopi Goldberg made an early appearance at the club.

When punk rock emerged on the scene, Mr. Dirksen immediately began to book the unruly bands. He presided over his impolite empire with an enduring patience and a sly smile. Robin Williams once described comedy hell as "opening for the Ramones at the Mabuhay Gardens."

When Dirksen was young he produced a soap opera about surfing called Never Too Young that I used to watch when I was a little kid and that's how I caught the California bug.  By the time the Fab Mab was in full swing in the late 70s few people remembered it but I could still sing the theme song and that always made Dirksen laugh.  I probably spent 4-5 nights a week at the Mabuhay during its heyday and so did Howie Klein. The Outrageous Beauty Pagent, Dummy Dirksen and Mabuhay popcorn were staples of nascent SF punk culture.  You always made sure you had a marker so you could fake the "over 21" stamp that allowed you to buy Nes Aquino's cheap shitty beer.  My experiences at the Mabuyay did more to strip off the suburban middle class straight jacket than anything in my life before or since, and for that I thank Dirk Dirksen.

Ginger Coyote has more at the Punk Globe

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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