Monday, November 18, 2013

Tin Angel

Tin Angel (Late 1950s)
Tin Angel

Location: 981 Embarcadero, San Francisco, California, USA

Opened: 1953


From a longer piece by Dick Boyd on the history of North Beach:

The Tin Angel, 981 Embarcadero, Restaurant/Night Club (Lesbian),
1953 to c. 1962.
Originally opened and owned by artist/poet/raconteur/entrepreneur Peggy Tolk-Watkins, the Tin Angel was located about where Greenwich hits the Embarcadero opposite Pier 23. The Angel was situated in a hand-decorated converted warehouse that resembled a museum of Tolk-Watkins’ worldwide collectibles. For entertainment it featured Jazz. Entertainers such as folk singer Odetta and the “Creole Songbird” Lizzie Miles appeared there along with local favorites such as Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey and his Frisco Jazz Band. When Peggy bailed from the Angel it was taken over by Jazz legend Kid Ory who cleaned out Peggy’s furniture, painted its walls with an antiseptic white and destroyed its campy atmosphere in the process. Savvy bar/club owners have a saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” (Later Guy Ferri at the Washington Square Bar & Grill learned this the hard way) It never recovered its original ambiance and in 1962 succumbed to the Embarcadero Freeway.

Peggy Tolk-Watkins (1950s)
Then there's this snippet from another piece on North Beach's gay past by Michael Flanagan:

Peggy Tolk-Watkins (another Black Mountain alum) opened the Tin Angel at 981 Embarcadero with financial backing from Sally Stanford in 1953. Tolk-Watkins was easy to spot when she approached the club. She drove a 1932 Ford sedan with pink and blue polka dots painted on it. The Tin Angel featured musicians such as Odetta and went on to become On The Levee which lasted till 1961.

Nan Alamilla Boyd also mentions the Tin Angel in Wide-Opened Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965, specifically in the chapter on Lesbian Space, Lesbian Territory.

What I find fascinating, is that none of these historians seem to use their eyes. The interior shot above is apparently mostly men, and yet no one seems to notice this in the slightest, much less comment upon it.

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