SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Celebrating a time period when a night out on the town was an elegant affair and when dress, dance, art, architecture and music all had a unique style, the annual “Art Deco Preservation Ball” in San Francisco this weekend promises a night harkening back to a more gleeful and glamorous era.
Presented by the Art Deco Society of California, the annual fete will feature live music, dancing, an awards ceremony, auctions and more, built around this year’s theme, “Forbidden City,” which honors the many Chinese American nightclubs that operated in San Francisco from the 1930s through the 1950s, and is named for the most well-known club of the time.
“Our Program Director Theresa LaQuey’s father had worked there as a musician and she grew up hearing stories about the legendary club, the most famous of several nightclubs that began in the late 1930s which showcased Asian American performers for the first time as the stars,” said Therese Poletti, Preservation Director for the ADSC.
“They were created by enterprising Chinese American entrepreneurs, and had their heyday during the 1940s, and especially during World War II, where service men and their pals or dates formed long lines to get in,” Poletti said.
The first ball was held in 1984, three years after the Art Deco Society was formed. The group is dedicated to preserving the many facets and forms of popular culture from years spanning the period between the World Wars, roughly 1918-1941, which has become known as Art Deco.
“It was a glamorous and sophisticated era, the beginning of modern style and manners, yet with etiquette and decorum. The modern attitude is seen in the architecture of the day, with its edgy, zigzag and geometric shapes and forms, showing first the frenetic pace of the 1920s, transitioning to Streamlined Moderne design in the more austere 1930s of the Great Depression,” said Poletti.
“The architecture of the era really evokes its changing times.”
The ball has been held in several different Art Deco-style venues, and this year’s venue — the historic Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco’s North Beach — is no different.
“We love Bimbo’s; the building itself was originally the Bal Tabarin club designed by local architect Timothy Pflueger, San Francisco’s premier Art Deco architect. The club has been remodeled but some of its Deco era touches remain and it is an iconic venue in San Francisco,” said Poletti.
Entertainment will include music from Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, and dancing from the DecoBelles, a dance troupe that performs at the Ball every year.
In addition to Forbidden City, several groups and individual people will be honored with a Preservation Award at this year’s fete, including the Chinese Historical Society of America, the Museum of Neon Art, the Grant Avenue Follies, a Chinese American dance troupe, and author and filmmaker Arthur Dong, who produced a documentary and wrote a book about historic Chinese American nightclubs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Our awards seek to honor recent rehabilitation or restoration of works of the Art Deco period, whenever possible, or long-standing stewardship or other contributions to preserving the spirit of the Art Deco era in California,” said Poletti.
Members of the public are invited to attend the festivities to learn more about the era and the organization that hopes to preserve its memory — and all attendees are encouraged to dress in vintage clothing or historically accurate styles, further helping to give the event an authentic feel.
“Come to revisit a more glamorous and sophisticated era,” said Poletti.
“This year, you can re-experience what it was like to be a patron at the Forbidden City nightclub, a long lost time that can only be seen in photographs and rare film footage.”
The Art Deco Preservation Ball will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 2 at Bimbo’s 365 Club, located at 1025 Columbus Ave. in San Francisco.
Tickets range from $100 to $150.
More information is available at www.artdecosociety.org.
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