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Originally a Filipino restaurant and club owned by the late Ness Aquino, it featured many Filipino celebrities, including Amapola (aka Amapola Cabase). Aquino and Amapola also co-hosted a weekly television program, The Amapola Presents Show on KEMO-TV Channel 20.
During the late 1970s, Bay Area punk and new wave bands performed there, and it was an important touring stop for bands from beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the local bands that performed regularly at the Fab Mab were the Avengers, Dead Kennedys, The Nuns, Crime, The Dils, and The Readymades. Touring acts also played there such as The Dead Boys, Nico, Devo, and X. Comedians like Whoopi Goldberg also made early appearances at the venue.
Dirk Dirksen had a unique style as emcee, deliberately baiting and trading insults with audience and band members, which had the effect of raising the energy of audience and performers alike. Dirksen's abrasive persona (which was largely a performance) was a central part of the atmosphere of the Mabuhay. So great was his contribution and influence that he was sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Bill Graham." The alley located next to The Mab is named for him.
The Mabuhay Gardens closed in 1986.
The building subsequently housed a nightclub called The Velvet Lounge. The venue was again opened in September 2007 under the name Club 443.
In popular culture
The Mabuhay Gardens featured in a chapter from Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (Pulitzer 2011). This chapter, "Ask Me if I Care," was also published in the March 8, 2010 issue of the New Yorker.
- "Amapola's 'Super Special'". Philippine News. September 13–19, 1976.
- Kamps, Garrett (August 27, 2003). "OK Then". SF Weekly.
- Selvin, Joel (November 22, 2006). "Dirk Dirksen – 'pope of punk' amused, insulted S.F. crowds". San Francisco Chronicle.