The Boarding House (nightclub)

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The Boarding House was a music and comedy nightclub located at 960 Bush Street in San Francisco, California, opened by David Allen in 1971. [1] Robin Williams launched his career there and Steve Martin's first three albums, Let's Get Small, A Wild and Crazy Guy, and Comedy Is Not Pretty! were recorded there, in whole or in part. The club was also host to a multitude of musical acts, such as Dolly Parton, Patti Smith, Neil Young, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Bob Marley and the Wailers[2], Mason Williams, The Tubes, Talking Heads[3], Old & In the Way, Randy Newman, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks[4], Jim Croce, Harry Chapin and Tom Waits. British progressive rock group Camel played there on 6/26/76 in a performance that was broadcast on KSAN-FM, and cult favorites The Residents also first played there. Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno have said they first met at The Boarding House.[5]

David Allen[edit]

Before opening the Boarding House in 1971, New Jersey born David Allen had operated a target range on the top floor of California Hall on Polk Street, and performed as a repertory theater actor and as KPIX's "Deputy Dave." In the 1960s, he worked with Enrico Banducci at the hungry i and helped nurture the careers of Barbra Streisand and Lenny Bruce. After he opened The Boarding House in 1971, he helped launch many noted comedians and musicians of the 1970s and 80s by booking them early in their career. [6]

Entertainers and writers have noted that Allen was "genial", [7]"loved and respected" [8] but frequently in financial difficulties and often kept The Boarding House running "on charm alone," relying on benefits performed by stars whose careers he had launched. [9]

Bush Street Location[edit]


Previous to the 1906 earthquake, the address was an apartment building called The Cecil.[10] After the earthquake and resulting fire, it was rebuilt as The Fitzgerald Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church and opened 25 August 1918; it ceased operation as a church in 1931 and re-opened 8 September 1931 as the Fine Arts Building and Auditorium. It was known by many names over the years, beginning with the Kamokila (1 June 1933), and the Royal Hawaiian Club (25 April 1935). From 5 March 1936 until 1939 it also housed the Federal Theatre, later known as the Federal Workshop. In 1942 it re-opened as Shangri La, and on 8 March 1943 it became the Bush Street Music Hall, the home of the perennially popular melodrama, The Drunkard, produced by Barry Breden. From March 1947 until January 1955 it operated as the Balalaika, and on 10 January 1950 became known as the Bush Street Theatre, home of the San Francisco Repertory Company; from 27 June 1956 until July 1960, it was Fack's II, and re-opened 26 September 1960 as Neve of SF; it was the Theatre Lab in 1966, and re-opened as The Quake 31 December 1967. It re-opened again as The Troubadour (North) 4 August 1970, owned by Doug Weston, who also owned the Hollywood folk and rock institution, The Troubadour. [1], finally becoming The Boarding House 21 February 1973.

Media coverage[edit]

The club was featured in Billboard in 1974 [11]and by 1977, the same magazine called it "the city's top nightclub for major name entertainment." [12] Robin Williams described David Allen and Bay Area entertainment reviewer John Wasserman as "like a team". "David would find these strange unique talents and John's reviews would get people in." [13]

Columbus Street location and closure[edit]

After a disastrous fire, the Bush Street building was torn down in July 1980 and replaced by condominiums.[14]

Dave Allen reopened the club[15] for a short time at 901 Columbus Ave in the city's North Beach district, where comedians Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin and Paula Poundstone performed. The club had closed by 1982; Allen died in 1984.[16] [17]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Boarding House - Rock and Roll Roadmaps
  5. ^ (The Ellen Show, aired 01/29/2014)
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Billy Crystal, Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? Macmillan, Sep 10, 2013
  9. ^ Derrick Bang, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano McFarland, Mar 15, 2012
  10. ^ Re: the boarding house/steve martin
  11. ^ Billboard Dec 14, 1974
  12. ^ "Billboard". 1977-03-19.
  13. ^ John Wasserman, Abby Wasserman, Praise, vilification, and sexual innuendo or, How to be a critic: the selected writings of John L. Wasserman, 1964-1979 Chronicle Books, Mar 1, 1993
  14. ^ Perkins, Laura. Bulldozers raze the building at 960 Bush St., the site of the Boarding House entertainment venue, leaving a hole to be filled with more condominiums. Boarding House owner David Allen says he plans to reopen the popular club at 901 Columbus Ave. July 25 with Lily Tomlin. Chronicle's archives: 1980 July 8, 2005
  15. ^ Miller, Johnny Nightclub owner David Allen dies in 1984, May 24, 2009
  16. ^
  17. ^ Joel Selvin, San Francisco: The Musical History Tour: A Guide to Over 200 of the Bay Area's Most Memorable Music Sites, Chronicle Books, Apr 1, 1996

External links[edit]

37°47′23″N 122°24′47″W / 37.78968°N 122.41316°W / 37.78968; -122.41316