Mar 2, 2015

October 26, 1966: The North Face Ski Shop, San Francisco

Unusual ski shop openings have become the vogue in the Bay Area.
This season has proved to be no exception for they have been wilder and zanier than ever before.
[ . . . ]
Probably the wildest was Wednesday night when Susie and Doug Tompkins held the official opening of their North Face shop next to the Condor - Carol Doda and Company - on Columbus.
The first thing the guest saw was a pair of Hells Angels, of the infamous motorcycle gang, at the door checking invitations.
Inside, the musical group the Greatful Dead, were putting forth with sound and people were dancing wildly amid the ski equipment displays.
And what a collection of people. There were nattily dressed individuals rubbing shoulders with bearded, long haired and sandal clad beatniks from the neighborhood.
Several passerbys looked in, thought it was merely another bistro, and tried to enter, but they were politely restrained by the Angels.
Needless to say the whole evening was a wild show and it took most of the next day to clean up the lemonade stains and the animal cracker crumbs...

(by Miles Ottenheimer, from the San Francisco Examiner, 28 October 1966)  


  1. Dead archivist Nicholas Meriwether has started an occasional series on called "Documenting the Dead," highlighting various items in the archive.
    This was an interesting article to begin with - a piece on ski shops opening for the winter season, written by an Examiner sports columnist, in which "the Greatful Dead" just appear as local color.
    It turns out that in fall '66 the Dead started subscribing to Allen's Press Clipping Bureau (a San Francisco company) to collect newspaper clippings about the group. It's surprising that so early on, they were already interested in how they were being portrayed in the media. (Or perhaps just keen on seeing themselves mentioned in the papers.)

    Note the Hell's Angels serving peaceably as security. The event was invitation-only (there must have been very little space in the store), and the writer reveals himself to be a little out of touch with the crowd when he calls them "beatniks."
    This also has to be one of the few Dead shows where the biggest mess afterwards came from "lemonade stains and animal cracker crumbs!"

    The other main SF paper, the Chronicle, also mentioned the North Face opening, but I haven't seen their article. McNally describes the event in his book, though:
    "The Dead served as entertainment at the opening of the North Face Ski Shop in a tiny hole in the wall next to the Condor Club, the North Beach topless joint where Carol Doda's breasts were on display. Over the next few years, North Face would become a fabulously successful chain...but at this time founders Doug and Suzie Tompkins were so poor that they made ends meet by stealing electricity from their next-door neighbor. The event included Mimi Farina as a skiwear model and Joan Baez as a guest attraction. Two Hell's Angels acted as security to the invitation-only crowd. Afterward, the store owners took the Dead and the Angels to a local restaurant for dinner, where a slightly sozzled local attorney bought wine for the party. 'He was really delighted,' said Garcia, 'as an old San Franciscan, because of the fact that at least there was this little thing he could talk about or look at, somebody was taking a fucking chance on the streets.'" (McNally p.167)

  2. I'm sure that Miles Ottenheimer was making a little joke that most of his readers would have gotten when he referred to lemonade and animal crackers... San Franciscans in the mid-sixties were a pretty worldly and sophisticated bunch...

  3. One of the Hells Angels at the door was Freewheelin Frank Reynolds. Janis Joplin’s boyfriend