I-Beam (nightclub)

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The I-Beam (October 1977 to July 1992) was a popular nightclub in San Francisco that was located in the Haight-Ashbury at 1748 Haight Street from .

From 1999 - 2007 there was a nightclub in Moorhead, Minnesota with the same name.

Opening of the I-Beam

The I-Beam was founded and owned by Sanford Kellman, a former astronomer, with the help of his business partner Bob Wharton. The building it was located in was the former Park Masonic Hall. In 1966, the Park Masonic Hall was host to the ironically titled Straight Ashbury Viewing Society (Non-gays are called straights), a theatre that showed avant-garde gay films. In 1967, it was again ironically renamed as the Straight Theatre (Non-hippies were also called straights; the word straight rhyming with Haight.) and rock dances with psychedelic light shows were held there. The I-Beam began in October 1977 as a popular gay disco dance club. Before opening the club, Sanford Kellman had an impromptu party there and found that all the neighbors complained about the noise. Therefore, Sanford Kellman was required by the City government of San Francisco to soundproof the entire building at great expense, delaying the opening of the club for several months. . On the opening night of the club in October 1977, groups of bare chested men in jeans and construction hats carried I-Beams on their shoulders into the club.

Dancing, Dj's, Music, Clubs, and Events at the I-Beam

Inside the I-Beam was shaped like a giant cube about forty feet on each side. There were Mylar covered cardboard I-Beams hanging from the ceiling above the center of the dance floor. At the entrance there were framed pictures of various astronomical objects such as galaxies and planets put there by former astronomer Sanford Kellman. There was a small room in the front near the entrance with pinball machines and pool tables. Since the I-Beam closed at 2 a.m., afterwards, people went to the Trocadero Transfer, which was open until dawn.

Saturday nights and Friday nights at the I-Beam hosted heterosexual dance parties.

The most popular gay night at the I-Beam was always the I-Beam Sunday Night Tea Dance which took place from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday night. Free passes to this tea dance were routinely handed out in the gay neighborhoods of San Francisco. Tim Rivers and Steve Fabus played at the Sunday Night Tea Dance from 1977 to 1980. From 1980 to its end in 1992 Michael Garrett was the DJ--he played modern rock dance music by artists such as Madonna, Prince, New Order, R.E.M., Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, etc. Lots of gay sex take place in the parking lot, as well as ladies bathroom. It was only used by the hardcore queens. At the Sunday Night Tea Dance, the temperature inside the I-Beam was deliberately kept as warm as possible in order to encourage people to take off their shirts while they were dancing.

In January 1988 three go-go boxes (cubes four feet square with a black and white checkerboard pattern of squares one foot by one foot on top; thus the surface of each go-go box had a checkerboard pattern of 16 black and white squares) were installed in the club, and on Wednesday night, the Boy Club was held, for which young male Go-Go dancers were hired by the I-Beam for the first time. The Boy Club continued until the end of 1988. From 1988 to 1992 many fun events were held at the I-Beam such as strip contests and appearances by gay porn stars. On Monday nights beginning in 1988, there was a hip-hop dance club that appealed to the African Americans in the neighborhood. In 1989, the year rave dances first started in San Francisco, Wednesday night became Acid house Night at the I-Beam.

Groups that played at the I-Beam

In the early 1980s, New Music Night was instituted on Tuesday night, and later Mondays at which emerging new rock groups played.

Monday nights became known as New Wave Nights and were booked by Cathy Cohn, a KUSF DJ, who also co-owned the San Francisco branch of Rough Trade records. The crème de la crème of new wave, punk, industrial, and indie bands played the I-Beam from 1986 to 1992. Many well known groups played at the I-Beam such as Duran Duran, The Cure, Gene Loves Jezebel, Flesh For LuLu, Mekons, Motörhead, Big Black, The Butthole Surfers, 10,000 Maniacs, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Firehose, Soundgarden, Trouble Funk, Alice in Chains, Counting Crows, Soul Asylum, Camper Van Beethoven, and Jane's Addiction, Primus and Chris Isaak.

End of the I-Beam

The I-Beam closed in 1992 after a long battle with neighbors over sound issues. Shows over the last few years were few and far between.

After the I-Beam closed in 1992, the Park Masonic Hall remained vacant for 12 years. The former location of the I-Beam (the Park Masonic building) was torn down and an apartment house with retail at street level was constructed there in 2004.

Gay night club on Haight Street today

The enduring Trax, down the street a few blocks, is the center of the Haight's gay scene as of 2006 (such as it is); however, the Trax is much smaller than the I-Beam was (it is a regular bar and has no dance floor). The Trax is noted for its walls being almost completely mirrored. Drinks are $2 all day and night Tues.


Further reading

  • Diebold, David Tribal Rites:San Francisco's Dance Music Phenomenon Northridge, California:1986--Time Warp Publishing--"I-Beam" Pages 144-146.

External links


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