The Art Deco Speakeasy Mystery

Egyptian Theater box office, with streamlined turnstile, late 1970s. The box office is gone, but the building remains as a gentleman’s club.

Funny how memory plays tricks. In the late 1970s, I stopped by San Francisco’s Egyptian Theater for some shots of the box office and lobby. The Egyptian details appeared to be painted on–not a suprise when I found out the place had previously been the Crest Theater and numerous other things before that:

Lesser Nickelodeon 1909
Grauman’s 1910
Maio Biograph 1912-1924
Circle 1924-1932
New Circle 1932-1939
Newsreel 1939-1949
Cinema 1949-1958
Crest 1958-1978
Egyptian 1978-1981
Electric 1981-1994
Crazy Horse 1994

Lobby, Egyptian Theater, San Francisco 1970s.

Next door to the Egyptian was the Warfield Theater, and although obviously not Art Deco, I took some photos there as well.

Warfield Theater, San Francisco

Now for our mystery.

My recollection is that the maintenance man at the Egyptian asked if I wanted to see an Art Deco speakeasy. He led me to some storage rooms with paintings of sailors, women, camels, birds, monkeys having cocktails. The rendering of this unusual menagerie was, in my opinon, not the best and in any event I doubted the place had been a speakeasy. Honestly, I filed the photos away and forgot about them.

Well, it turns out, the place was a speakeasy. Not just any speakeasy, Al Capone’s speakeasy!

Looking for information on the Egyptian led me to articles on the Warfield next door. One article mentioned the speakeasy–a room painted with monkeys and cocktails. No photos were shown, but how many places could there be with monkeys and cocktails? This had to be the place.

Mystery solved?  Not so fast. The 70’s was a long time ago, but I could swear the speakeasy was part of the Egyptian theater, not the Warfield next door. An error in my recollection? Probably.

But while preparing this post, I noticed some of the painted trim in the Egyptian lobby matched the speakeasy.

The Warfield speakeasy

…And the lobby of the Egyptian Theater next door, most likely painted in the late 1970s.

Now, it makes no difference if the speakeasy was in the Warfield or the Egyptian. But assuming the speakeasy was built during Prohibition (1920-1933) how did bits of identical trim end up next door in the Egyptian, which existed from only briefly, from 1978-1981?

If anybody knows the story, please let me know.  More information on the place at this link.

 

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