President Follies Theatre

60 McAllister Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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President Theater on McCallister near Leavenworth St.

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In 1959, the President Follies Theatre was operating as one of the last real ‘Strip Tease’ parlours. It had a live three-piece band. It was not like any of the nude dancing or lap dancing parlours of today, but featured real strip tease, and was great place for college boys to hang out.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

ManorAvenue on February 15, 2007 at 7:35 am

My late mother enjoyed reminiscing years ago about the time in the early 1940’s when my grandfather (her father) and another Armenian man decided to play a good-natured prank on a third Armenian man who was coming to SF to visit family. The third man was a rural rancher and somewhat naiive to City life. They told the rancher they were taking him to the movies, and into the President Follies they all marched, the rancher completely oblivious to the photos of all the bombshell attractions! When the music began and the first gal stepped onto the runway, the rancher was heard to exclaim, “AMAN!” which is Armenian for “Oh, my God!” He decided not to attract attention to himself by bolting from the theater, but I believe his sensibilities were somewhat offended and he was embarrassed to tears. It’s my understanding the famous Tempest Storm was one of the regular attractions at the President Follies.

Rodney on October 28, 2007 at 12:08 pm

With all due respect to the 05/15/04 comment about Lon Chaney making his 1912 stage debut at this theater. Mr. Chaney’s first theatre job was in 1902 as a stage hand at Colorado Springs Opera House. Soon after he acted in a national tour stock company before settling for awhile in Oklahoma City to be near his beautiful 16 year-old sweetheart, Cleva Creighton. Around 1909 he appeared in his first film with Tom Mix at the Bison 101 Studios in Ponca City, OK.
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princeofprocrastination on December 31, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I was wondering if anyone knew anything about the burlesque entertainer Nickie “The It Girl” Joy who worked at The President Follies in San Francisco. Ms. Joy is currently in the Comcast “Something Weird” free films. Ms. Joy is truely mesmerizing.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 20, 2010 at 6:32 am

The September, 1919, issue of The Architect and Engineer said that the Savoy Theatre was being extensively altered for conversion “…into a high class moving picture theatre….” Architects for the project were the Reid brothers.

fripp on July 12, 2010 at 1:41 am

In 1959, the President Follies Theatre was operating as one of the last real ‘Strip Tease’ parlours. It had a live three-piece band. It was not like any of the nude dancing or lap dancing parlours of today, but featured real strip tease, and was great place for college boys to hang out.
Contributed by William Gabel
Yes, I’m sure it was. And it was probably due to pretty faced strippers and tough bouncers. The counterpart, Market Street Cinema, boasts gang-bangers, drug sales and consumption, rampant stripper-customer sex, rip offs and the occasional visit from one of San Francisco’s Finest to ascertain that “everything is o.k.”.

sfhistory on June 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I am the surviving daughter of Eddie Skolak who owned the theater from the 1940’s till his death in 1960. My mother who was the surviving widow and ran it till 1963 (Cathy) is still alive as of this date. She is living on the San Mateo Coast. I have little bits of info. since I had been around ‘the theater’ (as we called it) from birth till age 16. The theater was bought by St. Boniface Church who boardered it on Golden Gate Ave. They had been after that property for yrs. saying that they wanted it to expand their school, I was told by my mother. My father fancied himself as another Flo Ziegfeld but never reached the heights that Mr. Ziegfeld (sic).did. My father moved out to SF from Chicago Il. where he was born in 1901. ‘The Theater’ was a problem for me growing up since the business sort of clashed with the Catholic Church. I attended Perochial School for eight yrs. and I was always treated sort of different by them because of it. I do not approve of the business but the actual theater was really something. I was pretty sad that it was never salvaged by some sort of historical group in SF to preserve it and maybe put in respectable plays, etc. I think that if it had been upgraded and refurbished it would have been really something to see. There was beautiful/ornate structural artistry to it. My father and mother had told me that it withstood the 1906 earthquake and fire but I really do not have any historical proof of that. When my mother sold much of the artwork from the inside of it before sale of the theater, there were some very valuable paintings and mirrors. It must have been a somewhat classy theater in it’s beginning.

StevenC on August 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

I used to go to the President Follies back in 1962-63 with my guitar teacher, the great Warren Nunes, who played in the band. I’m sure the band was at least 4 or 5 pieces at that time. The leader was an ancient piano player, Charlie who didn’t like my being there. I was only 19, but Warren would sneak me in to see the shows and I’d sometimes go backstage, where the strippers would be sitting around with barely anything on, reading books, playing cards, bored, waiting to go on. They also showed old movies and featured vaudeville comedians as well. The only stripper’s name I can remember was Bobette. When the President Follies closed, the owner Cathy Carver threw a party at her home in South San Francisco, which I attended with Warren. It seems to me that Cathy sang onstage there too, because I remember her giving Warren the recording of “Detroit City,” which was hugely popular, for him to learn so he could accompany her.

CSWalczak on September 29, 2012 at 11:58 am

The AKA list for this theater indicates that it was once known as the Oriental; here is a picture of an Oriental Theater in San Francisco from 1919.

xsallnow on November 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

Used to see Cathy Carver sing at the Follies many times in the early 60’s. Her specialty was Country & Western songs and she was quite good. Cathy was very attractive, blond, medium height and in her mid to late 20’s if my memory is correct.

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