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'Beach Blanket Babylon' still going strong at 40 (w/video)

  • 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' in 'Beach Blanket Babylon.'

Four decades ago, a San Francisco street performer named Steve Silver created a quirky little cabaret show he called “Beach Blanket Babylon.”

Silver died in 1995, but the show is still going strong, and celebrates its 40th anniversary at noon Friday (June 6)with a performance and ceremony at San Francisco City Hall.

One of the performers will be Doug Magpiong, 50, of Santa Rosa, who joined the show 20 years ago and has become a mainstay in his primary role as Elvis.

“I marry Snow White every night,” said Magpiong, who is also a member of the show's famed Pink Poodle trio. (“I'm the top dog.”)

The zany collection of songs, dances and skits maintains a basic story line about the quest for true love, but remains topical and current.

“We're constantly updating,” said John Camajiani of Sonoma, stage manager of “Beach Blanket Babylon” for almost 35 years.

It's a hectic pace, with seven shows a week — nightly Wednesday through Friday and twice a day Saturday and Sunday. Camajiani, 55, gives his age as “312” in stage manager years.

“We'll pull something out of the show and put something new in. We change the dialog. Sometimes we'll rehearse a new bit in the afternoon, and it's in the show that same night,” Camajani said.

The ongoing revisions, along with the boundless energy and good humor of the show, may be the reason for its enduring popularity.

After starting in 1974 at Club Savoy Tivoli, “Beach Blanket Babylon” later moved to the larger Club Fugazi in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, where the show remains a hot ticket.

“We have a lot people who keep coming back,” Magpiong said. “People love to bring their out-of-town guests and watch them watch the show, to see their reactions.”

For a full performance schedule and details on the anniversary celebration, visit beachblanketbabylon.com.

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