One place that didn't want to be discovered was The Embers, a depressing and frightening dive bar at 627 Irving, between 7th and 8th. The Embers was a small dark room with the usual dive bar accoutrements, like old guys chainsmoking in front of Bud bottles and a surly (at least that's how I remember him) bartender. You can still get all that stuff today if you know where to look. But the Embers had one terrifying feature that other dive bars lacked: the walls were covered in pictures of CLOWNS. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
It's surprisingly difficult to find pictures of this haunting decor online. Of course I was young and stupid and it never occurred to me to take pictures. Back then, taking pictures required carrying a camera around with you, so it wasn't as convenient. Also, parking was easier. Anyway. Luckily, I found some pics on Snapcity.com, and hopefully the owner of Snapcity.com doesn't get mad at me for using them here.
Jack Boulware wrote a great piece on the bar for SF Weekly:
Neither clowns nor smokes have ruined business for the Embers, which Jack has operated since 1969 at its present Irving Street location, and run in other Geary Boulevard incarnations since 1955. The clown motif began with Jack's wife, who installed four clown pictures originally to fill up a blank wall of the joint. Customers latched onto the idea and kept bringing in more and more clown artifacts, many from all over the world, until today the bar is literally packed with clown images.
"Some girl brought me in one last week," says Jack, a spry 70-year-old in blue striped sport shirt and khakis.
The Embers sadly passed in 1996. Now it's Pluto's, some kind of faux health food place I think? I went there once and couldn't figure it out.