Friday, March 21, 2014

The Bars That Time Forgot, an occasional series, vol II: Silhouettes

(In The Bars That Time Forgot, we will, on occasion, pause to remember a drinking place that has shuffled off this mortal coil.)

Silhouettes was a vaguely '50s-themed bar in North Beach, on Union and Cadell alley.

Here's a picture of the exterior, as it approximately looks today.

 There was a large front room/bar, and then a back room with a fireplace and some pinball machines.  Not any place you'd go out of your way to go to, but it was nice to have in the neighborhood.  When I lived up the hill on Union in the very early 90's, we would occasionally go there because it was the closest bar to our house, everyone there was friendly, and it was completely scene-less, which was nice.  Come to think of it, though, most places in North Beach were pretty scene-less back then.  It wasn't really like it is today.  There were still strip clubs on Broadway but it wasn't like the crowds of shitheads starting fights on the sidewalks at last call that you get now.

Since Silhouettes vanished long before the Internet came along, there is very little about the place online.  However, I did find this FASCINATING reference on a site called, which appears to catalog movie locations in San Francisco and to whoever runs, GREAT JOB.  I'm warning you now: DO NOT start looking at unless you have an afternoon free.

According to, Silhouettes was once the "Paper Doll Club" and was in a movie called "The Sniper."  Here's a shot of the place from the film, courtesy

Looks like they opened it up with some windows.  Much better now!  According to, the Paper Doll Club became the 524 Club, Russo's, and Cadell Place before Silhouettes.  I think the Paper Doll Club is maybe the best bar name of all time and somebody needs to jump on that shit right away.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, we should Kickstarter this shit because, drum roll, THIS BAR IS CURRENTLY FOR RENT.

OHMYSHIT.  We will get this place open, rechristen it the Paper Doll Club, maybe with a '50s theme again?  But not '50s drive-in, doo-wop Grease-type theme, but '50s noir, Frank Sinatra, martinis theme!  I know $7000 a month is a big nut, but fuck it, we can charge $12 for a sidecar now.  Who's in?

(I should note that after Silhouettes, this became an Irish bar called The Field for a while and persisted in that incarnation well into the second time I lived on Telegraph Hill, in the early '00s.  It's been vacant ever since.  It's just WAITING for us to roll in and take over and make it our clubhouse.  LET'S DO IT.)

[POSTSCRIPT: I just realized I've been doing this stupid blog for SIX YEARS NOW.  1100-odd posts.  Christ.]


Paige said...

I'm in!

TK said...

OK! Now we're onto something. Since it's just you so far, Paige, I need about $500K from you.

Mingalingadingdong said...

Me too! Count me in for a hundred bucks.

Dusty Modern said...

The already lost Paper Doll Club sign makes this all for naught. That was a hott sign.

unclesmedley said...

I tended bar in this joint.

unclesmedley said...

I tended bar in this joint.

unclesmedley said...

In between Silhouettes and The Field, it was Ping Bodie's, which Herb Caen wryly noted, "lasted fast."

Unknown said...

The Silhouettes I remember was at 155 Jefferson Street, west of the Wax Museum, on the second floor. There was a double wide cement stairway that went up to it. It had half of a red 1960 Cadillac mounted on the wall behind the stage. The owner was Patty Gray. Her son, Justin, tended bar. In '91 there was a bartender named Jamie who met an Australian tourist and some months later she moved there and married him. They had live bands on Fri and Sat nights. One of the most memorable was "Frank, the One Man Band" who had a following in the Bay Area. I spent 4-5 evenings there every week until the summer of '95 when I moved to Chicago.

TonyK said...

My buddies and I used to hang out at Silhouettes around 1981-82 when were were in the Navy aboard the USS Coral Sea which was home-ported at NAS Alameda. I can't recall how we even found this place. In my repertoire of sea stories, is the time my friend and I were at Silhouettes and shitfaced, of course. We met some girls who were going to take us home. A third girl pulled up with a car with a couple more girls in it. My friend and I got in the back from the curb side. There was some friendly discussion about rearranging seats or something and my friend and I moved out into the street on the driver's side. And then the car pulled away and we never saw them again. It was like a comedy skit. C'est l'amour.