Sally Rand’s The Music Box

Located on O’Farrell, between Polk and Larkin, the Great American Music Hall as voted as the sixth best club in America by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2013. Its website will tell you that the club is “San Francisco’s oldest and grandest nightclub,” having opened in 1907 as “Blanco’s,” thanks to the efforts of Chris Buckley. Blanco’s, both envisioned and championed as a celebration of the city’s revival after the 1906 earthquake, was not short on dazzle. In November 1907, the San Francisco Chronicle reported: “With hundreds of lights flashing merry welcome, with love songs of France and melodies of Hawaii and to the laughter and gayety of 600 guests, the opening of Blanco’s… which is conceded to be the most magnificent of its kind in the country, proved to be last night as gorgeous an occasion as any that has taken place in the city since the disaster.”

Throughout the mid-late 1930s and into the 1940s, club goers were treated to Sally Rand’s fan dances. Rand was a Vaudeville star who had been catapulted to stardom during the Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair (“Century of Progress”). In 1939, having leveraged her new stardom, she arrived in San Francisco for that year’s Treasure Island World’s Fair, holding court at the Fair’s “Gayway,” which consisted of the Sally Rand Nude Ranch. After the Fair, Rand stuck around, performing at Blanco’s as Sally Rand’s The Music Box. Below on the left is a 1939 photo of Rand performing at the Music Box (photo courtesy of the SFPL’s San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection) and on the right is a Music Box flyer from that year’s New Year’s celebrations (photo courtesy of Virtual Museum of City of San Francisco). For more details on Sally Rand’s life, take a look at the entry from the Virtual Museum.

Image Credit: (Top) Dancer Sally Rand in costume for a performance at the Music Box nightclub, 1939. From the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, SFPL. (Bottom) Image from the Vitual Museum.