Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco is located at 443 Broadway on a seedy block between the redeveloped waterfront and bustling North Beach. Mabuhay means “Welcome” or “Live” in Tagalog, recalling this one-time restaurant’s Filipino roots.
The doors of the “Fab Mab” are now closed and locked, but the exterior is dotted with vintage posters, an aging Chronicle article about the club, and a 2006 obituary of Dirk Dirksen, its famed impresario.
It was here, in the 70’s and 80’s that the producer Dirk Dirksen transformed a Filipino supper club into the epicenter of punk rock. Groups such as Blondie, the Dead Kennedys, Devo, the Ramones, the Nuns, Crime, and Dirksen’s favorite, the Street Punks performed here to wild and energetic crowds. San Francisco embraced punk rock as a spirit akin to its own: rebellious and anti-commercial.
Robin Williams once played the Mabuhay. He later quipped, “Comedy Hell is opening for the Ramones at the Mabuhay”. Chris Isaak got his start here.
Dirksen himself was known for his creative insults while introducing the bands,
“I’m sorry to see you’re that easily pleased. You should try and show some intelligence and sophistication and not just accept any slop that’s thrown in your trough.”
“… the next group is an absolute pimple in the armpit of progress. Now everybody, please pay attention because it’s time to play ‘People Are Stupid.’ ”
Punk rockers were known for their anarchic behavior, including random fighting, optional musical talent, and anti-establishment rhetoric. Lyrics competed for the most outrageous, lewd, and lascivious. There was no line between the audience and the performers in the club. The Mabuhay bathrooms were social spaces for men and women alike. Nothing was off limits…. Outrageous fashion shows, a quadrapalegic performer, tin can instruments.