Dirk Dirksen — Godfather of S.F. Punk Scene

1937-2006

Dirk Dirksen, whose abrasive stage presence was the trademark of San Francisco's punk mecca the Mabuhay Gardens, died suddenly in his sleep on Monday, Nov. 20. Dirksen was a television pioneer who produced the legendary live 12-hour-long variety show Rocket to Stardom for KTTV Los Angeles as a teenager in 1957. That chaotic free-for-all provided the skills he needed to handle the crowds at the Fab Mab, ground zero for S.F.'s punk explosion.

"The Mab was a failing Pilipino supper club when Dirk started booking it," says Damon Molloy, Dirksen's partner in Dirksen/Molloy Productions. "Dirk started with comedy acts like Les Nickelettes. [Early punk bands] the Nuns, Crime, and the Avengers soon followed. When Ness Aquino (manager of the building) realized the bar made more money on [punk], they went to seven nights a week. Dirk took the door money and Ness took the bar, which made putting on shows a financial struggle for the life of the club."

During its 10-year run — 1974 to 1984 — Dirksen showcased local and national acts including the Dead Kennedys, the Go-Gos, Flipper, the Ramones, and Devo. "Where would any of us be today if it weren't for Dirk Dirksen?" asks the Dead Kennedy's Jello Biafra. "He stuck his neck out and had the sense to make the shows all ages, which allowed me to get the Dead Kennedys off the ground, since I wasn't 21 when we started."

Dirksen booked more than 20,000 acts at the Fab Mab and still found time to produce 440 episodes of the arts program Cosmos San Francisco (KTSF TV 26.) Dirksen/Molloy also produces Positive Spin for FreeSpeech TV, a left-leaning news program focused on progressive solutions. At the time of his death, Dirksen was finishing two Fab Mab related projects — Mutants: Forensic Report, a documentary DVD about the San Francisco art/punk ensemble the Mutants, and I Remember One Night at the Fab Mab, an oral history of the club with archival photos and memorabilia. Both are due out in early 2007.

 
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