1962 Chickens’ Ball – Gilded Ghosts of the Barbary Coast

This year, as every other year, the Ball suffered its share of production miseries. The annual flu bug made its appearance as anticipated and threatened many of the participants; the Chickens’ Ball curtain was forgotten until almost too late; lighting of the auditorium left so much to be desired that extra facilities has to be dragged in, only to discover that the cables and  lines strewn about the floor presented an intolerable hazard.

As in every other year, however, those who worked on the Ball in ’62, rose above the difficulties and worked around them to present a show that lived up to and exceeded previous standards. New plugs and a switchboard control were installed to solve the technical problems surrounding sound and lighting effects. The curtain was quickly taken care of and the cast heroically fought off the germs until after the Ball, when they could get sick more leisurely.

It takes real leadership and above all, a great sense of humor to run the Ball and insure its success year after year, and the gals in charge in ’62 were winners in anybody’s book. Juanita Frisch and Eleanor Worden attended to the General Chairman and Assistant duties. Ginny Grant and Fred Cross handled the production end of the business and together, the group produced some of our finest C.B. memories.

Juanita Frisch especially, possesses an infectious spirit of fun and she probably speaks for all the General Chairman when she says, “There seems to be a common happy affliction shared by each Ball Chairman who is convinced that hers is the best Chickens’ Ball. It is not hard to diagnose such an illusion, because after she begins to ‘mother’ it, eleven months before the curtain goes up on a February night, and delights in the myriad parts magically given new dimensions and facets by the talent and enthusiasm of hundreds, why should she think otherwise?”

The theme set for the ’62 Ball was Gilded Ghosts of the Barbary Coast and the number of performances was increased this year to seven. Narrator, Wiff Cox was a disembodied voice – the Ghost, remember? who led the audience with his memories; Herman, played by Gay Harding, moved about the stage between the acts with dust rag and broom. This was the year the Lions’ Club stole the show with their fantastic Whistlers, which brought gasps and howls from the audience every night when their top hats were doffed. Then there were the unforgettable mermaids who pulled themselves up on the ward to arrange their lovely green hair. Gordon Craig, Bill Hornyak, Paul Kelly and Hugh Malley enjoyed their shore-leave immensely until Neptune called them back to the Bay.

People still talk about the fantastic stage design in ’62. Dee and Hal Dressel designed and supervised the lovely set which included the Queen Dance Hall, Diana Hall, the Bella Union and the Cobweb Palace next to the wharf where the bow and rigging of the Good Ship Nancy nuzzled the pilings. Even the seagulls looked so real that everyone agreed that a professional Hollywood designer could have done no better.

Equally enticing were the outdoor sets, designed and set up by Joe Hickey. These featured a wharf-type entrance to the auditorium, the Ocean Shore Railroad to Land’s End with the Cliff House and Sutro’s Plunge and an avenue of old-fashioned gas lights.

The Women’s Athletic Club’s offering of Great Expectations will never be forgotten. It featured a reducing salon for which the ladies’ husbands constructed a number of hilarious devices “guaranteed” to remove those unwanted inches. Natalie Warden played a masseuse who kneaded and pounded poor Sivi Zapponi as if she were a choice cut of swiss steak being prepared for dinner. Nora Doyle stepped into a steam barrel, emerging some time later as a mechanical doll.

Marty Hofheimer, Ema Crescio and Dorothy Meyer were the “stars” of a silent movie entitled Oh Brother, which was presented by the San Carlans. Flickering lights and jerky action made this eternal triangle story as authentic as the old Charlie Chaplin and Valentino flicks themselves had been.

The 75 Club did a take-off of the Swan Lake Ballet that left everyone weak from laughing. Jim Rosemeyer, Fred Kleppe, Vic Guarnieri, Paul Hansen, Jim Simpkins and Fred Snyder fluttered about as the sygnets and Charles Burfield as the prima ballerina was superb.

Rose Witt deserves much credit for this and many other years when she was responsible for coordinating the flip-card art. She was also in charge of creating scrapbooks for the General Chairman and Production Managers which are unsurpassed in their beauty.

Source: 1968 Reflections

This entry was posted in History, Slider, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply