The Beach - Participants
Charles Campbell opened the Louvre Frame Shop where he often showed work from artists at CSFA (now the San Francisco Art Institute) across the street. Eventually, he moved a block down on Chestnut Street and opened a space devoted exclusively to showing art--the respected Charles Campbell Gallery. Charles and the gallery are still in the same location over fifty years now. Along with his interest in art, he was a jazz fan; spending his days in the gallery and his nights helping his friend, jazzman, Turk Murphy, run the Italian Village that became the place to hear early Jazz in North Beach.
Leo Krikorian, artist, came to San Francisco from Black Mountain College and took classes at CSFA. He opened “The Place” on upper Grant Avenue in the mid 50s. It soon became an infamous hangout for writers, poets, musicians and artists; known for Blabbermouth Night, the Dada Show and exhibiting avant-garde work by local artists. Jay DeFeo, Joel Barletta and Jess had their first solo shows at “The Place”—each showing later at the Dilexi Gallery.
Peter Macchiarini, jewelry designer and sculptor, did all his life’s work in North Beach. Born in Northern California, he studied art in Italy and then returned to San Francisco where he developed his own unique, modern design. Peter organized the first street fair in North Beach, which continues to be an annual event today although changed from its original intent of showing only original works of art.
Chuck Modecke, painter, lived in North Beach and in 1949 walked into Vesuvio with Henri Lenior the day Henri bought that Italian bar. Chuck became Vesuvio’s first bartender and soon got to know all the patrons—artists, writers and other bohemian characters. His studio and living area was the wonderful top floor space with a 360-degree view in the building at the foot of Columbus Avenue now owned by Coppola.
Jim Newman opened the Dilexi Gallery in 1958 above the Jazz Workshop on Broadway. He and his partner for the first year, Bob Alexander, were both jazz buffs and liked the idea of combining art with the sound of jazz--the inspiration for some of the abstract painting. Later, Jim moved the Dilexi to Union Street in the Marina District where it became San Francisco’s premier showcase for talented California artists.
Larry Pitt, poet, lived in the heart of North Beach during the Beat Era. He became friends with the artists there while hanging out at Vesuvio’s bar. Larry bought work from Sargeant Johnson, Jean Varda and Luke Gibney, among others, who were part of the local color. He also bought a surplus ferryboat, the “Charles Van Damme”, for the incredible price of $150; following in the footsteps of Varda, who had purchased the “Vallejo” at a bargain price. The “Charles Van Damme” was destroyed by fire later, but the “Vallejo” is still standing in Richardson Bay off Sausalito.
Footnote: Leo Krikorian, Peter Macchiarin, Larry Pitt and Charles Campbell have all passed away in the last few years. Their wonderful anecdotes and expressions are with us, captured in The Beach.