|Paper Doll Club - from the film "The Sniper" (1952)|
Location: 524 Union Street, San Francisco, California, USA
The Paper Doll Club was a popular North Beach / Telegraph Hill watering hole for many decades. In recent year, it has gone through through several name changes: 524 Club, Russo's, Cadell Place, Silhouettes and most recently The Field Restaurant & Pub.
But in the 1950s, the Paper Doll had a reputation as a gay bar, and more specifically as a lesbian bar, at least for a time.
The bar has been around since at least 1945 (and probably much earlier than that), as it is listed in the San Francisco City Directory for that year.
Film makers used the bar as "noirish" scenery in The Sniper (1952).
We know that it the Paper Doll was still operating under that name in 1956, as the Oakland Tribune reports that it was robbed under that name in August.
|524 Union Street today|
In fact, it's even listed in the 1960 City Directory, which means the Paper Doll had quite a long lifetime, especially for a bar.
The Paper Doll also gets a mention in Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965. Nan Alamila Boyd states that it was open from the 1940s to 1961.
Dick Boyd at Lost SF says the following about the Paper Doll:
The Paper Doll, 1949 to 1961
Located on Cadell Place just off Union was a gay bar/restaurant. It was owned by New Pisa restaurant owner and North Beach baseball legend Dante Benedetti. I lived around the corner on Grant and ate there frequently. The food was excellent. You could get a steak with all the trimmings for $1.65. I could even afford to tip at those prices. In the late 1950’s and early 60’s the Paper Doll held Halloween parties overflowing down Union and up to Grant. There was a contest held for the best costume and drag queens came from as far away as New York to compete for the crown. Dante got busted in the same purge of gay bars as Tommy Vasu. He pursued appeals but finally lost the battle in 1961. Later the place became the Manhattan Towers, owned by Katherine James, and leaned more towards a lesbian pick-up place.