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The Night the Holy City Zoo Closed

The following article by Robert S. Wieder was culled from the San Francisco Examiner’s Sunday, July 1 1984 issue:

Robin Williams was there, of course, but didn’t much want to talk about it. It was a highly personal moment. He did his earliest stand-up here, met his oldest friends here, met his wife here. This is where he learned his craft, and it was a sad, melancholy night on June 19, 1984. The Holy City Zoo, a legend among America’s comedy clubs, the ultimate “comedian’s hangout,” folded after 13 years.

“I’m sad,” said Robin. ” We had wonderful times here, strange times here; this wasn’t a haven, it was a game preserve. I remember a big black guy who’d come in with a baseball bat and say ‘I’d like to audition.’ But a lot of that is in the past. So many changes.” Comic Perry Kurtz rented a chain saw to carve the stage wall into souvenirs. “I’d give (former Zoo manager John) Cantu’s right arm to keep this club open,” he said.

It ended at 2 a.m. with various comics onstage singing “Well Meet Again” and “Happy Trails.” Outside, Mike Pritchard sighed, “In the past month I’ve helped close the Open-Theater, hosted the memorial for Dave Allen, and now this.” A hand-printed notice on the back wall declared that a “New Zoo, better than ever will soon open elsewhere.” Nobody buys it. Nothing, all agree, can replace the Zoo. An era was over.

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