EXPIRED: 11/09/09 – Sam Conti, 65, sold rugs in New York and San Francisco. Afterwards, he’d go out to the clubs. I guess he figured being at the clubs was more fun than selling rugs, so he went into the nightclub business. Boy, did he ever go into the nightclub business.
Starting in ’73, he always had a club running in the Bay area. And they weren’t always the kinda places you’d want to be seen in. He was famous for his North Beach clubs that attracted tourists who wanted to see what San Francisco’s free love was all about (it wasn’t so free). These clubs – where scantily clad women stayed in booths while men “talked” to them – also attracted a lot of attention from City Hall.
Conti’s lawyer – the future mayor of the city, Willie Brown – helped him get around red light laws that could have landed him in a lot of trouble.
In 1995, Conti took it up a notch and opened a more up-scale establishment, the Coconut Grove supper club. The Grove had palm trees and white leather banquettes and felt like a throwback to the opulent 1940’s. Tom Jones performed at the opening party and the place was packed. Tickets were $500 a head. To say he had more success with his porn ventures would be putting it mildly. The Coconut Grove was closed less than 2 years later.
Yet, Conti kept clubs opened in the North Beach area, putting women on stage to dance rather than in booths. And when he was faced with early closing times, he came up with creative solutions. Conti became a minister in the Universal Life Church, allowing him to cite a local ordinance allowing religious organizations to stay open past 2 a.m. His clubs were now churches. His patrons, followers. Because of his ingenuity, San Francsico is now a destiantion synonymous with after hours dancing more so than the “free love” it once was. So in essence, Conti rewrote his own legacy.
Sam Conti loved San Fransisco. The very nature of his work meant that he gave a lot of young women their first jobs in that city. In fact, he did nore than discover young dancers. Conti also helped discover the recording artist Myra, who went on to make a gold record with Miracles Happen for Disney’s the Princess Diaries.
Whether you approved of the establishments he ran or not, he seemed to always pay his staff on time, treat his employees fairly and think about what was good for the city by the bay.
Some said he was older than 65, and what if he was? Conti lived for the day. Too bad for San Francisco that he won’t be there for anymore.