In the 74 years between the Paramount Theatre's opening night, when people used to line up to see “talkies” for 50 cents, and 2002, when it was voted Best Mainstage Theatre in a Seattle Weekly Reader's Poll, the palatial venue faded and decayed alongside its Roaring Twenties brethren throughout America. Luckily, former Microsoft Vice President Ida Cole saved it from the rubble heap in the mid-‘90s when she established the Seattle Landmark Association and vowed to render the Paramount "kissable" once again.
Over the course of seven months, the renovation crew expanded the size of the stage wings to accommodate more ambitious live productions. They also cleared decades of grime from the french baroque plaster reliefs, uncovering long-forgotten designs and causing only one long-dormant horror to snap open its eyes dramatically. They also replaced the gold leaf in the floral designs of the wall medallions, repainted all the surfaces in their original 16 colors, and scrubbed each of the 1.6 million crystal beads in the chandelier by hand with a toothbrush. The original Knabe Ampico player piano was returned to its spot on the four-tiered lobby's lush carpeting, and a 21st-century sound system now shares sonic space with the thundering, luminous sonority of the Paramount's fully restored Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Though the Paramount's calendar runs the gamut from rock concerts to standup comedy to Broadway musicals on the scale of Wicked, its decadent Beaux Arts trappings transport audiences to the days when reality was still black and white.
The detail-oriented instructors at Art a la Cart take students through each painting step-by-step, showing them how to mix and blend their own colors and build compositions from the background without having to first live among paintings in local art museums. They supervise students in a themed class series as they paint still-life fruit and candies, portray whimsical landscapes, depict parts of the San Francisco skyline, or emulate the style of a classic artist. Groups explore each subject and question its lack of Renaissance cupids in one of five locations, which include wine-cellar tasting rooms, underground wine bars, and a modern minimalist cocktail lounge. Staff members supply all acrylic paints, brushes, and other gear for each class; and though they don't provide any libations, instructors encourage participants to bring or purchase their own drinks.
Fox Theatre lures crowds and musical acts alike with an auditorium drenched in the glimmer and charm of theater’s history. Surrounding a proscenium stage draped in red is enough gold to please a group of kings or outfit one rapper with his requisite bling. Bas-reliefs and intricate patterns line the walls while below, rows of seats on the floor and balcony beckon with simple comfort.
At Menlo Hub, both food and art find a place on the menu. The modern restaurant's walls are blanketed in original contemporary paintings, and on some nights, the dining space reverberates with music from live bands and solo musicians. But even on nights with performances, the main attraction is always found in the kitchen. Here, chefs design casual American dishes sprinkled with elements of Mediterranean cooking.
The menus focus on simple steaks and seafood, complemented by organic produce sourced from nearby sustainable farms. The artfully plated dishes include California sea bass, New York steaks with gorgonzola demi-glace, and eggplant-wrapped lamb shanks. While most visitors sample the cuisine in the airy main dining space, private groups eat in a secluded room warmed by a corner fireplace.
At the lively bar, flat-screen TVs broadcast sporting events as bartenders mix fruit-infused martinis and pour a range of California wines, which are made from grapes that are just thankful that they never became California raisins.
Taking its name from a Sean O'Casey play, The Plough and the Stars wears its Hibernian heritage on its sleeve as it captivates visitors with an atmosphere of Irish whiskeys, heady beers, and live music. The owners and most of the staff hail from the Emerald Isle, charming their guests with authentic accents and a mastery of pouring Guinness the Irish way—easing the black ambrosia into a glass as they recite On Raglan Road while drinking a cup of water. Patrons sip perfectly mixed irish coffees as they watch Celtic set dancing on Thursdays or raise their glasses of draft Kilkenny and Smithwick's to live bluegrass, blues, and traditional Irish tunes almost every day of the week.
The multiple award-winning funny comedian, Ash K. entertains audiences with magic shows ranging from house parties to corporate events. In 2010, he was voted the Best Arts and Entertainment/Theatre performer on the San Francisco Chronicle's Baylist, which he celebrated by turning every section in the newspaper into the funnies. Once described by a reviewer as a mash-up of Borat, Harpo Marx, and Emo Philips, the celebrated performer has delighted spectators with his sleight-of-hand magic, physical comedy, Eastern European accent, and his subversive use of the English language. Click here to see a video of Ash in action.