Showman Steve Silver Wears All the Hats—Except the Mad Ones 12 Feet Tall That Weigh 40 Pounds
If Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, so have Rock Hudson and Beverly Sills. The object of their affection is an outrageous vaudeville show called Beach Blanket Babylon. “It’s the best reason to visit the city,” gushes Hudson. “I wish I lived in San Francisco so I could see it more,” trills Sills.
The insanely successful revue that’s run SRO for three years is the creation of 35-year-old impresario Steve Silver. He is producer, director and writer of the show which features such zany skits as gorillas stripteasing to the strains of Night and Day, tap-dancing palm trees and a singing Mr. Peanut. It’s all tenuously connected with the story of Snow White traveling to Hollywood in a naive search for a prince—a campy, nostalgic look at Tinsel Town. The other surprising thing, for 1979, is that the show would be G-rat-ed in a movie house. Yet Steve has fans who boast of having seen Beach Blanket as many as 300 times, and he constantly adds new bits to the show.
“I get these ideas while I’m brushing my teeth,” he says. “At first I throw everything in that I ever wanted in a show, then I edit it out. All those things that people think would be funny to do—well, we do them here,” he continues. “Dad always said, ‘Be your own man, have your own business, begin small and grow gradually.’ ” Now his father, Lou, a scrub, brush manufacturer, serves as Steve’s business manager. Younger brother Roger, 33, a rock composer (Journey’s Anytime) and promotion man, also helps with the show, and their mother, Claire, sews sequins on the costumes and cleans the tables at the 300-seat Club Fugazi, where it plays.
Steve got his start in 1969 as a student at San Jose State. While working toward a master’s in art, he ran a company called Rent-A-Freak, which provided odd people and gags for parties. Among the acts was a ballerina who stood silently caressing a wall, then fell flat on her face in the middle of the startled guests. Later on, after serving as assistant art director for the movie Harold and Maude, Silver entertained on street corners and by 1974 was producing a rough version of Beach Blanket. Currently he is hatching ideas for movie musicals. And he is being pursued by Grease producer Allan Carr, who says, “Silver has the playful imagination people are dying for.”
But Silver says he won’t close Beach Blanket; in fact, he plans to put together an L.A. company soon. “It would be like closing the door on my family,” he explains. Steve still lives with his parents in the Marina district, but he’s referring to his professional family. “It’s not a simple operation anymore,” he says. “Fifty people depend on me for their livelihood.” A mother hen to the cast, he insists on regular physical exams for those who wear those 40-pound hats.
Silver himself has simple tastes. He leases sedans and when one is filled with debris, turns it in for another (“I love the smell of new cars”). His hobby is, well, a little weird—touching the coattails of celebrities. He boasts of scoring twice one afternoon as Jackie Onassis shopped. “Yet I have no desire to meet such people,” Silver says. Of course, now they want to meet him.