The Mickey Finn show is coming home.
The old Mickie Finn nightclub (the spelling changed in 1973), also known as "San Diego Speakeasy No. 1," played Dixieland jazz and comedy routines to 3 1/2 million San Diegans and served 250,000 gallons of beer and 150,000 pounds of peanuts from 1960 to 1974. The club is no more, but Fred Finn is coming out of semi-retirement from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to present the show, starting tonight and ending July 7, at the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre.
Why the spelling change? Finn named his club after the knockout drink, the Mickey Finn, and the woman he was married to at the time, whose nickname was Mickie. They divorced in 1973 and, as he puts it, he got custody of the name and she got the money. They both remarried and there are no hard feelings, he said.
Now, he's just looking forward to coming back to the town where he first hit it big.
"Kit Goldman (managing director) from the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre called and said the theater would be available this summer. I have a nephew going to be married in California. Then there's this Las Vegas operation," said Finn on the phone from Las Vegas, where he just became entertainment director of Rosie O'Grady's entertainment complex.
"I thought I'd kill three birds with one stone."
He's also looking forward to seeing his son, Michael, cameraman and one-time regular on the Larry Himmel show, who is still working and living in San Diego. And there's the Dixieland Big Band gig he has at Disneyland on Aug. 19-25.
So much for semi-retirement.
Finn's last foray into San Diego was in 1988, when he brought back the Mickey Finn show, with wife Kelly on stage for four performances at the now-defunct Fiesta Dinner Theatre, and produced a sellout vaudeville spoof, "Tomfoolery," for the same venue.
The San Francisco-born musician got started after taking a business course in which he learned that the best place to open a nightclub would be in a growing area with an excellent climate. He considered Washington and Hawaii and chose San Diego, partly, he says, because he didn't have a lot of money to transport his truckload of old nickelodeons, pictures and turn-of-the-century Salvation Army stuff that he crammed his club with because he loved it, and which later became valuable as an investment.
San Diego seemed pretty pleased about becoming Finn's chosen city, especially in 1966, when the Mickie Finn show became a weekly summer replacement show on NBC, and San Diegans would drive up to L.A. to appear in the Mickie Finn bar that the network duplicated on a Burbank lot. In October, 1966, the Mickie Finn show headlined at Caesar's Palace and continued to play Vegas clubs until 1988.
Finn said he has fond memories about seeing up to 1,000 people a night, every night, for 14 years at his old place on 10th and University avenues, all "laughing, scratching, stomping their feet and clapping their hands." He hopes to do some reminiscing June 19, when the performance will be a reunion of anyone who has worked at Mickey Finn's over the years, like his old bouncer, Hoot Conner, a former Navy man who controlled the crowds at the club and played the bartender on the TV show.
Conner, who still lives in San Diego, said he misses the show and fondly remembers the times when he and Finn raced an old hook-and-ladder firetruck on the El Cajon speedway and fired an old cannon after every score at San Diego Chargers games.
The reunion will take place before, during and after the show, said Finn. "We'll party and tell lies about the past."
Talk about culture clash. Sharing the Lyceum Space set of "Latins Anonymous," a takeoff on Latino stereotypes complete with Mayan figurines and Los Angeles freeway columns, is the San Diego Chinese Center's first theatrical production, "White Snake," running Friday, Saturday and Monday only.
A classic Chinese folk tale about a powerful snake spirit transformed into a woman who falls in love with a mortal man, the one-hour show was adapted by Kent Brisby into a modern English production, with music, dance, puppets and kung fu helping to tell the tale.
"White Snake" has already sold out its Friday and Saturday performances. Some seats remain for the 8 p.m. Monday show, said Maya Hu, executive director of the San Diego Chinese Center.
Ann Thompson Kern, new artistic director of the Coronado Playhouse as of Feb. 1, is determined to bring back what she terms the glory days of the Coronado Playhouse, the ones she remembers from working as stage manager and director in the late '70s and early '80s.
The first goal accomplished was financial solvency. Working with her new managing director, J. Paul Ward, Kern reports the company has been in the black since the spring, which she said means that the city of Coronado is no longer pressuring it to move. The second goal, which kicks into place this summer, is the creation of a repertory season.
The company's curtain raiser tonight is George Bernard Shaw's "Candida," running through June 30.
Kern said she plans to introduce stipends to Coronado Playhouse artists for the first time in the company's history and plans to produce at least one original show a year, possibly developed from the staged reading program.
PROGRAM NOTES: Several years ago, when Carlos X. Pena presented "Pvt. Wars," it was a one-act play about three combat veterans returning home, by James McLure. Now McLure has expanded the play to full length and Pena will produce, perform and direct in the show at the Progressive Stage Company, June 14-July 22. . . .
Just because you're small, doesn't mean you have to think small. Southeast Community Theatre acquired the rights to the San Diego premiere of August Wilson's "Fences" and did a commendable job with Wilson's Tony and first Pulitzer-Prize winner. Now another community theater, Octad-One will present the San Diego premiere of a hit movie and off-Broadway show, "Steel Magnolias," tonight through July 8, in its new 49-seat space at 3450 College Ave., in the College Grove shopping center. Octad-One will follow up with "Romeo and Juliet," as its annual free Shakespeare offering in the El Cajon Plaza Amphitheatre, July 7-Aug. 26. . . .
San Diego Theatre League's interpreted series for the hearing impaired continues with the Patio Playhouse production of "Wiley and the Hairy Man" Sunday at 2 p.m.
TONY TALK: It is becoming increasingly obvious that regional theater is where the best of Broadway is developed. San Diego theatergoers had the opportunity to see two Tony-nominees before they went to Broadway: "The Grapes of Wrath" at La Jolla Playhouse and "The Piano Lesson" at Old Globe Theatre. "The Grapes of Wrath" got the Tony and "The Piano Lesson"--no slouch--walked away with the Pulitzer.