Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23, 1983

On this day in 1983... A man died.

Okay, so I'm sure a lot of people left us on November 23rd, 1983. But this man deserves to be commemorated. Not for how he lived, but how he died.

James "Jimmy the Beard" Ferrozzo was 40 years old, but had a tough reputation from working in the strip clubs of San Francisco's North Beach area. At the time of his death he was the assistant manager of The Condor Club, which remains in operation today.

The Condor was America's first topless club, and was made famous by Carol Doda. She was among the first topless dancers (and definitely the first bottomless) in the area, and unquestionably one of the most famous strippers ever. She built the reputation of the club (which hosted several visiting dignitaries during the 1964 Republican convention), and for many years The Condor's sign featured a full length picture of her with flashing red lights on her silicone-enhanced size 44 chest.

Her act began in dramatic fashion. She'd enter the theater from above, lying on a white, velvet-covered baby grand piano. It slowly descended from the ceiling and moved to the stage, where she took it off- all off.

Back to my story:

We don't know exactly what happened on that fateful night 29 years ago, between The Condor Club's closing time and when a janitor came to clean up in the morning.

James Ferrozzo was dating a 23 year old stripper named Teresa Hill. Sometime after the club closed the 2 of them climbed on top of the piano, I assume to make sure it was tuned. They apparently hadn't started, as his body was fully clothed when found (she wasn't wearing quite as much).

Somehow, likely due to their legs hitting the switch, the piano turned on, and began rising toward the ceiling. Distracted with other activities, neither Mr. Ferrozzo nor Miss Hill noticed the slow change in altitude.

When the janitor arrived at 7:00 that morning, he heard Mrs. Hill screaming and called the San Francisco police and fire department.

James Ferrozzo was dead, crushed against the ceiling, and was still on top of Miss Hill, who was lying on the piano.

Miss Hill was alive, but trapped. Attempts to lower the piano were unsuccessful, as its motor had burned out during the night. The fire department had to destroy it in order to free the young lady. She was taken to a local hospital, and treated for bruises.

Due to intoxication, Miss Hill had no recollection of the evening's events, or even of getting on the piano at all. She remembered having been in the club that night, and then waking up pinned between the late Mr. Ferrozzo and the piano.

Mr. Ferrozzo was determined to have died of asphyxiation from being crushed between the club's ceiling, a nude dancer, and a moving velvet-covered piano. His large frame (6'2", 220 lbs.) is likely what saved Miss Hill's life, as it provided several inches of cushioning between her and the roof.

Today Carol Doda runs a lingerie shop in San Francisco, and still performs as a singer/dancer (with her clothes on) at local restaurants.

Teresa Hill vanished into anonymity, and likely lives in modern suburbia. She's probably grateful not to remember much of the night, and may not own a piano.

The Condor Club is still in business, albeit after some ownership changes. The drink menu now includes a concoction named "Sex on the Piano" in Mr. Ferrozzo's memory.

20 comments:

arzt4empfaenger said...

Doesn't that scream Darwin Award? Although with 40, he might have had a family somewhere already (dating a 23 yo stripper isn't really excluding that).

Thanks for sharing this interetsing story! Stuff like that (and your more serene historical essays) you usually don't read easily.

Officer Cynical said...

And this is why, to this day, a musical work is referred to as a "piece".

Jono said...

I am impressed with Jimmy's ability to concentrate on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else.

Ms. Donna said...

The good Officer beat me with the "piece" comment.

Peace Officer, indeed!

Seriously, how did our favorite Yak Herder come to know about this? I'll leave the innuendo to others.

Anonymous said...

I bet that is a drink to die for...

Mari-Ann said...

Excellent story! Makes me think of Fatty Arbuckle for some reason.

a.generic doc said...

And that my friends, is why people of a certain age ask each other every November 23, "Do you remember where you were when you found out that James Ferrozzo got crushed by the piano?"

lightning said...

"Support your local coroner. Die interestingly."

Anonymous said...

That act would put Jerry Lee Lewis' to shame Tee-Hee

Ivan Ilyich said...

I'm guessing Dr. G. attended the neurology conference (NASS) in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

How could anybody survive being trapped under a 220 lb weight for a night, albeit well padded, even WITHOUT the additional pressure of the piano / ceiling? ...and still scream? I get a suffocating feeling just thinking about it.

impetua said...

Just exactly what I needed to read today. It's funny, but it's not funny, but it's funny...

Crazy RxMan said...

That story sure tickles my ivories...

Chris said...

I'll never hear Billy Joel's song "Pianoman" the same way again.

Anonymous said...

Christmas? miracle.

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lightsmade.com

RehabRN said...

Grumpy:

Never heard this one, but I was actually thinking one of our patients who spent time in SFO during that time was making up some of the stuff that happened.

Now, I'm not so sure. Jimmy wasn't mentioned, but now, I'm just gonna have to ask.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Too rich, I spit the story out.

Charles said...

Ha! I thought "grand slam" was a baseball term . . .

Packer said...

And on that NOTE , I will move on.

Anonymous said...

The Condor Club's sign must've the inspiration for the founders of Silicone Graphics. Oh, wait...

 
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