‘Pope of Punk’ Dies

Dirk Dirksen, who called himself “the pope of punk” and was known to many as the godfather of San Francisco punk rock, died unexpectedly in his sleep November 20th.

Dirksen, 69, had been out of the business for decades, but in his heyday presented scores of acts at North Beach’s Mabuhay Gardens during the 10 years he operated the venue, including The Ramones, Flipper, The Mutants, The Nuns, and Black Flag.

The San Francisco Chronicle recalled the promoter having a unique onstage demeanor.

“I’m sorry to see you’re that easily pleased,” Dirksen reportedly once told an audience after the end of one band’s performance at Mabuhay. “You should try and show some intelligence and sophistication and not just accept any slop that’s thrown in your trough.”

The band tried to slink offstage, assuming Dirksen would not allow an encore.

“I’ll give you one,” he told them, according to the Chronicle, “but only because the next group is an absolute pimple in the armpit of progress. Now everybody, please pay attention because it’s time to play ‘People Are Stupid.'”

Despite his caustic barbs, or maybe because of them, Dirksen was seen by many in the punk world as a father figure.

“He was super obnoxious onstage,” Penelope Houston of the Avengers told the paper. “He would stand there with that little dog [named Dummy] under his arm, being a target for whatever they wanted to throw. At the same time, he loved all those people. In a way, they were his family.”

He was also known for his birthday celebrations, where he would be the recipient of mock torture. He would come up with a different method with each event, including flogging and beheading.

After leaving the nightclub business in 1984, Dirksen operated a video production firm and was involved in charity work at the Mission Recreation Center. He also hosted various Mabuhay reunion events, including one at The Fillmore last April that included members of the Dead Kennedys, The Mutants, and Flipper.