One of Huntington Beach's long remembered
treasures is the Golden Bear, a brick building with a large
dining and music hall located at 306 Pacific Coast Highway.
When you hear the stories from those who saw the Golden Bear
and attended concerts there, you soon realize why there is
so much passion for not just a place, but all the joy it
brought to so many who saw some of the world's great
performers appear in Huntington Beach. Visit
Old Pictures Gallery
It has been almost 20 years since
Golden Beach in Huntington Beach was open, bringing the best
live entertainment the city has ever seen. Though long gone,
the place is not forgotten. On Main Street you can buy
Golden Bear beer and HB Beer Company. In Perqs, there's a
wall display with old photos and information about the place
where so many great artists played.
Since that time
there has been a void in the music scene. Up and coming
bands play at local clubs, many of the moving into the
national and international arena. It would be difficult to
replicate what once existed in Surf City, however. Attending
a concert with some of these artists below can cost $50
upwards for a ticket today. Musicians such as BB King once
played at the Golden Bear for an admission price of $5 to
$10 with seating so intimate, it was possible to reach out
and touch them. Read the list of names of musical groups,
bands and recording artists that played at the famous Golden
Bear and you'll see why this Huntington Beach venue that was
torn down held such an allure.
permission by Los Angeles Times: OBITUARIES
By Randy Lewis, Times Staff Writer
Richard Babiracki, a onetime investment counselor who
parlayed a fan's love of music into ownership of the fabled
Golden Bear nightclub in Huntington Beach, has died of
respiratory failure. He was 56.
Babiracki, who operated the celebrated rock, folk, blues,
country and comedy venue with his younger brother, Charles,
from 1974 until it closed in 1986, had been in declining
health for the last year, and was hospitalized in January.
He died Saturday in Orange.
Under the Babirackis, the club presented hundreds of
performances by a wide swath of entertainers, including
Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Garcia, B.B. King, Steve Martin, Dave
Mason, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Waits, Robin Williams, Neil Young
and the band Van Halen.
"I always felt the Bear never got the credit it deserved for
keeping people alive, for the role it played in performers'
lives and in the music business, and the number of
songwriters that went through there," said John McEuen, a
member of the country-rock group the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
He became part of the band during a 1966 show at the
Huntington Beach club.
The club was nearly half a century old when the Babiracki
brothers took it over from George Nikis, the restaurateur
who had made it an important part of Southern California's
booming folk and rock music scenes in the 1960s by booking
such acts as the Doors, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and dozens
of others on their way to pop music stardom.
The Babirackis, who grew up in Minnesota and came west after
college seeking the sun and fun of Southern California,
originally wanted to open a patio restaurant when they found
that the Golden Bear, which Nikis was then operating as a
Greek restaurant without live music, was for sale. "I was
just someone who liked music," Richard Babiracki told The
Times a few months after he and his brother took over the
club. "I didn't know anything about the nightclub business.
I had to acquaint myself with the people who were coming up
in the entertainment industry because those are the ones we
are trying to book."
In the 1970s and '80s, the Golden Bear was a familiar
stopping place for many veteran acts on their way down and a
new generation hoping to be headed up. As trends in music
shifted, the Babirackis tried to shift with them, booking
such new wave and alternative music acts as Men at Work, the
Motels, Oingo Boingo, the Plimsouls and the Ramones.
The Golden Bear's steady diet of old folkies, rockers and
blues greats mixed with those of a younger generation to
help establish Orange County's identity in the Los
Angeles-based music industry. It contributed to a burgeoning
underground scene that exploded in the 1990s with the
commercial breakthrough of such Orange County-bred bands as
No Doubt, the Offspring and Sugar Ray.
The Babirackis ran into financial problems when they tried
to open a second club, called Panache, in Long Beach in
1983. The venture lasted less than two years, at which point
the Babirackis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to
keep the Golden Bear operating. By that time, the Babirackis'
primary focus on veteran acts gave the Golden Bear a
reputation as a backward-looking club in a forward-looking
time, and such cutting-edge clubs as the punk-centered
Cuckoo's Nest in Costa Mesa and the alternative-minded
Safari Sam's less than a mile away from the Bear in
Huntington Beach took over as the hip places for young music
The Golden Bear was bulldozed in 1986 by city officials who
said it did not meet earthquake safety standards and would
have to make way for new development. Babiracki turned to
selling real estate, but kept his hand in the music business
by assisting with concert bookings at the Bacchanal club in
Babiracki is survived by his wife, Cathie, and brother,
Charles. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday
at Shannon-Bryan Mortuary in Orange.
A family friend said plans for a tribute concert in the
coming weeks were being formalized. -End
permission Orange County Register -
for Golden Bear’s Rick Babiracki
By BELLA LAGMAY-FUNK SPECIAL TO THE WAVE
Rick Babiracki, who owned the Golden Bear during its rock
heyday from 1974-86 died Saturday of respiratory failure. He
The historical Golden Bear was once Orange County’s oldest
club where music legends from Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and
The Doors once headlined.
Babiracki died following a lengthy illness at Chapman
Medical Center in Orange. His wife Cathie and brother Chuck,
his partner and co-owner of the Golden Bear, kept a bedside
vigil throughout Friday night.
in 1929, the Golden Bear was first a Greek restaurant. The
next owner continued the restaurant business but began
staging concerts beginning in the 1960s, spotlighting
national name talent. Such folk heroes as Lenny Bruce, Bob
Dylan and Arlo Guthrie performed at "The Bear" as it was
psychedelic era brought to the Bear’s small stage such rock
legends as the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi
Hendrix and The Doors in their early rise to stardom. The
‘70s brought Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond and
John Denver, while the ‘80s brought such artists as Peter
Gabriel, Oingo Boingo and Poison.
The variety of entertainment ran the gamut from the eclectic
with Dr. Timothy Leary and beat poets with Charles Bukowski,
to folk with Judy Collins, to blues with B.B. King, to jazz
with Chick Corea, to comedy with Robin Williams.
were given also a forum the Bear, which helped launch the
careers of Huntington Beach surf rock guitar king Dick Dale
and Orange County’s own Steve Martin, Honk and Jackson
Browne,among many other aspiring stars.
In January 1986, the Bear lost its lease and was closed to
pave the way for downtown redevelopment. Faithful fans were
on site as the wrecking ball demolished the aged building
and grabbed bricks as souvenirs of this rock ‘n’roll
In August 1990, the Pierside Pavilion opened on its original
site and the Bear was brought back by Peppers. Inc. Numerous
classic rock actsthat played the club in the ‘70s and ‘80s
returned to play at the new venue. Opening night was
headlined by Eric Burdon of The Animals and Robby Krieger of
However, the new
Bear’s reincarnation was short-lived when the club was
forced to go out of business after a theater complex opened
above it. Noise issues arose over decibel levels and by
spring 1991, the Bear was closed down again.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at
Shannon-Bryan Mortuary, 137 E. Maple, Orange.
The HB Longboard
Crew will scatter ashes and flowers at sea at noon Sunday
south of the pier. Proclamation presentations by the City
Council and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher are planned. The
Golden Bear welcomed music and comedy legends, from The
Doors and Arlo Guthrie to Steve Martin and Lenny Bruce.
Golden Bear owner Rick Babiracki celebrated the August 1990
reopening night of the Huntington Beach club with his wife,
Amazing Rhythm Aces
Asleep at the Wheel
Average White Band
Black Oak Arkansas
Cecilio & Kapono
Cheech & Chong
Country Joe & The Fish
Papa John Creach
Cherie & Marie Currie
Rick Danko & Gary Busey
England Dan &
John Ford Coley
Flying Burrito Bros
Jan & Dean
John Kay & Steppenwolf
Greg Kihn Band
Dr. Timothy Leary
Lenny & Squiggy
Loggins & Messina
Jeff Lorber Fusion
McGuinn, Clark, Hillman
New Riders of the
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Mary Kay Place
Pure Prairie League
Jimmy Rabbit & Renegade
Tom Robinson Band
Buffy Saint Marie
Sanford & Townsend
Earl Scruggs Revue
Tower of Power
Jesse Collin Young