A Bid Farewell with Beach Blanket Babylon’s Shawna Ferris McNulty

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon, the campy, over-the-top roast of pop culture and politicians, ends its 45-year run at North Beach’s Club Fugazi on New Year’s Eve. We chatted with one of its stars who first took the Beach stage as the Pineapple Princess in 2004.

You’ve been performing with Beach for 15 years. Any guess on the number of performances?

Are you asking an actor to do math? It got tricky keeping count a couple years back, when I transferred to understudy, but more than 4,000.

Which characters do you get to play as an understudy?

I cover three girls: Snow White, the Pineapple Princess and the Banana Girl. I can cover anyone from Kim Kardashian to Melania Trump to Hillary Clinton.

Beach Blanket Babylon

Do you live in Marin?

Yes, in Novato. I love living in Marin.

Did you ever get to wear the famous skyline hat that is worn to close the show?

I did! During the Christmas season, we bring in a Christmas tree hat for Miss San Francisco and Snow gets to wear the skyline hat, so I’ve actually worn it a lot.

The show is famous as much for the wigs and hats as for its willingness to poke fun at American culture and politics. Are there any favorite moments?

Oh yeah, there are more than a few that stick out to me. One is the number we did when Dick Cheney had the shotgun incident — that was epic. The Larry Craig (Idaho GOP senator arrested for soliciting gay sex in a men’s airport bathroom in 2007) bit was really good, too.

New Year’s Eve includes two curtain calls for you and the cast. Anything special planned for the show that night?

I’ve heard rumors we are doing more Steve Silver–themed numbers (the show’s creator). We will celebrate Beach Blanket as a whole.

What is a Steve Silver theme?

There is our culture and politics but when I think of Steve (Beach’s creator, who died in 1995), I think of original characters like King Louis and the Pineapple Princess, or the French Woman, all Steve creations. They are the legacy and heart of the show, the iconic stuff that makes it special.

What are your plans for New Year’s Day 2020?

Relax? I’m departing for Hawaii on January 7.

What will you miss the most?

I’ll miss the people and the zaniness of the show. When we said we were closing, I felt it was as if the Giants were leaving the city. People are sad to see it go.

Will you get to keep White’s red shoes and red hair bow?

I don’t know. I’ve been wearing my Pineapple Princess shoes since I was 23 years old. I heard there is an archivist going through the Beach warehouse.

Chrisitina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her childrens’ schools, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.