Artist recreating famous mural at Gold Dust's new home in SF


Perhaps you have noticed a large construction project on Jefferson Street at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. How could you know that behind the façade of the Gold Dust Lounge there is an even more elaborate one.

Please forgive artist Layla Skramstad for lying down on a mattress on the job. When painting a mural on a ceiling, it's a tool of the trade, just like paint and brushes.

When asked if she ever falls asleep up there, Skramstad answered, "Yeah, almost a couple of times."

That's because the 25-year-old Academy of Art student muralist mostly paints through the night.

"I think the drawing up there represents a time when you had a few cocktails, looked up, and it's like heaven," said Gold Dust owner Nick Bovis.

For Bovis, it's another chapter in the glorious history of his Gold Dust Lounge. A tumultuous one, recently, when his landlord evicted the bar from its traditional location on Powell Street.

"We had to leave because the lease ran out," he said.

When he moved to Fisherman's Wharf, brought along the old cable car bell, the famous gold miner, the original chandeliers, he even reproduced the famous bar in longer form, but the famous mural on the ceiling became problematic.

"Two of us pulled it down in a couple of hours, it wasn't so hard," Bovis said.

Well, pulling the canvas off the ceiling was a good idea until they tried putting it on the new ceiling. It did not work because the new location is much larger. So then Bovis tried taking pictures of the figures and putting those up there. Not quite the same effect.

The original mural dated back to the 1950s and was the work of several Hollywood scene artists hired by none other than Bing Crosby.

Skramstad will recreate it on her own, spending several months to bring the aging nudes back to artistic life.

"Well, the bartenders have all these little secret things they want me to throw in there and tell no one about," she said.

It would appear that some conventions remain sacred, even in the Sistine Chapel of saloons.

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