For over a decade, it has been my great honor and adventure to be your “Belle of the Ball.” The glam Gorey weekend has become San Francisco’s beloved and elaborate January tradition. For Edwardian Ball 2014, I make a triumphant return to one of my favorite locales of all time—you may know it without realizing— It’s the grand red room immortalized in my music video “Haunted By the Thought of You.” But best of all— for the VERY FIRST TIME, I’m inviting the audience to the THIRD FLOOR…transforming the historical Masonic Lodge into The Parlour of Spirits! The Freemasons held their secret ceremonies and rituals in this very room, now it’s our turn to conjure some magic together.
Join me Saturday night Jan 18 at 9:30pm with special guest Spirits: Drummer Randy Odell, Bassist Kenny Annis, vionlinist/theremin player Meredith Yayanos (The Parlour Trick) plus exclusive spectres and spectacles by Shadow Circus Productions!
I wanted to let you in on a few secrets I learned about this strange and enchanting Masonic Lodge...
When I chose a location for “Haunted by the Thought of You,” I wanted a space that had a haunted past, replete with a secret history, symbology and magnificent architecture, so I could really make the song come to life. This was before the Edwardian Ball regularly used the Lodge Level, so I had only been in the room a couple of times…always alone…always quiet, it seemed to beckon me with its vastness… its hidden tales.
My first meeting in the Lodge with music video director Terran Schackor.
From it’s inception, California was a haven for Freemasons. Many of the states pioneers— Fremont, Stevenson, O’Farrell and Montgomery were Masons. The Regency Center (at the corner of Van Ness and Sutter) was built in 1906 by and for the Scottish Rite Masons. It had nothing to do with the Regency Hotel. The building is historic, grand, full of strange crawlspaces and mysterious tiny rooms. Transported by a century-old gilded elevator, the third floor Lodge is its gem —with velvet red walls, dark mahogany woodwork, 30 foot-high vaulted ceilings dripping with art nouveau chandeliers., and a grand stage shrouded by an spectacularly tasseled curtain. A giant pipe organ lurks at one end, a stage with 32 vintage backdrops corresponding to the Masonic levels at the other. Secret passageways and trap doors hide amongst the woodwork.
Everywhere I looked was a perfect shot. Perfect colors. Intoxicating. I got chills.
Four mysterious doors lurk backstage. Choose your Destiny? (We used them in the video)
Back in a secret room by the 1909 Austin pipe organ, is the fabled trapdoor, in which inductees were blindfolded & then lowered down to perform their induction rites. There are secret passageways to the organ loft, where “trust rituals” took place. Legend has it a rope went around a would-be mason’s neck and he jumped through the trapdoor trusting that his cloaked brothers would catch him in time. But did they all make it?
High above the ornate theatre stage is a catwalk that provides access to old rope pulleys that raise and lower 32 lavish hand-painted backdrops. Painted in the 1920s, the backdrops are huge, priceless objects of art that depict scenes that dramatized the Mason’s secret rituals. Backstage I could see old penciled notations, now barely legible, posted on the walls.
Inside the 3D Hades backdrop in bright light. You can see the delicate gridwork that holds them together. These were painted in the 1920s.
The 32 settings depict everything from ancient Rome, Egypt, to Medieval Europe, pastoral scenes, forests, and decorative columns. Naturally for the “Haunted by the Thought of You” video, I chose the Hades backdrop with its strange crimson imps, devils, fantastical winged creatures and sinister caverns. Ahhh, the torment of obsession and longing is hellish indeed.
Setting the Hades backdrop and lighting the scene.
At last. Hades in proper lighting. The stage is set! Note the gorgeous red velvet curtains and chandeliers.
The Freemasons use of this theatre and elaborate backdrops were to perform one-act teaching plays called Degrees of the Scottish Rite. They were often staged with costume, special effects, and the full rigging of any professional production. Their purpose was to examine different philosophies, ancient religions, and systems of ethics— honoring theatre as one of the principal means of instruction throughout history.
Me immersed in perfectly lit Hades. Magnificent.
Cinematographer Mike Duffy captures me amidst the great mahogany walls and 30-foot vaulted ceiling.
There is Masonic symbolism all through the building—and all through the city of San Francisco. There are controversial theories that Market, Van Ness, Columbus and Montgomery were actually designed as a unique talisman— an alignment creating a Masonic Pyramid incorporated into the city’s grid at the earliest days of its history and appears to have been marked periodically with the construction of additional symbolic and related buildings in relationship to Masonic numerology.
Freemasons revere the numbers 3, 11, 13, 33 among others. You will find countless examples of it not only in the Lodge, but in the city of San Francisco. In honor of this numerical magic, (and my OWN obsession with the number 3) the clock in the “Haunted by the Thought of You” music video spins and stops on 3:33. (Thanks to the brilliant special FX of Dave from Shadow Circus Productions.) You’ll find other hidden numerical references within the video as well.
Not surprisingly, the Masonic Center stands at 1111 California Street. The rampant symbolism is fascinating and merits a complete blog in itself— I recommend reading Stephen Vincent O’Rourke’s “San Francisco Pyramid Saga.” You’ll never look at San Francisco the same way again.
Of course the Masonic Lodge would be on the magical 3rd floor. But during location scouting, I discovered a secret: There is an unused and little-known 4th floor in the building!! What’s up there? My imagination soars.
Inches away from the camera, shooting close-ups for Haunted by the Thought of You
I’d like to note that the heyday of this 1909 Masonic Lodge coincides the with peak era in the spiritualism movement. It was certainly a time of believing in magic, mystery, ghosts, and otherworldly communication. A time of wonderment and marvel— that is sadly lacking today. One of the best things about The Edwardian Ball is the ability to reclaim that spirit—The Ball remains a brave testament to authenticity––being anything you wish to be, honoring your passions brazenly and unapologetically.
During the “Haunted by the Thought of You” music video shoot, I spent many hours in this enchanted place. I know I forever left a little piece of myself in that room, eternally pirouetting on red carpets in a tattered white gown among the imps and spirits. I can’t wait to return to its quiet realm of secrets. But this time I’ll be waiting for YOU…
Jill Tracy xox
all photos by bleedingvisuals
“Haunted by the Thought of You is on the Jill Tracy album The Bittersweet Constrain.
Visit Jill Tracy’s official website HERE.
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