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If quick costume changes, backstage ballet and the wearing of 12-foot hats were Olympic events, the cast of "Beach Blanket Babylon" would have captured all the gold.

Eight times a week for two decades, the campy, outrageous musical revue wows bus loads of tourists without ever disappointing locals looking for a night of masterful showmanship, killer vocals and general gaiety.Based very, very loosely on a plot involving Snow White and her search for true love, the show features hats larger than your closet and topical cameos by characters ranging from Anita Hill to Lorena Bobbit.

"Beach Blanket Babylon" lifts the audience and refuses to put them down until they're grinning uncontrollably. You haven't lived until you've seen Renee Lubin - swathed in yards of pink tulle as Glinda The Good - belting out "Proud Mary" in a voice that would give Tina Turner a run for her money. Behind her, a chorus line of matching Glindas do a Rockettes-like number, tiaras glinting in the house lights.

Later, a line of French poodles bumping and grinding to "Louis Louis" while King Louis himself struts across the stage will change forever the way you think about The Three Musketeers.

This quintessential San Francisco experience had its beginnings in 1974. As creator Steve Silver remembers it, he was a poor graphic designer who couldn't afford to buy his friends Christmas presents.

Somehow, he came up with a bolt of shiny green Britex fabric and made himself a Christmas tree costume. Thus attired, he called upon each of his friends, handing out cans of artificial snow as presents.

Out of that green-gaited shuffle was born the idea for a musical revue, which became "Beach Blanket Babylon." The first show was June 7, 1974, at the Savoy Tivoli, a North Beach bar and cafe.

Twenty years later, "Beach Blanket" is America's longest running musical revue - longer even than the Ziegfeld follies, according to Silver. Its run at Club Fugazi in North Beach has lasted since 1975.