SAN FRANCISCO -- Authorities Thursday closed a popular North Beach topless club where a 40-year-old man was crushed to death when an elevated piano used by strippers accidentally rose to the ceiling while he was entwined with his nude girlfriend.
The victim, James 'Jimmy the Beard' Ferrozzo, 40, a longtime employee of the Condor Club, was caught between the spangled piano and the ceiling while he was lying partially on top of Theresa Hill, 23, police said.
The piano is a prop used for many years at the club by stripper Carol Doda. A janitor discovered the couple pinned between the piano and the ceiling about 7 a.m. PST Wednesday. Firemen were unable to free them until about 10:15 a.m.
The 240-pound Ferrozzo was pronounced dead at the scene, apparently asphyxiated, the medical examiner said.
Police theorized Ferrozzo may have accidentally tripped the piano's 'up' button. It takes about 90 seconds to reach the ceiling, club employees said.
Ms. Hill was treated for bruises and released from Mission Emergency Hospital.
The dapper Ferrozzo picked up his nickname because of a bushy brown beard. His automobile parked outside the club bore Nevada license plates reading 'WACKO 1.' It had a ticket on the windshield Thursday.
Lucky Lucchesi, the club's former manager, described Ferrozzo as 'built like a bear, a tough SOB.' He said his former colleague was 'real tough with his dukes but other than that he was a jolly, easy-going guy.'
Ms. Hill told police she moved to San Francisco about two weeks ago from Seattle and began dating Ferrozzo.
The Condor Club, which employs about 20 erotic dancers, was closed Wednesday night, a coroner's seal warning against entrance.