September 20, 2007

Historic Quilt Stolen From The Sweetwater


Sweetwater owner Becky Steere opened the doors of the hallowed Mill Valley nightclub Wednesday morning to discover someone had stolen the mandala quilt that hangs beside the stage.

"I gasped," she said. "It was like someone socked me in the chest."

She compared it to stealing an icon from a church.

"It's the heart of Sweetwater," she said. "This is like tearing out our heart. Who would do such an evil thing? It's sacrilegious."

The unusual 15-foot-wide circular quilt is well known for its mandala design fashioned from pieces of colored suede.

It has hung on the right side of the stage since one of the original owners bought it in the early 1970s.

After more than 30 years at 153 Throckmorton Ave., Sweetwater has lost its lease and is preparing to close after its last public show on Sunday. Steere had hoped to hang the mandala in the new Sweetwater, once another location is found for the club.

"Every musician knows that mandala," she said. "It's on so many record albums. Everyone loves it."

The thief or thieves removed a plank from a boarded-up downstairs window to get in. A long pole that raises and lowers a movie screen was used to take the mandala down, Steere said.

She theorized that it was stolen between 4:30 a.m., when the bartender left, and 5:30 a.m., when the cleanup crew arrived.

"This wasn't a random theft," said Mill Valley police Sgt. Paul Wrapp. "Someone wanted that thing and they came in and got it. Apparently, it was the only thing taken."

The mandala is so well known that it couldn't be shown without someone recognizing it, Steere said, requesting that anyone with information on its whereabouts call the club at 388-2820 or the Mill Valley Police Department anonymous tip line at 721-4547.

"I don't even want to know who stole it," she said. "We just want it back."

Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at liberatore@marinij.com