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~ Forgotten NYC Restaurants ~ Sammy’s Bowery Follies

Sammy’s Bowery Follies

Bought this Vintage ‘Sammy’s Bowery Follies’ souvenir postcard. Looks like a fun place to get drunk!
‘Run Rabbit Run’ by Flanagan & Allen at Sammy’s Bowery Follies.

In 1934, Sammy Fuchs opened a saloon at 267 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Surrounded by flophouses and missions, Sammy’s Bowery Follies catered mainly to the homeless, the penniless, and the generally down and out.

That changed somewhat in the early ‘40s after a surprising customer passed through: a monocle-wearing gentleman who turned out to be a British lord tired of the fussy formality of the uptown clubs.

Sensing a new market, Sammy acquired a cabaret license, built a stage, hired some aging vaudevillians, and began advertising his bar as the “Stork Club of the Bowery,” a nod to the famed nightclub uptown.  

The plan worked. Fancy folks, tourists and celebrities began seeking out Sammy’s, looking for a chance to loosen their ties and slum it a little bit in the Gay Nineties-themed dive. It was not uncommon to find a socialite in an opera gown wedged between a sailor on shore leave and a passed-out drunk.

Sammy recognized the importance of atmosphere, and served free food and drinks to some of his more colorful regulars (characters with names such as Prune Juice Jenny, Box Car Gussie and Tugboat Ethel, the “Queen of the Bowery”) to preserve the ambience.

The notable photographer Weegee made Sammy’s one of his regular shooting grounds and even held his book launch parties there.

By the end of World War II, Sammy’s was serving some 100,000 customers a year, as literal busloads of tourists were dropped off outside, eager to drink and sing along with hobos, dwarves and assorted misfits.

Sammy Fuchs died in 1969. A year later, the bar finally closed. The closing ceremony was attended by over 700 loyal patrons.

While I was there absorbing the atmosphere and drinks, a midget walked in… he was about three and a half feet. I invited him for a drink. He told me that he just arrived from Los Angeles, where he had been working for a Browns & Williams Tobacco Co’, walking the streets dressed as a penguin.

Click here for another great article about Sammy’s Bowery Follies on “The Chiseler”


Categories
Photography Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Extra WeeGee”

No photographer came close to capturing the sensations, scandals, and catastrophes of 1930s and ’40s New York like Weegee (Arthur Fellig – 1899–1968). His striking images—captured through his uncanny ability to be on the spot and ready to shoot when things happened—have become part of the visual vocabulary through which we understand the period. This book, however, offers something new: drawing on an NEA archive that was only discovered in 2012, it presents countless never-before-seen Weegee photos. We see new angles on many of his familiar subjects—from the hardened police officer to the loud-mouthed crook; the midnight boozer to the dancing jazz musician; a dramatic conflagration to the celebrations at the end of World War II—but we also get a glimpse of an unknown side of Weegee through surprising photographs of happy people enjoying themselves. The works are complemented by a fascinating account of the rediscovery of the archive, which had been missing for decades.

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