That’s how this legendary fleabag, Gay ’90s–style saloon was described in a 1944 Life magazine article (with photos, below, by Alfred Eisenstaedt).
“It is also a popular stopping point for prosperous people from uptown who like to see how the other half staggers.”
That mix of patrons was key to Sammy’s success. Opened in 1934 at 267 Bowery between Houston and Stanton Streets, the dive attracted old-school bums as well as tourists, politicians, actors, and others slumming it for the night.
Ex-Vaudeville performers sang and danced for the crowds on sawdust-sprinkled floors. The party went on until 1970, a year after owner Sammy Fuchs died.
Fuchs was known as the “mayor of the Bowery.” Besides operating the kind of bar that pretty much no longer exists in Manhattan, he did lots of good deeds in the neighborhood, like establishing a dental clinic for poor kids.
He also ran a “bum of the month” club, helping to feed, clothe, and sober up some of his most downtrodden customers, reports a 1970 New York Times piece.