Sammy’s Bowery Follies: “an alcoholic haven”

That’s how this legendary fleabag, Gay ’90s–style saloon was described in a 1944 Life magazine article (with photos, below, by Alfred Eisenstaedt).

“From 8 in the morning to 4 the next morning Sammy’s is an alcoholic haven for the derelicts whose presence has made the Bowery a universal symbol of poverty and futility,” the article stated.

“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.

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44 Responses to “Sammy’s Bowery Follies: “an alcoholic haven””

  1. Nabe News: March 1 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] Bowery Follies – opened in 1934 – “was a bar an alcoholic haven for the derelicts whose presence has made the Bowery a […]

  2. petey Says:

    that’s a great picture, but could it be backwards?

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Yeah–gives the place even more atmosphere!

  4. Diane Says:

    I always wondered where this was in relation to CBGB’s, or if ir was the same location.

    • Susann Dalton Says:

      Diane, Sammy’s was South of East Houston St. CBGB’s was between 1rst & 2nd Streets and Sammy’s was already closed. CBGB’s was a bum’s bar before Hilly took it over and we used to go in there sometimes before going out somewhere to get the “Special” Wilson’s That’s All (A top shelf likker for a bum’s bar)with a small beer back for a quarter. In 1962 we moved into a small loft on Bleecker St a half block away.
      A different time when it was easier to get by on very little and homeless wasn’t the going expression. Good weeks meant I made 25 dollars and my artist husband and I did okay. I will leave my regretful Sammy story some other time when I am more awake. LOL

  5. Goggla Says:

    Damn, sounds like a place I’d like to hang out…

  6. Sharon Barnett Says:

    I wrote a musical loosely based on this club. “Bowery Follies”. My dad was one of its performers. My musical will be playing started October 5th 2010 9:00 PM at the Triad. 72nd and Broadway.

    You must come see it. Many of the same elements are apart of my show.

  7. Sharon Barnett Says:

    also, there is a documentary “Finishing Heaven” that aired on HBO has scenes and performers in it. It is based on a movie that was filmed 40 years ago down at Sammy’s that was never finished. My dad was Mark Barnett.

  8. Charlie Says:

    Sammy Fuchs was my grandfather. I saw him often as a child growing up In the 1960’s and I remember visiting the bar as well. It’s a great thing to have in the family’s history. Would love to see the show in Oct. I’m on the UWS.

  9. Jill Says:

    Charlie, we have some important information concerning Sammy’s Bowery Follies. Is there anyway to get in touch with you?

  10. sharon barnett Says:

    I have delayed the opening of my show till the SPRING. Will post the details on this site.

  11. Tim Mc Says:

    Hi,
    I just looked up this Post: Sammy’s Bowery Follies: “an alcoholic haven.”
    I have two Packs of Matches from that has on the back:
    Sammy’s Bowery Follies
    267 Bowery, New York.
    phone GRamercy3-9725

    On the Front of the Two Match Packs, there is a Round Frame.
    One has a nice picture of My Mother.
    The other has a nice picture of My Father with a Fake Mustache and a small light color Derby Hat.

    Any information on or around what Year these when made?
    I would be Happy to share pictures of them.

    Keep-up the Good Work with the Post:
    Ephemeral New York
    Chronicling an ever-changing city through faded and forgotten artifacts

    Thank-You,

    Tim.

    • J. Murray Says:

      Hi, I too have two math packs, one with a photo of my mom and the other, my dad with that same fake ustache and derby hat. My Dad has passed away and my mom has Alzheimer’s so I am unable to get any info on these. Did you ever find out any information as to possible dates, or anything else, on the match packs??

      J. Murray

  12. Tim Mc Says:

    Moderator:
    Please fix my sentence: I have two Packs of Matches from there, that has on the back:

    Thank-You,

    Tim.

  13. SHARON BARNETT Says:

    ANYONE WHO HAS ANY INFORMATION ON THE WHEREABOUTS OF JOANNIE LYNN OR JEANNIE JORDAN OR ANYONE ELSE WHO WORKED OR WAS AFFILIATED IN ANYWAY WITH SAMMY’S BOWERY FOLLIES PLEASE CONTACT ME IMMEDIATELY. URGENT!!!!
    SHARON BARNETT

    SABF51@AOL.COM

  14. Jerry Wartell Says:

    I remember going to Sammy’s with my college friends on a weekend. I recall that when we finished eating/drinking and watching whatever entertainment was featured, the waiters put tablecloths on the small tables and as we left, we noticed that tourist buses were pulling up. I imagine the prices also were “pulled up.”
    Jerry

  15. The cat who lived at a Bowery dive bar « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] sly tuxedo kitty can be seen in a couple of 1940s photos of Sammy’s Bowery Follies—a legendary 1890s-style saloon at 267 Bowery that was part fleabag dump and part tourist […]

  16. cobybatty Says:

    ..my bedroom was a shotglass’s toss away…

  17. cobybatty Says:

    ..and billy burrough’s bunker practically just below the flowboads..

  18. susan ellis Says:

    I just found a picture of my Aunt Jewell on what you all are calling a match cover….. it is creased almost in the center and on the other end it has Sammy’s Bowery Follies with the address and so on….I am just amazed at this and what you all have said. My aunt was a nurse in New York and lived in Brooklyn….this is so fascinating. Does anyone know where I could go to find out more information about Sammy’s???? Thank you so much. Susan

  19. Donald John Heliker Says:

    Just sinful what happened to 295 Bowery. Not even a plaque to mark the site of Mc Kirk;s Saloon!.

  20. Larry Says:

    Hi. Digging thru 3 generations of photos, I found a photo (good condition) of my grand-parents Abe and Belle Baumann (with many other patrons) in Sammy’s dated Sunday, December 17, 1944. It is in it’s original souvenir folder (not in good condition). Any interest, let me know….

  21. Hans Coleman Says:

    Love the story about the tourist buses pulling up, I heard they also had tour buses on St. Marks so people could gawk at the “hippies”.

  22. Scribbles Tailor Says:

    “Uncle” Floyd Vivino talked glowingly about performing at Sammy’s during its last years and his first years in the business on his radio show last weekend (Aug. 2013).

  23. 24 Cat Dads From The Past | TokNok Multi Social Blogging Solutions Says:

    […] More about Sammy’s, an old New York fleabag saloon and “alcoholic haven,” here. […]

  24. Larry Ward Says:

    my name is Larry Ward Im Walter Wards Son my picture was taken with Sammy back in 1960 . I have a cowboy hat on and a cowboy outfit I was 10 years old….it was kept behind the bar..

  25. Dotty Gorman Says:

    In 1959 a group of us went to Sammy’s Bowery Follies and the entertainment was so much fun. I have the autographs of Danny Barrett, Lee Bailey(the vagabond), Jolly Mabel, Mark Barnett(formerly with Irving Berlin’s Musical, This is the Army),Flo Reid, Moe and the waiter (not sure but looks like Miles.
    This is on an autograph booklet they gave to us.
    Bower Society Column

    • Deborah Says:

      Hi Dottie,

      in researching my family tree I’ve had trouble getting info on my Uncle Dan’s life in New York. I read that you have Danny Barrett’s autograph. He was my Uncle Dan. I’d love to have a copy of his signature for my family tree. Please be in touch.

      Thanks, Deborah

      • Dotty Gorman Says:

        Hi Deborah, Just give me a little time to find the autograph booklet again and I will happy to provide with the information.
        I

    • Deborah Says:

      Hi Dottie,
      were you able to find Danny Barrett’s autograph? Do you remember anything about him from that night? I know it was a long time ago! 🙂

      • Dotty Gorman Says:

        My apologies, I have not been able to look. I can’t begin to explain all the family issues have kept me busy. Please keep reminding me.
        I will definitely be able to get this to you. I know how important family is. I won’t disappoint you. My Brother who took me to the Follies has just been evicted from his coop in the East village. Horrible time and lousy lies from the Corrupt coop board. Do not forget to keep reminding me. I expect I will find it in a week at the most.

      • Dotty Gorman Says:

        Deborah, please read my replies. I have the information for you.

  26. Community Post: 24 Cat Dads From The Past | My happy cat Says:

    […] More about Sammy’s, an old New York fleabag saloon and “alcoholic haven,” here. […]

  27. Community Post: 24 Cat Dads From The Past | Farm & Garden Superstore Says:

    […] More about Sammy’s, an old New York fleabag saloon and “alcoholic haven,” here. […]

  28. Dotty Gorman Says:

    Deborah,
    I have copied the information for you. Can you send me your name and address to my email ardfert36@aol.com. I ill be in New York this Sunday but not sure if you live there. The copies came out great.

  29. Dotty Gorman Says:

    I just a photo of Sammy’s Bowery Follies. I will copy it for you.

  30. Community Post: 24 Cat Dads From The Past | Sinister News Network Says:

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  31. Community Post: 24 Cat Dads From The Past | AADR Says:

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  33. Community Post: 24 Cat Dads From The Past | Sing Viral Says:

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