Inside Sammy's Bowery Follies, the scuzziest, greatest dive bar of all time

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Looking back at Sammy's Bowery Follies bar in Manhattan
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Looking back at Sammy's Bowery Follies bar in Manhattan
(Original Caption) 2/24/1946- New York, NY: Tillie and Alice are popular performers at Sammy's. They are old-time singers, specializing in the songs Grandma sang- or heard, anyway, and dressing for their parts. Here you will weep into your beer at a soulful rendition of the 'Bird in a Gilded Cage' or 'Take Back Thy Golden Bracelets- My Arms Are Turning Green.' Tear-jerkers are a 'must' here. Incidentally, Tillie has a son who is a captain in the Army.
(Original Caption) 1/23/1946- New York, NY: Interior of the bar at Sammy's On The Bowery. There is a floor show at Sammy's and it is usually good entertainment, if you can laugh at the humor your Grandma laughed at. And you can if you inherited her sense of humor. Mabel Sidney, who is built more for comfort than speed, is the laughing lady in the center, engaged in performing a specialty number with the man in the skimmer. Other memebers of the supporting cast are in line.
(Original Caption) 7/18/1945-New York, NY- New York's most colorful freelance photographer, 'Weegee' (whose real name is Arthur Fellig and who has worked for Acme Newspictures, Inc.), trips the light fantastic (and how fantastic!) with famous Bowery entertainer Dorothy Smith, at Sammy's Bowery Follies -- night spot of 'The Bums' Main Stem.' Park Avenue 'slummers,' newspapermen and Bowery inhabitants mingled at the cocktail party celebrating 'Weegee's' forthcoming book, 'Naked City.'
(Original Caption) Ac-centuating the Positive.' New York: Norma, who nightly charms audiences at Sammy's in the Bowery with her risque songs, gets off to an early start today. The reason? Sammy's, like all good little nightclubs, will shut it doors tight come the witching hour tonight, in compliance with new curfew regulations. Henceforth, Norma will sing out from 3 p.m. to 12 with positive-ly no wee hour entertainment!
(Original Caption) New York: New Year's Eve On The Bowery. A New Year's Eve celebration given by Sammy Fuchs, owner of the Bowery follies, for men along the Bowery is here shown in full swing, Sammy is spoken of by Boweryites as 'a guy with a heart of gold.' He served drinks, not beer, but hard-to-get scotch and rye whiskies. It became evident that New York will celebrate the liveliest New Year's Eve since Pearl Harbor.
A woman seated at the bar at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club', holds her cat.
An elderly man hugs a bar staff member on his way out after a long night at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub. The club was also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Patrons of Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club' head towards the exit after a long night of drinking.
Women perform with their fans and parasols at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club.'
Men cheer at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub while woman performs with a parasol in hand.
Elderly man holds his beer at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub while he buys cigarettes from the dispenser. The bar also came to be known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
An elderly man and woman enjoy their beer at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club' while seated in a booth.
Male patrons curiously look inside Sammy's Bowery Nightclub from the outside windows. The club was also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
A police officer breaks up a disagreement between a man and sailor after a long night of drinking at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub.
A member of the bar staff at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub heads toward the exit with a cigarette in his mouth.
Woman sings into microphone at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub with tip jar next to her reading 'Don't Forget the Kitty'. The club also became known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
'Shorty' walks around Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club' holding a pool stick.
A talented woman provides entertainment at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub by playing the violin. Sammy's also came to be known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Women perform with their fans and parasols at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club.'
Woman performs entertainment by singing for the patrons at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub. The club is also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Couples and friends dance with each other at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club.'
A customer at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club', appears to be falling asleep while seated at the table.
An elderly couple dances and enjoys each others company at Sammy Bowery Nightclub which came to also be known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Elderly man smokes his pipe at Sammy's Bowery Club, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Male patrons converse with the bartender while 'Shorty' enjoys his beer on the bar ledge at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub. The bar has also received the reputation of being known as the 'Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
A busy bartender carefully pours a glass of beer for his thirsty patrons at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Police officer escorts injured man covered in blood after being involved in a fight. The incident occurred after a long night of drinking at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub.
Men and women sing together as a group at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub. Sammy's also came to be known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
A talented woman provides entertainment at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub by playing the violin while an elderly man walks past the stage with a closed fist. Sammy's also came to be known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Woman dances with 'Shorty' at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Man at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub holding a beer while playing darts.
Elderly man holds a match while he assists woman in lighting her cigarette at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub. The Nightclub also received the reputation as being called the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Old man sits at a table with his shoe shine necessities hoping for customers at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub, also known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
Bartender pours a glass of beer from the tap while his barmaid accepts money from a patron at Sammy's Bowery Nightclub. The bar has also received the reputation of being known as the Poor Man's 'Stork Club'.
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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.

Related: Party like Sammy's patrons, but don't let your bank account take a hit:
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