25 Amazing Vintage Photographs Document Everyday Life at the “Alcoholic Haven” Sammy’s Bowery Follies in the 1940s

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In 1944, LIFE magazine described Sammy’s Bowery Follies as an “alcoholic haven.” The part-local dive, part-tourist trap always drew a huge mixed crowd. It was opened in 1934 at 267 Bowery (between East Houston and Stanton Streets) by Sammy Fuchs, who branded it as the Stork Club of the Bowery. He welcomed everyone from vaudeville acts to “Bowery bums”… or as the NY Times had put it, “drunks and swells, drifters and celebrities, the rich and the forgotten.”

“From 8 in the morning until 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. It is also a popular stopping point for prosperous people from uptown who like to see how the other half staggers.” – LIFE Magazine, Dec. 4, 1944

Sammy’s Bowery Follies provided a home for burned out vaudeville acts that couldn’t get booked anyplace else, and welcomed patrons who regularly passed out drunk on the premises. But it was raucous and fun—a place people could loosen their ties, let down their hair and sing along with popular show tunes of the day.

(Photos: Bettmann/Getty Images)

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