Farewell Favorites: hungry i

Ronnie Schell and Hank Donat.
When the hungry i strip club on Broadway changed its look in 2002 a North Beach institution came one step closer to disappearing from the palette of historic venues in San Francisco's 20th Century arts and social legacy. Pretty high brow consequences for a strip joint, don't you think? It's all about the lowercase "i." That's because this hungry i was a name-only hungry i, not Enrico Banducci's world famous nightclub. Banducci's hungry i - the name stood for "hungry intellectual" - operated at 599 Jackson Street and achieved reknown as an avant-garde hang out and performance space for ground-breaking young comedians in the 1950s. Mort Sahl was a hungry i standout. Phyllis Diller, Bill Cosby, Lenny Bruce, Ronnie Schell, and Jonathan Winters are also hungry i vets. The Kingston Trio recorded two famous albums at the hungry i, including the very first live performance of Wimoweh. Vince Guaraldi, Glenn Yarbrough, the Gateway Singers, Godfrey Cambridge, and other musicians and comedians also recorded live at the hungry i. The distinctive Jackson Street space was punctuated by its cavernous entertainment room and a "mile long" bar. By the late 1950s, the hungry i's alternative-ness had given way to its notoriety as a stop along San Francisco's after-dark parade of adult ease and sophistication. In other words, tourists found it. After the club closed, Banducci sold the name to what became the hungry i strip club, 546 Broadway. The Jackson Street property is part of a block associated with the notorious International Hotel, and was under construction for a senior housing complex in 2002. A "Hungry i Reunion" featuring Diller, Cosby, Winters, and others was filmed in 1980.

Detail I
Detail II
Detail III
Detail IV: Dorothy Currin's hungry i memories

Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
mistersf.com home