Enrico Banducci's Legendary hungry i Lives Again!
History of the hungry i
The hungry i began its life under the ownership of North Beach's famed Eric “Big Daddy” Nord and partners in the basement of San Francisco's Sentinel Building at Columbus and Kearny .
There are many stories about the derivation of the club's name, but the “official” one is that the I stood for id, as in psyche.
Enrico Banducci bought the hungry i in 1951 for 800 borrowed dollars, and presented mostly folk music at first. Even before moving to its notorious cellar location three years later, it was already described by columnist “Freddy Francisco” as being a “basement Disneyland peopled by beatniks, left-over bohemians, on-the-nod junkies, and other waifs and
strays from reality.”
In actual facct, it was a college crowd that patronized the club heavily, and their receptiveness opened the door to include comedy on the program.
With the forum Enrico Banducci offered him, Mort Sahl was already chipping away at the logjam of fear which had enveloped the nation, opening the floodgates to a new and provocative brand of comedy in 1953 at the `old' hungry i.
But the I which became internationally known from song and fable emerged in 1954 when it was moved to the North Beach cavern at 599 Jackson Street with the trademark brick wall stage background and `the longest bar in the world.'
From that stage, illustrious careers in music and comedy were launched which continue to flourish today (see PEOPLE
), and many famous live record albums were taped, some of which took on a legendary status of their own (like The Kingston Trio's which stayed in the charts for over a decade).
The hungry i became synonymous with daring political satire as well as being the crucible for the folk boom which swept across America from the mid-fifties. The kind of humor which the I fostered had never been tried before, and emerged during a time when blacklisting had all but silenced free public speech
The club continued to flourish into the mid-sixties, but the move towards folk rock and stand-up comedians moving to TV series began to spell the end of its heyday.
In 1968, Enrico Banducci moved the hungry I to Ghirardelli Square, where it primarily featured rock music. Always in trouble, the theater folded in 1970. He then continued to operate Enrico Banducci's on Broadway up to the end of the eighties as a home for comedy and good food, but eventually sold the name, and the hungry I then opened as a North Beach strip club which still draws tourists for the name alone.
Experience your own hungry i reunion with the wonderful DVD featuring commentary by Enrico Banducci and performances by The Kingston Trio, Limeliters, Mort Sahl, jonathan Winters, Stan Wilson + rare Lenny Bruce footage. Just click the icon to order direct from Amazon!