Enrico Banducci's Legendary hungry i Lives Again!
hungry i Memories 4

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Having worked at the club for 15 years - from 1953 to 1968 - MORT SAHL, whose name is  synonymous with what the hungry i was all about, credits ENRICO BANDUCCI with providing the platform that launched his own brand of satirical comedy, talking about the world around him, and  what he thought about it.

Mort Sahl performing at the hungry i
Mort Sahl performing on the hungry i stage

"We were set free by Enrico.  He was his own man. I stress that, because he's the last one I met. Enrico's big thing is that everybody should be themselves. That's the only thing that will save you.” He was the greatest man I ever met.

SCOTT JOHNSON recalls catching a show during the last week of the hungry i on Jackson Street.

“I saw Richie Havens perform at the Hungry i in San Francisco in June 1968, the week before Enrico Banducci closed the club. (My dad let me drag him along to the show; I enjoyed Havens quite a bit more than my father did.)

Mort Sahl was playing on one side of the club, Havens on the other. Havens played to a small audience accompanying himself on guitar and just poured it on. I believe that the obscure comedian Stanley Myron Handelman warmed up for Havens without drawing a laugh, although he deserved to.”

BARON WOLMANBARON WOLMAN, the legendary photographer who began his career with ROLLING STONE magazine, spent many a night at the hungry i in the club's rock era, and his images that document the times have become world famous.  The access which nightspots like the I granted him helped to make his pictures so special.

“The really great thing was that I could get onstage with people, no problem. For photographing TINA TURNER at the Hungry i, I was probably 12 feet away-I could smell her.”

BILL COLLINS recalls opening for DICK GREGORY  at the hungry i.

“I performed at the "i" during the 1963-4 years, as a member of the S.F. Towncriers, featuring Larry Vargo, Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane) and Jan Ellickson.

We opened for the Limelighter's lead singer (post Limelighters career) Glen Yarbrough, and also for civil rights activist and comic, Dick Gregory... he was sooooo funnnny.

Between evening performances Dick would fly back to Little Rock and "attend the events", then fly back into SF. The Towncriers would sometimes go on never knowing if Dick was even going to make it back in time for his show... he always did, and was topically funny, and always acknowledged our "opening position of uncertainty." He is a giant of a MAN.

After a year, our group broke up and went our separate ways... Marty onto fame with the Jefferson Airplane, and the rest of us a good life.

IRMA JEAN CARLTON, whose   memories of the hungry i go back to the old days when it was located in the Sentinel Building, recalls ENRICO BANDUCCI's generous hospitality.

“I went to the hungry i at Columbus and Kearny with three girl friends around 1950 or 1951 (all of us students at  San Jose State). When we met there, we realized that no one had any money,  so we couldn't order anything.

There was a man playing a Chopin ballade on a  piano. Enrico Banducci was behind the bar sporting his beret, and he had  overheard us. He offered us some fruit from a bowl of fruit he had on the  counter and poured each of us a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry, and we  chatted for a while.
After the Hungry I moved, we saw the Gateway Singers there  frequently. We  also saw Mort Sahl whenever he was there.

Enrico Banducci
photo by Christina Koci Hernandez (San Francisco Chronicle)

TOM O'HORGAN, who   staged the Broadway musical HAIR,  played the hungry i with a comedy routine built around the harp.

“I went to the Coast and and performed at the hungry i when Lenny Bruce was there. he was very helpful to me. I think his kind of vicious humor kind of prepared the way for what happened in the late sixties. It washed away a lot of things that needed washing.

Lenny, and Mort Sahl, and Nichols and May were all part of that very verbal period. I admired it a lot, but I never really felt part of it.

HUGH LAFFERTY who sang and served in Korea with Bud Dashiell of the folk group BUD & TRAVIS has produced a third generation of talented musicians who would have been at home in the hungry i audience.

“In the early sixties, I visited  the "San Francisco  hungry I and listened to the Limeliters after they appeared on the Sunday nite Dinah Shore Chevrolet Show.  What a group ! And as I recall, a young Gottleib was with them. Sang and played bass. Fantastic sound ... “

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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!