Concert-goers and music fans looking for vibrant and diverse musical acts in the 1980’s in Boston, were probably headed to The Channel in Southie.
“A weekly calendar might look like this: all ages hardcore matinee on Sunday, up-and-coming rock showcase on Tuesday, Afro-pop extravaganza on Wednesday, a head-banging metal show on Thursday, a vintage bluesman on Friday, topped off with '60s rock legend in town on Saturday night,” former club owner Harry Booras said in the intro to his upcoming podcast dedicated to chronicling the heyday and downfall of the venue.
Located on the waterfront of the industrial side of Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston, The Channel was the antithesis of the discos and arenas of the roaring music scene.
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“Once the South Boston tough guys got over the fact that we were going to bring in black acts, or any other groups that might have been a little too progressive for the time, we had a chance to have bands play seven days a week,” Booras said.
Booras and his partners opened the 1,600 capacity club on Memorial Day weekend in 1980, and hosted headliners like Run-DMC, Black Flag, Levon Helms, Ice-T, Ice Cube, George Clinton, Rick James, the B52’s, Iggy Pop, John Cougar Mellencamp, Gypsy Kings, Roy Orbison, Joan Jett, and a list that runs longer than the Fort Point Channel.
“We had the best sound systems out there,” Booras said. “We were voted one of the best reggae clubs, and heavy metal clubs at the same time. We were able to do everything, and we weren’t afraid to take chances.”
In September 1990, Booras received extensive press coverage for standing up for free speech in a confrontation over a planned appearance by the infamously salacious 2 Live Crew, but the show was ultimately cancelled.
Right around then, The Channel fell on hard times. Through a series of intimidation and suspected bankruptcy fraud, the local La Cosa Nostra managed to take control of The Channel in early 1992, becoming Soirée Gentleman’s Club a few months later. Booras had already walked away from The Channel when mob boss “Cadillac” Frank Salemme’s son Frank Salemme, Jr. took interest in the club, which was under the control of Steven DiSarro. DiSarro went missing on Mother’s Day 1993, and was found buried in a Providence construction site 25 years later.
“January 2018, I got a knock on my door from the FBI,” Booras said. “They wanted to talk to me about the channel and a cold-case murder.”
Boston Venue: The Channel Podcast series is available now, and will span the entire history of one of the most celebrated landmarks in Boston.