To grow old is to witness the unthinkable many times. And “unthinkable” was the word that first popped into my head when my friend Heather Quinlan just dropped the bomb that the 116 year old Friar’s Club, America’s premier private club for professional comedians, has closed its doors. The news arrives via Cindy Adams’ column, with several reasons given, including flood damage to the building (reported also here in the Daily News), money woes from a decline in membership, and a pending federal fraud case. There is no news as to whether the closure is permanent but given the odds against them, and the fact that the club is private and not a charitable institution, the odds of the building re-opening at least seem unlikely. (I mean, someone with deep pockets like Jerry Seinfeld could no doubt bail them out, but he’s more likely to give money to charity. And who wants to give bucks to a club that’s apparently mismanaged?)
I hope at the very least that they will do like The Lambs, and continue operating as a membership organization at a more modest location. Maybe they could merge! It’s been my dream to join both clubs as well as The Players,, some day — maybe all three could merge (The Players also has constant money and building problems). I’ve produced and performed in many events at The Players, and spoken at The Lambs a few times, but I’ve only had the pleasure of attending The Friars as a guest. I was hoping to rectify that!
Anyway, the history must be maintained. Famous Friars are too numerous to name. Some of the most notable ones have included George M. Cohan, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, and Alan King. The annual Friar Roasts remain a well known institution. Keep it up in some form, guys? I know it’s a shame to lose that beautiful clubhouse, but tomorrow is another day.
ADDENDUM: (1/31/20) Message from Friar’s Admissions Coordinator Anthony Trombetta: “…the physical building is closed temporarily to fix the damage caused by a flood on MLK day. We will be back at it shortly….with some new pipes. I appreciate the care of the club…shows how great our club’s history is!”