The Friars Club is in Trouble

I spent an afternoon there for lunch once; it’s a cherished memory. Oak panels, the Frank Sinatra room; you could almost see the smoke from the Rat Pack lingering. I’d been invited by a close friend, now gone – an ex-boss, one-time band mate, and one of the great people in my life. So when I read about the Friars Club troubles in the NY Times, it was with a twinge.

On my visit, Stewie Stone was working the room, going from table to table, like a tummler out of Grossingers in 1956. Here’s Stewie to a guy decked out in a three-piece suit: “You must be old money.” It was like visiting my favorite uncle, only with better material.

Being there made me feel like a Borscht Belt comedian myself – I guess it’s steeped into the place. Going up the elevator, three young women got in at the second floor, so breaking the silence on our way to the third, my friend Frank and I went into this routine, and he gave me the setup, too:

Frank: So, are you ladies famous?
Them: No (laughing), we just work here. How 'bout you?
Me: Actually I’m infamous
(Laughter)
Frank, pointing in my direction: You know the band Rush?
Them (wide eyed): Yeah!
Me: I have all their records

I hope they find a way through these troubles and make it right. Because the Friars Club is an important link to an historical moment in time that – for all its admitted shortcomings – is well-worth remembering.

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