Exclusive: Friars Club Spent Over $1.5 Mil on PBS TV Special As Questions Swirl About their Finances
As I’ve reported twice in the last two weeks, the venerated Friars Club on East 55th St. is in awash in questions about its expenses and management. To make matters worse, Bruce Charet — one of their top officers– for sexual harassment by a female employee who says she was dismissed for complaining about being harassed.
On top of that, the club has suspended or terminated several of its top show business members including beloved comics Stewie Stone (suspended) and Jackie Martling (dismissed). Martling sent an email yesterday to insiders informing them that he does not owe the club money, which was hinted at in his abrupt termination letter.
Terminated? From a club founded by and run for comedians?
Now I’ve exclusively obtained the Friars’ 2015 Form 990 tax filing– they are registered as a 501 (c) 3 charity. I told you in previous stories that were questions about the charity.
In 2015, the Friars Club did something unusual. They taped a huge concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington called The 2015 Lincoln Awards: A Concert for Veterans and the Military Family” named, as they say in a press release, for Abraham Lincoln. The show aired on PBS on May 25, 2015 and included appearances — many taped in advance– by First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Bruce Springsteen, Alec Baldwin, Aloe Blacc, Whitney Cummings, Gavin Degraw, Rhiannon Giddens, Nick Jonas, Harvey Keitel, Jerry Lewis.
It was the first and only Lincoln Awards. A look at the expense may explain why: the Friars incurred expenses of $595,774 for entertainment, and another $991,993 listed as “other direct expenses” for the show. An additional $374,058 was paid to MBM Entertainment of Manhattan for “entertainment service.” MBM’s Michael B. Matuzo is listed as a producer of the Lincoln Awards, along with Michael Gyure, the chief executive of the Friars. Matuzo has several credits producing awards shows for television. Gyure has no other credits listed on the Internet Movie Database.
Contrast that with the costs of the 2015 Gala at the Waldorf honoring Robert DeNiro: entertainment cost $255,016 and $638,934– and that show included live performances by Sting and Aretha Franklin.
In the past, the Friars Club is known pretty much for “roasts” of comedians and actors held at places like the New York Hilton or Waldorf Astoria. They also have tribute dinners at their East 55th St. clubhouse.
By contrast with the more than $1.5 million spent on the Lincoln Awards, the Friars gave a little less than $200,000 to a handful of schools for scholarships according to their Form 990. Their total assets and net assets were each down by around $200,000 from 2014 to 2015.
In a bit of creative accounting, $1,406,884 is listed under ‘revenue-Contributions and Grants.’ But just a few lines down, negative $1,344,403 is listed as “other revenue.” Total revenue was only actually $63,000. Revenue less expenses was listed as negative $210,579.
Here’s a quote from an anonymous email that was forwarded to me from “FlyonthewallFriar”: “All we are looking for is some transparency. Even board members are in the dark.”
To be continued…