Monday, June 17, 2024

Sad Obit: The Friars Club is Padlocked Shut, Closed After Years of Mismanagement and Malfeasance Comes End of Era


The Friars Club is closed.

It’s padlocked shut with a gate blocking the entrance.

In truth, the Friars Club has been gone for years. All that remains is the 1957 “monastery” built into a classic townhouse(originally constructed in 1904) at 57 East 55th Street, a grim tombstone to remember the halcyon years of Alan King, Larry King, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Joan Rivers, Freddie Roman, Dick Capri, and so on.

The group that was once so vaunted long ago lost its 501 c3 status as a charity. The Friars used to raise money for philanthropies. Now they need a GoFundMe page and a rescue from the Landmarks Commission ASAP.

Gone are the roasts that became so famous that Ted Danson’s career was almost ruined at one when he wore blackface. No one who attended the famous roast at which Gilbert Gottfried repeated “The Aristocrats” has ever recovered from it.

But I began reporting on the financial malfeasance at the Friars Club in 2016, which led eventually to them being raided by the federal government. Down the line, the club’s president Michael Gyure was found guilty of fraud and tax evasion. He’s long gone. I reported that a sexual harassment claim was filed by the club’s long time receptionist and ultimately settled for around $1 million. The club refused to get rid of the person at the center of the suit, Bruce Charet, who is still with them.

Three years ago, just before the pandemic killed off inside dining and entertainment, the club — loaded with debt — suffered a burst water pipe that flooded the place. Renovations took place thanks to insurance. In the spring of 2021 I was invited over by new president Arthur Aidala, the defense attorney who counts among his clients Harvey Weinstein. The kitchen was closed. There was no hot food, just some cold hors d’ouevres. Aidala was very upbeat that a new day was coming including an outside restaurant operator who’d make the ground floor public.

That was two years ago. Months ago there was talk of private gatherings. No celebrities will set foot in the Friars Club thanks to the litany of people who’ve destroyed its reputation. The Club “fired” many beloved members, others quit. Once a famed pinnacle of success for comics and entertainers, it’s now a husk of itself.

What will happen? New York’s history is disappearing very quickly now. The famed 21 Club closed during the pandemic and there’s no sign of its return. The Friars Club is one of the last vestiges of the city’s dominance as a cultural force. But in the last two or three decades, the group was unable to attract contemporary comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, the “SNL” gang, etc.

PS The Friars Club has little to no social media. Its Twitter account hasn’t been used in three to four years, and there are no updates on Facebook.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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