Founded in 1904 and located in New York City, the Friars Club is essentially a private organization that primarily caters to individuals within the entertainment industry. Additionally, the membership at Friars includes affluent individuals from other professional fields. To become a member of Friars, an individual has to receive sponsorship from two members who are in good standing.
The roots of the organization can be traced back to a period in which representatives of Broadway theatres, who worked with New York publicists, structured the Press Agents’ Association as a means of exchanging lists of individuals who were fraudulently getting free passes to shows. Before long, the club started its dinners in tribute to theatrical celebrities and in 1908, Friars changed its location to a club house on West 47th Street. The location was nicknamed the Monastery, which is a name that has been used for to all the subsequent Friars clubhouses. The Monastery enabled its members to have the freedom to come together, greet each other, party at clubs in Queens, Manhattan and a few of the other boroughs, and pretty much do anything that the flexible rules of the club allowed.
Over the years, the NYC clubs has had a number of different homes. As its membership expanded, so did the events held at the Friars. They raised funds through shows that were called the Friars Frolic and in 1916, the money was used to build a new clubhouse on West 48th Street. The new location was as grand as any upscale hotel and it was outfitted with suites for sleeping, a dining room, a ballroom, a gym, a poolroom, meeting rooms and bars.
In 1957, the Friars Club relocated to its current headquarters at East 55th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. The building is an English Renaissance mansion that was built in 1908 by architects Levi and Alfredo S. G. Taylor for Martin Erdman, an investment banker with Speyer and Company. The Friars Club is known for its Roasts, which were televised initially during the decade of the 1960s. The Roasts were originally a component of the Kraft Music Hall series; however, the Roasts later became a part of The Dean Martin Show. For the period between 1998 and 2002, Comedy Central carried the Roasts as a part of its programming package.
To demonstrate and effectively carry out its corporate social responsibilities, the club established the Friars Foundation in 1977. The purpose of the foundation is to foster the growth and development of the performing arts and to date, Friars has raised in excess of $5 million dollars to propel individuals and groups who have the talent and desire to be a part of the entertainment industry. In essence, the mission of the Friars club is to assist small performing arts groups in creating excellent affordable and innovative programs that will enrich, educate and entertain diverse participants and audiences. In addition, the Foundation also assists in preparing the next generation of musical artists and performers by way of scholarship programs for individuals who are formally studying the performing arts.
The members of the Friars club can find something brewing in the clubhouse at all times. Whether it is a show, a drink or a meal, there is a guarantee that its membership will always have a great time. Drama, music and comedy are presented in cocktail party gatherings and theater-like settings at the Monastery. Whether it is an after-hours comedy club extravaganza in the Milton Berle Room or a prime time comedy show, barrels of laughter are always in vogue. Frequently, music is the order of the night and singers, at all stages of their respective careers and from all musical genres, entertain audiences at Friar. The Lucille Ball Room plays host to Thursday Night Café and along with Jazz nights, it is seasoned winner at the Monastery. The Frank Sinatra Dining Room is a salute to the major musical maven and it is a hit with members in any season.
Throughout its century of mystic, the revolving door of personalities that have traversed the Monasteries has truly been a timeline of rich show business history. The list of notables includes George M. Cohan, Al Jolson, Irving Berln, Oscar Hammerstein, Victor Herbert, Mayor Jimmy Walker, George Jessel, Jimmy Durante, President Calvin Coolidge, President Woodrow Wilson, Bob Hope, George Burns, Jack Benny, Sophie Tucker, Sammy Davis, Jr., Humphrey Bogart, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean Martin, Kirk Douglas, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Johnny Carson, Buddy Hackett, Lucille Ball, Phil Silvers, Phyllis Diller, Sid Caesar, Redd Foxx, Barbra Streisand, Neil Simon, Red Buttons, Candice Bergen, Diana Ross, Clive Davis, Barbara Walters, Billy Crystal, Liza Minnelli, Robin Williams, Rob Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Hugh Hefner, Richard Pryor, John Travolta, Donald Trump, Kelly Preston, Drew Carey, Chevy Chase, Matt Lauer, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and a myriad of others who have all had the distinction of being members of this exceptional fraternity called the Friars Club.