LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE CLUB
A collegial culture clash occurred earlier this week as Dick Capri, Len Cariou, Tom Cotter, Jim Murtaugh, Freddie Roman, and Stewie Stone were among the actors and comedians on hand as the Players Club saluted the Friars Club on its centenary.
The unprecedented event was organized principally by Barry Dougherty, author of "A Hundred Years, A Million Laughs: A Centennial Celebration of the Friars Club" (Emmis Books).
The Players is an actors club located in a classic Stanford White-designed building on Gramercy Park. The Friars uptown are comedians with a tradition of raucous roasts. In their literature the Players referred to the event as a centenary; the Friars called it a centennial.
Referring to a third acting club in the city, Friars Club dean Freddie Roman described the differences. The Lambs are actors who want to be gentlemen, the Players are gentlemen who want to be actors. The Friars are neither.
When an audience member's cell phone rang, Mr. Roman interjected, "If that's my mother, tell her I took a sweater."
After a ribald sketch, Players Club Executive Director John Martello said, "This concludes the clean portion of the evening."
Another speaker was journalist and Players member Sidney Zion, who spoke of the election. He quoted the title of a book by Jim Hightower: "If the gods had wanted us to vote, they would have given us candidates."
Jokes regarding the age of Friars members abounded. Portraying "60 Minutes" newsman Mike Wallace, Jim Murtaugh interviewed "The Friars Club" in the embodiment of a cowl wearing Mr. Roman. "I understand your 90-year-old members are trying to get younger members." "No, you don't understand," said Mr. Roman, "Our 90-year-old members are our younger members."
"Over the years, so many Friars have passed on," Mr. Roman earlier mused. "Some of them are members."
In a skit involving a medium who had summoned the ghosts of dead Friars, names such as Eddie Cantor, and Joe Piscopo were uttered. When one onstage actor protested, "Joe Piscopo is not dead!" Another responded, "Well, his career is."
Singer Sal Viviano crooned a 1907 tribute composed by Victor Herbert. Actress and singer Susan Lucci performed upbeat songs such as "All Right, Okay, You Win," maneuvering around a whipped-cream pie that had been thrown earlier in a skit.
Players club president emeritus Michael Allinson, who replaced Rex Harrison in the Broadway production of "My Fair Lady," performed "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man."
"I have to say: this has been one of the longest nights of my entire life," said Mr. Stone, stepping up to the microphone. Complimenting members of the Players, he said, "You people actually look like the paintings on the wall." The club's stage lighting, he said, reminded him of the glare in front of the D train.
At one point, Mr. Stone referred to John Wilkes Booth's bedroom upstairs at the club. An audience member corrected him, shouting out the name of Wilkes's brother, the famed Shakespearean actor, Edwin Booth. "Who gives a - if it's Edwin or John Wilkes?" Someone in the rear of the audience replied, "Lincoln would."
Later, while Mr. Roman was performing at the podium, Mr. Capri walked up to him onstage and said, "Here's the keys, lock up when you finish."
Comedian Mr. Cotter joked about political correctness. Referring to the homeless, he said they used to be called hobos, bums, or tramps. In the future, they'll be called "hygiene-impaired inspection officials."
He joked about the quizzical origins of common expressions. He gave the example, "Searching for a needle in a haystack." His response: "Who's shooting up in the barn?"
He later told a joke about a flight attendant informing him he had too much to drink. "Lady," he replied, "I have a designated driver. His name is Captain."
Among those in the audience were Friars Club executive director Jean-Pierre Trebot; journalist Jerry Tallmer; actress Anita Gillette; Irwin Corey; "Annie Get Your Gun" producer Irv Welzer, and composer Ervin Drake.
Patrick Tull and Mr. Capri engaged in contrapuntal praise of Sophie Tucker - the Players using high-minded lofty prose, and the Friars hitting below the belt.
"At Pipe Night, we players value wit and a turn of phrase" said Mr. Tull in a haughty inflected accent, whereas, he said, the Friars sink to "vulgar humor." Mr. Capri earlier shot back, "If I spoke like that, I'd be an unknown today."
Cynthia Rowley and John Bartlett were among those at the launch of "Cumming: the Fragrance" at the downtown space of Abe Gurko this week.
Friends gathered to celebrate actor Alan Cumming's foray into fragrance. Perfumer Christopher Brosius based the concept of the fragrance on a "bunch of Alan's favorite things" - "sex, cigars, Scotch, and Scotland."
Mr. Brosius came with his large dog, Zephyr. What scent does Zephyr like? Mr. Brosius said Zephyr liked one scent he made that hinted at roast beef.