For decades, the Friars Club has been America’s temple of comedy, a fraternity of jokesters and others who relish the rimshot and proudly regard bad taste as a core virtue.
Jack Black showed up to be roasted and dropped his pants on the red carpet. Gilbert Gottfried thought it would be funny to try a 9/11 joke just weeks after the attacks. Mourners at Milton Berle’s memorial service could not stop talking about his legendary (euphemism here).
I saw him sink a four-foot putt with it.
Despite the Friars’ puckish vulgarity — or maybe because of it — their Manhattan headquarters, a six-story landmark townhouse known as “the Monastery,” has long been a cradle of celebrity, and the club’s roasts are the stuff of legend. Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan and Jerry Lewis all directed its affairs, and it was an entertainment force during an era when television had a handful of channels and America a smaller constellation of stars.
But fewer and fewer tastemakers visit the Monastery these days. Membership has dwindled. Bills have piled up. The club lost its tax-exempt status as a fraternal organization in 2010. Some members question how their money is being spent. Dissension reigns.
Federal agents raided the offices in 2017, carting off boxes of files. Earlier this year, they charged the club’s executive director, Michael Gyure, with filing false personal tax returns.
The club’s governing board told members last month that the federal investigation was over and that the club faced no further accusations.
“It is our hope,” the board wrote in a letter, “that now that this cloud has lifted, many good Friars will return so that the Club can go forward to recreate the fraternal environment which made the Friars famous.”
But a review of emails, tax records, Friars’ correspondence and financial records — and four dozen interviews with former and current Friars and staff members — reveals that the club’s problems ran deeper than one director’s faulty tax returns.
The club’s foundation held charity events that raised million but cleared only ,000 for charity, an outcome that led the volunteer board to cease operations in 2015. The club hired a man convicted of defrauding charities, who called himself the “King of Cons,” as a consultant. Former staff members described questionable spending and sloppy bookkeeping, including a 0,000 loan to the executive director without interest that was never written down.
Though the club looks as it always has — bars on the first and second floors, gym on five, Luigi’s barbershop on four next to the card room — many Friars and former Friars remain upset, and have been meeting to discuss what to do next.
Even some governing board members have thrown up their hands in frustration, complaining they have been used as a rubber stamp by Mr. Gyure and a few members on the executive committee of the board.
“This is not a board that was running the club, or fully informed of what was going on in the club,” said Lou DiBella, a sports and entertainment executive who quit the board in January. “I believed that it was a group of guys who ran the club in the shadows.”
Mr. Gyure (pronounced “Jury”) pleaded guilty in January to the tax matter and is facing a possible prison term when he is sentenced in May. But the club paid a portion of his legal fees and says it will keep a job open for him. His crime, members of the executive committee said, was not directly related to his work.
Several committee members acknowledged, though, that the club had lacked proper financial controls, and that too much power had rested with the executive director.
“Members say they want to be more involved,” said Jeffrey Citron, a new member of the committee. “They want more transparency. We’re going to try to give it to them.”
Mr. Citron said there were no financial shenanigans, and that the club’s reputation had been hurt by bitter dissidents who spread false rumors about the management of the place.
Stu Cantor, a former leader of the club, disagreed. He said the club had suspended members, including himself, just for raising questions.
“They’re blaming all the great longtime members for destroying the club because they left,” he said in an interview. “It’s totally backward. The reason all the wonderful long-term members left was because they were running the place into the ground.”
The object of all this Friar affection, and disaffection, is a 115-year-old club that began as a hangout for theater press agents and grew into an institution whose membership rolls read like a timeline of showbiz history. George M. Cohan — the Broadway macher and “Yankee Doodle Boy” songwriter — was once the abbot. (Think president.) He brought in Irving Berlin. Through the years Chevy Chase, George Burns and Johnny Carson have been members, and the subjects of the insult-filled celebrity “roasts” for which the club is known.
NBC, ESPN and Comedy Central all televised the roasts at various points, and the broadcast revenues supplemented the club’s annual dues, which are now ,165.
Today the average Friar is 56 years old. Most of the 1,000 members are men. Many are retired.
Since 1957, the club has been housed in a baronial English Renaissance townhouse on East 55th Street, where the dining room serves chicken chow mein named for Jimmy Fallon (Friar, inducted 2009).
The bar on the second floor is named for Barbra Streisand (Friar, 1988) though she was not the first woman in the club. That honor went to Liza Minnelli who was selected earlier that year.
About 20 percent of members are women now, though the club retains an atmosphere of male privilege. Mr. Berle’s infamous appendage, long referenced in Friar lore, remains its spirit animal.
Carol Scibelli (Friar, 1998) remembers the first time she saw Buddy Hackett holding court in the bar. Mr. Hackett, a dough-faced borscht belt comic known for roles in the films “The Music Man” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” was chatting with a group of male comedians. Ms. Scibelli couldn’t resist joining the conversation.
“Who the hell is this broad?” she remembers him bellowing.
But Ms. Scibelli, a comedian who promotes herself as the “funniest widow on earth,” wasn’t offended. The club once drew burlesque dancers and vaudeville stars, and their bawdy, off-color humor is part of the club’s DNA.
“I was a little embarrassed, but I was also happy that Buddy Hackett knew I was alive,” Ms. Scibelli said.
In recent years, the club’s financial problems were no secret to the staff members who paid the bills.
Con Edison would threaten to turn off the electricity. Vendors went half paid. The club fell several hundred thousand dollars behind on its state sales tax.
Herb Slavin of M. Slavin & Sons, a fishmonger who supplied the club, said he stopped delivering in 2017 because it couldn’t pay its tab. “Whenever you called,” he joked, “the person that was in charge had died.”
Many current and former members said that for years they never realized how deep the deficits ran, though they did notice the added assessments that kept popping up on their dues bills. The Operating Assessment. The Capital Improvement Fund.
The leadership attributed the shortfalls to rising prices and falling membership. But former staff members said in interviews that they questioned how the club spent money even as it struggled to pay its bills. Pricey dinners by board members would be reimbursed. The club seemed to commit to expensive hotel banquet fees without shopping around.
“I found it very strange that when I started to bring up these things, everybody got very quiet, very upset, nobody wanted to talk about it,” said Tom Lowery, who briefly served as the club’s controller in 2017. “So I share the frustration of members who started to get agitated.”
Mr. Lowery only lasted two months, until, he said, he was fired for opening a piece of mail addressed to a club officer. He said it was not uncommon for employees to open and sort mail for the officers. The club said he had resigned.
Nancy DeSomma, who worked in accounts payable for three years until she was laid off in a 2017 downsizing, said she found the bookkeeping to be sloppy.
She said, for example, that she was instructed to cut checks for Flatbush and Church, an entity owned by a club officer, Bruce Charet. “I never saw paperwork,” she said, “I was just told to make a check out to it.”
In an interview, Mr. Charet said he had submitted invoices and that he had been reimbursed for expenses incurred in helping to produce events, which often meant securing performers and celebrity attendees.
“There are 20 dinners and lunches that you have to go to to deliver one person,” he said.
Mr. Charet later stepped down from his officer post after a club receptionist accused him of sexual harassment. Mr. Charet denied her charges. She filed a lawsuit in 2016, and the case was ultimately settled.
Mr. Gyure, the club’s executive director, was also paid fees in addition to his salary for helping to produce events.
The strangest payments, former staff members said, went to Aaron Tonken, a fund-raising consultant hired in 2014, six years after his release from federal prison where he served four years for defrauding charities.
In his book, “King of Cons,” written in 2004, Mr. Tonken described how he raised the profile of charity events he ran by luring celebrities with cash and lavish gifts. “I call it taking from the needy to feed the greedy,” he wrote.
Arthur Aidala, a Friar who answered questions on Mr. Gyure’s behalf, said Mr. Tonken had presented Mr. Gyure a letter of recommendation from law enforcement officials attesting to his changed character.
Mr. Tonken said the club paid for travel costs, hotel stays, meals and even some of his rent. Three former club employees confirmed paying multiple expenses for him. Kristen Cure, a former administrative assistant, remembered searching for a birdcage the club could buy for one of his pet parrots and refilling a cash card for his use.
“I just came to work, ate, hung around in his office,” Mr. Tonken said of Mr. Gyure, who he said asked him to keep their business relationship quiet.
“Please don’t let other staff know about our arrangement,” Mr. Gyure wrote him in a 2014 email. “It is our business only.”
In a letter from November 2014, Mr. Gyure thanked Mr. Tonken for his work on a benefit dinner the month before, honoring the billionaire Carlos Slim and the actor Robert De Niro.
“Thanks to your efforts we were able to raise a significant amount of funds that will go toward donations to the charities affiliated with the event,” Mr. Gyure wrote.
Of course, that depends on how you define the term “significant.”
The first annual Lincoln Awards concert, sponsored in 2015 by the Friars Foundation, the club’s charitable arm, also turned out to be the last annual Lincoln Awards.
The event, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, had been promoted with much fanfare as a new opportunity to recognize the contributions of American veterans. Hosted by Brian Williams, it included tributes to 10 deserving recipients and performances by Nick Jonas, Harvey Keitel and Whitney Cummings, among others.
“Actors have Oscars,” USA Today wrote in a preview of show. “Live theater, the Tony Awards. Journalists receive Pulitzers and scientists Nobel Prizes. Now there is the Lincoln — for veterans.”
But the foundation, which had been operating as a charity since 1977, all but shut down later that year.
The club and the foundation had a complicated relationship. Though they had separate boards and books, they were closely linked, with the club staff, led by Mr. Gyure, organizing foundation events under a longstanding agreement that the club, with its show business acumen, was best suited to run what were in effect entertainment events.
Members of the foundation’s volunteer board became concerned, they said, that the club was spending too much on events like the Lincoln Awards that seemed to cost a fortune to produce but spun off little for the foundation’s board to give away as charity.
In the last fiscal year that it fully operated, the foundation held three events that took in million, but spent all but ,000 in the process. The foundation, tapping funds from additional sources, paid out 8,000 that year.
“The general discomfort got so high, we decided we’d pay the bills and we’d give away the rest of the money to charity and close,” said John Catsimatidis, the Gristedes supermarket chain owner and one of the foundation’s directors.
The Lincoln awards had taken in .5 million in revenue, but ended up operating at a ,000 loss, according to the charity’s audited financial statement.
The expenses included 6,000 for entertainment, even though some performers had donated their services. The club flew Mr. Williams, who was not paid, and other performers to Washington on a private jet, according to two people with knowledge of the club’s arrangements. (Mr. Williams was later edited out of the broadcast after his inaccurate account of a helicopter ride in Iraq drew public criticism.)
Mr. Aidala said the show had been envisioned as a “fun-raiser,” not a fund-raiser per se, and the charitable benefit had been the night out it provided for hundreds of servicemen and women who attended free.
But even before the Lincoln Awards, Mr. Catsimatidis said, the directors had become concerned about the spending surrounding the events. For the Carlos Slim charity dinner in 2014, the club spent 93 percent of the .47 million it took in, according to the foundation’s tax filing. More than 4,000 was spent to stage and cater the event in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom in New York.
“When the vast majority of the money is spent on events that don’t generate significant revenue, that’s concerning,” said Ashley Post, a spokeswoman for Charity Navigator, an organization that assesses charities.
Michael Matuza, the president of MBM Entertainment, a company that produced the entertainment portion of the dinner, said he did not know how the club could have spent so much on top of what it cost to rent the Waldorf. “It feels high,” he said.
Mr. Aidala accused the foundation leaders of legally “cooking the books” to make it appear as if the charity had made less than it actually had. It was, he said, another outgrowth of the tensions between club leaders and foundation leaders that led the charity to cease actively operating. Club leaders said it will eventually resurface.
Mr. Catsimatidis scoffed at any suggestion that numbers had been manipulated. He had paid for his daughter’s wedding at the Waldorf and said he found the cost of the charity event outrageous.
But the foundation paid for the dinner, he said, “even though some of us on the board didn’t believe it passed the smell test.”
Nancy DeSomma remembers the day in 2017 when federal agents clambered up the stairs of the Monastery toward the sixth floor offices where the club kept its books.
She knew, she said, the place was under investigation. A federal agent had appeared at her Brooklyn apartment weeks earlier, looking to chat about what she had learned while doing the accounts payable.
Sondra Beninati, a member then, also was not surprised by the raid. She had long been frustrated by what she saw as a lack of transparency regarding the club’s finances, so when a federal agent contacted her and asked her to wear a taping device, she agreed. She went, wired up, she said, to a membership meeting in the club’s Frank Sinatra dining room.
Ms. Beninati loves the club, she said, and wants to see it restored to good health. At one point, she refused to pay her dues until she received an audited financial statement. She was suspended, and ultimately booted from the club. “It felt like getting kicked out of your house,” she said.
For the many members who viewed the federal investigation as an unmerited nuisance, its apparent end has fed the hope that the club may be able to go back to being a place for laughs, a few drinks and maybe a bit of singing.
“We ourselves did not know what this was going to uncover,” said Mr. Citron. “We were the most relieved when we found out it uncovered nothing.”
But some members are disappointed that the investigation did not answer their longstanding questions about the club’s financial health and management.
Mr. DiBella, the former board member, said the board often was not consulted about financial decisions and played no role in selecting the club’s lawyers or accountants.
Executive committee members said they are working to improve the club’s oversight, to catch up on any unpaid bills and to ensure that major financial decisions are properly reviewed by the governing board.
They defended keeping a job open for Mr. Gyure, even if he goes to prison. His new title will be “executive producer,” they said, and he will have no control over the club’s financials.
“He made some mistakes in his personal life having nothing really to do with the club,” said Mr. Citron. “People make mistakes. But as a friend, a manager, as a force at the club, a lot of people love him.”
Mr. Gyure pleaded guilty to not having reported income he received from the club in the form of 3,000 in expenses and a 0,000 loan that was forgiven, according to the government’s court papers.
Two former members of the executive committee, Stewie Stone and Mr. Cantor, said in interviews that Mr. Gyure had actually been suspected of taking the 0,000 without authorization, but the club leaders at the time forgave him and agreed to treat it as a loan.
“They’re comedians — what the hell do they know?” said Mr. Cantor, who sat on the executive committee at the time.
Mr. Gyure’s lawyer, Paul Shechtman, disputed that account, saying Mr. Gyure had asked and received permission to take an advance on his salary and later repaid it, partly through salary reductions.
Still, for the members who have seen friends ejected, the idea that Mr. Gyure would be welcomed back to the club was galling. One of them was Harold Siegel, a member since 1968. He died in late March at 89.
Once, his life had been mapped by the small triangle linking the club, his office on Madison Avenue, and his apartment a few blocks away. But he became disappointed in what the club had turned into.
“When you know something was so good,” he said, “you don’t like it when it ends.”B:
辉哥图库1861【如】【果】【有】，【那】【么】【便】【再】【无】【可】【能】。 【苏】【梨】【靠】【在】【封】【怀】【瑾】【怀】【里】，【眼】【泪】【一】【串】【串】【流】【下】【来】，【身】【体】【都】【难】【受】【得】【抖】【动】【起】【来】。 【或】【许】【她】【真】【的】【再】【也】【见】【不】【到】【那】【个】【孩】【子】【了】。 “【你】【眼】【睛】【最】【近】【不】【好】，【所】【以】【这】【段】【时】【间】【不】【用】【再】【使】【用】【电】【子】【产】【品】。”【封】【怀】【瑾】【替】【她】【做】【了】【决】【定】。 【封】【怀】【瑾】【下】【意】【识】【地】【朝】【苏】【梨】【探】【过】【手】【来】。【苏】【梨】【猛】【然】【合】【上】【那】【双】【无】【神】【的】【眼】【睛】，【脸】【埋】【入】【自】【己】【曲】
【铁】【如】【山】【带】【人】【急】【忙】【赶】【到】【后】【山】【蔡】【鸿】【春】【的】【小】【院】。 【这】【是】【他】【唯】【一】【活】【命】【的】【机】【会】。 【尽】【管】【所】【有】【事】【情】【都】【是】【董】【家】【兄】【弟】【做】【下】【的】，【他】【并】【没】【有】【抢】【夺】【钱】【家】【货】【物】，【更】【没】【有】【打】【伤】【钱】【如】【水】…… 【但】【是】，【这】【些】【重】【要】【吗】？ 【董】【龙】【晋】【级】【宗】【师】【后】，【一】【直】【牛】【逼】【轰】【轰】【的】，【他】【这】【个】【寨】【主】【连】【说】【句】【硬】【话】【都】【要】【拉】【着】【一】【堆】【手】【下】【壮】【胆】。 【哪】【怕】【董】【龙】【不】【把】【他】【这】【个】【寨】【主】【放】【在】【眼】【里】
【苏】【星】【月】【将】【两】【只】【小】【瓷】【瓶】【仔】【细】【封】【好】【了】【口】，【尽】【皆】【收】【回】【到】【乾】【坤】【囊】【中】。【便】【牵】【了】【明】【双】【一】【起】，【施】【展】【身】【法】，【一】【掠】【而】【至】【碧】【波】【池】【正】【中】，【御】【风】【悬】【留】【在】【半】【空】【之】【中】。 【碧】【波】【池】【四】【周】，【荷】【香】【清】【远】。 【远】【处】【青】【山】【连】【绵】，【在】【碧】【波】【池】【之】【外】，【成】【合】【围】【之】【势】，【使】【得】【这】【一】【方】【静】【湖】【犹】【显】【清】【幽】。 【苏】【星】【月】【叹】【道】：“【果】【然】【亦】【是】【一】【处】【风】【景】【秀】【丽】【之】【地】，【不】【输】【月】【前】【走】【过】【的】【那】【几】
【就】【在】【滕】【华】【星】【死】【后】【的】【第】【八】【天】，【房】【屋】【中】【介】【重】【新】【开】【张】。 【小】【张】【想】【起】【那】【天】【早】【上】【发】【现】【老】【板】【尸】【体】【的】【情】【景】，【现】【在】【还】【心】【有】【余】【悸】。【坐】【在】【办】【公】【室】【中】，【虽】【然】【是】【白】【天】，【他】【也】【感】【觉】【仿】【佛】【滕】【华】【星】【就】【在】【墙】【上】【倒】【挂】【着】【一】【般】，【若】【不】【是】【老】【板】【娘】【李】【萌】【萌】【同】【意】【加】【薪】，【他】【肯】【定】【辞】【职】【另】【谋】【出】【路】【了】。 【人】【都】【有】【好】【奇】【心】，【小】【张】【也】【不】【例】【外】，【李】【萌】【萌】【找】【到】【他】【的】【时】【候】，【他】【一】【个】【劲】【地】辉哥图库1861【她】【过】【去】【时】，【姜】【茴】【已】【经】【在】【翘】【首】【以】【盼】，【接】【过】【她】【递】【来】【的】【文】【件】【后】【就】【想】【打】【开】，【卿】【颜】【抬】【手】【按】【住】【她】【要】【打】【开】【文】【件】【袋】【的】【手】【说】【道】“【别】【看】。” 【姜】【茴】【神】【情】【微】【愣】，【看】【清】【她】【眼】【底】【的】【神】【色】，【担】【心】【会】【引】【起】【卿】【颜】【的】【难】【堪】，【姜】【茴】【最】【终】【没】【有】【打】【开】【文】【件】【袋】。 【她】【郑】【重】【的】【对】【卿】【颜】【说】【道】“【这】【份】【文】【件】【我】【会】【让】【靳】【垣】【转】【交】【给】【弗】【兰】·【艾】【利】【斯】。” 【卿】【颜】【东】【西】【交】【给】【她】【都】，【就】【不】
【杀】【在】【白】【思】【淼】【看】【不】【到】【的】【地】【方】，【默】【默】【地】【翻】【了】【个】【白】【眼】。【反】【正】【不】【管】【什】【么】【理】【由】，【他】【们】【俩】【都】【会】【被】【训】【斥】，【花】【心】【思】【想】【这】【些】【干】【什】【么】？ 【不】【曾】【想】，【她】【如】【此】【的】【动】【作】【也】【还】【是】【落】【到】【了】【白】【思】【淼】【的】【眼】【中】。【白】【思】【淼】【拿】【起】【一】【旁】【的】【戒】【尺】，【就】【像】【杀】【抽】【了】【过】【去】：“【杀】，【你】【看】【看】【你】，【浑】【身】【上】【下】【哪】【有】【一】【点】【女】【孩】【子】【的】【样】【子】！【我】【要】【是】【你】【爹】，【我】【都】【能】【被】【你】【气】【死】。” 【杀】【一】【边】【躲】
【蔡】【菜】【终】【于】【沉】【下】【心】【来】，【开】【始】【学】【习】【扶】【桑】【尊】【者】【给】【出】【的】【六】【阶】【阵】【法】【心】【得】，【他】【给】【出】【的】【六】【阶】【阵】【法】【图】【其】【实】【只】【有】【四】【个】，【但】【对】【于】【蔡】【菜】【这】【个】【五】【阶】【阵】【法】【大】【师】【来】【说】，【想】【要】【制】【作】【出】【一】【个】【六】【阶】【阵】【盘】【本】【身】【就】【很】【困】【难】。 【然】【而】【她】【现】【在】【也】【不】【着】【急】【了】，【先】【是】【一】【点】【点】【描】【绘】【出】【其】【中】【一】【张】【阵】【图】，【然】【后】【按】【照】【他】【给】【出】【的】【步】【骤】，【一】【点】【点】【循】【序】【渐】【进】。 【三】【个】【月】【之】【后】，【当】【蔡】【菜】【废】【掉】