14 June 2006

Poor Little Lambs

The Lamb's building on W. 44th Street, at one time home to the quizzical, once-storied actors club Lambs, has severed its connection to the theatre forever. The Church of the Nazarene, which has owned it since the early '70s (but allowed theatre productions and companies to use its beautiful, carved-wood, third-floor theatre), signed an agreement with some monster called Hampshire Hotels Group, which plans to convert the space when Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote "Oklahoma!" into a hotel.

Sad. But at least they can't touch the 1906 Stanford White exterior and interior—they're landmarked. So we can all still enjoy the outside edifice, even if we have to pay top dollar to glimpse the inside.

Though it's no longer got the reputation of the Players Club in Gramercy Park—another actors treehouse, but one that's still going strong in its original location—the Lambs once stood tall in theatre circles. Everyone was a member, including Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire, Bert Lahr and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. It was modeled after a London club of the same name—named after Charles and Mary Lamb, who apparently were the objects of much actor freeloading back in the 19th century. It was founded in 1869. The American version came in 1874.

The Lambs still exists, and is currently situated at 3 W. 51st Street. But it appears to be a kooky shell of itself, if the website is any signifier. The members hold "Gambols" and "Low Jinks, an unrehearsed entertainment" every Friday night, but who would want to go since the dues-paying roster now boasts not a single famous name. I scanned the list in vain for a figure I had seen on stage or film. Glenn Miller's niece. A mixologist who calls himself "The King of Cocktails." Gini Dustin, "Chanteuse Extraordinaire." "The Love Chef." Kids birthday party clowns. Who are these people? Oh, wait, I found somebody: Joyce Randolph. You know, Trixie from " The Honeymooners." She must have joined back in the '50s. And Abe Vigoda, who may be the oldest actor in the world. Oldest-looking, anyway.

And for all that anonymity, they still have a secret "Members Only" area of the site. Oooo. There's also a big ol' disclaimer on the home page, reading "The Lambs is a registered trademark of The Lambs, Inc. We are not the Lamb's Theater nor related to the Church of the Nazarene or its Manhattan Initiative. We are the original historical club which built the theater on West 44th Street in 1905 then sold it in 1973. Please do not allow misinformation and misrepresentation confuse you." Yeah, I'm sure people are misrepresenting themselves as Lambs all over town. The scoundrels.

No comments: