Julius Withers Monk (10 Nov 1912, Spencer, North Carolina – 18 Aug 1995, New York City, New York) was an American impresario in the New York cabaret scene. His 1956 revue, Four Below, has been characterized as "the first legitimate cafe revue in New York City"[1]

Biography

Monk was born into a well-heeled and well-established family of North Carolina. After training at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, he earned his living playing piano in New York City and France, then became manager (1942) of the New York nightclub Le Ruban Bleu, owned by his associate Herbert Jacoby. In 1956, Monk left that establishment for San Francisco's the hungry i, where he did duty as master of ceremonies. Soon, however, Murray Grand, new manager of the Downstairs Room (formerly the Purple Onion), recalled Monk to Manhattan. On March 4, 1956, his opening revue, Four Below (starring Dody Goodman) was a triumph. (It was characterized as "the first legitimate cafe revue in New York City" by James Gavin, author of the 1991 book Intimate Nights, The Golden Age of New York Cabaret.[2]) At the new venue (officially: the Upstairs At The Downstairs, West 56th Street) Monk then staged a succession of revues by writers such as Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (later collaborators on The Fantasticks), Louis Botto, Sheldon Harnick, Herb Hartig, Gerry Matthews, John Meyer and Tom Poston.

Monk's annual revues established the standard for New York cabaret over the following decade: Take Five (1957), Demi-Dozen (1958), Four Below Strikes Back (1959), Pieces of Eight (1959), Dressed to the Nines (1960) and 7 Come 11 (1961). Performers hired and/or cultivated by Monk include Jean Arnold, Michael Brown, Ceil Cabot, Thelma Carpenter, Pat Carroll, Imogene Coca, Jane and Gordon Connell, Blossom Dearie and Annie Ross; collaborators and associates also included Robert Downey Sr., George Furth, Alice Ghostley, Ronny Graham, Tammy Grimes, Ellen Hanley, Bill Hinnant, Susan Johnson, Liberace, Dorothy Loudon, Portia Nelson, Bibi Osterwald, Norman Paris, Lovelady Powell, Caspar Reardon, Rex Robbins, William Roy, Maxine Sullivan, Nancy Dussault, Sylvia Syms, Fredricka Weber and Mary Louise Wilson.

Friction between Monk and owner Irving Haber prompted the former to leave and in 1962 he and Thomas Hammond opened a new nightclub — the Rendezvous Room (Plaza 9) — at the Plaza Hotel. There his troupe continued with revues such as Dime A Dozen (1962), Baker's Dozen (1964), and Bits & Pieces XIV (1964). Many unknown performers who worked at Monk's cafe revues, including Ken Berry, Ruth Buzzi, and Liz Sheridan, among others, went on to achieve varying degrees of fame. Monk's last revue at the Plaza, Four In Hand, closed on 29 June 1968 after which he retired.

Monk died at age 82 in August 1995 at his home in Manhattan.[3]

Legacy and assessment

Discography

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References

  1. ^ Gavin, James.Intimate Nights, The Golden Age of New York Cabaret. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.
  2. ^ Gavin, James.Intimate Nights, The Golden Age of New York Cabaret. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.
  3. ^ Mel Gussow. Julius Monk, Cabaret Impresario, Dies at 82; published August 22, 1995