Julius Monk

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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[edit]

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 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, Cecil 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 Ghostly, 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 Sussault, 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[edit]

  • In the 1960s, Mad published "The Agony and the Agony" (a parody of the film The Agony and the Ecstasy) with the plotline moved from Renaissance Rome to present-day New York City. The film's antagonist, Pope Julius II (a real historical figure), was updated by Mad as nightclub entrepreneur Julius Pope, a satire of Julius Monk.[citation needed]
  • Monk, who was not above claiming credit for discovering already established stars, did not have an unerring eye and ear for talent; he turned down Barbra Streisand and misunderstooded the appeal of Billie Holiday who was somewhat out of place in these snooty venues.

Discography[edit]

  • Take Five with Ronny Graham; Offbeat Records (OLP 4013): Julius Monk Revue;– Ronny Graham, Ceil Cabot, Ellen Hanley, Jean Arnold, Gerry Matthews [5/1958]
    • Introductory “Notes”
    • ”You’ve Got to Open the Show”
    • Roger, the Rabbit
    • Westport/Portofino
    • Jefferson Davis Tyler’s General Store
    • Gristedes
    • Say Hello
    • Poet’s Corner
    • Pro Musica Antiqua
    • Gossiping Grapevine
    • Night Heat
    • Finale-Doing the Psycho-Neurotique
  • Julius Monk Presents Demi-Dozen; Offbeat Records (OLP 4015) - Julius Monk Revue [1/1959]
    • Grand Opening
    • Yes Sirree
    • Mist OffBroadway
    • You Fascinate Me So
    • Conference Call
    • Holy Man and the New Yorker
    • Race of the Lexington Avenue Express
    • Sunday in New York
    • Intellectual’s Rag
    • Portofino
    • One and All
    • Seasonal Sonatina
    • Thire Avenue El
    • Guess Who Was There
    • Grand Finale
  • Pieces of Eight; Offbeat Records (OLP 4016): Julius Monk Revue - Julius Monk Revue [1959]
    • Overture
    • Happiness is a Bird
    • And Then I Wrote
    • Radio City Music Hall
    • Miss Williams
    • Uncle Bergie Evans Show
    • Oriental
    • Ardent Admirer
    • Steel Guitars and Barking Seals
    • Election Spectacular
    • A Name of Our Own
    • M’Lady Chatterley
    • Seasons’ Greetings
    • Farewell
    • Everybody Wants to Be Loved
    • Night the Hurricane Struck
    • A Conversation Piece
  • Four Below Strikes Back; Offbeat Records (OLP 4017): Julius Monk Revue - Julius Monk Revue [1959]
    • Overture and Opening
    • Leave Your Mind Alone
    • Mr. X
    • It’s a Wonderful day to Be Seventeen
    • Castro Tango!
    • Charlie Chan
    • Sitwells
    • Merry-Go, Merry-Go-Round
    • Jefferson Davis Tyler’s General Store
    • Four Seasons/Speak No Love
    • Constant Nymphet
    • Man Tan
    • Lola Montez
    • Family Fallout Shelter
    • Literary Time
    • Love, Here I Am
    • Payola
  • Julius Monk presents Tammy Grimes (1959)
  • Julius Monk Simply Plays (and / or Vice-versa) - 1959
  • Seven Come Eleven - 1961 New York Cast
  • Dressed to the Nines - LP
  • It’s Your Fault

References[edit]

  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

External links[edit]