The Lambs is America’s oldest professional theatrical club, founded in Manhattan in 1874. It is open to actors, writers, and other theater people. Members have included Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, W.C. Fields, John Philip Sousa, along with thousands more.
The club has moved around quite a bit, especially in its early years, starting out at Delmonico’s Restaurant, settling on West 44th for most of the 20th century, and then finally ending up at their current location on West 51st Street in 1976.
But after 142 years, The Lambs may have come to the end of the road. Their landlord, the Women's National Republican Club, is hiking the rent -- and the future of this illustrious club is unknown in a city where the rent is too damn high.
I chatted via email with Marc Baron, Shepherd of the flock, about The Lambs' history and its possible future.
He explained: “The Lambs had a WW1 transport ship named in its honor, a train car in the 1920s (it still exists), a cigar, and a seat in the National Theater in Washington, DC. Our Lambs Foundation (founded in 1943) provides financial grants to non-profit theater companies, theatre charities, and education for the arts.
Any person working in theater, film, television, radio, music--whether a performer, writer, composer, producer--have had their lives touched by the actions of more than 6,660 Lambs over the Club's 140 years of existence.
Today, The Lambs continues in promoting new works of theater, and provides a congenial atmosphere where members enjoy the companionship of other professionals of the arts.”
The Lambs theatrical club is not to be confused with The Lambs Club restaurant.
After losing their own building on 44th Street, the structure was gutted and became a Chatwal Hotel. The hoteliers opened The Lambs Club restaurant in 2010. At the time, Sam Sifton called it "a clubbish offering from Geoffrey Zakarian, the silverback gorilla of Midtown hotel restaurateurs."
Marc Baron has others words for it. He says the restaurant is “feeding off our remarkable history and adding confusion that we are located elsewhere.” He wants to set that record straight.
As for the current space, Baron says, “Our lease expires July 1, and the landlord has asked for a 50% increase.”
That increase will force The Lambs to double their membership dues, likely causing them to lose members. They hope to increase membership and donations to stay alive.
“An increase of this size,” says Baron, “could force us to move, or worse, not find permanent quarters and, therefore, lead us to a horrible end.”
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