Players Club



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The Players, frequently referred to as the Players Club, is a social club founded in New York City by the noted 19th-century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, who purchased an 1847 mansion located at 16 Gramercy Park. During his lifetime, he reserved an upper floor for his home, turning the rest of the building over to the Clubhouse. Its interior and part of its exterior was designed by architect Stanford White. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
In 1989, women were invited to become fully participating members. The Players Club still maintains its entryway gaslights, among the few remaining examples in New York City.

Edwin's younger brother John Wilkes, a popular actor, On April 14, 1865, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, after which the life of his family changed. Perhaps inspired by London's Garrick Club, Booth established a social club which would bring actors into contact with men of different professions such as industrialists, writers and other creative artists.
The Players Club uilding Booth had purchased was completely redesigned, furnished, equipped and decorated with Booth's personal possessions. When ready, a series of meetings was held, and a small group of founding fathers turned the Clubhouse over to newly invited members in a grand ceremony on December 31, 1888.
In the title papers, it is stated that Edwin Booth should retain a furnished apartment for his own use where he could be left undisturbed as he wished. It was in that room on the third floor that he died at 1 a.m, June 7, 1893, ate the age of 59.
The Players membership currently numbers nearly 1,000. The clubhouse itself is open seven days a week, and serves meals every day of the week except Saturday. It is also home to the not-for-profit storytelling group "The Moth," as well as "The Naked Angels Theatre Company," and, after a successful run next door at the National Arts Club, "Food for Thought," which presents matinee and evening performances of new and classic plays.

Members of the Players Club included the local pillars of society of the day, prominent bankers, lawyers and businessmen, as well as those identified with other arts - writers, journalists, sculptors, architects and painters.
Presidents of the club have included Joseph Jefferson, who succeeded Booth as president after his death, John Drew Jr, Walter Hampden, Howard Lindsay, Dennis King, Alfred Drake, Roland Winters, Jose Ferrer, Robert Lansing, John Bartholomew Tucker pro tem, Michael Allinson and Lynn Redgrave. President Timothy Hutton resigned on June 5, 2008, due to work keeping him on the West Coast. New York producer and long time member Herb Blodgett took his place, and in June 2010, it was announced that theatrical manager Johnnie Planco would replace him.
Some past and present notable members include: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), John Barrymore, Eugene O'Neill, James Cagney, Gregory Peck, Alfred Lunt, Robert M. McBride, Walter Cronkite, Kevin Spacey, Judy Collins, Rue McClanahan, Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier, Tony Bennett, Tony Roberts, Carol Burnett, Dick Cavett, Billy Connolly, Vartan Gregorian, Hal Holbrook, English actor George Innes, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, Ben Gazzara, Christopher Plummer, Budd Schulberg, Ethan Hawke, Jimmy Fallon, Marian Seldes, Peter O'Toole, Rosemary Harris, Sir Roger Moore, Russell Miller, and Sidney Zion.
The longtime syndicated columnist Earl Wilson said in 1964: "Long ago a New Yorker asked the difference between the Lambs, Friars, and Players, since the membership was, at the time, predominantly from Broadway.---wit had believed to have been George S. Kaufman. The Players are gentlemen trying to be actors, the Lambs are actors trying to be gentlemen, and the Friars are neither trying to be both."

The Players Club serves as a social club but is also a repository of American and British theatre history, memorabilia, and theatrical artifacts. Today, Players Club still holds "Pipe Nights" honoring theatrical notables, and maintains a kitchen and wine cellar and a billiard table in its usually busy Grill room. In the Dining Room, filled with portraits of theatre and film notables and rare playbills from the 19th and 20th centuries, a small stage has been built where members and people of the theatre can be honored; staged readings can take place and new works tried out.
The Players Club also gives the prestigious "Edwin Booth Life Achievement Award" to actors who have had a long, important body of theatre and film work. Past recipients include: Helen Hayes, Jose Ferrer, Garson Kanin, Christopher Plummer, Jason Robards, Jack Lemmon, and Marian Seldes. In June 2007, Angela Lansbury was the recipient, and Edward Albee received it on September 30, 2007.