b. Julius Withers Monk, 10 November 1912, Spencer, North Carolina, USA, d. 22 August 1995, New York City, New York, USA. After studying at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Monk played piano in New York City and France. Linking up with Herbert Jacoby, owner of New York’s Le Ruban Bleu, Monk became manager. In 1956, Monk left Le Ruban Bleu for San Francisco’s the hungry i, where he was emcee. Meanwhile, Murray Grand was managing New York’s Purple Onion for owner Irving Haber. Renaming the club the Downstairs Room, Grand sent for Monk. The new establishment’s opening revue, Four Below, which starred Dody Goodman, was a huge hit. Although almost entirely of Grand’s making, the show was credited to Monk. Haber, believing the credits, let Monk take charge so Grand quit. When the premises were scheduled for demolition, the club moved to West 56th Street where Haber and Monk opened the Upstairs At The Downstairs, above the Downstairs, now renamed the Downstairs At The Upstairs. Monk staged a succession of revues by writers such as Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (who later collaborated on The Fantasticks), Louis Botto, Sheldon Harnick, Herb Hartig, Gerry Matthews and Tom Poston.
Performers appearing for Monk, as solo acts, accompanists or in revues, included Jean Arnold, Michael Brown, Cecil Cabot, Thelma Carpenter, Pat Carroll, Imogene Coca, Jane and Gordon Connell, Blossom Dearie and Annie Ross, then working in partnership, Robert Downey, 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.
Monk, who sometimes annoyingly claimed credit for discovering already established artists, did not always recognize talent; he turned down Barbra Streisand and misjudged the appeal of Billie Holiday who did not fare well with the somewhat snooty audience. Friction between Monk and Haber prompted Monk to leave and in 1962 he and an associate, Thomas Hammond, opened the Rendezvous Room (Plaza 9) at the Plaza Hotel. There, he staged shows such as Baker’s Dozen and Dime A Dozen. Monk’s last show at the Plaza, Four In Hand, closed on 29 June 1968 after which he retired. Among Monk’s shows over the years were Take Five, Demi-Dozen, Pieces Of Eight, Four Below Strikes Back, Dressed To The Nines and Seven Come Eleven.