Theatre Lover's Journal for August 2001

Church Evicts Ziegfeld Club

by John Kenrick

Hi there – I need your help on this one!

The NY Times reported on August 19th, 2001 an act of greed and total disregard for theatrical history – that was perpetrated by a church on some of the oldest musical theater veterans alive today.

MGM helped organize "The Ziegfeld Club" (as publicity for its film The Ziegfeld Girls) back in the 1940's for veterans of Florenz Ziegfeld's now legendary Follies produced between 1907 and 1931. Most of the current club membership of 325 was not alive when the last Follies folded - only seven of the Follies girls survive today. But the club remains active as a charitable organization assisting aging female performers who are down on their luck.

For many years, the club maintained a headquarters in the basement of The Central Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. This past Christmas, a pipe in the church burst. The resulting flood destroyed most of the Ziegfeld Club's archives and rendered their space unusable. After months of leaving the damage unrepaired for half a year, the church evicted the club at the end of June with only a few days notice.

The pastor, Rev. Elliott Hipp, openly admitted in the Times that his church is disposing of the Ziegfeld Club to get higher-paying tenants. Seeing as Hipp admits his motivation in ousting the old girls is greed, the one thing Christ might applaud is his honesty. Otherwise, I wonder where this man gets the nerve to call himself a man of God.

First you stick a bunch of old ladies in a basement, then destroy their property by flooding their space – and then you toss them out for higher paying tenants. Does that sound like a church in action, or a slum lord on the make?

What a disgrace! This is how a church treats a small charitable organization serving needy senior citizens? What an insult to the principles of Christianity, not to mention basic human decency. Central Presbyterian is infamous for taking shoddy care of its facilities. Instead of taking responsibility for destroying an irreplaceable theatrical archive, this so-called church has the nerve to toss the Ziegfeld Club out on its ear! will not take this silently – and neither should you! I'm asking everyone who loves the musical theatre to speak up! Use the contact information below today to write and/or call and let Rev. Hipp and his congregation know what you think of the way they have treated the Ziegfeld Club.

Come on folks – strike a blow for these ladies who gave their lives to entertain so many! They deserve a rousing curtain call, not a water-logged file cabinet tossed into the street.

As of October 2003, the Central Presbyterian Church had a new pastor and a new attitude. They welcomed back the Ziegfeld Club to freshly repaired offices - chalk one up for a true spirit of community!

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