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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Exclusive Q&A with Bernard Furshpan of NYC's Acclaimed Metropolitan Room

Bernard Furshpan was on his way, driving to the Metropolitan Room, when I placed my call to do this Q&A. Bernie has become a friend over the year, and it has been nothing but a pleasure knowing him and his wife Joanne. He has had a great year at the club but a difficult one for him personally, as his beloved father passed away during the summer. Here, then, is our Q&A:

Buddy Beaverhausen: Hi, Bernie! Let's begin with my asking you something a lot of readers may not know. You had a prior career as a chiropractor. How did you segue from that to becoming Managing Director/ Booking Partner at the Metropolitan Room?

Bernard Furshpan: Yes, I started as a chiropractor but retired from that career to do something I loved more. Life's too short! I had a certain amount of fame in that profession, however, as I cured a girl with chronic hiccups. Her doctors said there was nothing they could do, but as a chiropractor, I cured her and it got a lot of media attention.
I went into managing companies on-line and, at the time, the Metropolitan Room's management, who also run Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea, needed help. That's how I got involved. Ultimately, we thought it was best if I just took over.

Bernie, Joanne & Nick Lion
BB: It's always such a pleasure to see you and your beautiful and gracious wife, Joanne, at the club. How did you two meet?
BF: On-line, actually. We communicated back and forth a lot before we even dated. When we met, it was love at first sight.
BB: Can't wait for you to meet my great friends, Merv and Tracey, who also got into ballroom dance lessons, just like you and Joanne. And they, too, met on-line.
BF: Thank you. I never knew I could be so graceful, though Joanne studied ballet. I'd love you to bring your friends.

BB: I see Joanne is General Manager at Metropolitan Room, which I didn't know until I was researching for this interview. What does her job involve?
BF: Supervising the staff, basically.
BB: She does an excellent job as your staff is especially courteous and graceful.
BF: Yes, our current staff is wonderful, and we don't tolerate difficult people.

BB: Your show room has such an elegant Art Deco look to it. Who designed it?
BF: We brought people in to do that, with our ideas. When I took over the club, it looked like a mess.

BB: You have lived in NYC all your life, currently in Queens. However, you were born and raised in Brooklyn. What was your growing up there like and what music did you listen to growing up?
BF: Yes, I grew up in Brooklyn and, in our house, we always had the radio or the record player on. and I heard everything, especially jazz and pop.
BB: I moved to Bay Ridge from Manhattan and love it here. Have you ever been to Bay Ridge?
BF: Definitely. Love that neighborhood!

BB: You have great talent booked which I'm sure is a large part of your success. Julie Budd always brings in a full crowd. What is your professional relationship like?
BF: Joanne and I adore her, just like she was family. She's been in the business for a very long time and is an absolute professional.
BB:Ever deal with less professional talent?
BF: We realize some artists are just insecure. You know, they're people too, so we smooth their feathers and reassure them everything will be fine.
BB: I once worked at The Bottom Line when I was young, and they had Esther Phillips there when she was hot off her success of the disco version of "What a Difference a Day Makes." She was so abusive to the technical people and staff that, despite her two sold-out shows, the club refused to ever have her back.
BF: Wow! Same here, we have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior. We will not allow our staff or technical people to be treated in a disrespectful manner. Luckily, we never had to deal with this.

BB: Melba Moore's recent birthday show packed the club to the rafters. What was that night like for you?
BF: Crazy but a total delight. Melba is a favorite, and so un-presuming off-stage.

BB: There's a resurgence of interest now in cabaret as one of NYC's unique and lively art forms. Why do you think that is?
BF: I think because it's become less "stodgy" and has embraced a wider spectrum or variety of sounds.

BB: What are the best and worst things about running a club in Manhattan!
BF: Best: Location and a very sophisticated audience. Worst: How expensive it all is.

BB: Before we ever met, I came to see Pia Zadora, at your club, as a guest of Bob Esty's. I brought Nick Lion, and Bob had us seated right up front. Pia made her Piatinis for Nick and I and handed them to us from the stage. What was it like dealing with her?
BF: She was a complete professional in every way. Like Julie Budd, she has been in the business her whole life. She was a doll. Bob was a pleasure to deal with as well. And what a voice! We'd love to have her back sometime.

BB: So many artists enjoy dealing with you. Many feel you exude a warmth and feel you're like an old friend. Are you aware of this charm you seem to have?
BF: Well, Joanne and I both try to make artists feel comfortable with us and at home in the club.

BB: Any last shout-outs?
BF: Thanks to everyone who has come to see our shows and who has supported the Metropolitan Room. Thanks to our business partners and to our incredible and devoted staff. Thanks to you, Buddy Beaverhausen, for your wonderful reviews of our shows. We love reading your blog. And for introducing us to great talent like Denise Spann-Morgan and Debby Cole.
BB: And thank you, Bernie, for taking out the time to do this Q&A with me.


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  2. Hi, Buddy! I love Bernie and this is a wonderful blog! I am coming to NYC the first week of January for my fourth Metropolitan Room show. Thanks to Bernie (and his friend John Lombardi), I made my New York debut there two years ago at the age of 52! He is terrific and so is Joanne. Please be my guest at the show on January 7, 9:30 p.m. Ken Slavin

  3. Thanks, Ken, will try to make that date.

  4. What an intriguing interview, and wonderful couple.

  5. What an intriguing interview, and wonderful couple.