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Who Was Marie and What Was The Crisis? The Story Behind The Piano Bar's Name

As reported this morning on, the legendary Greenwich Village piano bar, Marie's Crisis, will be hosting a sing-a-long beer garden at Elsie Fest, New York City's first outdoor music festival celebrating tunes from the stage and screen.

But while musical theatre lovers know the name Marie's Crisis, many are baffled by its origin. And why does the sign outside say Marie's Crisis Café when they don't serve food? Here's a quick rundown of things you may not know about Marie's Crisis.

Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine died in 1809 in a small wooden house that stood on the property where Marie's now stands. Though best known for Common Sense, the pamphlet that gained support for American secession by spelling out the reasons for independence, he also wrote The American Crisis, which was directed at the first swarm of bluecoat soldiers to convince them to reenlist in the army as their terms were ending.

Some will tell you that Marie's Crisis was first owned by legendary Greenwich Village hostess and restaurateur Romany Marie, who, in the early 20th Century was known for opening a colorful collection of bohemian hangouts, but the café was actually christened by chanteuse Marie DuMont. According to biographer Robert Schulman, Romany Marie was shocked to see her neighbor at 59 Grove give her establishment a name that would lead patrons to believe she was the owner and complained, "She called it Marie's Crisis but I was the one having the crisis!"

Though food is no longer served at Marie's Crisis Café, it is still designated by the city as a restaurant and its "kitchen" must pass regular inspections.

Many have suggested that the bar depicted in Terrance McNally's Some Men, where older gay men watch in fascination at the Stonewall riots taking place across the street, was meant to represent Marie's Crisis.

Marie's Crisis is also known as the place where musical theatre celebs like Lea Salonga, Alan Cumming and Lea DeLaria come to unwind. Click here for videos of Jimmy Fallon having a ball at the piano and check out a visit from Cristin Millioti below.

When you go...

Sing! That's what you're there for. Most nights you'll be one voice in a big crowd singing in unison, so don't worry about how you sound.

Remember that none of the entertainment at Marie's Crisis is amplified. Keep the conversations low and give all your attention to the pianist when sitting at one of the cherished piano seats. Always be quiet when there's a solo.

The pianist gets paid only with customer tips, so be generous.

If you have a request, tip first. Don't dangle your tip in front of the pianist like a carrot on the condition that your song is played.

Happy hour begins at 5:30pm Mondays through Thursdays. The place is usually less crowded and there's a better chance of hearing your favorite obscurities.

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From This Author Michael Dale