29 April 2014
London's Private Clubs
Lovely British Documentary on London Clubs in the '60s
My exposure to club life in '80s and '90s London was limited, but I'm grateful for what I was able to see. Unlike clubs in the US, club dues in London were reasonable and so a gentleman might belong to a number of clubs. I was lucky enough to see The City University Club, RAC, The St James Club and a smattering of less formal drinking clubs... of which one could purchase membership the very same evening one showed up.
One such club was a densely furnished Victorian room of bushy red velvet drapes, worn red and gold carpet and tiny gold tables with circular marble tops. At about eight of the 20 or so tables table sat two women in formal evening dress sipping champagne from tulip flutes. I took in the room and for a few seconds and was completely stumped… until a red and gold light went on. I turned to the four or five Lloyd's brokers who brought me and said, "Hey, I know what this is…" They all shushed me and the one who paid the dues whispered, "Now Tinseth, it cost a lot to get in here -- I don't fancy being thrown out. "Fine," I said. "But I'm a still a newlywed…you can stay… best I be leaving."
Later that night, at another private club, an underwriter explained the brokers were trying to "get something on me" for bargaining purposes - be it necessary. I remember thinking we all worked in insurance and not MI6. Today, I look back on that night with some regret and wish I had stayed. Not so much for the female companionship, but I would have liked a menu, a matchbook... some sort of whore house ephemera to bring home as a memento…and then again... I could have brought home something else.