29 April 2014

London's Private Clubs

City University Club (from their website)

The Watchman's chair at The Art's Club (from The Gentlemen's Clubs of London)

Royal Automobile Club Newsletter (from Vodka Ronnies loo)

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.


Oyster Guy said...

Bizarre timing for this post as I have been on quite a club kick myself over the last few months. I find most of the men only clubs tend towards a certain rowdiness and atmosphere I associate with all boys boarding schools. It's good natured enough but the cave man-child does come out without women around and I that seems of significant appeal to many members.

At clubs with a business or political focus, events are thick with networking and deal making. Everyone is eager to meet but always look past each other to see who else is in the room.

There still seems to be a demand for "dignified" surroundings but sadly "restrained" seems to have left the building. Unless it's bondage you're after...

Anonymous said...

"Not that anything could keep women quiet" HAHAHAHAHA!

tintin said...

Oyster Guy- I agree. I usually prefer clubs only for their physical grandeur and not for their people. Sitting in a big room with an adult beverage, often just beer, that is stuffed with art, and when I smoked…I could. It was magical and even more so when I was alone.

Anon- Yes, well-- thank you for that.

ELS said...

I'll take you to the Oriental Club for a snifter next time you're over. When I joined (wife or unmarried daughter) there was a men only dining room. I kept quiet because in the Ladies they had huge collections of ancient photograph albums from India and other bits of the Empire going back over a hundred years.

No amusingly dedicated ladies, but silent absent ones a close second??

Makaga said...

Such a fun piece! Way to go, TinTin! Like Oyster Guy, I have been on a bit of a club kick as well. Just bought the London Gentlemen's Club book. Wish those pictures were in color. I had the chance to swing by the University Club on Easter. A grand place, but also like OG mentioned, everyone is looking over everyone else's shoulders to see if a bigger fish is in the room.

Anonymous said...

Sidney at 6:35. Noel at 7:03. Don't recognize the lady with the red Miro print top, but the film crew sure did.


Hazen Pingree said...

I'm fortunate enough that our partner at Lloyds belongs to Boodles, and have enjoyed many a dinner and glass of Port there. Lovely place.