PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2022

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that information outside those imposing doors. But, just as gossip was condoned, there were strict rules governing the secrecy of its members and their privacy. At the height of their popularity, more than 400 gentleman's clubs existed in clubland — the area clubs proliferated in London's Pall Mall and St. James districts — often codified by political and personal interests. However, there were still tight limits on the number of members, and as a result, specifically themed clubs splintered off, ranging from places like The Savile Club, whose members have an interest in the arts, to The Travellers Club, where the original 1819 rules denied membership to anyone who had not traveled out of the British Isles at least 500 miles from London in a direct line. White's, founded in 1693, remains arguably the most exclusive of the West London gentleman's clubs, where members to this day hobnob with aristocrats and royals. Many famous men have passed through the doors of White's during the more than three centuries of its existence. White's is where Prince Charles had his stag party before his marriage to Lady Diana, and their son Prince William is a member, too. Former Prime Minister David Cameron belonged, along with his father, Ian, but resigned in 2008 in protest over the club's staid rules prohibiting women from joining or entering the hallowed halls. Although the rigid rule remains firmly in place, Cameron has since given up his grievance and rejoined. Specifics r e g a r d i n g t h e c o s t o f m e m b e r s h i p are not public i n f o r m a t i o n , but the rigorous a p p l i c a t i o n p r o c e s s o f White's once was rumored to require 35 members to pen their name into a leather-bound book. Members who aren't too fond of the idea of someone acquiring membership have the option to write the word "never" by their name. Originally, if a gentleman's character was the least bit objectionable or he was deemed "unclubbable," an applicant was denied entrance (and those who proposed him were likely forced to resign their membership, too). Who, pray tell, might have been originally considered "unclubbable"? Shockingly (by American standards, that is), those who had to earn their income, such as doctors and lawyers. Although details of life inside these clubs remain sacrosanct, some tidbits have escaped. Lejeune writes, "At Boodle's there was a 'dirty end' of the coffee room, where members could dine without having changed their clothes. Gradually the 'dirty end' advanced, occupying more and more tables, until finally it was the members who were properly dressed who found themselves in a small minority, collected together at one end. Today nobody dresses merely to dine at his club. Newspapers are no longer ironed, coins no longer boiled. So far have standards fallen." As one might expect, these gentleman's clubs eventually made their way to American shores. Christopher Doob notes in his book Social Inequality and Social Stratification in U.S. Society, "The most exclusive social clubs are in the oldest cities — Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. ... The most exclusive social clubs are two in New York City — the Links and the Knickerbocker … Personal wealth has never been the sole basis for attaining membership in exclusive clubs. The individual and family must meet the admissions committee's standards for values and behavior. Old money prevails over new money as the Rockefeller family experience suggests. John D. Rockefeller, the family's founder and the nation's first billionaire, joined the Union League Club, a fairly respectable but not top-level club; John D. Rockefeller, Jr., belonged to the University Club, a step up from his father; and finally, his son John D. Rockefeller, III, reached the pinnacle with his acceptance into the Knickerbocker Club." T oday in London's clubland and beyond, a new breed of social club has proliferated for decades with a more relaxed ethos that allows men as well as women past their thresholds, where Hollywood celebrities rub shoulders with a new generation of the creative working set. Although still exclusive and private, London's Robin Birley is considered the undisputed club king. In 1963, Robin's father, Mark, founded the famed Annabel's in the basement of 44 Berkeley Square, named for his wife, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest- Stewart; it was opened as a place Birley and his chums could gather after a night (Continued) Pratt's Club's comfortable, cozy disarray Boodle's wax seal for correspondence Traveller's Club, London PHOTOGRAPHS THIS PAGE AND NEXT FROM THE BOOK THE GENTLEMAN'S CLUBS OF LONDON BY ANTHONY LEJEUNE; PHOTOGRAPHER MALCOLM LEWIS, 1979 43

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