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WITH A FEW exceptions, my view on clubs agrees with Groucho Marx’s: He wired the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
My exceptions include several technical and automotive associations. And I confess to having visited several clubs, including London’s Chelsea Arts Club and Silverstone Circuit’s British Racing Drivers’ Club (where friend Larry Crane and I got tossed out). Another memorable clubbing experience involved R&T’s Art Director Wm. A. Motta, Managing Editor Dorothy Clendenin, me and New York City’s exclusive Century Club.
Formally known as the Century Association Clubhouse, the Century evolved in 1847 from two earlier New York City private clubs. One was the Sketch (founded by poet William Cullen Bryant and pals in 1829); the other, the Column (for Columbia University alumni).
The term “alumni” is Latin for “students,” plural, masculine or of either gender. However, these august enclaves were men only. Indeed, the Century remained so until 1989, and then only by court order after a strenuous battle.
A more recent battle had international ramifications, this time with the Century on the ladies’ side. On March 1, 2011, the club ended its reciprocity agreement with London’s tony Garrick Club, which allows women past the doorman only if in the company of gentlemen (cf. Marx et al).
In a mid-2015 poll at the Garrick, the results were 50.5 percent in favor of women as members. A two-third majority is required for a change.
On the other hand, directly after the disassociation, London’s Daily Telegraph reported one Garrick member saying he “would not be mourning the loss of his colonial cousins—or access to their facilities. The Century’s a crap club anyway.”
Which, curious enough, coincided with Dottie Clendenin’s view almost three decades before.
This, though, is getting a bit ahead of my tale. Between 1972 and 1988, R&T was part of CBS, others of its many corporate branches of the era including Columbia Records, Fender Guitar and Steinway Piano.
A CBS highpoint came in 1982 when several R&T editorial types were invited east for an awards ceremony to be held at the Century Club. Art Director Bill Motta, Managing Editor Dottie Clendenin (in pre-Wife Dottie days) and I made the trip.
Back in those salad days, we stayed at the American Stanhope Hotel, conveniently located across Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We all appreciated this locale.
Purely as an aside, in 1982 flautist and jazz great Herbie Mann set the music policy at the Stanhope’s Saratoga Restaurant. Some years later, Motta’s successor as Art Director Richard Baron and I were chatted up by actor Lee Marvin in the hotel’s bar.
Yes, those were salad days.
The CBS awards presentation was black tie. Taking a cab down to the Century, Bill, Dottie and I felt like a string trio on its way to a gig. The cabby pulled up to the curb at 7 West 43rd Street, just off Fifth Avenue, and said “Here you go, Mack” or whatever English-speaking cabbies said in those days.
I was seated on the right and saw “Century” on the building. Dottie, in the middle, could see only an unlit side street off the avenue, piled high with garbage during one of New York City’s strikes.
“No. This isn’t it. Drive on,” she commanded. I eventually persuaded her that this was indeed the Century Club.
The rest of the evening was rather less eventful. However, directly after the CBS awards were distributed, we were ushered out amidst workers stacking chairs and rearranging tables in preparation for the Century Club’s next event that evening. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016