Question: Why was it important for your to become the first
female member of the Friars Club?
Gloria Allred: I
had lunch at the Beverly Hills Friars Club many years ago—I think this
was in the '80s—in California. And the Friars Club was an all male club,
founded by celebrities, founded by Milton Berle, who was called "Mr.
Television" in his time. He was the most important comic and television
entertainer and the best-known that there ever was, and that's when
television first came into existence.
So I had lunch there and
then I approached Milton Berle after I had spoken to some other members
there about being a member. And I said I would like to become a member
of the Friars Club and he said, "Well why do you want to become a member
of the Friars Club?" And I said, "Well, Mr. Berle, of course because
you have a great Cobb salad." And he said, "Oh really?" He said, "Don't
know it's all an all-men's club?" And I said, "Oh really?" And he said,
"But I think you knew that." He said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to
do, not only am I going to make the motion for you to become a member
but I am going to second my own motion." He said, "You think it's
because you're a woman; wrong. It's to lower the average age of the club
because the average age of the club is dead."
And with that I became the first woman member of the Friars Club. By the
way, I had first been asked by some members whom I had approached would
I be an honorary member instead of a regular member and I said, "No, it
would be a dishonor to be a member of a club that discriminates." I
wanted to be a full, dues paying member with all the rights and
privileges of any other members. So I became a member.
Then after that of course I had a little hassle with them over the fact
that they wouldn't let me use the health club because the men were going
in there naked into the steam room. And I said: "Well look I am paying
the same dues as anyone else I have to have the same rights and
privileges to use the club as anyone else." I said: "Here are your
options. You can put your clothes on. You can have me and other women go
in there with no clothes on. You can have even separate hours for men
and women if you wish, as long as they're equal hours but we have to be
able to use the health club."
Well they had their meetings and
talked about it and really wouldn't do anything. So I filed a complaint
with the state franchise tax board to take away their tax deduction for
members of the club. That got their attention and they said, "Okay, well
you can come in and use the steam room but we're not going to put our
clothes on." I said, "I don't really care about your naked butts. I just
care about the naked truth, so I'm going to go in."
So I dressed in a Gay '90s bathing suit and took in a tape measure, and
knocked on the door of the steam room, and walked in with a tape measure
singing Peggy Lee's, "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?" With
that, the towels were whipped around the men's butts and I became the
first woman member to ever use the steam room and it was opened to women
Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman