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