Saturday, May 1, 2010

Club NYC

These days the worst thing a person can be called is an "elitist." The term has become an epithet and even some rich and powerful people like to throw it at their enemies. We Americans admire, almost deify, the wealthy, but we don't want that wealth to transform them into precious snobs. Being rich and prominent is dandy but you gotta keep it real.

Rich, good. Elitist, bad.

It's hard to even know what an elitist is these days. The term is elastic. Some people will say, obviously, that being wealthy equals being elitist but others will argue that it has more of to do with your discriminating cultural outlook than your socioeconomic status.

This presents a conundrum. Some non-rich folks can be elitists while some rich people can avoid the curse. It's an endless debate.

Hmm? Perhaps the only good elite thing to be these days is an elite airline passenger. After all, it takes a lot of flying so that you can board the plane first and get upgrades. No one's going to begrudge anyone that. That's earned elitism I guess. And the debate goes on.

But if you want to define what being a true elitist in NYC means, that's easy. It means not only being rich, not only having a certain degree of professional and social prominence, but also being the member of a club. Not strip clubs or night clubs or sports clubs. Nor the kind of clubs that people form who have common interest -- books clubs, wine clubs, arts clubs, etc. I mean the kinds of clubs that give the term "club" and "elitist" their real meaning -- places that are exclusive because they exclude.

I'm talking about the old school, old money, must-wear-a-suit-and-tie-on-the-premises-clubs with dining rooms, guest rooms, pool rooms, gyms, libraries, and bars. I mean the kind of place where they serve 50 year old scotch to members sitting on black leather chairs while they discuss earning or losing their latest millions. I mean the kind of clubs where you must be sponsored for membership, get letters of recommendations, be approved of by a committee, and then spend around $25,000 a year for the privilege of breathing this rarefied air. I mean the clubs where the rich and powerful like to relax and unwind and entertain. The kind of clubs where true elitists can be found.

They still exist in NYC. These kinds of clubs are still amongst us. The people who belong to them, the true elitists in our midst, do not call attention to these clubs or to themselves. They do not court publicity. Instead, these clubs and their members, these true elitists, preserve that classy old-world charm of grace, elegance, refinement, and class.

Because they fly under the radar, I don't know how many of these clubs are left. Certainly I can't name them all. But the ones I know about and have links to here (if you're interested to learn more) are:

The Union League Club
The Metropolitan Club
The New York Athletic Club
The Colony Club
The Knickerbocker Club

Some of them don't have websites -- they are that private. And if you know of some more, please let us know. I have been to one of these clubs for dinner (can't say which one, my hosts would be offended) and it was almost like stepping into late 19th century London society. This was a place where class was just as important as money. And I remember thinking, if this was elitism than it was elitism at its very best.

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