How we determine the membership of the world’s most exclusive club
OK. Next to last column before the end of the year one, and of course it has to be about the crisis that has enveloped Pug’s, the world’s most exclusive of clubs. For any of you who may have missed it, here, for the benefit of Speccie readers, is the membership list: Patron: Lady Gabriella Windsor. President: Mr Taki Theodoracopulos. Executive Chairman: Count Leopold Bismarck. Chairman and Director of Admissions: Professor William Gimlet, OBE (aka Mr Nicholas Scott). Members: Mr Timothy Hoare, Prince Heinrich von Fürstenberg, HRH Prince Pavlos of Greece, HH the Maharajah of Jodhpur, Mr Arpad Busson, Mr Christopher Lee, CBE, Sir Bob Geldof.
Not a bad list, even if I say so myself, but the beauty and strength of the club is the list of those who have tried to join and have been brutally blackballed by an admissions committee which makes Saudi Arabian religious courts look like small-claims tribunals in Berne, Switzerland. People like Henry Kravis, Hugh Grant, George Soros, Rupert Murdoch ( I was furious at that one but there was nothing I could do), Warren Buffett, Sir Elton John, Bernard-Henry Lévy, Sir Mick Jagger, and so on. This week William Gimlet flew over to the Bagel from Londonistan in order to settle once and for all the question of a M’Dame for our London headquarters. We obviously need a housekeeper and after a spirited three-day — and night — discussion, we have settled on Heather Mills, Lady McCartney, as our Mrs Danvers. Although she could have trouble with the stairs, it is an inspired choice in view of the fact that she ran Sir Paul’s (also among the first to be blackballed) various houses impeccably.
The trouble with having a classic sailing boat serve as a clubhouse is wintertime. The boat is laid up in the south of France, the crew is busy varnishing the miles of teak, and although the clock is running — and, boy, is it ever running — members cannot be expected to be seen in St Tropez out of season. Ergo the need for more salubrious surroundings somewhere in London.
Professor Gimlet has been charged with finding staff and a winter home for Pug’s, and his first hire will be Heather Mills McCartney to run it. Will she accept? I can’t see her saying no, not after the bums she’s been associated with throughout her life. This is her first real opportunity to mix with her betters and, while she’s at it, to improve her manners. Anyway, we have a back-up choice, Sophie Anderton, and if she also turns us down there is always Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Heinrich Fürstenberg suggested we get staff from the various royal palaces, but I thought it a lousy idea. Royal livery men tend to spill the beans to the press, and Pug’s cannot afford the Paul Burrells of this world.
So, there you have it. Pug’s may not be the handsomest of the Regency clubs, as Brooks’s is; it might not have as famous a bow window as White’s, but it will never be as stuffed with lawyers like the Garrick, and it is written in our rules that no member of the Groucho will ever be allowed to cross its portals. Not even as a guest. Groucho membership means instant expulsion from Pug’s.
In the meantime, White’s, the Turf, Brooks’s, Boodle’s, Pratt’s and the Beefsteak have already applied to us for reciprocal privileges. This request is what forced me as president to have Nick Scott fly over for a lightning meeting and, I’m afraid, not a small amount of shouting. I simply will not have it. Scott, Hoare, Busson and Bismarck voted for it, but my veto prevailed. Fürstenberg, ever the diplomat, suggested we drop White’s and accept the others. (Any club which continues to have Osama bin Laden as a member cannot expect to be accepted, said Heinrich, and then went on with a long spiel in German about mixing with beerhall putschists and bearded terrorists.) But the president’s veto held up and Nick Scott is flying back to London empty-handed.
The most common rule of thumb for the ideal club is the one where all one’s friends are members. This can present a problem for those with no friends at all, only acquaintances. I know a few people like that, but what is amazing is that they do belong to clubs. One such fellow, whom I will not name, nor his three clubs, is among the greatest shits ever to wear a necktie. I have met many people in my life, among whom many know him, and all I’ve heard is what a terrific turd the man is. A cheapskate, a bore, mean-spirited, cowardly, a total phoney and ugly as hell to boot, he does not possess even a scintilla of charm, the easiest of human traits to acquire through fakery. Great shits more often than not possess lotsa charm. All conmen do, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to con anyone, not even an American innocent abroad.
Two of the most charming men I knew when young were Gianni Agnelli and Porfirio Rubirosa. Gianni was a clubman, Rubi was not. Go figure, as they say. It is often said that one should join clubs early in life, before one begins seducing married ladies, getting drunk in public and telling off bores. It is good advice, but one we have tried desperately to ignore in choosing our membership. In this age of gushing exhibitionism, hype and confession, Pug’s remains small, exclusive, heterosexual, white and totally discreet. Except for the habit of putting up on the noticeboard all those unfortunate souls who have been blackballed.