James Leavey's Corner
Please Don't Hit Me With A Club

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Please don't hit me with a club

by James Leavey, editor, The FOREST Guide to Smoking in London
and The FOREST Guide to Smoking in Scotland

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James Leavey

They used to saythat being an Englishman or Englishwoman is to belong to the most exclusiveclub there is.  But that was way back in the late 1930s and now there areover 59 million of us, often at each other's throats due to theovercrowding, or the smoking.  Groucho Marx had the right idea when he senta wire to a club stating, “Please accept my resignation.  I don't want tobelong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

Actually, I dooccasionally frequent a small exclusive club in the heart of London whereworld famous luvvies, writers, musicians and Hollywood's elite rubshoulders, six nights week.  But I'm not going to tell you its name.  Gofind your own bloody club - there are hundreds to choose from in Britain'scapital city, including exclusive establishments such as 50 St James's,Annabel's, Arts Club, Boodle's, Brooks's, Caledonian Club, Chelsea ArtsClub, City Livery Club, Flyfisher's Club, Funky Buddha, Garrick Club, GreenRoom, Lansdowne Club, Marylebone Cricket Club, Oxford and Cambridge Club,Raffles Townhouse and Nightclub, Reform Club, Royal Thames Yacht Club, TheSavile Club, The Fox Club, The Kennel Club,  The Sloane Club, TheTravellers' Club, The Walbrook, The Wellington Club, White's, and Groucho's.

If you're lessfussy, Bar Rumba is open seven days a week from 5pm till way past yourbedtime and offers dance floor diversity to London's hip 'n' happeningdenizens, including many who are well-heeled.. Now in its 8th year, themusic programme ranges from latin (including salsa classes) to funk, houseto drum 'n' bass, jazz to R 'n' B, and  regular live bands.

Or you can hangit all out at the Ministry of Sound or the Rock Garden in Covent Garden, getslaughtered in the Goth scene at Slimelight, grab a grannie at the Cafe deParis – which originally opened in 1924 and quickly became one of Europe'stop nightspots, treat your favourite uncle to an evening in Ronnie Scott's,or just have a laugh at Jongleurs, The Comedy Store or The Laughing Horse.

City laddettes onthe loose can often be found howling at the topless dancers in Stringfellowsor The Bada Bing Club.  Couples who love getting their kit off in publichang it all out at Club Starkers, London's only naturist, i.e. nudist,nightclub.

Talking aboutnudity, it was just over 35 years ago that the legendary Kingly Club(previously known as the Pinstripe Club), just off Golden Square in Soho wasclosed down as a result of the infamous Profumo scandal.

In its heyday,the club attracted regulars such as Oliver Reed, Peter O'Toole, AudreyHepburn, George Best, Steve McQueen, Richard Harris, Laurence Olivier, andeven Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis - who were rumoured to have once visitedwhilst promoting the famous Billy Wilder movie, 'Some Like It Hot'.  Butprobably the club's biggest claim to fame was as the venue where the BritishGovernment minister, John Profumo, first met Christine Keeler.

Today, astunning, double, black-glass door leads to a glass-walled staircase, whichtakes you down to the Kingly club, which has a contemporary feel and oozessophistication with its gleaming white walls, cream leather banquettes,sofas that are under-lit with optic fiber by Davison Hilley, and glasstables throughout.  At one end of the club is an impressive solid glass bar;at the other end, two breathtaking salt-water aquariums.

Another ofLondon's club landmarks is 20 Kensington Church Street, which has been apopular nightclub venue since the 1970s. The site was recently bought byBobby Syed, had its interior totally refurbished and was relaunched asDunes, a stylish after-hours Bedouin retreat., and London’s latest celebrityhotspot.

After a heady,star-studded launch party towards the end of last year, Dunes is swiftlybecoming the place to be seen amongst London’s elite. The club has anexclusive ‘Black card’ membership, offering a select few a trulypersonalized service. Private booths, with waitress service, are availablefor customers looking for a more discreet evening, which is possibly whyDunes has attracted celebrities such as Hugh Grant, Emma Bunton, GeriHalliwell and Mark Owen.

If you prefersomething quieter and more conservative, the Royal Automobile Club issteeped in over 100 years of history and tradition as a social andautomotive club, and has an amazing swimming pool, and Turkish Baths thatextend through six rooms of varying heat and steam.

Membership ofthis private members' club is little more than that of a high street gym,but you get two clubhouses for your money; one in London’s Pall Mall and theother in Epsom, Surrey, which provide all the amenities of two prestigioussocial locations where you can enjoy banqueting, restaurants, overnightaccommodation, golf and sporting facilities, as well as reciprocalmemberships with many other clubs.

If you are a verykeen sports fan, you'll already be queuing up to join the Corinthian Club,which provides its members with a unique membership  tailored to combine thebest of what the new Wembley Stadium has to offer together with socialmembership of Stoke Park Club, one of the UK's most prestigious countryclubs.

Situated on thehalfway line directly below the new Wembley Stadium's Royal Box, behind theplayers’ benches and alongside the trophy presentation route, Corinthianseats will be as close to the action as you can get.  In addition, memberswill be offered first option to buy tickets for concerts and many othergreat events for which Wembley is famous, including all Home England SeniorInternationals, the FA Cup Final and Semi-Finals, the FA Community Shield,the Football League Cup Final and the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final – aswell as access to a social calendar comprising of over 50 events per year.

They say thatfacilities for Corinthian Club members at the new Wembley Stadium will raisethe standards for sporting hospitality around the world, including access tothe luxurious Club Wembley concourse, as well as exclusive access to theelegant Corinthian Restaurant – which will offer world-class cuisine and theperfect environment for socialising or networking with guests and clubmembers alike.  Club members will also enjoy guaranteed VIP parking and adedicated account manager who will be on hand throughout their membership.

But you'd betterhurry, for all Corinthian Club seats are currently being sold on 10-yearlicences and the exclusive membership is limited to 1,900.  There won’t beanother opportunity to join this club until 2016.

But maybe thebest club is one only known to its members.  And, no, I'm not telling youthe name of  mine.  It's known as “TheSmoke-Yourself-Into-a-Decline-and-fuck-the-anti's.”


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