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L.A. Lawyer Breaks Sex Barrier at New York Friar’s Club

June 22, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Los Angeles lawyer who specialized in sex discrimination cases, Gloria Allred, broke an 84-year-old sex barrier at the Friar’s Club Tuesday, but only after an impromptu Friar’s roast by a member, comedian Henny Youngman.

″Some people bring happiness wherever they go; she brings happiness whenever she goes,″ Youngman grumbled as Ms. Allred, a member of the Beverly Hills Friar’s Club, was admitted for lunch to the formerly all-male New York club.

Ms. Allred said she caught a midnight flight from Los Angeles to New York after hearing Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld a New York City law barring sex discrimination by private clubs.

″It is time to end the exclusionary and discriminatory policy of the New York Friar’s Club, which severely restricts the right of women to do business on an equal basis with men,″ she said in a news conference outside the mid- Manhattan club before being admitted.

All eyes turned when Youngman, a member of the club for more than 50 years, appeared at the door and interrupted Ms. Allred’s question-and-answer session.

″I don’t think they ought to butt in in our business,″ the comedian said. ″If we want privacy, we ought to have privacy. ... There’s a million clubs in New York. Why do they want to get in? We have fun here.″

When Ms. Allred tried to argue with him, Youngman brushed her off, saying, ″I don’t know who you are.″

She finally slipped past him and into the club, saying, ″Nice to have met you, sir. You’re entitled to be wrong.″

Once inside, she dined on poached salmon and zucchini and was joined by the executive director of the club, Jean Pierre Trebot.

″It went very well,″ she said afterward. ″I enjoyed the lunch very much.″

Trebot said the decision to admit Ms. Allred was made after the Supreme Court ruling Monday. He said the club’s Board of Governors will vote on whether to admit women as regular members. ″We expect it will be affirmative,″ he said.

The Friar’s Club, founded in 1904, has 1,360 members in New York, two- thirds of whom are active in the performing arts. Its top officer, called the abbot, is Frank Sinatra; other members include George Burns and Irving Berlin.

The Friar’s policy until Tuesday was to admit women only after 4 p.m. or for lunch on Saturdays.

Ms. Allred successfully fought for admission to the Beverly Hills club in May 1987 and had been trying since last fall to be admitted to the New York club under a policy of reciprocity between the two organizations.

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