The British Officers Club

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

November 5, 1958, Vol. IV, No. 2

Saloon Society

By Bill Manville

I suppose you noticed it yourself, it was pretty terrible out last Friday night. With the possible exception of a few stretcher cases, all the round haircuts and their girls from every college on the eastern seaboard answered the lemming-call and marched on the Village. Wherever I went, there they were, recklessly ordering a third beer, smoking non-filtered cigarettes, and telling lies. In Julius' there was a line of guys waiting to go to the men's room, and when it finally was my go, I found out what they were doing was waiting to hack their fraternity initials on the walls. So I gave up and went over to attend the weekly meet at the British Officers Club.

The BOC is a small, irascible group, none of whom are officers, or even British. Just some guys who've been on the Scene for some time and who can't make it during the early evening hours Fri. and Sat. night when the collegiates are restless. They hide out at Lou's house, listen to records, hold brief, bitter conversations on the phone, and do a little light calisthenics with the private-label whiskey. No one is allowed to say: "I wish the rains would come (or stop)" any more. Late at night, when the midnight sun has begun to cool and the natives have quieted and gone back to the football parlors of New Haven and Ithaca, they come out and do their tour of saloon duty.

When I arrived last week, Lou was telling Forbes Linkhorn the right way to invite the people to a ball Forbes is going to hold after David Johnson's way-out concert at the Village Gate, this coming Sunday afternoon.

"First thing," Lou said, "when you go around asking them, you don't mention 'party.' You say 'party,' right away everyone's passive, they expect to be entertained, and to be made happy. So all they do is come to your house, take up space and do nose breathing, and then complain it was a bad party because no Golden Girl came over to them to discover—at last, after all these years—how great they really are.

"You just say," Lou continued, "'I'm having four or fie people in for a drink afterwards to meet David Johnson—why don't you drop over?' Don't say les, because fewer people is not odds enough that Golden Girl will be there. Six or seven is a nervous, intimate, non-intimate number, and more than that is big and formal again. You see? So when they come expecting a little quiet thing, and find you've got 300 people rioting at your home, they're tricked into enjoying themselves!"

The phone rang. It was Jean Vespa. She said: "Lou? You got any men over there without women? We got a party going here, 15 or 20 people, we need more men."

"That," Lou said to me, when they had all left, "is the other way to have a good party."

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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