Thursday, July 22, 2004

Members only: "The Bohemian Club, a beguiling mix of ultra-power hangout and high school play, is one of several elite private clubs in San Francisco, curious islands of conservatism amid a forest of Kerry for President signs.

"Of these, the Big Four are the Bohemian Club, the stodgy Pacific-Union Club atop Nob Hill, the gigantic sports-minded Olympic Club, and the tiny ultra-exclusive San Francisco Golf Club straddling the line between San Francisco and Daly City.

"Two admit women. Two do not. One admits women in town, but not in the country—and not after dark."

"The Pacific-Union's prohibitions have been characterized, said Merla Zellerbach, as 'no women, no Democrats, no reporters.'"

"The San Francisco Golf Club is so shy, Debenham said, it won't give out directions. 'Even members get lost trying to find the place.'

"Notice to lost members: You can find those undulating greens and gingerbready clubhouse behind those unnaturally tall eucalyptus trees in back of the 'John Daly Blvd' freeway sign on I-280 just past San Francisco State. Slow at the sign for Thomas Moore Church and drive past the discreetly blocking shrubbery until you see the small sign: 'SF Golf Club, Private.'

"This club wishes to continue to fly way, way under the radar. Calls were not returned. So our information has not been confirmed or denied by anybody representing the club."

"Those who are clubbable find themselves strolling past faces any American would recognize. 'Never mind just plain CEOs and presidents,' Hoffman said, 'they have president presidents'—such as former President George H.W. Bush, who has brought his sons."

The Grove, with "its powerful members pledged to secrecy, provides an ideal audience on which to test a major policy address. 'Every elected official knows there's no place more conducive to the conduct of political affairs than a gathering that has been declared nonpolitical,' he said."

"Nelson Rockefeller gave up a run for the presidency after his speech failed to move his fellow campers. And this is where, according to van der Zee and many other published sources, Bush asked Cheney to be his running mate in 2000, where Nixon advised Ronald Reagan to stay out of the coming presidential race in 1967, where Edward Teller and others in the Manhattan Project mapped out the atomic bomb in the autumn of 1942."

"The club would like all this secret stuff to stay secret, which means that the curious are always breaking in (Mother Jones, National Public Radio, the Los Angeles Times, CBS). Media CEOs have had to interrupt their conversations to throw out their own reporters."

"It is called 'social' because business is the last thing on anyone's mind at this club to which hundreds of CEOs and former government officials belong. 'Oh, please,' Debenham said. 'The contacts are amazing.'"

"'It's that Masonic thing, the touching of the ring. Goes back to before the Crusades. The men feel safer without women. It's the same thing in a way when women get together. First it's jolly and then gets weird. Clannish.'"

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