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Gloria Allred is a founding partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Allred, Maroko & Golberg. A noted feminist and women's rights attorney, she has represented a wide variety[…]

Milton Berle helped Allred become the all-male club’s first female member. Soon afterwards, she walked into the steam room with a tape measure, singing Peggy Lee’s “Is that all there is?”

Question: Why was it important for your to become the first rnfemale member of the Friars Club?

Gloria Allred:  I rnhad lunch at the Beverly Hills Friars Club many years ago—I think this rnwas in the '80s—in California. And the Friars Club was an all male club,rn founded by celebrities, founded by Milton Berle, who was called "Mr. rnTelevision" in his time. He was the most important comic and television rnentertainer and the best-known that there ever was, and that's when rntelevision first came into existence.

So I had lunch there and rnthen I approached Milton Berle after I had spoken to some other members rnthere about being a member. And I said I would like to become a member rnof the Friars Club and he said, "Well why do you want to become a memberrn of the Friars Club?" And I said, "Well, Mr. Berle, of course because rnyou have a great Cobb salad." And he said, "Oh really?" He said, "Don't rnknow it's all an all-men's club?" And I said, "Oh really?" And he said, rn"But I think you knew that." He said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to rndo, not only am I going to make the motion for you to become a member rnbut I am going to second my own motion." He said, "You think it's rnbecause you're a woman; wrong. It's to lower the average age of the clubrn because the average age of the club is dead."
rnAnd with that I became the first woman member of the Friars Club. By thern way, I had first been asked by some members whom I had approached wouldrn I be an honorary member instead of a regular member and I said, "No, itrn would be a dishonor to be a member of a club that discriminates." I rnwanted to be a full, dues paying member with all the rights and rnprivileges of any other members. So I became a member.
rnThen after that of course I had a little hassle with them over the fact rnthat they wouldn't let me use the health club because the men were goingrn in there naked into the steam room. And I said: "Well look I am paying rnthe same dues as anyone else I have to have the same rights and rnprivileges to use the club as anyone else." I said: "Here are your rnoptions. You can put your clothes on. You can have me and other women gorn in there with no clothes on. You can have even separate hours for men rnand women if you wish, as long as they're equal hours but we have to be rnable to use the health club."

Well they had their meetings and rntalked about it and really wouldn't do anything. So I filed a complaint rnwith the state franchise tax board to take away their tax deduction for rnmembers of the club. That got their attention and they said, "Okay, wellrn you can come in and use the steam room but we're not going to put our rnclothes on." I said, "I don't really care about your naked butts. I justrn care about the naked truth, so I'm going to go in."
rnSo I dressed in a Gay '90s bathing suit and took in a tape measure, and rnknocked on the door of the steam room, and walked in with a tape measurern singing Peggy Lee's, "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?" Withrn that, the towels were whipped around the men's butts and I became the rnfirst woman member to ever use the steam room and it was opened to womenrn after that.

Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman