They represent one of humanity’s most enduring mysteries.

$300,000 (initiation fee only) for access to a golf course + Bernard Madoff… (You’re also guaranteed a glimpse of the president). (Or at least some of his supporters.)

And speaking of Madoff , the just-resigned felons at the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles – Varsity Blues alums Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli – had worked it out that they’d be suspended from the club for the duration of their stay in the local lockup, and then, the moment they got sprung, the suspension would be over. Nice!

A member of the club’s all-male board, however, has “fired off” (this cliche feels unavoidable) a letter to all the other males to complain that this does not sit well with him. Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Let’s take a look!

(SOS is aware that the super-secret boys’ club thing of boys’ clubs like Bel-Air makes it wet-your-shorts shocking that this letter came out at all into the light of ungated day; and SOS is thinking that the author maybe leaked it but who knows. We need only register here, preliminarily, the shock of this enigmatic island having let escape a loud epistolary fart.)

Gentlemen:

[In its very mode of address, the letter is already a reprimand. The letter indeed will turn out to be a meditation on the word/concept gentleman.]

On June 1st the membership was notified of the disposition of the “Varsity Blues” matter wherein two members of the Club have plead guilty to felony charges. “The Board has unanimously voted effective immediately to suspend both Members involved in their personal legal challenges until [emphasis added] they have completed their obligations to the government.”

[This guy gets right to it – no throat-clearing, no pleasantries, right into it. SOS says excellent. She’s always telling you to be surgical and direct.

Now, this is a country club guy, and I’m guessing he’s a lawyer, so we get words like disposition and wherein and matter. He’s penning the sort of letter Peter Wimsey might receive from his club in Gaudy Night. Fine. It’s not bad writing; and it neatly conveys the writer’s sense of himself.]

The above statement is misleading. What it does not clearly state is that the memberships of these felons continue essentially unabated. Suspension implies that a member otherwise capable of using the Club is prohibited from access for a period of time as punishment for a serious infraction. However, these individuals will be incarcerated for most, if not all, of the suspension period and will continue as members in “good standing” when released.

[No need for the quotation marks around good standing. We remain in the world of faintly legal and definitely Edwardian prose. No problem.]

This unprecedented board decision to allow felons to continue as members causes irreparable reputational harm to the Club and its members. Will we any longer be able to deny membership to convicted felons sponsored for membership? If the denial is based on the candidate’s felony conviction the answer would now appear to be no. Will the Club now be perceived as one that welcomes felons? Undeniably, the answer to that question is now yes.

[As with so much of this letter, this paragraph has a sweetly scented whiff of obsolescence to it, assuming as it does that the sort of character willing to shoot out millions for occasional visits to a golf course is going to be mentally and ethically sharp enough to comprehend/give a shit about felonious behavior.] [Note, for instance, how the sentence “We need to send this draft dodger back to his golf courses.” functions in this political ad.]

Let me point out the obvious. BACC is a Club of gentlemen and gentlewomen. Gentlemen are not felons, and felons in turn are not gentlemen. You cannot be a member in good standing and guilty of a felony at the same time, it is a non sequitur. Referring to felons as gentlemen in good standing is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize their continued membership. That “this situation” resulted from “their actions outside the Club” can only be considered a failed attempt at misdirection as it is completely irrelevant. These felony guilty pleas are of their own making and reputational harm comes from their continued “membership” affiliation with the Club. Suspending membership, while the offender is imprisoned, is an illusory penalty and does nothing to address the reputational damage brought on by their continued membership.

[Okay, now we’re into some seriously snippy shit. Remember that you should never write mad. You can feel as mad as you like, but your writing needs to be under tight emotional control. SOS would have thrown out the first sentence of this paragraph, since it conveys little beyond condescending rage.

And there are other problems. Note the string of very short sentences coming up. This rat-a-tat-tat business is risky, conveying as it does in this instance an annoyed parent’s series of simple statements to a child – something liable to piss off people who think of themselves as your equal. And he’s getting a little sloppy. Plenty of felons are gentlemen, and charming gentlemen at that, so the author needs to gesture in the direction of a definition of gentleman that would exclude some of these (only the most notorious are featured), not to mention gentlewomen like Martha Stewart. It seems awfully mean of the writer to exclude so many from his gentlemen’s club. Country clubs after all couldn’t exist without the super-rich, and, without wanting to sound like a commie, SOS will note the very strong correlation between personal billions and bad behavior. (Variants of You don’t make a billion dollars; you steal it are all over contemporary English usage.)

I’m not sure ‘good standing’ / ‘felony’ is a non sequitur; maybe better to call it a contradiction in terms.

Love the fact that the other all-males reasoned that since the felons failed to drop their doodoo directly on the golfing green it doesn’t count.

Okay, we’ll skip a bit of the letter here, because he becomes quite redundant, saying more than he needs to say it that keeping felons in the club damages its reputation. I’m sure he’s wrong about that, but anyway.]

This matter is already well known in the golfing world, domestically and internationally, and our Club has become a laughingstock.

[Here’s how you know it’s an internal letter. Phrases like the golfing world, domestically and internationally are themselves kind of a laughingstock to … okay, well, to SOS. And whatever the global golfing world may be, I really doubt it’s fanning itself with its hanky over naughty behavior.]

I have heard that some members believe the board has substituted its judgement for that of the law and the courts in determining whether felony crime is serious. That white collar crime does not count. This surely cannot be the case. The board could not be so unwise as to put itself in the position of judging felonies on a subjective scale, deeming some acceptable and others not.

[LOLOLOLOLOLOL.]

As a 25-year member in good standing, and a gentleman by act of Congress, I choose not to be associate with known felons. This board decision, however, forces acceptance of felons upon the membership – grata catalla felonum.

[Again, very much an insider’s letter, but SOS thinks gentleman by act of Congress means the guy has a military background; and she thinks grata etc. means something like Welcome, felons. The Latin phrase, the by now incredibly redundant insistence on moral uprightness – it really is The World of Sir Peter Wimsey.

Also note typo: Should be associated.]

I have been informed that the board is not willing to set aside this decision and take the cleansing action so desperately needed, namely terminating the memberships of the offending parties. That being the case, I am sadly left no choice but to hereby resign from the club I have long loved.

[By this last paragraph, the excellent straightforwardness of address with which the writer began has fully deteriorated into wordy self-aggrandizing pretentiousness. Get a load of all them adjectives and adverbs clogging things the hell up!

cleansing

desperately

namely

offending

sadly

hereby

long

Let us translate the two sentences down:

Since you will not end these memberships, I’m resigning.]

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7 Responses to “For UD, country clubs have the status of Easter Island mo’ai:”

  1. Bill R Says:

    ” It’s not bad writing; and it neatly conveys the writer’s sense of himself.”

    Heh.

  2. UD Says:

    Bill R: Yes, heh. That was intended to be a sly comment, liable to go unnoticed…

  3. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    I don’t think resigning through a “ZOMG I totally quit” tweet would have been better.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Ravi: Didn’t know about ZOMG – I like its origin story.

  5. University Diaries » More on the social significance of country club golf. Says:

    […] A recent post considers why the following sentence – […]

  6. charlie Says:

    In the movie, A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More says to the man who gave false testimony at More’s trial, “Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world….but, for Wales?” His updated version for Lori Laughlin, “For USC?”

  7. UD Says:

    charlie: Yes, a weird risk on so many levels. Most successful people in Lori’s world didn’t go to college at all. I guess it’s some sort of evolutionary progress that she cared at all…

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