Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ladies Invited

I was reading through a November, 1955 Gourmet and ran across this ad for Gourmet's Guest Club. This is actually an ad for a credit card offered to Gourmet subscribers. This was way back in the Diner's Club days. But what I find most interesting about this ad is that it is directed toward the "lady executive" who might feel uncomfortable, or more likely, her male luncheon guest might feel uncomfortable, with the woman paying. As it says in the ad, "No money on the table, no battling over the check."

This is particularly interesting because as I read through all these old restaurant ads it becomes clear that many restaurants restricted the hours in which women could dine. For example, The St. Regis on Fifth Avenue has an ad that reads, "ladies are invited after 4 o'clock." This says to me that ladies are definitely NOT invited before 4. So what do you think is going on there during lunchtime? Pissing contests? Dancing girls? No, I think what's going on there is business and drinks. Okay, and maybe cussing, but the point is that the whole idea is exclusionary and presented a real hurdle to business women.

When I first moved to Chicago I worked at the Chicago Sports Bar and Grill, a real shithole in the financial district of the Loop. I think they hired me because I was white. The place was right out of an old movie, electricians and contractors came in for lunch and drank until we closed at 8. Cops ate free and there was this one cop who, in uniform, would do this joke which involved him HANDING ME HIS GUN! and then dropping his pants. Once in a while this group of men in suits came in before we opened, like at 9:30 or something. I wasn't allowed to speak to them unless they spoke to me first. They gave me a 20 every time I brought them a round. As you can imagine, very lucrative. Anyway, there was this geezer who came in all the time and drank his lunch and told me about the good ole' days when the Berghoff (contentiously Chicago's oldest restaurant) had a men's only bar and women had to have their cocktails at a booth. That is, of course, until "those feminists ruined it."

So I was really impressed by this ad that came out almost 50 years before my tenure at The Chicago Sports Bar and Grill and how forward thinking they were, how sensitive to the difficulties of the needs of female executives. And it was an untapped market, of course. American Express bought them out, which I still think of as the credit card of the businessman.


StephC said...

I think I would like a bar in which men's hours were restricted...

Terri said...

Yes, I could see the point of this. Before I moved to Chicago in 2000 I read an article about women's clubs, you know, like from the turn of the century. There was still one left in the 1990s. I imagined lots of chaise lounges, iced tea, newspapers. I don't know if it's still there. I can't imagine it is or I'd be there right now.