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Friars Agree to Let Women Use Health Facilities

May 21, 1988|KENNETH REICH | Times Staff Writer

A signed agreement allowing attorney Gloria Allred and the five other women members of the Friars Club of Beverly Hills to use the club's sauna and other health facilities with 24-hours notice was announced Friday, but a club official said that when the women show up, the men may be naked.

Attorney William Sarnoff, chairman of the exclusive 700-member club's legal committee, said he had carefully researched the matter and there is no law preventing men and women from being unclothed in the same room.

Sarnoff noted that language in an agreement worked out in negotiations with Allred and state Board of Equalization member Conway Collis includes the phrase that the 24 hours of notice will be given by the women "so that male members have the opportunity to clothe themselves appropriately."

'Free to Do So'

But he said this does not preclude the men being unclothed, and, "if the women want to come au natural , they are certainly free to do so as well."

Collis said at a news conference he and Allred held in front of the club Friday morning that he agreed that "if the men want to be fools and idiots," the language in the agreement does not prevent them from being so.

Allred said she has already given notice she will use the health facilities for the first time at noon Monday. She said she will be wearing a bathing suit and she would expect the men would either "put clothes on or not come that day."

Allred said she is desirous of "common standards of decency being upheld and I would not be interested in seeing male Friars naked."

Neither Sarnoff nor any other club official showed up at the news conference, and a guard inside the door brusquely told reporters they were not welcome to come inside the club to solicit comment. Sarnoff made his remarks in a telephone interview from his office.

Inducted by Milton Berle

The tense atmosphere of the so-called settlement was strikingly different than the happy occasion last May when club President Milton Berle inducted Allred as the first woman Friars member in the club's 32-year history at a luncheon to which the press was invited.

Berle said at the time that the club hoped many more women would apply "and make the club even more exciting than it is today."

The club has admitted five more women as members since then, but Allred said Friday that when she raised the question of their being permitted to use the health facilities, a number of male members had suggested she resign her membership.

Instead, she pursued the negotiations, with Collis' help, and filed a sex discrimination charge against the club with state authorities.

Sarnoff said the club's board of directors finally, on his advice, decided a few nights ago to admit the women to the health facilities.

But he said he had no idea that Allred would decide to enter so soon. Some of the other women members have said they will not immediately avail themselves of the opportunity.

The club will possibly have to provide shorts for male members who may not desire to be naked, as they have generally been in the past when they used the health facilities, Sarnoff indicated.

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