In his 1959 memoir “Groucho and Me” famed comedian and commentator Groucho Marx defended his desire to resign from a prominent Hollywood social club: Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member. Entertainment industry reporters first attributed the quote to Marx in a rift with the famed Friar’s Club. Then for decades, Marx and his children both confirmed and denied how and to whom Marx directed his ire (perhaps to protect the guilty as much as the innocent).
We humans don’t like to be excluded from the club. It doesn’t really matter what the club does or what benefits it might offer – if there is a door and we are on the wrong side of it our collective blood pressure rises. Airports, vineyards, swimming pools, and men’s razor companies have all exploited our need to be “in” when designing their marketing effort. A shaving “Club” must be better than buying a razor the old way… right? There must be some special benefit – it is a “Club” after all. And, airlines have their own strategy. For $50 or so per flight, per day, we can access the storied halls of wealth and power. We can enter the sleek gated doors to find our own place in sanctum sanctorum.
While enduring a five hour layover in sunny Houston airport, a travel partner granted me passage behind the velvet rope. Hosanna! What did I find? Very little. Stale coffee, low quality liquor, dried-out cheese cubes and heavy crowds. The only real advantage may have been to enjoy the longing eyes of the plebeian masses as I exited back to the airport hall to find a working bathroom. Maybe Marx was right. Once you peek behind the gilded door, the magic is gone.