No girls allowed

Ace: I recently discovered a bizarre landmark at 401 West Franklin Street in Richmond: a private sports and social club where women aren’t permitted to set foot. In fact, before I could even open the front door to the Commonwealth Club to inspect the historic (est. 1891) building, I was intercepted by an employee. Can you explain what’s up with that? How does such an archaic tradition sustain itself? And what do men do together when they’re left to their own devices? -Carmen Wealth Clique

Dear Carmen, In 2009 Richmond’s Commonwealth Club is even more exclusive than was Charlottesville’s Farmington Country Club of 1976, when it was still excluding people of a non-white persuasion. That is because the former club (est. 1891) only considers 50% of the population for membership. If you’re not a Virginia gentleman, you’re not allowed. Ace remembers a tree fort he played in as a small child that held the same policy. If a neighbor girl approached, he would hurl water balloons at her. Cut to a couple years later when he was actively trying to entice them inside with Jolly Ranchers and Teen Beat magazines. The point is, Ace grew up. But for a certain glorified tree fort in Richmond, that’s not the case.

The Commonwealth Club is so exclusive that Ace couldn’t even access its website without a login and password. Ace was intrigued. He sent one of his capital-city lady friends to Franklin Street to find out more. Just as you indicated she would be, Ace’s friend was turned away, but not without grilling the security guard for information. Here are the club’s rules, as Ace understands them: 1) Females can work, if not play, at the club – there was even one “manning” the front desk – but they may not venture onto the lower floor where men take their exercise because they might interfere with mysterious bonding rituals involving wet towels; 2) Members can host co-ed parties at the club, but they better have a popped collar dress code and serve ham biscuits and scotch; 3) Just because a place calls itself a gentlemen’s club doesn’t mean it has strippers. Buyer beware!

Perhaps Ace’s ideas about gender equality are too modern for Richmond, but he doesn’t understand the draw of a stuffy, old-fashioned, all-male sports club where women can’t shower together in the locker room. Imagining this scenario is the only thing that gets Ace to the gym. If he wanted to hang out exclusively with sweaty guys, he’d go to boot camp or the San Diego Comic-Con.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.

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No girls allowed?

No girls allowed?

Dear Ace: Has anyone noticed something missing from this season’s list of acts at the Pavilion? There is not a single female act on the bill this year. What’s up with this? Whatever the reason, they should have an all-female schedule next year to make up for this season’s male-only lineup. One can only hope!—Lylith


Dear Lylith: In the interest of fairness, Ace feels compelled to point out that there’s actually a number of female performers at the Pavilion this year. Three, to be exact.
    Fetching femme crooner Anna Nalick opened for Train at their benefit concert in June. Marti Dodson of the band Saving Jane opened for “American Idol”’s Bo Bice on July 22. And local folk songstress Terri Allard will bring her tunes to the venue in August for Fridays After 5. And if you include The Young Divorcees (of Jim Waive & The Young Divorcees, who play the Pavilion a week after Ms. Allard), the count rises to a total of five. Five, I say! If you were Mickey Mouse, you wouldn’t even be able to count them all on one hand.
    What’s more, reliable sources tell Ace that a number of women are in the Charlottesville Municipal Band, which will be putting on several free shows throughout the summer.
    But, Ace grants you, the ratio of female to male big-name artists at the Pavilion this year has been rather small. Is it possible that the malevolent hand of rampant misogyny and sexism is guiding the selection of acts at Charlottesville’s Pavilion?
    In a word, no. Ace got a hold of Kirby Hutto, general manager of the Pavilion, who assured Ace that he loves the ladies. According to Hutto, “when we can get a top female artist for the Pavilion, we’re absolutely going to pursue that.”
    “Lots of times you’ll have artists that are going out, and they’ll have a limited number of dates. And then you have all the various venues that are essentially competing for that limited number of dates. Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes we don’t.”
    Hutto also noted that, at the beginning of the year, employees of his company, Red Light Management, made a list of acts they personally wanted to bring to the Pavilion. “There were a lot of female artists on there. Unfortunately half of them are not touring this year at all, and the other half, for whatever reason, we have not been able to secure a date with.”
    There you have it, Lylith. As for your suggestion that next year include only female acts, Ace is only too happy to agree.

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Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

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