Tuesday, May 20, 1997
Private clubs, 'Ellen'
and public debate


BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

This time, poor Marty was so disgusted he almost couldn't bring himself to call and leave an insulting message. I really must have outdone myself.

"Why don't you just shut up?" he said to my voice mail with his typical charm.

"I almost didn't call you," he continued, "because this is just another case of you being a stupid women's libber. There are probably plenty of people madder than me because I can't afford to belong to the kind of clubs you are trashing. So I don't have too much to say, except that I hope the men of this city land all over you."

Your confidence in your fellow man was not misplaced, Marty.

By the way, every time I quote Marty, the response is nearly evenly split between readers who believe they know his true identity and those who are certain I have invented him. He is real. I would have invented somebody who thinks I am brilliant and witty.

A gathering of fat cats

Just before a bill was introduced in the Ohio House to ban race and gender discrimination at private clubs, I suggested that, "Instead of prohibiting large gatherings of the intolerant, perhaps we should encourage them to step forward together. It really would be handier to know exactly who they are."

Marty's point about the economics of exclusion is more eloquently expressed by Bob Steele of Madeira.

"Even if they admitted women and blacks, the composition of the clubs would not be altered markedly. The club membership would still be exclusively fat cats, except it would now have a few female fat cats and black fat cats. I do not see this as any great advance for our society."

He then suggests that I investigate something more important than "the angst of the wealthiest 2 percent of our population whose major life problem consists of not being allowed inside the gates of some plush country club."

Most responses were considerably more heated. And personal. (Thanks awfully for the advice, "White Guy from Milford," but I do not think that I have the anatomical flexibility to accommodate your suggestion. And, Mr. Anonymous from Northern Kentucky, if I could afford a Ping golf club, I do not think that I would abuse it in the manner you recommend.)

Although I was a little surprised by the ferocity of the blast from the clubhouse, I was amazed by the civility of the debate about Ellen DeGeneres and her decision to talk about being gay.

Ellen and company

"Ellen has a delightful personality, and I enjoy her sense of humor," wrote S.E. of Northside. "Nevertheless, I will not watch her show again. I will not contribute to the notion that just because the person is likeable, then all of their behavior must be likeable and acceptable."

Several of those likeable people also wrote. "We live quiet, peaceful lives - enjoying our music, garden, cats, reading and our kids and grandkids. We are teachers, artists, musicians." And I got calls and letters from families and friends of gays and lesbians. "My husband and I are parents of a gay son and are quite weary of those who continually target gay people as perverts. We hope that as more and more kids and their parents come out, folks will realize that gay people are, well, just the people next door," writes a Bevis woman.

Recently, I was approached by a tiny woman, expensively dressed, with her silver hair exquisitely coiffed. Quite elderly, she walked with the aid of a cane. "I wanted to talk to you about your, er, Ellen column."

Uh oh.

"My granddaughter is a lesbian," she said more firmly. "And I know that she has talked with others about her life. But she has never spoken to me of this, and I am afraid it is because she believes I would no longer love her."

She paused, and her pale blue eyes filled with tears. "Such is not the case," she said more firmly still. "But I never knew quite how to approach this subject. I wanted you to know that I cut your column out of the newspaper and mailed it to her with a note saying that perhaps we might talk about this."

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio, and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.

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