City chaps, have none of you read the news recently ? Have none of you noticed that the former Minister of Defence, Michael Fallon, resigned from government because he touched the knee of a women journalist and lunged at other female hacks for post-prandial lunch kisses?
Or that the First Secretary of State and de facto deputy prime minister, Damian Green, was fired for supposedly making a pass at a journalist in a bar and sending her sleazy texts about her corset – as well as allegedly watching porn at work?
Or are City types, and their friends in the world of business, so busy making money that they did not bother reading front page news that, after Harvey Weinstein was brought down by allegations of lurid sex pest allegations, treating women as sexual ornaments had become passe?
They will be sitting upright now. And it’s in their own club newspaper: the Financial Times. With the most excruciating detail, the FT has exposed that the ‘men’s only’ annual charity gala hosted by the President’s Club at the Dorchester Hotel is none other than a revolting and tawdry stag night for sad old men trying their best to pet and pursue young ‘tall, thin and pretty’ hostesses.
The FT’s undercover reporter, Madison Marriage (great name) says the 130 women – students and out of work actresses – were paid £150 a night to attend last week’s dinner as hostesses to look after the 360 or so businessmen. What in fact transpired, was that many of them were groped, leered at and pulled on to laps in an inexcusably Harvey Weinstein-esque fashion.
Marriage writes: The task of finding women for the dinner is entrusted to Caroline Dandridge, founder of Artista, an agency specialising in hosts and hostesses for what it claims to be some of the “UK’s most prestigious occasions”.
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Dandridge is quoted as saying: “It’s a Marmite job. Some girls love it, and for other girls it’s the worst job of their life and they will never do it again.
The report goes on: At their initial interviews, women were warned by Ms Dandridge that the men in attendance might be “annoying” or try to get the hostesses “pissed”. One hostess was advised to lie to her boyfriend about the fact it was a male-only event. “Tell him it’s a charity dinner,” she was told.
Two days before the event, Ms Dandridge told prospective hostesses by email that their phones would be “safely locked away” for the evening and that boyfriends and girlfriends were not welcome at the venue.
If you were in any doubt about the outcome of the evening, here is Marriage with some delicious detail:
The uniform requirements also became more detailed: all hostesses should bring “BLACK sexy shoes”, black underwear, and do their hair and make-up as they would to go to a “smart sexy place”. Dresses and belts would be supplied on the day.
For those who met the three specific selection criteria (“tall, thin and pretty”) a job paying £150, plus £25 for a taxi home, began at 4pm.
Towards 7pm, during a staff buffet dinner, Ms Dandridge entered wearing a smart black suit and gave a briefing; she said if any of the men became “too annoying”, the hostesses should contact her.
Hostess uniforms were distributed — short tight black dresses, black high heels and a thick black belt resembling a corset. Once dressed, the hostesses were offered a glass of white wine during the final countdown to their entrance into the ballroom.
As the 8pm start time approached, all of the hostesses were told to form two lines in height order, tallest women first, ready to parade across the stage as music began to boom across the venue: “Power”, by British girl band Little Mix.
Well, what can you say. While it’s inexcusable, to be fair, the women who were hired for the hostessing must have had a pretty good idea about the sort of gropefest they were being roped into.
The question is why did 360 of some of the country’s top financiers, hedge funders, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders pay top-dollar to attend the charity event when they too knew what was on offer?
The answer lies in the question: they knew exactly what was on offer, and that’s why they went. According to the FT, those listed to attend as included big business hitters such as Philip Green of Arcadia Group, Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones, and Ocado boss Tim Steiner, financiers such as Henry Gabay, founder of hedge fund Duet Group, and Makram Azar, the head of Barclays’ investment bank’s Middle East business. Politicians were also present: Tory MP, Nadhim Zahawi, newly appointed undersecretary of state for children and families, attended – but left mid-way in the evening because he is said to have been ‘uncomfortable’. Jonathan Mendelsohn, a Labour peer and party fundraiser, was also present.
Good for Zahawi that he found himself uncomfortable, but most of those present would have known what comforts to expect. The secretive dinner has been taking place for 33 years, and it’s one of the most infamous on the social calendar.
Nor does President’s Club make any secret about what’s on offer: the compere, Jonny Gould, opened up the dinner in the Dorchester’s ballroom with these words: “Welcome to the most un-PC event of the year.”
It certainly was. For anyone to pretend anything else is naive. Although there will have been some embarrassed faces at the Bank of England and the Foreign Office this morning after the report also revealed that tea with the governor, Mark Carney, and lunch with Boris Johnson were being offered as prizes for the auction. As far as one knows, neither were asked to be dressed in little black dresses and sexy underwear. Thank heavens for that.
Like politicians, many City financiers and businessmen have enjoyed what can only be described as a rumbustious and parrying relationship with the female sex. Until recently, the City was renowned for restaurants such as the City Circle, where buxom, scantily dressed waitresses waited on champagne-sodden traders and brokers and no one lifted an eyebrow.
It was an unhealthily, male-dominated world in which women were only included if they behaved – and played – as one of the boys. I’ll never forget Elizabeth Sullivan, the first woman to work on the London Stock Exchange floor, telling me that her nickname was Sweaty Betty – not because of her body odour – but because she wore such strong perfume. Another of her colleagues was named Anne Boleyn, because she had a pretty body but not such a pretty face.
Fortunately, most of that sort of language and behaviour has gone from the trading floors and the workplace. But clearly not yet from their after hour social lives. Time to grow up boys.