In this week's cover story, "The Chef and the 'Amigo,'" New Times goes behind the scenes at Palm Beach's oldest country club. When Esdras Cardona, a Guatemalan immigrant and dishwasher at the Everglades Club, was accused of raping a white coworker, the case put a spotlight on the club's long history of racial and religious discrimination. The victim later filed a lawsuit alleging that the Everglades' policies bred "hostility among races."
For decades, the club was known for excluding black and Jewish members. Socialite C.Z. Guest was reportedly punished for bringing Estee Lauder, who was Jewish, to a party, and Sammy Davis Jr.-- who committed the twin sins of being black and Jewish -- was allegedly turned away at the door.
Today, club President William Pannill insists that the Everglades has Jewish members and has never rejected a black applicant because no one has applied. But in a recent court deposition, he gave some strange answers to questions about the religious leanings of his members.
First, he admitted that he couldn't say how many Jewish members there are because "we don't ask them."
"I have friends that are Jewish, I think they are Jewish, but I have no way of knowing because I don't ask them," he said.
Then he acknowledged that members have felt the need to ask his permission to bring Jewish guests.
"I have so-and-so guest in my house, he's the president of some big university, he's Jewish, can I bring him to the Everglades Club?" Pannill testified that they ask. "I say absolutely, no problem at all."
Hmmm. Asking permission to bring a university president to a club. Sounds totally normal, doesn't it? For more of Pannill's commentary on the subject, check out this excerpt from his deposition.