"Let Them Win": Tales of Life Inside the Everglades Club

Aside from the racial and religious discrimination discussed in this week's New Times cover story about the Everglades Club, there are some more eccentricities worth noting about life at the exclusive Palm Beach country club.

First, there's a significant portion of gray hair on the Worth Avenue campus. The average member is in his 60s, one member noted, and 34 people died last year, which amounts to about 3 percent of the membership roster.

Along with that aging population comes some peculiar rules: Men are required to wear a coat and tie to all club events -- which makes stopping in for a drink after a golf game difficult. In fact, some standard Floridian clothing is prohibited throughout the club's grounds, including T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, and "bathing attire," according to Ronald Kessler's investigative book about Palm Beach, The Season.

Also, tipping of the staff is strictly prohibited. Club President William Pannill says tips would encourage waiters and waitresses to provide unequal service to people who give them extra cash. "We pay the employees well, and we don't want people tipping them," he says.

Despite this hardship, many current and former workers have high praise for the club's members, who pay around $10,000 to join. "Members of the Everglades Club are absolutely terrific," one former employee said. "They're absolutely the nicest people." 

But there's still a caste system at the club. Unlike some of the smaller country clubs on Palm Beach, the Everglades attracts an extraordinarily rich crowd. "We're talking billionaires," one current employee said.

Where the Beach Club on Palm Beach might have members who are doctors, lawyers, and real estate professionals, the Everglades members are heads of large companies, own three or four homes, and often live on the island just four months out the year, between jaunts to Europe or their northern homes in Maine or Rhode Island.

These people are accustomed to being waited on; they have their own household staffs. And as the employee noted, they are not the type who like to lose a game of golf or tennis.

"You let them win, so that they look good," the employee said.

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