A men-only charity gala in London, United Kingdom, became a source of controversy after hostesses made horrific sexual harassment allegations against senior businessmen and politicians who attended the event.
Called the President Club Charity Dinner, the event has been held every year in January for the past 33 years. The gathering is supposed to raise funds for worthy causes such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, the famed children’s hospital in London. The charity dinner is attended by big names from Britain’s business, finance, politics and entertainment industry and the invites this year encouraged attendees to spend $2,000 per head, bringing friends and acquaintances to the Dorchester hotel.
However, the event had some very unusual features: The men-only crowd bid on shady auction items like a night at Soho’s Windmill strip club and a course of plastic surgery to “add spice to your wife.”
The 360 attendees were also served champagne by 130 “hostesses” in skimpy dresses — many of who reported groping and other lewd acts by the guests.
The discovery was made by reporters of Financial Times who went undercover to expose the seedy “charity” gala.
The event had 130 women serving as hostesses. Many of them were students hoping to earn some extra cash while they studied at becoming marketing executives or lawyers. Some were models, dancers or actresses picking up a side gig.
All of them were given non-disclosure agreements to sign. They were not given a chance to read its term and conditions and were not allowed to take a copy back home. The young women were paid a paltry sum of 150 pounds ($213), plus a $35 taxi allowance.
They women were supposed to talk and as the evening progressed, dance with the middle-aged men. However, they were told to come wearing black underwear and “black sexy heel” and do their hair and makeup as if they were attending a “smart sexy place.” They were provided very skimpy dresses to wear and a thick, black belt that resembled a corset.
Things got steadily worse as many of the hostesses were subjected to groping and lewd comments. Hostesses reported men trying to get their hands under their skirts. One said a guest exposed his genitals to her. Another said she was repeatedly fondled and one man lunged up to kiss her. A woman said an attendee asked her to go upstairs to his room.
The charity received a swift backlash after the story was exposed. Donors, including Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Evelina Hospital, said they would return the money received from the President’s Club while corporate sponsor WPP, an advertising group, said it was severing ties with the organization
Several politicians also denounced the event.
“Women were bought as bait for men, for rich men, not a mile from where we stand, as if that is acceptable behavior. It is totally unacceptable,” lawmaker Jess Phillips told parliament.
By the end of the day, the President Club announced it will shut down and will no longer host any fundraising events.
"Remaining funds will be distributed in an efficient manner to children’s charities and it will then be closed," the charity said in a statement.
David Meller, one of co-chairmen of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust, also stepped down from his position of the non-executive board member at the education ministry as the backlash intensified.
The Bank of England was also dragged into the controversy, because of one of the prizes offered up for auction at the event included tea with Governor Mark Carney. However, the bank said it had not approved the prize nor had any contact with the organizers.
A lunch with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was also included as the price but a Theresa May spokesman said Johnson was not aware of this.
The appalling charity was held at a time when women of the world are rising up to tear down rampant sexual harassment and systemic objectification of women. However, it doesn’t seem the British elite society is listening.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Carlo Allegri