Politics and poker
Makes the av'rage guy
A heavy smoker."
The native habitat of the Blue Blood, these social groups are secretive, mysterious and ruthlessly exclusive. Expect to see a lot of besuited, bemonocled old white men, reclining with snifters of brandy in tufted red leather armchairs in a wood-panelled library of their private club, smoking cigars or pipes. Leather bound volumes surround them and most members have the Financial Times open to check on their investments. White-gloved, black-suited servers glide silently in and out to refill drinks or take food orders.
Malicious versions of these clubs tend to feature evil aristocrats and/or corrupt corporate executives, all pulling the strings of society for their own benefit. The Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club can also look like this, although it usually caters to a... less genteel clientele and it has 300 pound bouncers at the doors. If it doubles as an Adventurer's Club, but skews more towards this, then the members are likely Evil Colonialists planning their next resource-harvesting foray into Africa or South America.
Alternatively, they're just a Brotherhood of Funny Hats, where upper-class men can be out from under the feet of their wives. Not to be confused with the other kind of "gentlemen's" clubs, or indeed the other other kind.
Clubs like this generally seem to be named according to similar rules to a Mad Lib Thriller Title; "The [esoteric noun or Classical mythology name] Club". If you are invited into the inner sanctum for a glass of vintage port, you may see a decades-old Secret Society Group Picture of the founders.
In Real Life, gentlemen's clubs had their heyday during the Regency and Edwardian eras. They were a place for well-off men to be able to get away from their families and do manly pursuits such as gambling, billiards, drinking and smoking. The strict, class-based membership rules, high fees and dress code ensured everyone was the "right sort of person." The club was also a place for networking, gossiping, and trading favors.
- The "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch, originating in the 1967 British television comedy series At Last the 1948 Show and later done by Monty Python and others, in which the four participants recount increasingly absurd recollections of how hard they had it in the "old days", is usually set in either a classy restaurant or gentleman's club.
- Astro City has Butler's: an upper class club where superheroes can relax in their secret identities (and formal wear) while the staff wear masks. Discretion is absolutely guaranteed.
- Batman villain 'Boss' Rupert Thorne did most of his dirty dealings out of one of these called The Tobacconists Club.
- The Hellfire Club of X-Men have a smoke filled room thing going on in some of the 19th century plotlines, when Dark Phoenix goes back in time with Sebastian Shaw.
- The modern-day version affects the appearance of one of these as their cover.
- "The Club of Deep Thinkers" is a Disney comic strip based on The Great Mouse Detective, with the eponymous club being where the wisest and cleverest of London's mice sit in deep (and mostly abstract and detached from reality) thought. Naturally, Basil's previously unmentioned brother Clifford is a member.
- In Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Bruce and Harvey belong to one called The Dionysus Club, which apparently counts most of Gotham's young, ruling class males as members. Bruce smuggles Selina in in a none-too-convincing male disguise.
- The beginning of Around the World in 80 Days (1956).
- The Peabody Club in The Associate.
- Steed is a member of one in The Avengers (1998). The members are scandalized when Mrs. Peel barges in to speak with him.
- Brannigan. British Fair Cop Jennifer has to wait outside while Brannigan goes in to see her boss Commander Swann at the mens' only Garrick Club. The scene could only be filmed on location because Richard Attenborough (playing Swann) was a long time member of the club.
- There's one in the Plaza in the Eloise At Christmastime Made-for-TV Movie.
- The Errol Flynn picture Gentleman Jim features San Francisco's Olympic Club.
- Heroic example - Good Night, and Good Luck..
- Parodied in Lucky Luke and the Daltons. The meeting room in a railroad carriage where Lucky Luke meets the politicians who hire him is covered in a large, thick, barely transparent cloud of tobacco smoke, descending to as low as waist level.
- In Fritz Lang's M, one of these groups is seen discussing the child murderer on the loose, right before a group of lower class people do the same. It's meant to show how widespread the topic is, as well as show that the two extremes are not so different from one another (a major theme of the work).
- In The Ripper (1997), Sir Charles invites Jim to his club, where he meets Prince Albert.
- In Scanners, Dr. Ruth is relaxing in a comfy leather chair in such an establishment when Vale calls him over the phone to report back to him.
- Thank You for Smoking - the MOD Squad's lunches.
- Jerry waits for Horace in one at the start of Top Hat. Their silence rule and their attitude annoy him, so he does a short but loud tap dance for them as he leaves.
- Trading Places: Louis, all his friends and coworkers, and the Duke brothers are all members of the same one. The Dukes get Louis kicked out by framing him for stealing cash from the coat closet.
- Training Day: Alonzo meets with three powerful members of local law enforcement, whom he deems the Three Wise Men, in some sort of smoky establishment implied to be one of these.
- In Around the World in Eighty Days, the Reform Club, where Phileas Fogg goes to read papers and play whist, is quintessential to the novel's key bet, as it arose from the card table discussion of a newspaper article Fogg had read recently.
- In the Stephen King novella The Breathing Method, the narrator attends a gentlemen's club which features storytelling as well as the usual socializing, brandy-drinking and the like. There's something eerie about the club, but we never find out exactly what it is.
- Lampshaded in Deathlands, where apparently these still exist After the End.
He still had his secrets, though there were many who plotted and schemed in smoke-filled rooms to wrest them from him, many who saw him as the ultimate block to their own acquisition of power.
- The unnamed get-togethers where brandy-swilling men plot the replacement of the Patrician in Feet of Clay and The Truth fit the sinister version of the trope. It's also commented on by Sam Vimes that everyone wants to believe these exist and are responsible for the Crapsack World, because it avoids thinking about how many of their problems are actually caused by people just like them.
- Fidgett's in Thief of Time is a refuge for gentlemen who have spent their lives being ordered around by mothers, nurses, governesses and wives, where they can sit back, eat unhealthy food, and take naps under tented newspapers. Death is a member, since he fulfills all the qualifications of a gentleman: he has an estate in the country (indeed, his own Domain), is unfailingly polite and very punctual, and of course is an excellent horseman. Susan is able to gain admittance to find him because, since women are only allowed inside Fidgett's during a small, specified timeframe, its members assume any woman they see outside that timeframe must be a hallucination.
- The Drones Club in P. G. Wodehouse is another heroic version (insofar as Upper Class Twits can be considered heroic); membership includes Bertie Wooster, Rupert Psmith, Freddie Threepwood, and most of their friends. Jeeves meanwhile mingles with his fellow valets at the Junior Ganymede.
- The Exeter Club/White Lodge in the Elemental Masters series passes itself off as one of these (going so far as to pension off male servants to sit in the padded leather chairs and read the newspaper/nap) as a cover.
- In It All Started with Columbus, poor visibility in the smoke-filled room where the Republicans held their presidential convention in 1920 led them to nominate Warren G. Harding because they mistook him for Herbert Hoover.
- James Bond's boss, M, is a member of one of these called Blades (which also features in the film Die Another Day); at the beginning of Moonraker he invites Bond along because he suspects one of the other club members is habitually cheating at cards, and he wants Bond to work out how it's being done so the club officials can take appropriate action. (And yes, this does turn out to be relevant to the rest of the plot.)
- Kingsley Amis noted that how M got a membership in the club is a bit of a mystery; Fleming's description of the club states that a member must be able to 'show' £100,000 in cash or gilt-edged securities (i.e. government bonds)... which equates to just shy of two million pounds in 2015 money. M doesn't earn anywhere near that much in his job.
- Lord Peter Wimsey is also a member of more than one Smoky Gentlemen's Club; the novel The Unpleasantness At The Bellona Club mostly takes place within one of them.
- Herman Melville's short story "The Paradise of Bachelors" is about one of these. It had once been a knightly military order, but has since atrophied into a bunch of rich old men who eat very well, and are all very happy not to have any women in their lives. The story's companion piece, "The Tartarus of Maids", is about a workhouse full of unmarried women and widows, many of whom come from wealthy families. The two stories point out the gender discrepancies of Melville's day, and the unfairness of women being unable to support themselves.
- Phryne Fisher belongs to a female version of one of these.
- Sherlock Holmes:
- Holmes' brother Mycroft belongs to the Diogenes Club — a club for antisocial gentlemen, which treasures silence so much that talking in any room save the Strangers' Room is an offense punishable by expulsion. Sherlock is also apparently a member, as he remarks to Watson he finds it a "soothing atmosphere".
- In "The Bruce-Partington Plans" Mycroft is revealed to have a vital position in the British government (synthesizing reports from different services and presenting how each will affect the other), and as an extension of this, many adaptations and pastiches enjoy portraying the Diogenes Club as a front for some kind of secret governmental organisation or the prototype of the Secret Intelligence Service.
- Watson, as a middle-class professional, is also a member of an (unnamed) club, where he hangs out and plays billiards when he wants to escape from Holmes' malodorous chain smoking and chemical experiments for a few hours.
- The Return of Sherlock Holmes indirectly features one: After Moriarty's death, his Number Two Colonel Moran makes a living by cheating at cards at his club. His partner, horrified at such a breach of conduct yet unwilling to cause a scandal implicating a senior club member, privately informed him that he must restore his ill-gotten gains, and was working out how much he should return as well when Moran shot him.
- The Hound of the D'Urbervilles invented the Xeniades Club as an Evil Counterpart of the Diogenes above (it was founded by Professor Moriarty's older brother). In a direct contrast, it's noted to be for social types who aren't wanted anywhere else, and it encourages lively debate so it's the noisiest club in London. Like Diogenes, there are also hints that it's a cover for something more: specifically, the creation of weapons of mass destruction for the British government.
- The House of Silk features a well-kept, tastefully decorated brothel for those gentlemen whose tastes run towards raping young boys.
- Reginald and Murgatroyd of Silicon Wolfpack are members as well. The author must think it's a Public Domain Location.
- "Talma Gordon": The Canterbury Club of Boston's members are of high social standing. Aside from Dr. Thornton, they include a jurist/politician, a theologian, and a college president.
- Between the Lines (1992). Tony Clark meets John Deakin in one of them, and annoys the residents when his fancy new mobile phone rings and he doesn't know how to answer it. One of the old duffers grabs the phone off him and swiftly presses the correct buttons to do so.
- Billions: Charles Rhoades Senior belongs to one, establishing him as a Blue Blood in contrast to the Nouveau Riche Axelrod.
- The Season Four opening arc of Bones, "Yanks in the U.K.", included a visit to a Gentlemen's Club. The American implications of the term are discussed.
- Day Break (2006): The Santayana club caters to the government and business elites of the city. Hopper has to infiltrate it to pursue a lead, since Alberto Garza was a key member. So are the bad guys, including Detweiler, Booth, and Colburn.
- Lucien Blake belongs to one of these—The Colonists Club—in The Doctor Blake Mysteries, because his father had been a member. He keeps doing things to deliberately upset the stuffiness of the other members.
- "Rowley Birkin, QC" of The Fast Show seems to be speaking from a club like this.
- Paul Whitehouse did it again in Harry and Paul, where he and Harry Enfield play a pair of homophobic old men.
- One episode of Frasier sees Frasier and Niles competing for a recent membership opening in one of these. The club accepts Frasier but on his first night there he realises there's been a mix-up and they actually wanted Niles. He attempts to step aside only for Niles to arrive and deliver a speech about how he doesn't want to be in the club anyway. As a result, both brothers are kicked out and told not to return.
- Good Omens (2019): As in the book, Aziraphale's gavotte club is mentioned.
- The government members were often shown plotting backroom deals in one of these clubs in House Rules.
- In the episode "Zip Zip Zip" of How I Met Your Mother, Barney takes Robin to one of these and in a subversion of this trope they dork out, high five, then go play laser tag.
- Interview with the Vampire (2022): Tom Anderson hosts an informal one at the Fairplay Saloon in the form of a private poker game where he invites a handful of (mostly) white, upper-class businessmen and politicians to discuss commerce as they smoke, drink and bet while playing cards. Louis de Pointe du Lac later takes up the mantle after he buys the Fairplay Saloon from Tom and changes its name to the Azalea.
- Parodied with the Drones' Club in Jeeves and Wooster. The decor and the venerable servants fit perfectly with the trope's imagery, but all the members are young Upper Clas Twits who treat the place like a frat house.
- A subplot in the Lois & Clark episode "Chi of Steel" revolves around Perry White's membership in one of these; Lois manages to sneak in in disguise.
- The Murder, She Wrote episode "The Committee" is set at one, where Jessica has been invited to be their first female speaker (with her friend suggesting that he's also pushing for female members). The inevitable murder is complicated by the club's arcane rules and belief that it's a law unto itself.
- The Professionals. Cowley is well versed in the corridors of power, so knows them well. Played for laughs in "Slush Fund" when he's meeting a publisher in one, and interrupts his conversation to wake up one of the old duffers who's fallen asleep in his chair. In "Not A Very Civil Civil Servant" he brings Bodie in with him to the disapproval of the Old Soldier he's meeting, even though Bodie is ex-military himself.
- In the 1996 mini-series Rhodes, Barney Barnato smugly refuses a name-your-price under-the-table offer from Cecil Rhodes to buy his rival diamond interests. However he's more amenable when Rhodes gets him membership of the Kimberley Club, which as a Jew of lower-class background he'd never have a chance of getting into.
- As in the books (see above), Mycroft Holmes is a member of the Diogenes Club in Sherlock; in this continuity it seems to be one for government employees. When Watson storms in loudly demanding to see him, he encounters a lot of angry, stuttering old duffers in chairs before being gagged and dragged into a back room. Apparently there's a strict code of silence in the main club to avoid members revealing any vital state secrets.
- At least two episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959): "Back There" and "The Silence", seem to be set in this sort of club.
- The "Humphrey and Godfrey" sketches in The Two Ronnies.
- As per tradition, the haunt of Sir Humphrey and his fellow senior civil servants in Yes, Minister, discussing what really needs to be done for Britain, in spite of elected politicians' ambitions, and how to best run around their political masters.
- The X-Files hints at this: Cigarette-Smoking Man and his fellow-conspirators are often seen having grave secret meetings in smoky rooms, which often look old and expensive.
- Finnemore, the narrator in John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, is generally introduced speaking from his club and/or sets the beginning of his stories in it. Common activities beyond the usual drinking and smoking seem to involve storytelling and bizarre Edwardian varieties of Calvinball.
Finnemore: We were engaged in a game of Hey Ho Rumbelow!, in which we would line up the six smallest members of the club and attempt to knock them down with the fattest member — all without waking the sleepiest member.
- Cats: Bustopher Jones, "the Cat About Town", is among the elite of the cats, and visits prestigious gentlemen's clubs.
Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones
In fact, he's remarkably fat
He doesn't haunt pubs, he has eight or nine clubs
For he's the St. James' Street cat
- Fiorello! has the Ben Marino Association, a smoke-filled joint in Greenwich Village where Tammany Hall hacks meet and play five-card stud as they try to determine the winner and the loser of the next municipal election.
- The National Campaign Committee (a mostly unseen group of people) in the musical Of Thee I Sing. Their headquarters is a shabby hotel room suffused with cigar smoke, and more than a few bottles of White Rock (this was during Prohibition). "It's not that they couldn't afford a better hotel, for the party is notoriously rich," the script explains, "but somehow this room seems thoroughly in keeping with the men who occupy it."
- Dracula Unleashed has the prestigious Hades Club, which American protagonist Alexander Morris is sponsored into by the wealthy Arthur Holmwood. Considering that Arthur is actually Dracula in disguise, this was likely for the purposes of keeping an eye on Alexander and distracting him from looking into his brother Quincey's death.
- In Fallout 4, the Sole Survivor is able to enter the premises of the Boylston Club, a pre-War club made from the highest leaders of the Commonwealth and the United States (presidents, governors, Supreme Court justices, etc.) and their descendents. Days after the bombs fell, a special meeting was slated for the end of the month, where they all made speeches about how the nuclear doom removed from them any will to live in a destroyed world, causing their mass suicide by poisoned wine.
- The Protectors of the Plot Continuum have the Pennacook Club, HQ's only private bar. Nobody gets in without an invitation from someone already a member, and even then there's no guarantees, a formal dress code is enforced, and the décor is full of antique leather and the like.
- Lois' father in Family Guy frequents a club like this.
- One gag involves a London gentlemen's club that resembles the above-mentioned Diogenes Club in both location and most famous trait (if only to the letter of the law).
- The League of Robots from the Futurama movie "Beast with a Billion Backs" is a parody of this. Bender believes them to be secretly plotting to rise up and kill all humans. In reality, they're just five or six robots who enjoy getting together to drink, smoke, and occasionally talk catty about humans.
- "The World of Commander McBragg" on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales always started with McBragg in his gentlemen's club, telling a Tall Tale to his fellow members.
- The craze for establishing social clubs, in England at least, really caught on during the Regency. Due to the Napoleonic War the English upper class were prevented from participating in fashionable European society and therefore had to look to each other for amusement. The original clubs were exclusive to aristocrats, but later clubs extended membership towards the middle-classes. By the Edwardian Era, there was a club for everyone: soldiers, civil servants, colonial service members, doctors, reform politicians, artists, sportsmen, Scotsmen etc. Each club generally provided a place for political discussion, gambling, fine dining, and a healthy amount of nepotism and insider dealing. Every reputable man of a good trade or living was expected to participate in at least one club, and those who do not were seen as dangerously anti-social.
- Working Men's Clubs started out as something a bit similar, albeit less expensive, but nowadays are mostly indistinguishable from British Pubs.
- Cigar bars and tobacconist shops with smoking lounges aren't nearly as common as they used to be, but can still be found today. Anti-smoking laws tend to give them a little extra leeway in the form of carveouts and grandfather clauses, simply because patrons of such establishments know exactly what to expect when they walk in (and some of the people voting on such laws may be patrons themselves). Big, comfy chairs and sofas are a given.
- The Studentenverbindung is a distant society cousin of the gentleman's club, widespread in the Germanosphere.
- Imitating the British model, France saw its first clubs emerge in the 1830s: for exemple, the Jockey Club was created in 1836, ostensibly to promote horse breeding; it is the most elitist today, the preserve of the nobility and old money burghers. Relatively less selective clubs include the Cercle de l'Union interalliée (created during World War I for allied military officers) and the Automobile Club of France.