150 YEARS OF ART from the Union Club Collection

This is the final event in our year-long celebration of 150 years since the union of British Columbia with Canada. Drawn from the Club’s art collection, each of the 16 works has been selected to represent a decade in the 150 years since 1871.

150 YEARS OF ART: 1870-1880 Lake and Stream Pen and ink on paper, ca. 1875 Signed MOKE
Collection of The Union Club of British Columbia 2016.01.08. a/b

The founding members of the Club were mainly professionals: surveyors, engineers, architects, military personnel. The quick field-sketch, as represented here,was part of their professional skill-set.

A Beginner’s Guide to Solar Wind

In celebration of the International Day of Light 2021, Club member Natasha van Bentum has put together an informative website as an introduction to the topic of “Solar Winds”.

This website is for people of all ages who are looking to learn more about solar physics.

While admittedly “basic” (from the website creator herself), this website offers a complete summary of this fascinating topic:


The Quartet is Now a Quintet!

Union Club member Henri van Bentum is proud to announce that the previously announced quartet of children’s books is now a quintet!  Mr. van Bentum has released his fifth children’s book!

Henri’s charming new children’s fable is titled “Three Mermaids’ Escapades in the Coral Reef and Kelp Forest”

In this fable, we meet Poseidon, Lord of the Sea, and his three granddaughters — Topaz, Ruby and Sapphire. Each mermaid is given a mission which takes them to the realm of coral reefs and kelp forests. Join in their adventures, and learn about the vital role coral reefs and kelp forests play in the health of our planet.

Henri van Bentum says: “We’ve just published our fifth children’s book. I wrote the story (a fable), in collaboration with our friend in Arizona, PJ Heyliger, who created the delightful illustrations. We’re a couple of youngsters — PJ is 82 and I’m 91 years young.

The title is “Three Mermaids’ Escapades in the Coral Reef and Kelp Forest.”   The three mermaids are granddaughters of Poseidon, Lord of the Sea.

Enjoy the whimsical illustrations and join in the adventure.

Along the way, learn about the important role of both coral reefs and kelp forests in the health of our planet.”

To learn more about “Three Mermaids’ Escapades in the Coral Reef and Kelp Forest”, or to purchase your copy, please click here.

AGGV: Winter Small Works Group Show & Sale

Have some shopping left to do? The AGGV Gallery Shop has a great selection of gifts for everyone on your holiday list. Items include; local handmade pottery, jewelry, woodcraft, glass art, textiles, books, exhibition catalogues, magazines, posters, art cards, home goods, stationery, puzzles, children’s games and toys and a beautiful selection of holiday ornaments and decorations.

The Gallery Shop works with local artists and artisans to source many of the products available. The shop is located at the AGGV entrance and does not require an entrance fee to browse or purchase. 

The Gallery Shop is ready for Christmas 2020.

The Gallery is open 6 days a week and admission to the Gallery Shop and Art Rental & Sales is free at all times.

Arlo & Oliver Do Goat Yoga

Past President Edward Kisling is now a published author! During COVID-19, Ed found himslef with extra time on his hands and decided to craft a children’s book featuring his grandsons, Arlo and Oliver!

“Join Arlo and Oliver as they take you on a tour of their farm where they do goat yoga. You can practice the yoga poses and meet the other animals on the farm.They invite you to join them as they explore the farm and goat yoga.”

For further information, or to order your copy, please click here.

AGGV Presents: 2020 Art Gallery House Tour – Video Edition

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) warmly invites you to join us on this exclusive guided video tour led by local appraiser and art historian (and Club member!) Alison Ross.  The video will be accessible by ticket from September 20 through to October 30.   Funds raised support Gallery programs, art acquisitions, and art restorations.

AGGV is very grateful for your loyal support over the the decades as homeowners, sponsors, volunteers, artists and visitors!   Over the past 67 years, thousands of volunteers have acted as docents and tens of thousands of art lovers have enjoyed the tour. Since 2001, over 100 British Columbia artists have appeared at House Tour homes demonstrating their work.  This year will be different, but promises to be just as engaging and exciting.

AGGV hopes you will support House Tour 2020 – Video Edition! by sharing this information with friends and family, by sharing posts on social media and of course, by buying a ticket. 

Tickets available through Eventbrite at AGGV.ca/house-tour

Festival of Trees – “Two Hearts, One Wish”

Festival of Trees is a cherished community tradition and has become the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in Victoria, serving our community for the last 27 consecutive years. Thanks to sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals, the Bay Centre is transformed into a lush forest of beautifully decorated trees to raise funds for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. 

This year, The Union Club has sponsored tree #38.

“Two Hearts, One Wish” was founded in 2016 by “Emma”, a local Victoria girl who raises funds in support of the BC Children’s Hospital & purchases activity-craft supplies for the Surgical Daycare Centre. Emma made macrame hearts as part of her decorations for the Union Club tree. It is beautiful.

Please vote for tree #38!

Monty Python at 50: a Half-Century of Silly Walks, Edible Props and Dead Parrots

It’s not dead, it’s pining for the fjords! … John Cleese returns his Norwegian Blue parrot. Photograph: Allstar/BBC

In this rare glimpse inside the BBC archives, we reveal the exasperated internal memos, the furious letters from wing commanders – and David Frost’s bid to bring them down.

In a memo sent in 1969, the BBC head of comedy seems to have lost his sense of humour. “Please will you have a word with the writers?” said Michael Mills. “I haven’t reacted to the funny titles that have appeared on the scripts so far. I hoped that they would cease of their own accord.”

The titles that irritated him included “Bunn Wackett Buzzard Stubble and Boot”, apparently a spoof legal firm, which came to be shortened to Bunwackett. The show, meanwhile, had the working title The Circus. Now, though, Mills had had enough: “The time has come when we must stop having peculiar titles and settle on one overall title … Please would you have words with them and try to produce something palatable?”

Following this intervention, a title was finally agreed upon: Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And on 19 September 1969, BBC North sent an invitation to journalists to go on location for the filming of the show at the Cow and Calf pub on Ilkley Moor. They were promised “crazy antics” and “the first opportunity to see this new-style brand of late-night nutty comedy in action, and all its writer-stars: John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Michael Palin.” (As would often be the case, the animator Terry Gilliam was omitted, though he played many on-screen roles, and his brutal cartoons were the show’s signature innovation.)

This memo and press release are among the documentation relating to the premiere, exactly 50 years ago, of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Until exhumed by a researcher, the creative entrails of old BBC shows are buried in pink folders, hole-punched and tied with green bootlaces. Now, a rare peek inside the binders has uncovered all the secrets of the Pythons’ earliest days.

The archive is especially important for this show. The Pythons included a prolific diarist – Palin has published three hefty volumes already – but, dismayingly, the months around the start of the first Python show are one of the longest gaps. Palin attributes this to the busy-ness of filming, and having a young child and ailing elderly father.

The minister for silly walks … Cleese in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Photograph: Allstar/BBC

Presumably following calculations on some abacus of celebrity value, accounts initially paid Cleese £67 per show more than the others, Palin £1 less than Jones and Chapman, and Idle £2 less. Gilliam, an artist rather than “artiste”, was contracted separately.

Although comic weirdness had been introduced to the BBC by The Goon Show, Monty Python went even further. BBC production teams may have sensed something odd was coming from the paperwork: a requisition form to the props department asks for a “selection of bras (6), panties (6), and tights (5)” and “1 swastika flag, approx 4’ x 2.6”. A list of extras for a filming day includes, after one name, the specification “no pigeon on shoulder” (parrots, on shoulders and flat on their perch, would become a Python speciality). A handwritten note asks: “What about topless on fountain?”

Most surreally, on 9 September, the show’s producer John Howard Davies sent a memo to Bernard Wilkie in visual effects requesting “1 copy of Turner’s ‘Fighting Temeraire’ … in a detachable frame, which can be broken off and eaten – with two eatable refill frames”.

Later the same day, Wilkie’s assistant returned the request with the note: “Unfortunately … all edible props must be obtained through the Catering Manager.”

While the head of comedy had persuaded the team to pick a title, he could not persuade them to take editorial procedures seriously. The Pythons wanted to caption the first episode “programme two”, a joke the corporation chose to ignore. They also described their show as “designed to subdue the violence in us all with gentle sick laughter”. This was not passed on to the press, though the misleading subtitle “Wither Canada?” was – which some newspaper previews reproduced unquestioningly.

Having survived the threat of a strike by BBC staff over the controversy that the new comedy show was replacing a late-night religious programme – the corporation cleverly argued that the devotional show was shifted to spare clergymen a late night on their busiest day – Monty Python’s Flying Circus was first transmitted at 22:50 on 5 October 1969.

Trail-blazers … Monty Python

A memo sent between senior executives reveals that the first episode achieved 1.5 million viewers with an audience appreciation (based on a small number of viewers paid to value what they watched) of 45 (out of 100). In comparison, the Rolf Harris Show (though in a primetime slot, and with a presenter then seen as a lovable family entertainer, rather than the convicted sex offender he later became) attracted 11 million viewers and a 64 enjoyment score.

The public response, at least from the correspondence archived by the BBC, seems to have been positive. The fan letters are a rarity, in that they immediately mimic and celebrate the tone of the Pythons. What seems to be a furious letter from a wing commander (retired), complaining about the “long-haired louts” making fun of the flying machines that won the Battle of Britain, is revealed to be written by a 16-year-old called Philip.

Another viewer called Rufus writes in the guise of an expert in the art or sport of “black pudding bending”. A gentleman from Tunbridge Wells is not outraged, in line with the local stereotype, but engaged, repeatedly sending handwritten sketches that are politely declined on the grounds that the Pythons write all their own material.Advertisement

While Cleese has latterly attracted a reputation for irascibility, he is caught out in the files in a gesture of striking kindness. A Kent schoolboy called Doug Holman writes, asking for tickets to a recording. Cleese arranges for a pair to be sent. Doug, boldly, writes back, saying he is part of a large group of friends who want to go. Cleese contacts the BBC to request a further 14 tickets, suggesting that the young will be “good laughers”.

Given the passage of five decades, many of the early Python audience have joined the choir invisible with the programme’s late parrot. But I tracked down a Doug Holman who grew up in Kent and is now 69, running a business in Hampshire. My email rapidly received the reply: “It’s a fair cop! Hearty congratulations on your detective work.”

‘Continually going over the edge of what is acceptable’ … the Pythons. Photograph: Allstar/BBC

In 1969, he was an electronics student at Portsmouth University, and an obsessive fan of the radio show I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, starring Cleese. Noticing a poster in the student union advertising the comedian as guest speaker, Holman went and saw Cleese deliver a “verbal assault on British Rail [he had arrived late] and BBC bureaucracy”, before inviting the students to write to him if they wanted tickets for a recording of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again.

Then, “almost as an afterthought,” Holman remembers, “he handed round a few copies of scripts for ‘a new, as yet untitled, TV show’ he was hoping would be commissioned. The copy I saw included strange references to things like exploding knees, but I confess the general reaction was one of polite perplexity.”

Holman wrote off for tickets to the radio show but, some days later, “my sister rushed into the kitchen blurting out: ‘It’s … John Cleese … from the BBC … for Doug!’ Cleese explained that sadly, there would be no new series of ISIRTA that year, before asking whether I’d be interested in tickets for the new TV show? In the heat of the moment, I suggested: ‘How about four; that’s four car-loads?’ That’s why the number of tickets increased from two to 16.”Advertisement

The BBC response, the archives make clear, was far less positive. At the weekly meeting where senior managers discussed the output, the head of factual had found Python “disgusting”, arts had thought it “nihilistic and cruel”, while religion objected to a Gilliam animation in which “Jesus … had swung his arm”. The BBC One controller sensed the makers “continually going over the edge of what is acceptable”.

Early days … Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Photograph: Allstar/BBC/Sportsphoto Ltd.

In yet another sign of internal disapproval, the Pythons were commissioned to provide material for the 1969 Christmas Night with the Stars, the BBC end-of-year jamboree, but a brisk memo rejects their sketch.

The archives also reveal an undertow of tension with the TV presenter and producer, David Frost. On 20 April 1969, while the first series is in pre-production, the writer-performer Barry Took, then a consultant for the BBC, warns Mills, the head of comedy: “John Cleese phoned today to say that he is still under contract to Paradine Productions, who want to be involved in The Circus project as a co-production.”

Frost, only 30 but already a formidable TV impresario, owned Paradine (which was called after his middle name). Took reports that, if the BBC will not co-operate with Frost, Cleese will withdraw from The Circus. He recommends that the BBC produce a series with “Palin, Jones, Idle and cartoon inserts from Terry Gilliam”, then revive the idea of The Circus in 1971, when Cleese becomes free.

There is always a moment when what is now a classic comes perilously close to not happening; this was Python’s. The files do not reveal how the BBC saw off Frost, but the corporation seems to have played hard-ball.

In another intrusion of real-life surreality into the Python story, the postmaster general at the time was John Stonehouse, who would soon afterwards fake his death by leaving his clothes on a beach in Miami, and was subsequently arrested by police officers who thought he was Lord Lucan, another prominent disappeared Briton of the era. Stonehouse was jailed for fraud, and revealed as a Czechoslovakian secret agent. Having censured Python over the Frost incident, he later inspired another major BBC comedy series: The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, in which David Nobbs’ hero pretends to have drowned in a swimming accident.

On 11 August 1970, having commissioned a second run of Python, Mills laments in a memo to the BBC hierarchy: “I am very unhappy that all the regions are opting out of the new series.” The team had become victim to another BBC continuity announcement trope they liked to satirise: “Except for viewers in Scotland/Northern Ireland/Wales.”

But these rejections – and many memos reporting Cleese’s reluctance to make another series – could not prevent the Pythons going on to conquer TV, cinema (Holy Grail, Life of Brian) and stage.

Five decades after a 19-year-old student struck the audacious free-ticket deal immortalised in the BBC archives, Holman still energises his memories of the recording: “There was a restaurant scene but I think the producer abandoned it when Cleese – seemingly unhappy about having no lines – disrupted each take by performing random Tourette-like impressions of a mouse being strangled by a psychotic cat. I remember it being total anarchy yet excruciatingly funny, in the literal sense. We all experienced genuine pain from extended bouts of uncontrollable laughter.”

Clubs Shine a Light on Redesigned Wine Rooms

Members and guests are raising a glass to how clubs are showcasing upgraded wine rooms and wine cellars as spirited new gathering spaces. 

Cheers to the wine room. Clubs across the country are breathing new life into these spaces, which are now being utilized not only as expanded storage facilities that reflect consumers’ ever-growing thirst for fine vintages (see chart, pg. 26), but also as unique and exciting new gathering places for drinks, dinner, socializing and special events. 

As more facilities begin to recognize the untapped potential of this aspect of their food-and-beverage programs, they are incorporating more functionality and purpose into wine room and wine cellar designs.

Adding ‘Elbow’ Room

With an increasingly expanding wine program and more members indulging in tastings, Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, N.J., was in need of dedicated socializing space. “As our wine club has grown, we added wine lockers, and the demand for a casual space to hang out and sample wines became evident,” says General Manager Tom Hurley.

This past spring, the club added a wine cellar and lounge that has helped to boost wine and pre-dinner cocktail sales. Located between the club’s Elbow Bar and Elbow Restaurant/dining room, the lounge is easily accessible to the kitchen, which is used exclusively for a la carte service. (A larger and newly renovated kitchen is reserved for weddings and large-scale member events.) 

Designed in a rectangular style with brick walls and stone flooring, the cellar is described as “rustic and industrial at the same time,” says Assistant General Manager Michael Nyerges. Small, round tables and bucket seats can hold up to 28 people for an intimate dinner or a speakeasy. For the latter event, couches are added, to foster a more casual vibe.

Track lighting in the cellar spotlights select tables or bottles on display, while wine lockers provide their own illumination “that gives off blue light and sets the mood,” adds Nyerges. Sixty-four wine lockers, housing up to fifteen bottles each, are temperature-controlled and accessible only by the club’s three food-and-beverage managers. Currently sold out with a waiting list, the lockers are a testament to the popularity of Fiddler’s Elbow’s wine club.

Creating a flexible design that can accommodate changing logistics for dinners, receptions and speakeasies in the cellar posed some challenges for the Fiddler’s Elbow team, but Nyerges is pleased with management’s decision to maintain complete control over the operation. “We decided to design in-house without engaging designers, so it took longer, but we are most familiar with our needs,” he says.

Member comments have confirmed that these decisions were on target. Feedback regarding the wine cellar “has been nothing short of tremendous,” Executive Chef Michael Weisshaupt reports. “Members are now filling an empty space,” Weisshaupt says. “They meet here before dinner and many choose to [stay for] dinner. It is often active with wine club members stopping in to sample their wines.”

To further cement its commitment to wine programming, Fiddler’s Elbow is now hosting monthly wine club socials, in addition to monthly wine dinners. “Our traditional wine dinners always sell out, and these socials now offer a less expensive, more informal option,” says Weisshaupt. Fiddler’s Elbow members not only have the opportunity to sample boutique wines, but they can purchase them, too, which has helped to boost overall wine sales significantly.

From Boardroom to Wine Room

At the Bay Colony Golf Club in Naples, Fla., transforming a meeting room into a space that serves a growing wine program became a necessity. “We have an extensive wine program at the club  which includes intimate wine dinners, tastings and pairings like our ‘Wine Not’ dinners,” says Tammy Mercer, Director of Marketing and Membership Sales. A renovation of the 432-sq. ft. space was completed in December 2017, to better appeal to this expanding program.

Located just off the main dining room with easy access to the kitchen, the wine room makes a grand statement, with its mahogany wood doors offset by transitional décor. Upholstered chairs flank a long, conference room-style table that can seat up to fourteen guests. The overall design is complemented by patterned cream-colored carpeting, along with dimmable lighting can be adjusted for both business and social meetings. 

Running the length of the back wall are built-in wine coolers offset in smoked glass. Showcasing up to 400 bottles, the fully stocked, temperature-controlled facility has different settings for wines from all over the world, notes Mercer.

While the wine room can be reserved for private dinners, wine events and meetings, its functionality will be enhanced by the addition of forthcoming wine lockers. “We also do at least one wine trip to Europe each year,” Mercer notes, pointing to the Bay Colony membership’s increased interest in wine-related programming.

Thanks to the repurposed space, Bay Colony is reaping the rewards of its meeting room turned wine room. “We had an approximate 20 percent increase in reservations for private events in the wine room over the previous year, when it was a conference room,” says Mercer.

Under Wraps

Giving new life to a former underground bomb shelter by converting it into a thriving wine facility has proved to be a major asset for The Clubs at Houston Oaks in Hockley, Texas. Largely driven by the club owners, the space previously in usage during the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis was repurposed into a Napa Valley-inspired wine-tasting lounge, private dining room and refrigerated storage cave last spring.

“[Our owners] wanted to enhance the notion of a wine club with a world-class facility for our wine enthusiasts to use and enjoy,” says CEO/General Manager Bob Gusella. 

Spanning approximately 13,000 sq. ft., half of Bunker 55 is dedicated to social elements (a tasting bar, lounge area, private dining room, restrooms and kitchen facilities), while the remaining real estate is reserved for long-term storage of private wine collections. Adjacent to the club’s boutique hotel, the underground facility is less than a mile from the main clubhouse and is easily accessible by car or golf cart. 

The main entry is just off the hotel parking lot, with a street-level door that leads to the bunker below. Special access is available for authorized personnel and members who have rented a storage bunk in the wine cave. This temperature-controlled portion of the bunker is set at 55 degrees (hence the name).

Converting the outdated space required a full-fledged remodel and build-out of the former bunker, including custom stone and brick work, antique barnwood beams and other customized wood elements, and the construction of a tasting bar and lounge areas. Such a comprehensive operation was challenged by the fact that this space lacked an elevator. 

“Everything that went into the bunker during construction—lumber, power tools, equipment, stone, brick, personnel—had to be taken down and removed later via manpower,” explains Gusella, who describes the 16-month-long endeavor as a “timeless, old-world project.” 

To update the space for its new purposes, concrete flooring has been acid-washed and polished and is now outfitted with antique area rugs. Furnishings were hand-picked by Marci Alvis, one of the club owners who manages the interior design for much of the facility. Lighting incorporates a range of decorative options, including recessed cans, directional spots, wall sconces, table lamps and custom chandeliers. 

With all the comforts of home, plus the addition of modern-day amenities, Bunker 55 has become a prime attraction, one that Gusella describes as “awe-inspiring.” 

“I can honestly say, as a club manager with nearly 30 years of experience, that I have never seen another facility like it—not even in Napa or France,” Gusellas says.

 Member usage covers a variety of uses, from bridal parties and rehearsal dinners to VIP receptions and milestone birthdays. One member used the facility to host a 50th birthday party for his wife and transformed into a fashion show. “It was quite an event, just like Fashion Week in New York City,” Gusella says. 

Further proof of members’ enthusiasm is in the club’s books; Houston Oaks wine sales have increased by 175 percent this year versus the first six months of 2018.

When The Patriot Golf Club in Owasso, Okla., mapped out plans for a new clubhouse, management decided to replicate its wine club, along with an added bonus. “In our new building, we decided to have a dedicated space that could be home to an expanded Cellar Club and offer members an enhanced private dining and event space,” says General Manager Ali Sezgin.

Building upon the original Cellar Room that had housed 48 lockers in a conference room, the renamed Barrel Room opened its doors in May 2018.

Situated just off the entry to the club’s family dining room, the 13’ x 28’ Barrel Room offers direct access to the kitchen for staff and members alike. The ceiling is outfitted with an oak tongue-and-groove style, with perpendicular iron straps across the oak planks evoking a wine barrel. This look is also carried across the flooring and wine lockers that are enhanced by dry-stacked stone columns separating individual locker bays. 

Running the length of the rectangular-shaped room is a 14-foot harvest table, bolstered by velvet upholstered chairs that serve as the focal point of the space. Overhead lighting is provided by a linear chandelier finished in burnished brass, rounded out by four matching sconces in the corner of the room.

For wine storage, the west and east walls contain 120 temperature-controlled lockers for members’ private stock and ten oversized lockers for the club’s library collection of wines. Total capacity is up to 2,000 bottles, and ported ventilation for each locker bay is directed into the attic above. An art-frame television on the southern wall provides an additional amenity for member viewing, and an underneath wine credenza is used for house wine storage.

Because the club’s original wine cellar served as a model for the new design, the team did not have to face any layout concerns. “The needs for this space were apparent from our previous wine room, and it helped to influence every decision we made,” notes Sezgin.

With an established group of Cellar Club members in place, The Patriot GC is now able to offer six to eight free tastings each year, providing more purchase opportunities for lockers. To further boost business, the club recently began hosting wine-education classes and dinners that have been well-attended. “Our focus is now to educate staff and members, so we can increase our wine sales,” Sezgin adds.

Affiliate Club Feature: Tokyo American Club

Tokyo American Club’s Main Entrance

Tokyo American Club has been an integral part of the international community in Tokyo since its founding in 1928.

With around 4,000 Members, drawn from 50-plus nations, the Club offers a diverse range of cultural, business and recreational activities and amenities in the heart of the Japanese capital.

Tokyo American Club’s Winter Garden

The present facility, which was designed by lauded American architectural firm Pelli Clarke Pelli and opened on January 18, 2011, is the sixth incarnation of the Club.

The building was described by private club consultants the McMahon Group as “light years ahead of its U.S. counterparts” and “[as] quite possibly the finest private club facility in the world.”

Members enjoy access to world-class recreation facilities, including a roof-top pool, bowling alley, golf simulators, full-size gym, library, childcare center and spa, as well as a host of fitness, cultural and educational programs for all ages.

Tokyo American Club’s Sky Pool (Rooftop)
Tokyo American Club’s Bowling Center
Tokyo American Club’s Childcare Facility

Besides being home to five restaurants, a bar and a seasonal café, the eight-story facility features seven overnight Guest Studios and superlative meeting, party and conference facilities.

Entrance to the Tokyo American Club’s CHOP Steakhouse
Tokyo American Club’s CHOP Steakhouse
Tokyo American Club’s Modern Teppan dining
Tokyo American Club’s Guest Studio room