The Old Dominion Boat Club, an all-male bastion of Alexandria's civic leadership for the last 100 years, has rejected a businesswoman's membership application because she is a woman.
In the process, the 450-member club, whose two-story clubhouse sits on a prime Potomac River site, has thrown out the two club members who sponsored the woman's bid.
"I think it's ridiculous, unbelievable," said Richard M Wright Jr., 42, owner of an Alexandria typesetting firm and a club member for 15 years who was told last week he must turn in his plastic membership card.
Wright and Charles E. Simpson Jr., 40, an accountant, said they were informed by registered letter they were being ousted for trying to violate the club's bylaws, which limit membership to males over 18 years of age.
The woman whose application -- and $200 application fee -- were rejected, Clarissa Brainard, 52, is the owner of a posh Old Town clothing store, Clarissa's, who said her $450 ultrasuede coats are often worn by female guests at club functions.
"I really don't care what they did," she said yesterday. "I'm not interested in being the first woman member of anything. I'm not a women's libber, I'm a pussycat."
Others were more critical of the club's decision. "I think it's time the boat club members realized we are nearing the end of the 20th century, not the beginning of it," snapped Alexandria school board chairman Alison May.
Vice Mayor Robert L. Calhoun caled the club's exclusion of women "old fashioned and out of date."
Brainard disagreed yesterday with Wright and Simpson over who had suggested to whom that she approach the club for membership. "I wonder if I'm being used here," said Brainard, who maintained that she was asked to apply by the two men, not the opposite.
Wright and Simpson both had been active in efforts to peacefully resolve a long dispute between the club and city officials over public access to land adjacent to the club at the foot of King Street.
The land was turned into a tiny park and opened to the public last year following lengthy negotiations thatin themselves were a tribute to the club's staying power, despite its final defeat.
One member of the club's negotiating committee was Alva Ford Thompson, an Alexandria businessman who was convicted in 1979 of two separate felony gambling charges related to bingo operations in Northern Virginia.
"It's ridiculous that they threw me out for simply proposing someone they don't like (for membership), they keep in as a member someone who is a convicted felon," Weight fumed yesterday.
"It was ridiculous for Thompson to negotiate with the city when he was serving time in jail," Simpson agreed. "I expected to anger some people when I sponsored a woman, but I didn't expect to get thrown out."
Thompson, who was sentenced to a total of four years in prison, spends his days at his music promotion company on N. Washington Street and his nights in jail. He did not return a call to his office yesterday.
Old Dominion club president George Ellmore declined to comment on the constroversy yesterday. "We'll have a statement next week," he said as he stuffed flyers announcing an "IRS Relief Dance" into envelopes at the club.
Meanwhile, neither Wright nor Simpson said he would appeal the ruling. "Why bother?" Wright asked. "It's not worth the hassle."