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A dumpster full of various musings over life, God, scripture, and any random thought that may fly by meanwhile. Comments welcome.

By Invitation Only

Posted by Iszi on September 7, 2004

Greetings, Readers.

Well, today seemed rather productive albeit stressful. First task was to run over to my grandparents’ house to assess any roof damage and assist with any immediately necessary repairs. They lost a few pieces of shingles, but other than that most of it looked fine. The only heavy duty work needed was to take down a tree limb that was rubbing against the edge of the roof and would likely start to casue damage if another heavy storm came through.

After that, Grandma made us (my sister was with me) some lunch and entertained us with details and pictures from their trip to Italy several years ago. Then we headed back to my mother’s house to help put up another tarp that would cover the entire roof over the garage. (Where most of the leakage is.)

So, what does all this have to do with the title of my post tonight? The title comes from a newspaper article I had read while waiting at the table for lunch at Grandma’s. The article was in the Life & Times section of The Orlando Sentinel, and was entitled “A chosen few“. The article is about what appears to be a very exclusivistic singles club in th Orlando area, “By Invitation Only”. This company is so proud of their exclusivism, it appears, that their company name is in big, fancy letters on the “welcome mat” of their front porch. (And it’s not a small mat either.) The club proclaims itself to be only for the “elite”, the “upper eschelon”, the “culturally sophisticated”. The minimum income required to join this club is an advertised $50K per year, with an “unofficial line” drawn specially for men, at $100K.

Sound like somewhere you might not be able to get into? Hear some quotes from the owner, Nancy Kenyon, and you might be glad that you can’t. In response to why this company was created with such high standards: “The lower socioeconomic class is doing fine. They can meet in Laundromats.” Ex-cuse me? What mouthful-of-a-term was that? “lower socioeconomic class?” Since when did my salary or lack thereof determine my value to society, or my character as a human being? Furthermore, if everyone were to get paid according to the amount of blood, sweat, and tears (put shortly: physical labor) poured into their work, the pay ladder would be turned upside-down, with the bottom-level employees making thousands more than the ones in the office who currently earn their paycheck almost solely because of their ranking in the company.

To contrast the statement that the “LSC” (for short – in this blog, not the article or actual quotes) could essentially meet in the sewers for all she cares (Just my take on the quote – again, not anything actually stated.), she says that “[The upper eschelon] is not meeting, mating and procreating … It’s having a detrimental effect on our country … Our upper eschelon is going to get smaller. The gifted classes are going to get smaller. There may not even be gifted classes.” Okay, now I wasn’t born into the “upper eschelon” myself, but I most certainly could have qualified (and did, in many respects) for gifted classes when I was in school. And I can tell you for almost absolute sure that my mother’s and father’s combined incomes (even when dad had two jobs) didn’t likely ever hit the minimum required income level for men in the club.

I doubt it would surprise you to know that although she would not disclose the amount of the membership fee, she could be quoted as saying “I always want my suit to cost more than the membership fee.” while wearing such a suit that retails for $1K at least.

I find it quite funny that, even with the exclusivistic nature of this club, one of its members could be quoted as saying the club includes “People from all walks of life…” Then again, let’s look at the examples he gives, “… lawyers, a couple of real estate agents, some jewelry store owners.” and the man himself is a construction superintendent – just about the only person who might remotely allow that list to be classified as “all walks of life”, in my humble opinion.

Betty Wilson, one of the ladies working at the club, can be quoted as saying she likes to take her members to the “type of places where run-of-the-mill people wouldn’t feel comfortable.” Last I checked, even the not-so “culturally sophisticated” person still would enjoy having a nice glass of wine served to them among friends sitting in cushy chairs around a table with a live string ensemble playing in the background.

Further, Wilson is quoted as saying “Didn’t your mother or grandmother ever tell you that birds of a feather flock together? You don’t see the eagles playing with the buzzards. We are eagles, the movers and shakers and doers and winners.” I wonder how that made the interviewer, whom I’m sure doesn’t net $100K/yr (which, if I’m not mistaken comes just a couple bucks short of $50/hr) feel. I mean, how would you like it if you were trying to do someone a favor (I’m guessing) by giving their club a little publicity in one of the most read publications circulated in a densely populated area, and that person – during the interview – called you a buzzard to your face? Think of what a buzzard is. It ain’t pretty for one, and all it does is eat after the other animals, many times after flies have already started having their turn at the carcass.

The writer ends the article with probably one of, if not the most appalling comments from Mrs. Kenyon that there are in the article: “When someone our age…” (It would seem most of the club members are in their middle-age years) “…doesn’t have that much of an income, there’s a reason. They’re unmotivated, they have a low IQ, or they don’t make good decisions.” For myself, (albeit I don’t yet fit that age category) I may fit the last of those three. I have plenty of motivation to look at when I wake up every day. Just turn to my left and there’s my wife, look over her into the crib and my one year old baby is looking back. I have to make sure both are maintained alive and well, and reasonably happy. I think that’s a good bit of motivation. IQ? Again, I could have easily qualified for several gifted classes back in my school daze. In almost any given class that I did take, I skipped most classwork and homework but could still ace any given test. In some classes, I even literally sleeped through all the class and still passed the tests. So, bad decisions? Yeah, probably. I’ve chosen to slack a good bit throughout my life, but everyone does make mistakes. Who is anyone to hold one’s mistakes against them for the rest of their life, and use that mistake as cause to tell them whom they may or may not hang out with?

If I may be so bold, I think the author of that article was trying to portray his brutally honest personal opinion of this club and its owners, operators, and members, without actually overstepping his journalistic, objectivistic boundaries. So, Mr. Mark K Matthews, I’ll say it loud and proud for you in my own opinion and words: These people are a bunch of self-centered snobs whose class deserves to die for lack of a place of intermingling for breeding purposes. Quite frankly, I’d rather mate with a “vietnam veteran” living off the side of the road, than to shake hands with one who would endorse such a club’s ideal.

Okay, so maybe that was a little to the extreme. But I hope my point has gotten across there.

And yet, we still haven’t hit the part of this that disgusts me the most. According to the latest tally of the club’s 1000+ members, most of them are claiming to be Christian! Okay, so Jesus did feast with the lawyers and tax collectors, but I seriously didn’t think he meant for them to just go and continue feasing solely among themselves in His name! It would almost be like if I were to get up on a pulpit to preach about living as a “rich poor man”, knowing full well I’ll shortly be driving home from church in a brand-new, paid-for-in-full-with-cash Jaguar XK8, and can’t remember the last day in my life that I honestly could claim to be penniless. This isn’t to say that Christians shouldn’t ever be rich. The Bible does say that God has plans to prosper us, but I highly doubt he meant for that prosperity to give us reason for shunning the “LSC”.

Just further proof of how screwed up life can get when people are paid more for working less, I guess.

– Iszi



Update – The Orlando Sentinel has moved the article referred to in this post, into its archives. Typically, these archives are only accessed by paying a subscription fee to the Sentinel’s website. Fortunately, Google has yet to remove the article from its own search archives, so I was able to pull up a cached copy in a Google search. The full text of the article is below:


A chosen few

By Invitation Only isn’t for everybody, which is just the point. The club aims to be a place where the elite can meet, mingle and mate.

By Mark K. Matthews | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted September 6, 2004

Chances are, you can’t join By Invitation Only. Look at the name, people, it means exclusive. Top-notch. Se-lect.

First, let’s talk salary. How much do you make a year? Minimum wage? Ha! Go away, and don’t track mud on the carpet. $30,000? Nope, sorry. $40,000? Close, but not there yet.

To get in, organizers say, club hopefuls must make 50 big ones. Minimum. And that’s just for the women. The unofficial line on men is even more, ringing in at a clean $100,000.

Founder Nancy Kenyon says there’s a reason, nay, a mission, for the posturing. It is to help preserve what she calls “the upper echelon.”

“The lower socioeconomic class is doing fine. They can meet in Laundromats,” says Kenyon, who chats over a fruity drink inside society headquarters, a pink house in College Park. But the upper echelon, she says, “is not meeting, mating and procreating.”

A big problem.

“It’s having a detrimental effect on our country,” says Kenyon, 55. “Our leaders are not going to be there. Our upper echelon is going to get smaller. The gifted classes are going to get smaller. There may not even be gifted classes.”

Hence, By Invitation Only — Kenyon’s solution to the love problems of Central Florida’s elite singles. Based out of a quaint home she says is one of the oldest in the College Park neighborhood, the group matches members of the upper crust on the down low.

Discretion guaranteed.

“We are just careful,” says Betty Wilson, who runs the day-to-day business of the club. At the top of her priorities, Wilson says, is to ensure members — which Kenyon says include politicians and judges — can mingle and “not worry about it showing up in the headlines.”

For that reason, the membership roll is confidential. Party locations are kept hush-hush. Even the cost of joining By Invitation Only is kept in the shadows — although Kenyon will drop a single hint.

“I always want my suit to cost more than the membership fee,” she says, wearing a light-colored St. John ensemble that retails for at least $1,000. “Very high-end.”

Still, there are a few secrets Kenyon will reveal. Founded in 1991, she says the club now boasts more than 1,000 society singles. By her count, most are white, Christian and Republican. Many are divorced; most are middle-aged. Some, Kenyon says, hold positions of power, especially in the business community. Go-getters. CEOs.

“People from all walks of life, we have lawyers, a couple of real estate agents, some jewelry store owners,” says Ted Langford, 47, a construction superintendent and the only member of the club who agreed to speak on the subject. “It’s quite a big circle.”

To get into the club, it helps to know someone on the inside. Candidates with a sponsor are required to endure only one interview; those without must pass two. Still, to help increase membership, the club recently has taken to advertising in the newspaper — salary requirement included.

Once accepted, membership has its privileges. There’s dinner, dance and theater. Private beach parties in New Smyrna Beach. Cocktails at the posh Citrus Club, which touts itself on its Web site as a haven for “people of distinction who appreciate the special amenities of a place of privilege.”

“Our group, we feel, is culturally sophisticated,” says Wilson, who joined By Invitation Only in 2000 and became director a year later. Called one of the more popular members of the group, Wilson — who would not reveal her age — says she tries to take her charges to the “type of places where run-of-the-mill people wouldn’t feel comfortable.”

“Didn’t your mother or grandmother tell you birds of a feather flock together?” Wilson asks. “You don’t see the eagles playing with the buzzards. We are eagles, the movers and shakers and doers and winners.”

But there are some secrets Kenyon would rather not reveal.

In 1989, when Kenyon ran an Altamonte Springs group called Perfect Match Introductions, she settled out of court with a competitor — her former employer, in fact — called Compatible Introductions, which alleged she stole materials and ideas from them. The settlement cost Kenyon at least $28,500, county court records show. Asked about the dispute, Kenyon said, “It was just silly.”

Kenyon also has been sued by clients upset with the service. These also were settled, but she says the problems weren’t because of the “quality of the service” but rather the clients’ expectations. “Now if anyone complains in the field, we just give them their money back,” she says.

Even the salary requirement has been questioned.

“Fifty thousand a year? That can’t be right,” says Langford, who serves as one of 12 “ambassadors” in the group, a role destined to help new members get acquainted. “We have some teachers. That [figure] can’t be right.”

So why advertise a salary minimum? Valerie Patterson, president of a singles service called Dinner Dates, says a club such as By Invitation Only would use that to “convey that’s it’s an elite crowd.”

Kenyon insists the only reason she instituted the requirement was because her members wanted it.

And beside, she adds, “When someone our age doesn’t have that much of an income, there’s a reason. They’re unmotivated. They have a low IQ. Or they don’t make good decisions.”

Mark K. Matthews can be reached

at mmatthews@orlandosentinel.com

or 407-420-5164.

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One Response to “By Invitation Only”

  1. Deborah said

    Sad sad people with disgusting attitudes. They are not Christians….they are described perfectly in 2 Timothy 3:2-5. We need to pray for them.

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