The Gambling Legacy of the Clermont Club
Celebrity is not always a single-player
game. More often than one would think, it is rather groups of people
who find themselves at the epicentre of an era-defining scene, or a
great cultural movement. In the 1960s, The Rat Pack stole the spotlight
and ushered in a new era of Hollywood, becoming living legends in the
However, this phenomenon is not
confined to entertainment. Intellectual, political and social epochs
can be traced just so to the combined passions of groups of individuals,
in many cases leaving a legacy which lingers in today's world. For
the London gambling scene - noted for its opulence, class and distinction
- this band of brothers are the Clermont Set, and their legacy, one
of the most exclusive gaming destinations in the already-genteel Mayfair,
the Clermont Club,
is still a world-renowned hotspot.
Image: Paula Harrowing via Facebook
Even in its early beginnings, the
Clermont Club boasted a star-studded coterie of royals and top-shelf
socialites. From Princess Margaret to Sir James Goldsmith - a powerful
tycoon who inspired the character of Sir Larry Wildman in the film Wall
Street - Clermont's clientele read like a who's who of
the most influential people in London. However, while its reputation
as a place for politicians to rub shoulders with celebrities was well
deserved, it was the pioneering spirit of owner John Aspinall - card
sharp and Eton dropout - that turned the Clermont into the gambling
trailblazer it eventually became.
Knowing that the power of pizzazz
had been claimed by Vegas, Aspinall did not try to outmatch the American
style. Instead, he opted for a more understated and refined air: a laconic
titter to Vegas' raucous shout. The tables at the Clermont Club were
small, intimate, and situated in discreet rooms hidden away from prying
eyes. Here, vast sums changed hands without anything more than a quiet
nod and a gentlemanly admission of defeat, making the Clermont a far
cry from the Continental dramas unfolding at the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Aspinall brought fine French cuisine
into the mix, blurring the distinction between gentleman's club and
casino in a way his clientele simply adored. This ethos persists in
the Clermont to this day, and ensures London's top spot in the pantheon
of gambling capitals. A recent list of the best
casino destinations compiled by 32Red attests to this lasting
legacy, while the aesthetic of 32Red's own site contains hallmarks
of Aspinall's own preference for sleek-chic, eschewing flashing lights
or animation in favour of tasteful block colours.
Just so, Aspinall's influence can
be found on many gaming websites. It is his gift which allows sites
like Premier Gaming UK and UK Casino Club to wear their Britishness
on their sleeves.
However, the history of the institution
does not end here. Sold by
Aspinall in the late 60s, the Clermont ended up in the hands
of none other than Playboy Enterprises, the business end of Hugh Heffner's
illustrious empire. But Heffner, to his credit, must have recognized
that the Clermont was not a plaything to be taken lightly. Instead of
filling the place with bunny girls and jacuzzies, the American businessman
chose to retain a quintessentially British charm.
After the departure of Aspinall,
long-time friend Sir James Goldsmith was eventually recognised as the
new front man of the Clermont Set, which position he used much to his
advantage. In secluded chambers, bandying about with the likes of Lord
Lucan, Goldsmith began to develop the foundations of a new business
venture. Though he had dabbled in commerce before, it was not until
Sir James launched Cavenham Foods that he found major success. Out of
his impressive network of friends - many of whom were Clermont regulars
- Goldsmith grew a business empire which informs the landscape of
our current times.
Not to be outdone, Lucan himself
almost raised the Clermont's profile even higher when he narrowly missed
out on playing none other than James Bond. On balance, this may have
been the franchise's loss more than Lucan's, who lived Casino
Royale every day of his life.
However, Goldsmith's and Lucan's
are not the only stories. Members of the Clermont Set have gone on to
great success in many facets of British society. This confirms Clermont's
status not only as a revolution in terms of British gambling, but as
one of those rare settings in which history-makers converge. If you
are lucky enough to have the opportunity to partake in an evening of
high-rolling high life, it is strongly suggested you do so. You may
just end up in the annals of legend.
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