Tunney shook his head as he recalled the dispute. "Well, a vote was taken among the membership, and my application was rejected. Men whom I had sailed with on Putnam's yacht couldn't see their way clear to vote for me. Friendships were shattered. Putnam, who had lived at the club for 20 years, resigned."
"And you've never gone to the club again?"
"Many people since then have tried to get me to join," he said, "but I wouldn't hear of it now. Yet in my heart I know that those people who voted against me were right. The issue was clear. I was a professional, and I didn't belong there."
Tunney sat back, clasped his hands, and the memory was dismissed. "I'm not much of a clubman, anyway. I've just been admitted to The Players, but I have no idea when I'll go. I prefer to meet my friends in restaurants."
"But in public places you're subject to more interruptions."
He shrugged. "I've heard of fighters being molested by pests in restaurants, but I've had very little trouble. Oh, here's a story that might interest you.
"One of my favorite restaurants is the Press Box, east of Lexington Avenue. Polly and I were there having dinner one evening with Westbrook Pegler and his wife. There were four men at the table next to us, and one of them, a little fellow, began to heckle Pegler. When he became rather vicious I got up and walked over and asked him to be quiet. But a moment later he was at it again. I got up and went back to his table.
" 'Now listen to me,' I said. 'I am going to identify myself, so there will be no misunderstanding. I am Gene Tunney. I want all of you to leave this restaurant. Now.'
"I picked the little fellow up by the back of his neck and began to assist him out the door. His friends came along very docilely. I could see they were embarrassed, and when the little fellow had left, two of his friends stayed behind.
" 'Do you mind if we have a drink at the bar before we leave?' one of them asked me.