Hillary gets the boot from Manhattan's posh club

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It has been 10 years since the membership of the august University Club in midtown Manhattan voted to admit women. But as one member of the fairer sex can attest, some of its staff apparently still haven't got with the programme.

The person is question, however, probably will say nothing about her little contretemps with the club's stewards on Wednesday, which ended with both her and her female friend being ejected onto a sleety Fifth Avenue. That is because she is the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Happily, though, the First Lady's companion is paid not to be coy. She was Cindy Adams, gossip columnist extraordinaire of the New York Post. Thus, the whole incident was trumpeted across the paper's pages yesterday.

"KICKED OUT," blared the giant frontpage headline. "Stuffy Manhattan club boots First Lady." Beneath that, in slightly smaller print, the self- serving adjunct: "Old coots tossed me out too, says Post's Cindy Adams."

The club, founded 132 years ago by graduates of Harvard, Yale and Columbia universities, refused all comment yesterday. The First Lady's press office in Washington stopped short of denying the tale, however. "Maybe it's something that has been blown a bit out of proportion," a spokeswoman offered.

Apparently, it began with Ms Adams taking out her mobile phone while waiting for the First Lady to show. An irritated "sculpture" - her term for a club official - approached and testily informed her that cellphones were banned from the premises.

But it was after the First Lady plus aides had arrived and the group was getting down to serious chatter that the steward really got cross.

"We were all gaily settled into a few minutes of girltalk when the sculpture loomed," Ms Adams writes. "Lumbering across the divide, he bore down on us. He stood over us - Hillary and I were side by side, sunk deep into the couch - and in a thundering voice he bellowed: `This is not permitted. We have rules here. We will not tolerate this'."

Exactly what crime the happy duo had committed is not made clear to readers. But perhaps that's because it was never clear to Cindy either. "We didn't know what `this' was. Was it being women, was it being noisy, what?"

It made no difference when Ms Adams tried to press home to the steward the identity of her companion. He responded summarily: "This is not acceptable behaviour. You will have to leave."

That was when Mrs Clinton decided that a hint had become a clear order to leave. Abruptly standing, she said to Ms Adams, "Let's go". And they did.

Never mind. At least back home Hillary can expect to get respect from the newest recruit to the White House: the First Puppy, name still uncertain.