April 23, 2003

Victory Club Returns

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This weekend, Cornellians will again have the opportunity to attend what Playboy magazine once called “the classiest party in the Ivy League.” The Victory Club Charity Ball, a black-tie affair complete with legalized gambling and live entertainment, will be held this Saturday at the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house.

“We’re expecting this spring’s Victory Club to be the biggest yet,” said Phil Dubrovsky ’05, one of the event’s organizers. “As far as university parties go, nothing compares to Victory Club. This will be a night to remember.”

While gamblers try their luck at blackjack tables, money and roulette wheels, they will be treated to live entertainment by the Cayuga’s Waiters, Nothing But Treble, Johnny Russo’s East Hill Stompers Jazz Band and the notorious Motown band, Big Daddy and the Soul Patrol.

Dubrovsky guarantees a “night of elegance and class, complete with everything from chocolate covered strawberries to a limousine ride home.”

Victory Club, which is normally a bi-annual affair, had to be canceled last fall due to various complications that took place during the planning stages of the event. According to organizer George Doerre ’04, the planning for this semester’s Victory Club began in January.

“We’ve had several months of planning. These things take a lot of time. We have to book the entertainment and get approvals,” Doerre said.

Proceeds from the event–gambling loses from the night–will benefit the Ithaca Fire Department Firefighters Memorial Fund and the Ithaca Police chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors.

Victory Club, which has its roots in celebrations sponsored by the brothers of Alpha Delta Phi as long ago as 1918, is currently its own organization complete with unique federal and state tax identification numbers allowing organizers to secure a gambling license through the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

“This is the same board that registers church bingo and things like that,” said Doerre.

He is quick to point out, however that “It’s unique that as a bunch of college students we have the resources and repoire to pull this [event] off.”

While Victory Club has earned a reputation over the years as one of the most popular formal events on the Cornell campus, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding the origins of the event. Some sources place the first Victory Club Charity Ball in the 1960s while others say it originated decades earlier.

Doerre indicates that the real roots of the event may be found in an event held nearly 90 years ago at what was then the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house. The 1918 event was held to encourage the sale of Victory Bonds during the first world war.

The event was then forced to go underground for the duration of the prohibition years. During the so-called “roaring twenties” the event supposedly earned its bawdy reputation as a night filled with live jazz, gambling and plenty of illegal alcohol.

While the origins of the modern Victory Club Charity Ball most directly stem from events sponsored by Alpha Delta Phi in the late 1970s, the speakeasy atmosphere of those early events remains despite the evening gowns and tuxedos.

“The event is unreal,” says Adil Ahamed ’04, a member of the Cayuga’s Waiters a cappella group who will be attending his sixth Victory Club this weekend.

“Victory Club is an event that the Waiters consider a very important part of our year — we always look forward to it,” he said.

Doerre says that organizers initiated a strong marketing campaign this year aimed at bringing people back to the event after being absent from the campus last fall and that he expects between 400 and 500 people to attend.

“Last year’s Victory Club was a smash hit and we’d like to meet and exceed that,” he said. “We expect this, as always, to be the classiest party around.”

The Alpha Delta Phi house, the John Russell Pope mansion, is at 777 Stewart Ave.

Victory Club tickets are available for purchase with CornellCard at the Willard Straight Box Office or through the brothers of Alpha Delta Phi. The first twenty tickets sold today will include a five dollar gambling voucher. More information is available at the VC website, www.victoryclub.info.

Archived article by Nate Brown