The first time Gloria Allred came for lunch at the Friars Club in midtown Manhattan, she was greeted by a jeering party of men. It was 1988 and the US supreme court had just ruled that New York private clubs could not discriminate based on gender or race. (Friars only admitted women after 4pm.) Allred celebrated by jumping on a plane to New York from Los Angeles. When she reached the doors of the club on East 55th Street, the comedian Henny Youngman and other male club members were waiting. "There were men at the window grates yelling four-letter words at me — pejorative words for women’s genitals. Which of course didn’t deter me at all," she recalls gaily. "I said: ‘Mr Youngman. Thank you for your comments, but you’re not going to block progress for women’ … And then I gently touched him and moved him aside," the 1.57m Allred says, suppressing a giggle. Allred has, of course, deliberately invited me to lunch at the very restaurant that conjures images of her storming the Bastille o...

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