Z Bone Zone
Z Bone's Media Bites For 2000
When the traditional media wants to jack-up their ratings, where can they go for some good titillation? They go straight to the strip clubs! What LA strip club or dancer is showing up on TV or in print? Find out right here. Who knows, you just might find some interesting news here too.

 


Nude Juice Bar Allowed to Reopen
December 22, 2000

By SHARON NAGY, (714) 966-5832
The Los Angeles Times

The owner of the Flamingo Theater nude juice bar said it would reopen today after a court said the business could operate while it reviews a controversial city ordinance that closed Huntington Beach's only sex-oriented establishment in November.

The City Council passed the ordinance, which prohibits dancers, waitresses or other employees from being within six feet of customers, in October. The bar closed Nov. 15, when the law took effect.

"Obviously we're very disappointed," said Richard Barnard, city director of communications. "We [enacted] the ordinance for the betterment and the protection of the community."

City officials said they passed the ordinance to help curb violence, vandalism, prostitution and sexual activity they believe can stem from a sex-oriented business.

However, the Flamingo Theater, on Beach Boulevard, could not operate under the new ordinance, said Los Angeles-based lawyer Randall Garrou, who represents the club's owners.

"The ordinance made it economically impossible for them to operate. How can a waitress hand a customer food or a beverage if they could not get within six feet of a customer?"

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on the legality of the ordinance as early as March, Garrou said.

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Studio City group fights bikini waitress site plan
December 1, 2000

By JASON KANDEL, Staff Writer
Daily News of Los Angeles

STUDIO CITY -- After a successful four-year fight that shot down a Ventura Boulevard nightclub, residents and city officials are mounting opposition against a new supper club at the same site -- one with bikini-clad waitresses.

"Studio City isn't Las Vegas," said Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Association. "We're going to work hard to make sure it doesn't become that way."

Residents are concerned about the expected February opening of the Platinum Live SUpper Club at 11345 Ventura Blvd., advertised as an upscale dinner club with live music, comedy and magic. Waitresses in bikinis will serve four-star steak dinners, champagne and win.

"We're going to have top-notch, talented entertainment," said David Carlat, a public relations representative for Platinum.

"It will be a club where anyone can be perfectly comfortable with their wife or their date. It will be very much like the Playboy Club, except the waitresses will be in bathing suits without tails and ears."

Besides the bikinis, residents and city officials are skeptical about whether the new club can adhere to tough restrictions -- like an 11 p.m. closing time -- imposed upon the site after frequent noise and traffic complaints were lodged against the now-defunct Club Aftershock, which closed two years ago.

"This is an owner/management combination that has to prove itself in view of pas performances," said Dale Thrush, a planning deputy for Councilman Joel Wachs.

The lease on the property has been held for the last 10 years by Richard Kritzer, according to Platinum Club officials. The owners of Platinum Club are Kritzer and others from Universal Hospitality and Entertainment Inc., based in Woodland Hills, officials say.

But Platinum officials say they are being unfairly painted with the same brush as the old club.

Kritzer filed a lawsuit this month in Superior Court to challenge, among other things, the early closing time and free valet parking restrictions.

"This is a brand-new operation by a totally different business entity," said Roger Jon Diamond, Kritzer's attorney.Platinum Live "does not want to be restricted upon by the conditions that were imposed on Aftershock. Residents need not fear this business."

So far, Platinum officials say they have worked hard to try to appease residents' and officials' concerns about noise and traffic at the new club, which is under construction.

Club officials have spent over $1 million in renovations, including $130,000 for sound proofing panels in the walls, according to contractor Ed Roane of E. Roane Construction Management Inc. of Toluca Late. Parking concerns are being addressed as negotiations are under way to build a parking structure near the property.

Club officials also introduced their plans to the Studio City Residents Association in September with brochures advertising the new club, and stating it is "doing everything we can to address concerns about noise, parking and neighborhood security."

"In some cases, we have been met with open arms from the community," Roane said.

But some residents, like Art Howard, 66, are still trying to figure out exactly what the plans are.

"Our biggest problem with this is that nobody has really been truthful with us on this," he said. "They are telling us that it's an upscale restaurant with a floor show that would have weddings and bar mitzvahs.

"We don't think anybody would have a bar mitzvah or a wedding at this kind of place."

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Judge Denies Bail for Ex-CHP Officer
November 1, 2000

By STUART PFEIFER, Times Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Times

An Orange County judge on Tuesday ordered a former CHP officer held without bail on charges of orchestrating the 1989 murder of his business partner in several Los Angeles County strip clubs.

Michael Woods, a silver-haired nude-cabaret owner and part-time movie producer, did not enter a plea during a brief hearing in Santa Ana. But outside the courtroom, Woods' lawyer insisted her client is innocent.

Defense attorney Vicki Podberesky questioned investigators' dealings with two other suspects in the case, including the alleged triggerman, who recorded conversations in which Woods reportedly discussed the slaying.

"I think it's always potentially unfair any time the district attorney sees fit to build a case on informant testimony," Podberesky said.

Authorities contend that Woods paid his bodyguard $50,000 to arrange the ambush slaying of Horace J. McKenna, who was gunned down after arriving at his Brea hilltop ranch in a chauffeured limousine.

Woods was arrested Friday, 3 1/2 years after a district attorney investigator reopened the long-unsolved case. Podberesky said she will ask Judge Steven Perk to release her client on bail at a Nov. 21 court appearance.

Before bailiffs led Woods out of the courtroom, he nodded reassuringly at relatives, including his wife, Diane, who blew him a kiss.

Authorities allege that Woods wanted McKenna dead so he could take over the nude clubs both men operated.

Woods, 58, and his onetime bodyguard, David Amos, still own three of the clubs, Bare Elegance in Hawthorne, New Jet Strip in Lennox and Valley Ball Cabaret in the San Fernando Valley.

Amos, 41, allegedly paid a third man, John Patrick Sheridan, $25,000 to commit the March 9, 1989, slaying. Both Amos and Sheridan reportedly cooperated in the investigation of Woods, wearing wires while discussing McKenna's killing with him. They are also held without bail.

Amos was co-star and Woods executive producer of a 1995 movie, "The Takeover," in which crime families fought for control of cocaine trafficking and two Los Angeles strip clubs. They were each involved in the 1997 film, "Flipping," also about a violent struggle for several L.A. clubs.

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2 Charged in Murder Like One in Film They Produced
October 31, 2000

By STUART PFEIFER, JACK LEONARD and MIKE ANTON, Times Staff Writers
The Los Angeles Times

In the video movie "The Takeover," a bloody fight for control over nude clubs with names like Bare Elegance and The Jet Strip rages across Los Angeles, ending when the clubs' owner is murdered.

That story line, authorities say, is strikingly similar to the crime with which the movie's executive producer and one of its co-stars were charged Monday.

The two suspects, who in real life run the clubs featured in the film, are accused of hiring a hit man in the 1989 slaying of Horace McKenna, a former CHP officer and owner of nude clubs who was gunned down as he sat in a chauffeured limousine in Brea. Authorities charge that the hit was part of a scheme to take control of McKenna's businesses.

The arrests of club operators Michael Woods and David Amos as well as a third man capped a three-year probe into a case that's long been one of Southern California's most sensational whodunits.

The case hinges on the testimony of the alleged triggerman, who went to police because he felt he was being cheated while his partners got rich. There were months of surveillance and wiretaps.

The cast of characters includes McKenna, a 6-foot, 6-inch bodybuilder, who was forced out of the California Highway Patrol and later did time in federal prison for distributing counterfeit money. He lived in a hilltop estate in Brea with a menagerie of exotic animals, including a tiger, monkeys and an alligator.

"He didn't care much for people, but he liked animals," said Paul Vail, a friend of McKenna's who helped renovate some of the clubs. "He had a lot of enemies, but he had a lot of friends too."

And there was Woods, prosecutors now say, who was both McKenna's friend and enemy, but who, according to his attorney, had nothing to do with the crime.

In the 1970s, he and McKenna patrolled the Sunset Strip on motorcycles for the CHP. Both eventually left the department--Woods took disability retirement--but they remained close.

The former partners eventually went into business together, opening The Jet Strip nude club on Hawthorne Boulevard in 1976, followed by a string of others, according to investigators. Woods worked as McKenna's No. 2 man at the clubs, they said.

But the ventures soon were being investigated by the Los Angeles district attorney's office, which suspected a tax-fraud scheme. The probe was part of a special program that sought cases against "full-time criminals," and McKenna became the investigators' first target.

As a convicted felon, McKenna couldn't get a permit to operate a nude club and was never listed as an owner on corporation records. But detectives at the time alleged that he took the bulk of the profits from the ventures, which grossed as much as $2.5 million a year.

Woods and McKenna began to feud over the direction of the clubs and other personal problems, investigators said. Woods allegedly was frustrated with the way McKenna tried to bully him and others at the club and feared that his partner was drawing the attention of law officers.

Enter David Amos, Woods' bodyguard. Woods paid him $50,000 to have McKenna killed, according to prosecutors. Amos allegedly gave half the money to another strip club employee, John Patrick Sheridan, to make the hit.

"When Dave said he wanted it done, I said I'd find somebody to do it. But I couldn't find anybody," Sheridan said in a jailhouse interview Saturday. "There's an old saying: If you want something done right, you've gotta do it yourself."

On March 9, 1989, Sheridan told a Times reporter, he drove up the hill to McKenna's compound and waited for his target to return home. Just after midnight, McKenna's stretch limousine pulled up. His chauffeur got out to open the gate to the driveway.

Sheridan said it was then that he emerged from the shadows and pumped 23 rounds from a 9-millimeter Uzi into the limo's back seat. "I've been shot," McKenna groaned to his chauffeur. "I'm not going to make it."

After the job was done, Amos became a business partner in the clubs, authorities say.

* * *

In "The Takeover," produced in 1995, Amos, a handsome British immigrant and part-time actor, portrays an ex-con who is forced to work for a Chicago-based crime family battling to take control of a rival group's cocaine and strip club empire.

As part of his work, he helps commit kidnappings and other crimes before eventually becoming the hero of the movie when he murders the heads of both crime families and ends up controlling the clubs. He plans to turn one of the clubs into a family restaurant.

"I thought that was kind of arrogant to be involved [in the killing] and then make that movie," said Rick Morton, an investigator for the district attorney's office. "It's like they're putting it in people's faces."

The task of finding McKenna's killer fell to Brea police, a department of only 100 officers that rarely is faced with such a high-profile murder. The agency spent "hundreds of hours" following clues and tracing people who knew McKenna.

But detectives quickly discovered that the victim's associates were far from helpful. Many had criminal records and were reluctant to cooperate.

McKenna's son, Michael, said he concluded early on that his father's killing never would be solved. By putting those concerns aside, he said, it was easier for him to move on with his life. "I wrote it off a long time ago," Michael McKenna said. "It was never going to happen."

* * *

In the years since the murder, Woods and Amos continued to profit from the clubs, authorities allege, and branched out into the film industry.

"The Takeover" was distributed by Live Entertainment, the movie company run by Jose E. Menendez before his notorious death at the hands of his sons in 1989. The company was among the largest suppliers of direct-to-video titles.

The movie, which Woods backed as executive producer, typified the "erotic thriller" genre that won early success in the direct-to-video market, said Thomas K. Arnold, editor in chief of Video Store magazine.

"Pretty girls and guns. That's the mantra for these movies," Arnold said.

The movie sold fewer than 50,000 copies, Arnold said. Woods' next film, "Flipping," starred Amos as a tough who passes information about an organized crime syndicate to a Los Angeles police detective.

"Flipping" actually had a small theatrical run. The Times gave it an unfavorable review, saying, "Gangster pictures don't come any phonier than this misfired attempt."

Arnold said the independent film business is filled with novice producers like Woods who throw good money at bad ideas.

"He basically bought himself into the movie industry," Arnold said. "I think a lot of these people are driven by ego."

Investigators thought so, too. They said they were struck by some of the similarities between the characters portrayed on screen in "The Takeover" and those in real life.

Amos' attorney, however, dismissed the suggestion that his client's starring role in the film entails a sort of celluloid confession.

"You can't say movies portray real life," said lawyer Michael Molfetta. "Otherwise, Oliver Stone would be in an insane asylum."

* * *

In 1997, Morton decided to take a fresh look at three unsolved killings in the 1980s that had suspected links to organized crime. They included the slayings of Jimmy Casino, the founder of the Mustang Club strip bar in Santa Ana, and George Yudzevich, an associate of Casino, and McKenna.

Morton had monitored McKenna while working for the Los Angeles Police Department's vice squad 20 years earlier. Now, he noticed that Woods had taken over the running of the clubs along with his bodyguard, Amos.

Morton also zeroed in on Sheridan, an ex-con who worked at Woods' clubs. And then he got his big break. Through a Ventura County sheriff's detective, Morton learned that Sheridan wanted to talk. He confessed in January, admitting that he killed McKenna.

Shortly after the slaying, Sheridan went to prison for drug trafficking. After his release, he learned that Woods and Amos were running the clubs. They hired Sheridan as a $5-per-hour security guard.

"Mac goes down and everybody hits the lottery," Sheridan said. "I go to prison, I get out and everybody is making money except me."

That made it easy for Sheridan to decide what to do this year. He worked for 10 months as an informant for Orange County detectives, recording conversations about the killing with Amos and Woods.

On Thursday, investigators arrested Amos. During a meeting with his attorneys and investigators, Amos learned for the first time about the evidence Sheridan had built against him. Like Sheridan, he agreed to turn against Woods, prosecutors revealed Monday.

On Friday, Judge Steven Perk ordered both Amos and Sheridan, who appeared at a separate hearing, to be held without bail pending Nov. 17 court appearances. Woods is scheduled to appear in court today.

Prosecutors said they made no promises to Sheridan or Amos in exchange for their cooperation, but told them such cooperation might net them sentences in the range of 15 years. Woods will get no such deal.

"I wanted everyone involved," Morton said. "Especially the former cop who we believe was behind this and orchestrated it. There are many people we talked to who thought he got away with it because he was an ex-cop."

---

Times staff writers James Bates and correspondent Louise Roug contributed to this story.

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O.C. Arrests 3 in '89 Slaying of Ex-Officer
October 29, 2000

By STUART PFEIFER, JACK LEONARD, Times Staff Writers
The Los Angeles Times

Eleven years after a flamboyant CHP officer-turned-nude club operator was gunned down outside his Brea mansion, Orange County investigators have arrested his former patrol partner and two others in connection with the notorious case.

Horace J. McKenna died in a hail of machine-gun fire on March 9, 1989, as he sat in a chauffeured limousine outside his estate--a 40-acre compound housing exotic animals including monkeys, wild cats and even an alligator.

The nature of the murder--and the story of a victim who straddled both sides of the law--made it one of Orange County's most sensational whodunits.

Michael Woods, 58, was booked into the Orange County Jail on Friday, according to the Sheriff's Department. Woods' attorney, Richard Hirsch, confirmed Saturday that his client was arrested in connection with the McKenna murder.

Also taken into custody on suspicion of murder was David Amos, 41, according to police and his attorney. Both men are listed in state corporation records as business associates in two Los Angeles nude clubs.

The third suspect, who authorities allege is the gunman, said in a jailhouse interview Saturday that he confessed to the crime 10 months ago and has been working ever since as an informant for the Orange County district attorney's office.

John Patrick Sheridan, who was manager of one of the clubs, said he wore a wire that recorded conversations with the other two suspects.

Detectives declined to comment on the investigation Saturday. But law enforcement sources said the arrests come 3 1/2 years after detectives with the organized crime unit reopened the "cold case."

Woods and McKenna worked together as California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers in Los Angeles before becoming business associates in several nude clubs around Southern California, including Bare Elegance and the New Jet Strip.

At the time of McKenna's murder, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office was looking at the strip clubs as part of a tax fraud investigation. Homicide detectives early on probed a possible link between the investigation and McKenna's murder but could never find anything conclusive.

Attorneys for Woods and Amos said their clients have never been in trouble with the law before and that they are waiting for prosecutors to brief them with details of the case.

Woods has "never been arrested in his life," Hirsch said. "We're going to review the evidence when we see it and [will] have an appropriate comment at that time."

A decade ago, Woods said through a different attorney that he had nothing to do with the murder.

'Big Mac' Did Time for Passing Bogus Bills McKenna, a 6-foot-6-inch bodybuilder known as "Big Mac," was forced out of the CHP in the 1970s and later spent four years in federal prison after being convicted of passing counterfeit money. He was sent back to prison a few years later for a parole violation after getting into a fight with an off-duty police officer, according to court records.

McKenna was arriving home in his limousine after midnight when the attack occurred. As his driver exited the car to open the gate to his estate, a man with a machine gun fired 20 rounds into the back seat.

On Saturday, Sheridan identified himself as the gunman and said he was paid $25,000 to kill McKenna. He first tried to hire someone else for the hit but couldn't find anyone. So instead, he went up to McKenna's hillside home himself and waited to ambush him.

"There's an old saying: 'If you want something done right, you've gotta do it yourself,' " Sheridan said.

Almost immediately, he said he felt nagging guilt about what he had done.

"I woke up, and I saw it on TV," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I saw a car with all the holes in it . . . I felt bad from day one." For the next decade, he said he tried to put the murder behind him. Then, in January, a friend who worked in law enforcement approached him about the case and asked him to talk with prosecutors about cooperating, he said.

Sheridan eventually confessed to the district attorney's office, he said, but was allowed to remain free and joined their investigation as an informant.

"How many hit men do you know who give a confession and post no bail, and then go home?" he said. "That was me."

The homicide investigation focused on a group of nude clubs in Los Angeles County. Court papers filed by Los Angeles prosecutors handling the 1989 tax fraud probe allege that McKenna and Woods were "hidden owners" of the clubs.

McKenna's slaying shocked neighbors, some of whom described the victim as a eccentric but kind man who loved his assortment of exotic animals and enjoyed showing people around his compound. Others, however, described him as an intimidating and bullying figure.

Nine months before the murder, the Department of Fish and Game seized two spider monkeys, a black leopard and a tiger at the property because they were being kept illegally.

For McKenna's family, the arrest comes after years of wondering about whether the police would ever get this far.

'It's been a long time coming," McKenna's son, Michael J. McKenna, said Saturday. "It's no closure yet just because three men have been arrested [and not convicted]. It's just a wait and see, now."

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Huntington draft law concerns nudists
July 7, 2000

By PETER LARSEN
The Orange County Register

Erich Schuttauf is a Florida attorney who believes the Huntington Beach City Council is about to pass a law that threatens an entire way of life.

"We're what the Saturday Evening Post covers are all about, the old Norman Rockwell covers, where skinny dipping is as American as apple pie," said Schuttauf, the executive director of the American Association for Nude Recreation.

Schuttauf and other nudists want Huntington Beach to revise its proposed anti-nudity ordinance to distinguish - as Schuttauf says members of the U.S. Supreme Court have done - between "bad nudity and good nudity."

The draft ordinance given preliminary approval last month basically says no one older than 9 can be naked in any place open to the public or public view. It was written along with a separate sex-oriented business ordinance to address concerns by the city about adult-entertainment businesses such as a nude juice bar that opened recently on Beach Boulevard.

A final vote originally scheduled for today has been postponed until Sept. 5 after the city attorney asked for more time to revise the law.

Schuttauf, who is in San Diego County for the group's annual convention, said he and others still will attend the meeting to tell the City Council that they support laws to regulate adult entertainment, but would like exemptions for nudist clubs and resorts from the ordinance.

He said the group hopes an exemption will be added for "places set apart for family oriented naturism or nudism." Such provisions have been included by lawmakers from the West Virginia Legislature to Pasco County in Florida, Schuttauf said.

Even though there are no nudist clubs or resorts in Huntington Beach, there is one - Mystic Oaks, formerly known as McConville - in the county, he said. The Kissimmee, Fla.-based association is concerned that similar ordinances might spread to the county or other cities, making it more and more difficult for nudists to find places to meet.

Deputy City Attorney Sarah Lazarus said the city has heard concerns about the ordinance from many nudists. She said the law, which may be revised before the council votes on it again, would not necessarily clash with the nudist lifestyle.

"They might be exempt from our ordinance anyway," Lazarus said. "We'd have to look at that to see whether (a nudist club or resort) fits the definition of a place open to the public."

Private clubs that do not meet publicly would not be affected, "as long as it's not open to public view, or a place where the public could simply walk in, or pay a cover charge and walk in," she said.

As for Schuttauf's concern that a nudist group couldn't have a backyard potluck and go skinny dipping the pool, Lazarus said private parties on private property would not be subject to the law.

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Sting Operation Leads to Raid of Flesh
June 3, 2000

By BEN GOAD
The Press-Enterprise

Pandering and prostitution are alleged against a San Bernardino business and its dancers.

Undercover police officers paid dancers to have sex with each other during a month-long sting operation inside the Flesh Night Club in San Bernardino that culminated in last week's raid of the club, according to court documents released this week.

The allegations, which police believe constitute both prostitution and pandering, are described in lewd detail in a 28-page affidavit for a search warrant.

Attorneys for the club have been embroiled in a five-year legal battle with the city over the club's location and argue that the investigation and the raid are in retaliation for recent court victories.

Despite the May 26 raid, no arrests have been made in connection with the alleged prostitution ring, San Bernardino police Lt. W.D. Smith said. He declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation of the club and its dancers.

But the documents describe several instances when two undercover police officers paid dancers to perform various sexual acts -- including penetration, oral copulation and the use of sex toys -- on each other. This, according to the documents, is a form of misdemeanor prostitution.

Because part of the $100 to $120 cost to watch the women have sex went to the house, the club is guilty of pandering, a felony. Club manager Qiang Ye also is accused in the documents of running a disorderly house, a misdemeanor.

Roger Jon Diamond, attorney for the club and its dancers dismissed the allegations as false and the investigation as an abuse of police resources. The activities described, he said, do not fit the definition of prostitution.

"What they're describing is clearly not prostitution," Diamond said of the documents. "I believe this is a gross misuse of tax money."

City Attorney James Penman said the secret investigation, allegations and raid were neither planned in concert with the office nor a result of the ongoing feud between the club and the city.

However, he said if the investigation culminates in convictions of any of the employees, the city could file for an injunction to shut the club down.

Diamond said he believes the raid and allegations were ordered by high-ranking government officials as retribution for recent court rulings that allowed the Hospitality Lane club to remain open.

"I don't hold the police responsible, they were simply being used as pawns by the city government," he said. "This is retaliation."

Information that prostitution and pandering were taking place inside the club was received by police in late April, according to the affidavit. On May 2, two officers were fitted with a tape recorder and small video camera and sent into the club, posing as civilians.

On six separate evenings between May 3 and May 22, the pair visited the club, the documents said. The affidavit, which reads more like the script for an X-rated movie than a court document, recounts all the monetary transactions and most conversations between the officers and the women. During those nights, they gradually gained the trust of dancers as regular customers.

The dancers, who are identified by aliases like Kat, Angel and Malibu, on several occasions agreed to perform sex acts on each other in a booth in the so-called VIP room, according to the document.

The officers were allegedly told by the dancers that about $45 of the $100 to $120 charge for this service went to the club, which is owned by Upland-based Manta Management.

They also described to the officers a system in place at the club, in case of a raid, where Ye would stall officers while other employees cleared the VIP room.

One dancer, Malibu, allegedly told one of the officers that some dancers performed sexual acts on men with their hands. On another occasion, the officers found an empty condom wrapper beneath their booth in the VIP room, according to the document.

All of the evidence gathered by the officers was enough for San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Martin to sign a warrant allowing for police to search the club. Along with the Flesh Night Club itself, Ye and eight dancers were named in the warrant.

It was four days after the officers' final undercover visit to the club when the raid came. The business was closed down for several hours while police confiscated the club's records, list of dancers, photos and a single condom.

Because the operation is part of a lengthy investigation of the club, police decided beforehand not to arrest the dancers, but to identify them for future prosecution, the affidavit says.

Though he is adamant that no prostitution or pandering takes place at the club, Diamond said he feared police may raid the club a second time to arrest employees.

"If that's their plan, there's no need to arrest anyone," the attorney said. "Any of the employees or dancers will surrender voluntarily and we'll fight this out in court."

Ben Goad can be reached by e-mail at bgoad@pe.com or by phone at (909) 890-4450.

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Strip Club Sting Nets 6
April 20, 2000

By JOAN KITE
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin Staff Writer

* Misdemeanor prostitution charges lodged against 2 dancers, 4 customers.

UPLAND An anonymous tip, a hidden video camera and the endorsement of an adult Web site helped investigators determine that some dancers and customers of a local club have been getting too close and way too personal, officials said Wednesday.

Undercover officers only visited the club a few times before seeing for themselves expressions of intimate contact touted by visitors to an adult Web site, Upland police Lt. Rod Lines said.

"We like to think those things don't occur openly in any club," Lines said. "There was no attempt to hide this."

Two dancers and four customers have been charged with misdemeanor counts of prostitution in connection with the investigation.

Tropical Lei owner Randy Welty, who also owns Club Flesh in San Bernardino and Hawaii Theatre in the City of Industry, was not charged. He declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.

The Foothill Boulevard club continued to operate Wednesday as police released details of a yearlong investigation.

Figuring they might be recognized themselves, Upland investigators recruited police officers from Ontario to go undercover and check out a tip of sexual activity between club dancers and customers.

"They were quite surprised at what they were seeing," Lines said

Investigators also gathered evidence using a Web site touting the action at strip clubs that suggested club patrons received "high mileage" - or high-contact - lap dances, Lines said.

Police brought the information to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, which asked for additional evidence of wrongdoing. Investigators got what they needed on a hidden video camera, Lines said.

San Bernardino County Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Maxwell said his office has since filed three counts of misdemeanor prostitution against two dancers who work under the names "Dallas" and "Lace." Four customers were each charged with one count of misdemeanor prostitution.

Santa Monica attorney Roger Diamond will represent the dancers when they are scheduled to appear at West Valley Superior Court in May.

"The courtroom is the place to try cases," Diamond said. "Videotapes don't matter. They always help the defense because the videotapes accurately portrayed what happened."

Diamond also criticized investigators for releasing information before the six appeared in court.

"It is shocking that the police would prejudice the right of the defendant by leaking sensitive information to the media," Diamond said. "This is unethical and sleazy."

Staff writer Robert Shaffer contributed to this story.

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U.S. Supreme Court limits nude-dancing protections
March 29, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) The Supreme Court on Wednesday limited some of nude dancing's freedom-of-expression protections.

The justices, by a 6-3 vote, upheld against a free-speech challenge an Erie, Pa., public-indecency ordinance that requires women who work as barroom dancers to wear at least pasties and a G-string when performing.

Pennsylvania's highest court had struck down the law, ruling that it unlawfully infringed expressive freedom, as protected by the Constitution's First Amendment.

Although the court's rationale was splintered, today's decision is sure to have broad impact. Nude entertainment is featured in some 3,000 adult clubs nationwide, the justices had been told.

They said the Pennsylvania court was wrong.

Writing in the court's main opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said nude dancing is "expressive conduct" but that it "falls only within the outer ambit" of First Amendment protection.

She added that the nude-dancing ban furthers Erie's "interest in combating the negative secondary effects associated with adult entertainment establishments," such as crime, and was not aimed at the erotic message of nude dancing.

In that way, she said, the nude-dancing ban "is no different than the ban on burning draft registration cards" previously upheld by the Supreme Court, in which the government "sought to prevent the means of the expression and not the expression of antiwar sentiment itself."

Even if the nude-dancing ban "has some minimal effect on the erotic message by muting that portion of the expression that occurs when the last stitch is dropped," O'Connor said, the dancers are free to perform wearing pasties and G-strings. Any effect on overall expression is minimal, she said.

Valerie Sprenkle, the assistant Erie city solicitor, said "the nudity ban will be reinstated" but was not sure when.

"We're delighted. From what we see, it's a win," Sprenkle said.

The main part of O'Connor's opinion was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, in a separate opinion by Scalia, voted to uphold the law on different grounds, citing "the traditional power of government to foster good morals ... and the acceptability of the traditional judgment ... that nude public dancing itself is immoral."

However, Scalia also contended the case was moot because the nightclub at issue, known as Kandyland, had been sold.

Justice David H. Souter wrote separately that he agreed with O'Connor's analysis, but that he believed the city had not shown its ordinance was designed to deal with "real harms." He said the city should be given a chance to do so.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the ruling, saying in an opinion by Stevens that the court had decided for the first time that secondary effects "may justify the total suppression of protected speech."

"Indeed, the plurality opinion concludes that admittedly trivial advancements of a state's interests may provide the basis for censorship," Stevens wrote.

The Erie dispute was not the Supreme Court's first tour of the far reaches of free-speech law. In 1991, a badly splintered court ruled that nude dancing is a form of expression within the First Amendment's "outer perimeters" and is entitled to some protection from government censorship.

But that 1991 ruling also allowed Indiana to ban all barroom-style nude dancing under a state law generally prohibiting public nudity.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, voting 4-3 in 1998, struck down Erie's ordinance after calling the splintered 1991 decision a "hodgepodge of opinions" that offered little guidance.

The 1994 ordinance had been challenged by Nick Panos, who used to own the Kandyland nude-dancing club. He since has sold the club to a new owner, Joseph Cunningham, who closed it down and opened a similar club, Kandy's Dinner Theater, at a new location.

The newer club, surrounded by auto parts stores, gas stations and fast-food restaurants, is the only establishment in Erie where women performers dance while naked. A lighted sign out front proclaims: "First Amendment Rights Headquarters."

A key issue in the Erie case was whether city officials enacted a "content-neutral" law against public nudity in general, or whether they specifically targeted nude dancing.

O'Connor said the ordinance was "on its face a content-neutral restriction that regulates conduct, not First Amendment expression."

"The ordinance regulates conduct, and any incidental impact on the expressive element of nude dancing" is minimal, O'Connor said. The requirement to wear G-strings and pasties "leaves ample capacity to convey the dancer's erotic message," she added.

Stevens' dissent contended the ordinance was "aimed directly at the dancers in establishments such as Kandyland" and should be held "patently invalid."

One issue before the justices had been whether Panos' departure from the scene had made the dispute legally moot, but the court last June denied his attempt to have them declare just that and thereby preserve his state Supreme Court victory.

O'Connor said the case was not moot because the club could reopen and also because the court has an interest in keeping people who won a lower court ruling from seeking to "insulate a favorable decision from review."

The case is Erie vs. Pap's A.M., 98-1161.

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Anaheim Drops Charges Against Lap Dancers
February 23, 2000

By DANIEL YI
LA Times Staff Writer

Anaheim officials on Tuesday dropped prostitution charges against seven lap dancers whose 2-year-old case briefly put the city in the spotlight in the ongoing legal battle between adult entertainment businesses and communities seeking to restrict them.

"Hopefully this will be the last chapter in a long path that has cost taxpayers a lot of money and my clients a lot of anxiety," said Roger Jon Diamond, the attorney for the women.

The dancers were arrested in 1997 after undercover police officers videotaped them performing dances for customers of the Sahara Theater, a strip club.

The scantly clad women brushed their bodies against the fully clothed patrons.

They were convicted on charges of prostitution and of violating a city ordinance that bans touching between exotic dancers and their customers. State law does not require that sexual intercourse occur for prostitution charges to be filed.

But the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the convictions in September, saying the jury in the case was wrongly instructed not to consider lap dancing a form of artistic expression. It also struck down the city's no-touching ban, saying it went too far by criminalizing such actions. Last month, the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning the women could be retried only on the prostitution charges.

"We decided we would not be able to prove the case based upon the standards that the [appeals] court had created," Anaheim City Atty. Jack L. White said.

Cities across the nation have long sought to restrict and even ban adult entertainment businesses. They have met with mixed results in the courts, which have ruled that such establishments are protected by the 1st Amendment but are nonetheless subject to reasonable regulations.

Anaheim, home to five nude cabarets and topless bars, has been one of the more aggressive regulators in the state. In another case last year, the same appellate court ruled that the city unfairly denied a permit to another adult theater operator.

White said the city will continue to apply its standards stringently.

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Lap-dance law lands owner of club in jail
February 23, 2000

By ERIC CARPENTER and ANDREW TUTTLE
The Orange County Register

LA HABRA The owner of a nude-dance theater suffered a major setback Tuesday in his battle to keep his club open when he was sentenced to 24 days in jail and fined $6,000.

The sentencing sets the stage for a May 1 hearing that could lead to the closure of the Pelican Theatre.

Superior Court Judge H. Warren Siegel ruled that Pelican owner Bill Gammoh, 36, repeatedly allowed lap dances in violation of a court order. Gammoh was handcuffed and taken to jail.

"It's a huge victory," said La Habra City Manager Tom Mauk. "We're basking in this one."

Police testified that Gammoh advertised the dances in fliers. A city ordinance says dancers must stay at least six feet away from patrons.

Gammoh spent 10 days in jail in June for allowing such dances. He has argued that the city's ban is unreasonable.

"He believes it is unconstitutional, and allowing that kind of dancing is key to the survival of his club," said Gammoh's attorney, Larry Adamsky.

The Pelican opened in December 1998 after a three-year battle with the city. Of four original partners, only Gammoh remains.

In May, Siegel will preside over a permanent-injunction hearing. If the club continues to break the law, the judge could decide to close it down, said Deborah Fox, an attorney for the city.

Rhonda Tommer, leader of a residents group opposed to the Pelican, said she's encouraged.

"Hopefully, this means we're one step closer to shutting it down," she said.

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Judge Voids City Ban on Topless Bar
February 1, 2000

TARZANA (LA Times) A Superior Court judge has overturned the recent Los Angeles City Council decision prohibiting a Tarzana bikini bar from going topless, but city officials said Monday they still hope to block the change.

Judge Dzintra Janavs ordered the City Council to set aside its Dec. 15 action denying permission for Dino's Show Bar on Oxnard Street to convert to topless dancing. She ruled that the city failed to show that there are other locations in Los Angeles where such a constitutionally protected business could operate legally.

"Although reasonable people may question the wisdom of placing the burden on the city to find and identify specific available business locations for adult businesses, precedent, which this court must follow, so holds," Janavs said in the ruling dated Jan. 28 and received by attorneys over the weekend.

Roger Diamond, an attorney for the Oxnard Street bar, said he believes the ruling requires the council to grant permission for topless dancing.

But Deputy City Atty. John Cotti said the judge remanded the issue to the council, which could revisit the application and provide the proper evidence to ban topless dancing in conformance with the judge's order.

The council denied a request by the bar for an exception to operate an adult business within 500 feet of homes, saying there are plenty of other locations where the business could operate.

But Diamond argued that because topless entertainment is constitutionally protected free speech, the city had an obligation to identify the locations.

"The burden was on the city to demonstrate where there are places for us," Diamond said. "In my opinion, the judge's order gives us the exception."

The judge gave Diamond until Feb. 9 to file a new proposed judgment.

The court decision frustrated city officials and residents who had fought the bar.

"I'm disgusted," said Helen Itria Norman, president of the Tarzana Property Owners Assn. "It's of great concern to the homeowners because it's an inappropriate location for that kind of business."

Councilwoman Laura Chick of Tarzana said she has asked the city attorney to do whatever is necessary to make sure the council action is upheld.

Janavs said the courts have spoken clearly on the issue of adult entertainment.

"Adult entertainment, including an entertainer's right to bare breasts, is constitutionally protected, although the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court . . . observed that 'few of us would march our sons and our daughters off to war to preserve the citizen's right to see 'specified sexual activities' exhibited in the theaters of our choice,' " Janavs wrote.

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Proposed Law Would Imprison Aroused Men
January 23, 2000

JACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) If you are a man who has difficulty controlling your sexual responses in public, beware. The eyes of Mississippi are upon you.

The Southern state, long considered one of the most conservative in the United States, is considering a public-sex-and-nudity law with a provision that would make it illegal for sexually aroused men to appear in public.

The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Tom King at the request of a constituent concerned about the behavior of patrons at strip clubs, defines nudity to include ``the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.'' Men who run afoul of the law could face up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine. ``It will set some boundaries on what they (strip club patrons) can or cannot do in a community,'' said Forrest County Supervisor Johnny DuPree, who asked for a discussion of the question in the legislature.

DuPree, who has opposed the opening of a strip club at a National Guard base at Camp Shelby, outside Hattiesburg, said the law also would help local governments combat indecent acts. Hattiesburg is located about 100 miles south of the state capital, Jackson. The bill, modeled on a similar statute in Indiana, has been sent to Mississippi's Senate Judiciary Committee for further review.

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Nude-dance club opens with no pickets, few patrons
January 6, 2000

By EMANUEL PARKER
Staff Writer
From News Choice (MediaNews Group and Los Angeles Newspaper Group)

A young woman wearing nearly nothing danced in high heels to the beat of Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" at Golden Eyes on Wednesday.

The controversial all-nude but non-alcoholic club opened for its first day of business without fanfare or protest in an industrial section of southeast Arcadia, near the border with El Monte.

Jerry Schultz, an Arcadia resident who led neighborhood opposition against Golden Eyes, said he has no plans to picket the establishment that raised the ire of residents in both Arcadia and El Monte when the owners applied for city permits last year.

Residents believe the club will lower their property values and lure trouble-makers. Arcadia officials, however, said there was nothing in state or local laws that prevented Golden Eyes from opening. State law allows cities only to restrict the location of adult-oriented businesses to commercial or industrial zones.

Schultz said forming picket lines in front of the business would only bring it publicity he doesn't want it to have.

"I just want them to go out of business," Schultz said.

Owner Frank Bagheritari said the club will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.

Bagheritari said only non-alcoholic beverages can be sold there, "sodas, cappuccino, virgin drinks and O'Douls, a non-alcoholic beer."

State laws prohibit establishments that feature totally nude dancers from serving alcohol. The no-alcohol rule, however, also allows patrons as young as 18 to be admitted.

Only a few patrons were inside the club Wednesday afternoon. A large, heart-shaped table for patrons surrounds three round platforms with poles for the dancers.

Tables and chairs occupy one end, which Bagheritari said he plans to turn into a sports section, with multiple large-screen televisions showing various sporting events.

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