Z Bone Zone

Z Bone's Media Bites For 2002

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.

No Touching at Strip Clubs? Lake Forest Called Too Touchy
December 27, 2002

By Dave McKibben
LA Times Staff Writer

City officials call it bureaucratic fine-tuning -- a proposed ordinance banning close contact between topless dancers and customers at two Lake Forest strip clubs.

But to the dancers, bouncers and managers at Captain Cream, a freeway-close adult club in the south Orange County community, the ordinance could be a business killer.

"The idea is not regulation but elimination," said Les Hawthorne, the club's chief operating officer. "They hope the regulations would restrict the way we do our business so that they would eventually eliminate us."

The proposed ordinance would ban physical contact between entertainers and customers, such as the practice of dancers sauntering through the largely male crowd, collecting tips. It would also prohibit performers from getting within six feet of a patron, a rule that threatens such club staples as "table dances."

Lake Forest officials say the ordinance, which comes before the City Council on Jan. 21, is not meant to put Captain Cream or the Library, a second Lake Forest club, out of business. The intent, they say, is to eliminate activity that could lead to "secondary effects," such as prostitution or drug abuse.

Management at the Library wouldn't comment, saying it would see how such rules work out.

Dancers at Captain Cream say the city is creating a double standard.

"Are you not allowed to tip the pizza delivery guy by handing him money anymore?" said Nikki, 32, a single mother who has danced at Captain Cream for two years. "Let's make it the same for everybody."

After her stage performance on a recent afternoon, Nikki strolled by the tables in the dimly lighted club, slipping dollar-bill tips inside her skimpy Santa suit and thanking the patrons, some of them loyal regulars.

Once the ordinance took effect, patrons would be asked to drop their tips in a jar at least six feet from the stage. "It'll take the fun out of it for the customers," Nikki said. "And it'll take the personal touch out of it for us."

The dancers say the freedom to mingle with customers is what allows them to make a living in a job paid by tips only.

"I think the city is wrong," said Shoni, 37, who says she has a writing degree from Northwestern University and, like Nikki, prefers to use only her first name. "We're being singled out for the way we make our living."

Said Hawthorne, "It's like paying to go into a baseball game and then watching the game on a monitor."

The club started as a quiet Christian teen dance establishment, but was eventually turned into a bikini bar where scantily clad women wrestled in pits of shaving cream.

Later, a former club operator and his ex-wife, a stripper, did away with shaving-cream wrestling and transformed Captain Cream into one of Southern California's most widely known topless clubs.

One regular, downing a beer on an afternoon at Captain Cream, said the proposed ordinance shouldn't have a big effect there.

"This is a low-contact strip club anyway," he said. "Those tips they collect after the dances are almost like a tax. They come around and almost everybody gives them a dollar."

The ordinance would also require each dancer to be licensed before working in such establishments as Captain Cream and the Library, which is one offramp away on the San Diego Freeway.

"I think that's discriminating," said Shoni, one of more than 100 dancers employed by Captain Cream. She said the ordinance presupposes that erotic dancing is decadent and leads to crime.

"I don't see it as shameful," she said. "It's been an important part of most cultures over the years."

Lake Forest Mayor Richard T. Dixon insists that "we did not initiate this ordinance to close up anyone's business."

Nevertheless, city officials say they hope to discourage other adult establishments from opening in Lake Forest, a quiet master-planned community of 60,000.

In drafting the ordinance, the city reviewed court cases and studied the effects of similar ordinances elsewhere. In 1999, Anaheim's no-touch rule at several nude clubs was struck down by an appeals court, which ruled that the ordinance went too far by criminalizing such actions. Lake Forest officials, though, say their proposed rules are legally sound.

"By eliminating direct contact, studies show that secondary effects are reduced," said Mark Pulone, Lake Forest's assistant city manager.

"We're simply trying to eliminate problems that might occur in the future."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department said the neighborhood around Captain Cream gets, on average, the most police calls in the city. But Jon Fleischman, a department spokesman, said it's unclear what impact the new ordinance might have on law enforcement.

Hawthorne said the concern that physical contact between dancers and customers at his club might lead to prostitution or drug activity is off-target. "Just because people come together for adult entertainment doesn't mean they're interested in prostitution and drugs," he said. "The concept is that anybody who comes here is so low that they would only be interested in those things.

"The fact is that nobody here wants to get in trouble. The girls are here to earn a living.... It's like a Cheers in Lake Forest."

Nikki said she'll simply adapt if the ordinance passes. "I guess I'll just have to get used to a tip jar."



Strip Club Says Zine Defamed It
December 23, 2002

By Mariel Garza
Dailey News Staff Writer

TARZANA -- The Frisky Kitty strip club has filed a $100 million lawsuit against City Councilman Dennis Zine, saying he is harassing the club's owners in his role as a reserve police officer.

The claim is based on two impromptu visits the west San Fernando Valley councilman made in October to point out alleged vice problems at the location -- once with a police sergeant and a Daily News reporter, another time when he drove through the parking lot with Police Chief William Bratton.

Zine said the lawsuit has no merit, and that it represents simple intimidation tactics as the club fights the city's effort to shut it down.

"No, we're not harassing them, honestly," Zine said. "If they think they're going to intimidate me, they have another thing coming."

The Frisky Kitty proprietors view the attention as harassment, alleging Zine as a reserve officer abused his authority. The club's lawyer, Larry G. Noe, was unavailable for comment Monday.

"The officers of the Los Angeles Police Department and Defendant Zine under color of law, without a search warrant, without permission, and without probable cause entered the premises ... and conducted an illegal search of the premises," the complaint alleges.

Zine and his companions went so far to look behind the bar, in refrigerators and cabinets for contraband, and then quizzed the staff and patrons with "inappropriate" questions, the complaint alleges.

Later, in front of a reporter, Zine accused the business of conducting prostitution and of illegally selling alcohol -- all of which damaged the club's reputation, the suit alleges.

Zine denies any wrongdoing. He said he went into the business one time for a standard bar check. On the second occasion, Zine said, he cruised through the parking lot on a Halloween patrol with Bratton.

The city has battled the club since 1999, when the Frisky Kitty evolved from a bikini bar into a strip club. For the past two years, the city has been embroiled in a separate court challenge based on the city's refusal to issue the club a permit.

So far, the courts have favored the Frisky Kitty. Another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31, according to the lawyer for that case, Roger Jon Diamond.

The $100 million complaint against Zine was originally filed Nov. 1, according to the City Attorney's Office. It was refiled with amendments Friday, and the city has until January to respond. --Mariel Garza



Doors Can Stay Open at Strip Club
December 7, 2002

By Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Staff Writer

PICO RIVERA -- Clothing can keep coming off at the Imperial Showgirls.

A federal judge has refused to lift a preliminary injunction he issued in March that stopped city officials from shutting down the only strip club to ever open in this city.

U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian refused to remove the injunction during a hearing Monday on a motion filed by the city's attorneys.

He also ruled that two new ordinances the city passed earlier this year cannot be retroactively applied to the Imperial Showgirls club on Slauson Boulevard. Those laws restrict where in the city an adult businesses can legally open and establish operating rules for such places.

Rather than rule on the issues raised by the two ordinances, Tevrizian decided those items should be argued during a trial expected to begin in March or April 2003 in a lawsuit filed against the city by the club's owners.

Brothers LeRoy and Glenn Smith are suing Pico Rivera, claiming city officials violated their constitutional right to free speech by trying to force their club to shut down at its current location and reopen in a commercial zone.

Although Tevrizian essentially put an end to any efforts by city officials to enforce the two ordinances at the Imperial Showgirls, the laws would still apply to any new adult businesses that might want to open in Pico Rivera, said Jamie Casso, an attorney for the city.

"Both of the ordinances are now in effect,' he said. "The only issue before the judge is do these issues apply to Showgirls. It's just another part in the litigation, which is more like a marathon than a 100-yard dash.'

Any new adult business coming into Pico Rivera still would have to be located at least 150 feet from any schools, churches or homes, according to the ordinance City Council members passed in April.

Any new strip clubs that open still must abide by the rules set forth in the second ordinance, which deals with operating standards. Among those rules: Patrons must keep a certain distance from strippers, cannot tip them directly and cannot receive lap dances.

City officials worked hard to come up with new rules for where a strip club can open, forming a special committee that met several times before its members finally agreed on the new law's language. The council approved the ordinance in October.

"We are obviously disappointed,' said Mayor Gregory Salcido, who served on the committee.

Attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who represents the Smith brothers, said the city should drop all efforts to shut down the strip club.

"The city should stop wasting taxpayer money,' he said.

Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028, or by e-mail at debbie.pfeiffer@sgvn.com .



Police Fee Hikes Anger Businesses
December 6, 2002

By Patrick McGreevy
LA Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city officials said Thursday that they have received hundreds of calls and letters from businesses protesting substantial increases in fees for permits issued by the LAPD.

Some of those critics charge that city politicians are attempting to tax controversial businesses out of Los Angeles.

"They want us gone," said Paul Cole, a licensed gun dealer who owns the Target Range business in Van Nuys. "They don't want gun dealers in Los Angeles. This is how they are doing it."

Cole said he is considering ending gun sales at his business after being notified that his annual firearms vendor license is increasing 1,242% from $149 to $2,000, while each salesman permit goes from $149 to $400.

Increases are being imposed on 15 kinds of police permits, affecting 2,595 businesses and individuals. The permits include those for game arcades, auto parks, cafes with live entertainment, dance halls, firearms vendors, massage technicians, towing companies and pawnbrokers.

"It's unbelievably outrageous," pawnshop owner Igor Shekhtman said of the increase in the annual pawnbroker permit from $124 to $2,000.

He said his Loma Pawn Shop in downtown Los Angeles already pays a $3,000 fee for a state license.

Pawnbrokers received a letter from the Police Commission that said the higher fee, which was due Dec. 31, was meant to cover the "city cost of regulating this type of business activity."

Police conduct extensive background checks on all pawnbrokers and routinely review lists of items pawned in stores to look for stolen goods.

At the Great Greek Restaurant in Sherman Oaks, manager Dionisi Araklisianos said the 130% increase in the permit fee for cafes with live entertainment is excessive.

In total, the fee increases are expected to generate $1.7 million annually in additional revenue for the city.

The Los Angeles Police Commission, which issues the permits, has received hundreds of complaints about the fees, said Lt. Debra Kirk, commanding officer of the Commission Investigation Division.

The city administrative office recommended the fee hikes last year. Kirk said the commission supported only three increases -- for the massage industry, carnivals, and solicitors for police and firefighter organizations.

She said that some firms soliciting for police organizations are fraudulent, while vice officers must constantly watch for illegal activity in the massage industry.

But the commission was overruled by the City Council, which unanimously approved the package on Sept. 25, 2001.

"We thought it would have a negative impact on business in the city," Kirk said.

City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski defended the increases, saying that many of the permit fees had not been changed for a decade.

"Although people are seeing a significant leap in the fees, it's been a long time since they were looked at," Miscikowski said.

As chairwoman of the council's Public Safety Committee, Miscikowski said she was satisfied that the higher fees were necessary to recover the city's cost of ensuring that businesses operate "on the up and up."

"These are activities where if they weren't properly permitted and controlled, sometimes things could go awry and lead to criminal activity," Miscikowski said.

The Police Department only charges fees for businesses that require police responses or oversight, such as massage parlors and arcades.

Officers do extensive background checks on all permit applicants, and keep track of items pawned and guns sold. The city also incurs costs when a disciplinary hearing is held for a permit-holder.

"We would be putting the city in an awkward position if we did not recover our costs," Councilman Nick Pacheco said.

Raisa Trakhtenberg said she was upset that her pawnshop was not notified until last month of the fee increase, more than a year after the fact.

"They should have let us know a year ago so we would have time to respond," she said,

Some of those who received the letter, dated Nov. 13, are suspicious that it was timed to arrive just after the vote for San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession. Secession leaders said it appeared that the city did not want to create controversy before the secession vote.

They said the same appears true of a letter sent to 151,000 people that said they may owe business taxes to the city.

That letter also has caused City Hall to be inundated with complaining calls, many from people who operate small-business ventures from their homes and resent being asked to pay taxes on meager earnings.



Lap Dancing Is OK—but Feet Are Off-Limits
August 1, 2002

From LA Times

LAS VEGAS -- Worried that excessive contact between topless or nude lap dancers and their customers breeds prostitution, Clark County commissioners on Wednesday adopted an ordinance that strictly limits what parts of a dancer's body can touch a patron and that outlaws putting tip money behind a dancer's G-string.

The new ordinance, which affects 20 clubs near the Strip and in outlying neighborhoods of the county, replaces a 1994 law that had outright banned exotic dancers from performing up close and-personal for individual patrons, frequently in curtained rooms. The law had gone unenforced because strip clubs had successfully challenged its constitutionality.

"These restrictions will still allow people to come here and have fun," said County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates. "But many of the activities that had been going on were prostitution, or close to it."

The new law defines which parts of a patron's body the dancer cannot touch, and which parts of her body are off-limits to customer contact. But Atkinson Gates, who initially wanted a 6-foot separation between dancer and patron, supported the final draft, which allows the dancer to slide down a patron's leg as long as she doesn't touch his groin or his feet.

Officials said the restrictions were needed because an 18-month undercover vice operation resulted in 63 arrests of 52 dancers on prostitution charges.

Casino executives have grown increasingly frustrated that a growing number of conventioneers and others are abandoning the Strip in favor of strippers, and they hope the restrictions will temper the clubs' popularity.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman welcomed the crackdown—so customers would visit the strip clubs in his jurisdiction. "In my city, as long as no law is broken, anything goes," he said. "That's what Las Vegas is all about. That's what makes us mythical."



New rules proposed for lap dancing
July 11, 2002

email: adrienne@lasvegassun.com

A Clark County commissioner's proposed law to tighten restrictions on lap dances could strip the allure from the Las Vegas indulgence popular with strip club patrons ranging from businessmen to rowdy bachelors.

Technically, lap dances are illegal under county law, but the law is so vague that it is rarely enforced, Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates said.

Atkinson Gates wants to impose stringent, enforceable guidelines on lap dancing -- an activity in which a topless or nude dancer gyrates and rubs against a paying customer, usually for the length of a song.

"You're not supposed to lap dance," Atkinson Gates said. "Now what we're doing is saying if you lap dance, there are certain things you can do and cannot do."

The proposed law prohibits patrons from using any part of their body to make contact with a dancer's breasts or genitals. It also bans lap dancing in closed, private rooms.

The proposal would also do away with common tipping methods in strip clubs -- stuffing dollar bills in G-strings.

Some critics say a law that limits contact between dancers and customers would effectively end lap dancing in the county and devastate strip clubs financially.

"It would hurt our business tremendously," said an official at Strip Tease Cabaret, who would not give his name. "We pay very high taxes to stay open and we need lap dances to support us."

Lap dances, which generally cost a customer at least $20, are the main source of income for strippers. Strip Tease officials fear dancers would move to strip clubs within the city limits if the proposed county ordinance passed.

But Atkinson Gates and Las Vegas officials said the city is working on an identical ordinance to be introduced in August.

Pete Eliades, owner of the Olympic Garden, said he is not bothered by Atkinson Gates' proposal. Eliades said his clubs are "not houses of prostitution" and that he expects men and women to respect each other during the dances.

"They're not there for the touching," Eliades said. "But sometimes it happens. It's sometimes hard to separate a man and a woman; it's so natural."

Atkinson Gates acknowledged her ordinance contradicts Las Vegas' image as a mecca for strippers and their fans.

A flurry of adult entertainment establishments has proliferated here in recent years, establishing Las Vegas as one of the nation's strip club capitals.

For some, adult entertainment and lap dances provided a sense of normalcy and patriotism during the economic downturn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman urged "all able-bodied constituents to go out and have a lap dance" to help the sagging economy after Sept. 11.

Eliades claimed he was following President Bush's plea to "move forward" when he bought the Sporting House fitness club in November with designs to convert it into a topless club.

But Atkinson Gates emphasized that adult clubs have privileged licenses and should comply with the law.

"Just because we've been portrayed this way doesn't mean we should adhere to the portrayal," she said.

Atkinson Gates said because the law against lap dances hasn't been enforced, the type of dancing has escalated to the point that dancers and patrons practically engage in sex acts along stages, cocktail tables or in booths. It is so common few club owners are aware it's illegal.

"No one is saying you can't have it; you can have it, but with limits," Atkinson Gates said. "We're not taking the fun out if it, we're trying to do a better job of regulating it."

Clark County Business License Director Ardel Jorgenson agreed that over the years the county's antiquated regulations allowed activities inside gentlemen's clubs to become increasingly risque.

"Twenty years ago most topless dancing took place on a stage and the dancer-patron contact was the tipping," Jorgenson said. "The contact has gone from tipping to full lap-dancing where there is tremendous contact."

The ordinance will be introduced Tuesday and commissioners will vote on the law after a public hearing scheduled for July 31. However if commissioners pass the new law, the issue of enforcing the ordinance could prove difficult. As the law stands, Metro Police typically won't blow the whistle unless the act becomes prostitution.

Metro spokesman Sgt. Chris Darcy said lap dancing in some clubs borders on prostitution because it's a popular one-on-one encounter.

"Prostitution is going to occur when you have sexual gratification for a fee," Darcy said. "Anytime during a lap dance when you have sexual gratification through contact it starts encroaching on prostitution, and we'll make an arrest. We'll address that specific issue."



Reseda bikini club to close
July 2, 2002

By RICK ORLOV, Daily News Staff Writer

RESEDA -- City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Councilman Dennis Zine announced on Monday an agreement with a Reseda property owner to permanently halt its lease for bikini or strip clubs.

"This has been a problem for this community for years," Delgadillo said during a news conference in front of the former Showgirls Cabaret, 7238 Reseda Blvd.

"Today, the people of Reseda take back part of their neighborhood. Our message is clear: Businesses that disobey zoning laws, promote lewd conduct and facilitate prostitution are not welcome in Reseda or any part of Los Angeles."

Zine said he had been pushing for months to see the club closed.

"This is a great way to celebrate our one year in office," Zine said. "It's been a good collaboration between the neighborhood prosecutor, the community and the Los Angeles Police Department to keep blight like this out of the neighborhood."

Delgadillo said the property owner agreed to stop leasing the site to Showgirls because of complaints and violations cited by police after the location was used for nude dancing last year, in violation of its police permit that allowed only bikini-clad dancers.



Operators of Strip Club May Do Time
June 2, 2002

By MONTE MORIN, LA Times Staff Writer

She was a popular stripper who had saved enough money in tips to open her own nude club. He was a high-rolling entrepreneur who didn't think twice about riding in his town's Fourth of July parade surrounded by dancers from his topless club.

Together, they transformed a quiet Christian dance club in Lake Forest into one of Southern California's most popular strip clubs. They planned a chain of elite clubs that they hoped would bring exotic dancing into the mainstream.

But what seemed a recipe for riches may end in federal prison for the pair. Connye G. Morgan, 60, pleaded guilty this year to tax fraud charges. Mark A. Bailey, 52, was convicted in May of hiding from the IRS more than $700,000 in strip-club door charges, cocktail tabs and tips skimmed from dancers.

Prosecutors said the two went to elaborate lengths to hide the sources of their money, stashing $300,000 in cash in a safety deposit box and claiming their Century City club was financed by former Lakers star Magic Johnson and Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Both denied involvement in the club. Bailey's attorney said his client is innocent and will appeal the verdict.

The saga began in the late 1980s, when Bailey met Morgan at a strip club near Los Angeles International Airport. The two quickly began dating, according to court records and interviews.

A stripper who performed well into her 40s, Morgan saved enough money in tips to open a teen dance club called Jagg in Lake Forest. The club catered to Christian teens--youths who whiled away weekends sipping soft drinks and gyrating under flashing lights. The place made little money because pastors would ask to bring groups in free of charge.

Bailey, who had worked previously as a computer-systems engineer, had grander plans for the venue. He convinced Morgan to convert it into Captain Creams--a bikini bar where patrons downed beer and mixed drinks as scantily clad women wrestled in pits of shaving cream.

Under the business name Jagg Inc., Captain Creams later went topless and business started booming. The club earned a reputation as one of the busiest and most discreet in Southern California. Customers who used credit cards to buy drinks and dances were billed under the name of Jagg Restaurant and Bar, instead of Captain Creams.

"We were making a lot of money in those days," said one of the club's former dancers. "There weren't a lot of other clubs in Orange County, so we were very busy."

Once, in a demonstration of the club's largess, Bailey offered $65,000 to an Irvine couple who lacked the money to complete their castle-style home, which was facing demolition because of city code problems. Bailey also offered the services of his dancers, who took up hammers and saws to help out. The plan backfired when the couple sued Bailey, alleging the construction work was unsuitable.

Bailey told reporters at the time that he helped out of sympathy, noting that he too faced zoning obstacles when trying to expand his empire.

While Captain Creams raked in profits, Bailey and Morgan settled in a well-to-do section of Laguna Niguel. A profile in a local newspaper portrayed Bailey as a successful businessman and popular neighbor, who built a gym in his house where his dancers worked out.

Flush with success, the couple made plans to open satellite clubs in Century City and Corona. Assistant U.S. Atty. Jean Kawahara charged that Bailey had skimmed profits from Captain Creams to finance the new clubs, and that he failed to report this "skimmed" income on his 1992, 1994 and 1995 tax returns.

The cash, according to prosecutors, came from door fees, cocktails and the strippers. Club policy at the time required that dancers, who were classified as independent contractors, pay the owners $1 for every lap dance they performed. That could amount to hundreds of dollars an evening, according to dancers.

At Bailey's trial, prosecutors charged that Bailey and his former lawyer hid these profits by depositing the money in bank accounts small enough to avoid IRS reporting requirements and in safety deposit boxes.

By using this unreported cash, prosecutors said Jagg opened an exotic dance club in Century City in 1992. The club, Bailey's 20/20, was at the former Playboy Club. Bailey reportedly boasted that Magic Johnson and other celebrities had supplied cash for the operation.

Two years later, Bailey and Morgan opened a club in Corona, using more unreported profits, prosectors said. In this case, prosecutors said that Bailey's lawyer, Alan Curtis, hid $300,000 in profits in a safety deposit box before eventually paying the club's lease with it. Curtis has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and testified against Bailey at trial.

Eventually, the operation began to crumble.

In 1997, Bailey filed for bankruptcy protection. Two years later, Jagg was sued by the owners of the Corona strip club property, who alleged Jagg failed to make payments on the property. A judge ordered that Jagg pay the plaintiff $1.6 million.

Morgan and Bailey separated in 1999.

Bailey, according to court documents, moved to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he began operating an exotic dance club and represented a firm that sells waste water treatment systems.

By that time, however, IRS investigators had begun examining his books, after they were tipped off by bank employees. Bailey was arrested in April 2001, after stepping off a plane at LAX. He had returned from Mexico to visit his parents in Beverly Hills.

Morgan, through a spokesperson, said Bailey had tricked her into signing a false tax return.

"She had no idea what was happening," said Les Hawthorne, Jagg's current chief operating officer. "Even people you love can do you wrong. She was guilty of felony trusting."

Jurors took one day to deliberate before finding Bailey guilty. Bailey's lawyer said he is confident the conviction will be overturned on appeal, claiming Morgan hid the cash.

The appeal is based on the defense being unable to compel Morgan to testify on his behalf, although the prosecution could call her as a witness. Prosecutors never exercised that option, and Morgan invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when Bailey's lawyer called her to the stand.

"If we were able to have her testify she would have absolved my client," attorney Roger Diamond said. "She was the source of all the unreported cash. She owned the business and he did not. They weren't married and, therefore, they had no property in common."

Despite the fall of Bailey's would-be strip-club empire, the original club, Captain Creams, continues to operate in Lake Forest. And Hawthorne said business is good.

"Things are the way they were intended to be now. Everything is good, clean entertainment," he said.



City Completes Purchase of Downtown Strip Club
May 30, 2002

Oceanside -- The city has closed escrow on its purchase of the downtown Playgirl Club, a strip joint popular for four decades with off-duty Marines from Camp Pendleton.

The city bought the property for $1.5 million as part of a redevelopment program. As part of the agreement, the former owner has agreed not to open a similar establishment anywhere in the city.



Strip Club Developer Withdraws Appeal
May 15, 2002

By JAMES BURGER, Californian staff writer
e-mail: jburger@bakersfield.com

The Silver Rhino strip club won't be built at Buck Owens Boulevard and Gulf Street, and there won't be a lawsuit against the city over a months-long battle to put it there.

But the Santa Monica lawyer who is representing club developer John Stevens, a Porterville welder, said he would like to see the project built somewhere in the city.

"We would hope that, at some point, the Stevenses would be allowed to choose a location and continue with their project," said Roger Jon Diamond, who has been a strong defender of the First Amendment rights of the adult industry.

Stevens, and his father, Bob, proposed a 220-seat "gentlemen's club" on Buck Owens in March.

Community opposition developed and City Council members vowed to stop the club.

City Attorney Bart Thiltgen ruled that approving a building permit for the club would violate city ordinances.

Development Services Director Jack Hardisty turned Stevens' permit request down -- although he admitted that his staff and city zoning maps had told Stevens he could build on Buck Owens Boulevard.

The maps were inaccurate, Thiltgen said, containing a defunct zoning designation for a nearby mobile home park on Gulf Street.

The incorrect zoning maps showed the park as industrial property when it was actually residential land.

Bakersfield ordinances prevent any strip club from being built within 1,500 feet of residential property.

The Silver Rhino property was too close to the trailer park.

Stevens filed an appeal of Hardisty's decision on April 19 and asked that it be reviewed by the Bakersfield Planning Commission.

The appeal document charged the denial was "an arbitrary and unlawful constitutional restraint on the freedom of speech protected under the United States and California constitutions."

The commission was due to hear the appeal tonight. But the appeal was withdrawn by Diamond.

"We have received a letter from their attorney saying they are officially withdrawing their appeal," Thiltgen said.

The letter didn't say why the appeal was being withdrawn and neither would Diamond.

Thiltgen said the appeal cannot be refiled because the time period for filing an appeal has elapsed.

Reached Wednesday, Stevens said his lawyer is handling the dispute over the project.

"I don't know what's going on really," he said. "I don't plan to be down there" at the planning commission meeting.

City records show that Diamond is his lawyer. Diamond confirmed it Wednesday.

Diamond, who has championed environmental law and fair political practices in his 30-year career, is also one of the nation's most prominent defenders of the First Amendment rights of the adult industry.

"Is your neighborhood homeowners' association up in arms about your plans to have bikini-clad waitresses in your supper club?," wrote the National Law Journal last year. "Have we got the attorney for you."

The Journal said Diamond is "perhaps the nation's best-known defender of adult bookstores, strip joints and other X-rated clients whose First Amendment rights may or may not be at risk under local ordinances."

He said the decision to withdraw the appeal was not based on anything the city of Bakersfield did.

"There will be no lawsuit with respect to the current project," he added.

But he said he hopes leaders of the city of Bakersfield can separate their religious beliefs from their duty as government officials.

"The last time I checked, the Taliban was not in control of Bakersfield," he said. "If religious fanatics like the Taliban have taken control in Bakersfield, I'd like to know about it."

Stevens would not identify Diamond as his lawyer.

"I'm not supposed to," he said.

But Stevens said his lawyer contacted him after being sent copies of stories on the Silver Rhino club that appeared in The Californian.

Diamond said he and Stevens feel the same way about the Bakersfield situation.

"He believes, as I do, that most Americans believe in freedom of choice and most Americans are against government censorship," Diamond said.



Los Angeles Times: Justices OK L.A. Limits on Adult Businesses
May 13, 2002

From Reuters
WASHINGTON -- A divided Supreme Court upheld today a Los Angeles zoning ordinance that bars operation of more than one adult entertainment business at a single location.

The 5-4 ruling was a victory for Los Angeles, which defended its ordinance prohibiting the operation of adult businesses that both sell adult products and contain facilities to view adult movies or videos.

A federal judge in California and a U.S. appeals court said the ordinance violated free-speech rights because the city had failed to study and provide adequate evidence of negative effects from the combinations, such as an adult bookstore with an adult arcade, in the same location.

The justices reversed the appeals court's ruling.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said for the majority that Los Angeles may rely on its 1977 study, conducted six years before the adoption of the ordinance at issue, to show the ban on multiple-use adult businesses served the city's interest in reducing crime.

The case involved Alameda Books Inc. and Highland Books Inc., two adult businesses that rent and sell sexually oriented products, including videotapes. They both provide booths where customers can view videotapes for a fee.

In 1995, a city building inspector found that Alameda was operating both as an adult bookstore and arcade in the same building in violation of the 1983 zoning ordinance.

The city in 1978 adopted an ordinance that prohibits the establishment of an adult business within 1,000 feet of another such business or within 500 feet of a religious institution, school or public park.

The regulations followed the study that found a connection between concentrations of adult businesses and increases in crimes, such as prostitution, robberies and assaults.

The city amended the ordinance in 1983 to prohibit so-called "multiple use" adult businesses, but did not document the harm from such combinations, relying instead on laws from other jurisdictions and the 1977 study.

Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented. Souter said the 1977 study provides no support to justify the 1983 ordinance.



Ex-Strip Club Owner Guilty of Tax Evasion
May 10, 2002

From LA Times
The former owner of a Lake Forest strip club was convicted this week of tax evasion for allegedly skimming $700,000 in cash from dancers' tips between 1992 and 1994.

Mark Bailey, 52, of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was an executive of a company that operated Captain Cream, an exotic dance club. Prosecutors accused him of taking the cash from strippers and not declaring it as company income. He used some of the money to open a club in Century City, authorities said.

While attempting to start an exotic club in Corona, Bailey allegedly gave $310,000 in cash to his former lawyer to place in a safe deposit box. The lawyer then used the cash to pay bills. Bailey, a former Laguna Niguel resident, was convicted Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court.



Strip Club Donation Returned by Davis
April 22, 2002

By DAN MORAIN, LA Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Gray Davis hasn't raised $43 million since taking office by turning down many donors. But he's doing exactly that, returning a $10,000 contribution from an Upland firm that owns three Southern California strip joints.

The governor's campaign aides made the decision Saturday after The Times asked about the donation from Manta Management Inc.

Campaign spokesman Roger Salazar said the contribution, dated April 3 and made when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) was in California to help Davis raise money, "didn't pass the smell test." Salazar said that Davis has a campaign worker who vets all donations, and that the governor has returned other checks, but usually before the campaign cashes them. Such decisions are made without a public announcement. In this instance, the check simply slipped past the screener, Salazar said.

Manta owns three clubs, including the Flesh Club in San Bernardino, where city officials won a court order barring topless acts in the mid-1990s, only to have it lifted in 1999.

Then, in 2000, police made several prostitution-related arrests at the Flesh Club after undercover investigators paid women working at the club to perform sex acts on one another.

In October, a state Court of Appeal threw out the charges, concluding that prostitution only applies when the person being paid actually performs with the person making the payment.

"For better or worse," the appellate court said, "our society has developed a tolerance for a wide variety of exchanges of sex for money.... As objectionable as the performances are in this case, we are loath to find a public policy requirement that the acts be criminalized under existing law."

Roger Jon Diamond, the Santa Monica lawyer who represents Manta and arranged for the donation, said that despite the governor's decision to return the money, he still plans to support Davis' reelection.

"I respect whatever decision they're making," he said. "There was nothing improper."

Diamond said he had asked that Manta's owner, Randy Welty, make the donation as a "favor," and that he and Welty support Davis because of his environmental positions.

Diamond said that he has known the governor for years, but that Welty and Davis have no connection and Welty didn't attend the dinner.

"It never dawned on me there would be a problem," Diamond said.

Jeff Flint, a spokesman for Davis' Republican challenger, Bill Simon Jr., used the opportunity to criticize Davis' fund-raising, and noted that the governor likely would not have returned the money if The Times had not questioned its source.

"While he's at it, he ought to return the nearly $200,000 he took from Enron and Arthur Andersen," Flint said.

Davis has rejected calls from Republicans to return money from Enron Corp., the bankrupt energy trader, and its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen.

But the governor said he no longer takes money from many firms directly involved in last year's energy crisis. He also has made a practice of refusing tobacco industry money.

The Democratic incumbent does, however, accept donations from a range of other industries with business before the state, from oil and telecommunications firms to gambling and alcohol interests.



Officials appealing strip club reopening
March 23, 2002


PICO RIVERA -- City officials are appealing a U.S. District Court judge's ruling that allowed a strip club to reopen earlier this month in Pico Rivera.

Officials filed the appeal Friday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, Public Information Manager Bob Spencer said, adding it will take 60 to 90 days for the matter to get on the court's calendar.

"We understand the constitutional right of the club to operate," he said. "But we don't believe the shopping center it opened in is a suitable venue, because many of the businesses there attract kids."

City officials plan to hire a legal team to deal with the issue, and Mayor Gregory Salcido said the cost of a potential legal battle won't be determined until those lawyers are hired.

Imperial Showgirls, an all-nude dancing club at 9329 Slauson Ave., was shut down by the city when it first opened in early January because it was operating without permits and within 1,000 feet of a school and church.

The club appealed the city's action, and Feb. 19 Judge Dickran Tevrizian ordered that the business be permitted to operate. The club opened March 1.

Roger Jon Diamond, attorney for club owners LeRoy and Glenn Smith, said the appeal is a waste of taxpayers' money, adding he doesn't see a legal basis for overturning the ruling.

"This is being done for political reasons," he said. "I would instead prefer to work with the mayor to resolve this, and I want the people of Pico Rivera to know we are sympathetic to them and want to work with them."

But it won't be easy getting the support of the city's residents, hundreds of whom have waged a daily protest in front of the club.

The Rev. Richard Ochoa, who spearheaded the protests, said he supports the city's latest legal effort.

"I think it's a step in the right direction, because we need to do everything possible to overturn that decision," he said. "If we all keep fighting the good fight, we will win."

-- Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028, or by e-mail at debbie.pfeiffer@sgvn.com.



Strip Club Opens Amid Protests
March 5, 2002

By MANUEL GAMIZ, JR., LA Times Staff Writer

Pico Rivera residents and owners of the city's first strip club squared off again Monday when the club was allowed to open after acquiring all of its permits and licenses.

Leaning against the bar of the Imperial Showgirls as customers began to wander inside, owner Glenn Smith, 48, said he was "just glad to be open."

Outside, a group of about 300 angry residents and city officials booed every person who walked into the club in the 9300 block of Slauson Avenue. An hour after dancers took the stage, city officials started planning for the future. At a meeting Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to impose a moratorium on future adult businesses and corrected a zoning loophole that allowed Imperial Showgirls to operate in a shopping area.

The moratorium on new adult businesses will remain in effect for at least a year, pending a zoning study by the planning and building department, which would then recommend permanent regulations.

"We had our hands tied on this one," said Bob Spencer, the city's spokesman. "It is their constitutional right to be here. We just want to make sure that it is run in a safe manner."

After receiving its certificate of maximum occupancy Monday, the club was allowed to keep its doors open, ending a two-month legal battle with the city.

The Imperial Showgirls strip club had opened quietly in January. Its location still bears the marquee of a previous business, a billiard parlor.

Residents learned about the nude-dancing club when police shut it down a few days after its Jan. 7 opening because it was operating without permits and within a city zone that did not allow adult-oriented businesses.

The club's closure was temporary. In a Feb. 19 ruling, U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian said the club could open because it was unconstitutional to not allow a business to operate.

He also voided the city's zoning ordinance.

Tevrizian also ruled that the club owners had 10 days to get licenses and permits.

On Friday, the club opened briefly, but owners Glenn and LeRoy Smith agreed to close until Monday because they were missing a permit.

The Smiths have been in the adult entertainment industry for about 20 years, own an Imperial Showgirls strip club in Anaheim and are involved with other adult establishments. They bought the 5,000-square-foot Pico Rivera property late last year.

Friday's planned opening was also accompanied by an "unwelcoming committee" of about 300 residents, religious leaders and city officials, including Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk), who protested along Slauson Avenue.

"Pico Rivera is a safe city, and it is a good city," said the Rev. Richard Ochoa, whose church is just a few blocks away from the strip club. "This is going to increase crime in our city."

The Smiths are eager to start doing business in the area and say they are not looking to hurt the religiously conservative, working-class suburb.

"This is an adult-oriented business, and it is aimed toward adults," said Glenn Smith.

"You have to be mature about it."

Still, locals are worried.

"It's scary," said Elaine Duarte, a 32-year-old bartender who works less than a block away. "I won't feel safe working here late at night."



Missing Permit Does What Others Can't: Shut Down a New Strip Club
March 2, 2002

By MANUEL GAMIZ JR., LA Times Staff Writer

The Imperial Showgirls strip club's opening was not as grand as its owners, LeRoy and Glenn Smith, hoped it would be.

One dancer briefly performed for a lone customer before the doors of Pico Rivera's first adult business closed soon after opening at 5:30 p.m. Friday while several hundreds protested outside.

The owners agreed to shut down for the night to comply with the Los Angeles County fire inspectors' safety code. They anticipate reopening Monday after an inspection is conducted. "This is our 1st Amendment right to be here," said Glenn Smith, 48. "The same way it is their 1st Amendment right to protest."

The club, which still has the marquee of the previous business, is not welcomed in the city, even though a federal court judge ruled Feb. 19 that it could stay.

The club first opened Jan. 7 but shut down three days later because city officials discovered that it was operating without permits and within a city zone that did not allow adult-oriented businesses.

In the February ruling, U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian said the club could open because it was unconstitutional to not allow a business to operate and voided the city zoning ordinance.

The judge also ruled that the club owners had 10 days to receive all proper licenses and permits.

On Friday, Pico Rivera Councilman David Armenta said the club does not have the required permits, prompting a call to the county fire inspectors.

Roger Jon Diamond, the Smiths' attorney, said building plans have been filed, a health inspection was made, and only one more inspection needs to be made. The inspection to receive a certificate of occupancy will be done Monday, he said.

"We've done everything to get this place opened," Diamond said. "But every city does the same thing when you open up a strip club."

The full-nude, 18-and-over club will have security guards and will not serve alcohol. It is not the first time the Smiths have ventured into the adult entertainment industry. The brothers own another Imperial Showgirls in Anaheim and are involved with other adult establishments.

Late last year, the Smiths purchased the Pico Rivera property, which was once a billiard hall in the 9300 block of Slauson Avenue.

"Americans have choices," said Diamond, a legal expert in adult-oriented business. "Some choose to watch artistic, erotic striptease dancing and some do not."

Throughout Friday, about 300 people marched and shouted outside the club. Some protesters brought their children.

"We don't need a strip club," shouted 16-year-old Carina Farias, encouraging passing motorists to honk their horns. "This is only going to cause problems."

City officials, religious leaders and residents, calling themselves "the unwelcoming committee," protested along Slauson. They vowed to picket and protest every day until the club is run out of town.

Joining residents at Friday's protests were Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) and 58th Assembly District candidate Chuck Fuentes.

"This will not be a successful business endeavor for the owners," Fuentes said. "We will picket until they are gone."

Sammie Ramirez, 42, skipped work so she and her 18-year-old son, Louis, could attend the protest.

"Just over there is a McDonald's play area," said Ramirez as she held a sign reading "No Nudes." "The owners do not care about the residents of this city."



25 to Life for Strip Club Owner Who Ordered Partner's Death
February 20 2002

By STUART PFEIFER, LA Times Staff Writer

An Orange County judge Tuesday sentenced a former California Highway Patrol officer to 25 years to life in prison for ordering the murder of his business partner in 1989, a crime solved more than a decade later when the hit man confessed.

A jury convicted Michael Woods of first-degree murder last year for paying $50,000 to have his partner in a string of Los Angeles County strip clubs killed.

Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino declined to give Woods the maximum sentence, life in prison without parole, saying he thought it was out of line with the 20-year sentence the confessed hit man received. The investigation into the slaying of Horace "Big Mac" McKenna, a bodybuilder and former CHP officer, stalled for more than a decade until the triggerman confessed and agreed to work undercover for investigators.

After a 10-month investigation, detectives arrested Woods, his new business partner, David Amos, and detailed the duo's alleged arrangement with John Sheridan, the gunman. Both Amos and Sheridan received 20-year sentences.

Judge Makino said he reduced Woods' sentence to bring a sense of equity to the case. Sheridan, who admitted using an Uzi machine gun to kill McKenna, might have received the death penalty if not for the agreement with prosecutors, the judge noted.

'Who Do You Give the Break to?'

Woods' lawyers were highly critical of the investigators' arrangement with Sheridan, who was allowed to remain out of custody for nearly a year while helping build a case against Woods and Amos. They contended during the trial that Amos and Sheridan lied about Woods' involvement to get leniency.

"It's the old case of who do you give the break to? It's my opinion they gave it to the worst person, a sociopath killer who I believe would not hesitate to kill again," said Woods' attorney, Richard Hirsch.

With credit for good behavior, Woods, 59, will be eligible to apply for parole in about 12 years. Amos and Sheridan are eligible for parole in less than 10 years.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bruce Moore said he was satisfied with the sentence, but declined further comment.

During the trial, Moore argued that Woods wanted McKenna dead so he could gain control of the strip clubs both men operated. Woods and McKenna met while assigned to the Highway Patrol's West Los Angeles division in the 1960s.

Amos testified at the trial that Woods paid him $50,000 to arrange McKenna's murder. Amos said he paid Sheridan $25,000 to commit the killing.

After McKenna's death, Amos became 40% owner of Woods' strip clubs.



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