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.
By Eric Carpenter
The Orange County
The legal battle between La Habra and the owner of the city's only strip
club continued Tuesday with an announcement that the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals has opened the door to a civil lawsuit.
Bill Gammoh, owner of Taboo
Gentlemen's Club, says he was harassed by La Habra police, violating his
La Habra sued Gammoh in 2000 to restrict lap dances. Gammoh filed a
cross-complaint alleging civil-rights violations. A Superior Court judge
ruled in favor of La Habra and declined to hear Gammoh's complaint. He
The appeals court dismissed Gammoh's appeal but allowed him to file suit.
He also owns a club in Anaheim. That city paid him $2 million in a similar
-- Eric Carpenter
By Lee Romney
LA Times Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO This city claims a proud history in the realm of tease.
Stripper Carol Doda made her 1964 debut at the country's first topless club
atop a baby grand piano. Then the wild and raunchy
one-upped her promoting the heavy-contact lap dancing that has become the
national norm in strip clubs.
Here, sex and free speech walk hand-in-hand often donning leather chaps or
a G-string. So when Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris declined this year to
prosecute exotic dancers arrested for soliciting prostitution in the private
booths of strip clubs, some saw it as another dose of sexual tolerance, San
Not so. Behind the district attorney's decision was a long-simmering
controversy that has put the city's sensibilities toward sex with its
attitudes toward labor rights.
Now, in a frank public airing typical of this town, city officials are
weighing whether conditions in the strip clubs are exploitative as some
women have alleged for years.
At issue are steep fees that clubs charge strippers fees culled from cash
that customers hand over for private lap sessions. About 200 strippers here
have complained to the state Labor Commission in the last decade.
All but a handful have prevailed, after commissioners and some Superior
Court judges determined that clubs improperly classified dancers as
independent contractors, failed to pay minimum wage and illegally took
Some women also contend that the high fees, coupled with the growing
prevalence of private booths, have compelled strippers to engage in
prostitution with tacit urging or direct encouragement by management. They
also say the secluded booths provide cover for sexual assaults.
Daisy Anarchy and others who support her union-backed organization Sex
Workers Organized for Labor, Human and Civil Rights say many dancers must
prostitute themselves to make the $120 to $430 in fees they relinquish each
"The most vulnerable women end up doing the most for the least amount of
money in the most dangerous conditions," she said. Anarchy, whose legal name
is Tracey Buel, is a former dancer who has won quiet support from some
strippers and the vocal enmity of others.
Her opponents have a different message: Nancy Banks insists it is her
refusal to engage in prostitution that keeps her high-end customers coming
back and paying big tips.
Thanks to private booths, she says, she earns as much as $400,000 a year
and owns a Bay Area home, three cars and two horses. She likens her $120 fee
to the New Century Theater one target of the recent raids to a
barbershop's charge for the freelance use of a chair.
"All this boo-hooing about, 'I only brought home so much.' Well, all I can
tell you is that person did not exert themselves," said Banks, who has
formed a group to help women manage their earnings and counter Anarchy's
Eliminating the private rooms, Banks said, would smother the financial
promise of stripping in San Francisco.
"We would not be able to make money just with lap dancing. That's not what
[customers] come for," Banks said. "They come for a one-on-one experience
with a beautiful showgirl."
After a long silence on the stripper debate, city officials are taking note.
This summer, Harris declined to pursue prostitution solicitation charges
against dancers netted in vice raids, saying she wanted to see the broader
issues of safety, exploitation and fairness explored.
State labor officials said last week that, at the urging of Harris and the
Board of Supervisors, they will audit the financial practices of San
Francisco's strip industry.
Also last week, San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty directed the city
attorney's office, police and other departments to look into booth safety,
as well as whether the city can regulate the fees women are charged to work.
The San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, meanwhile, has been
conducting hearings on the issue for months and plans to explore legislation
to better regulate the booths.
"We have to make sure that every woman feels safe, no matter what her
occupation," said commission president Andrea Shorter. "There's a whole
politic around how we discuss these issues in San Francisco. The history is
deep and complex."
In many ways, that history begins with Doda. But it was Jim and Artie
Mitchell who took the strip industry to another level. Although they did not
invent the close-contact lap dance at their famed Mitchell Brothers
O'Farrell Theater, it could be said they institutionalized it.
In response, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein ordered club raids in the 1980s,
prompting foes to put her unlisted home phone number on the marquee. But a
bond would eventually be forged between club owners and San Francisco
Meanwhile, workers in what was broadly defined as the sex industry were
organizing. First came COYOTE Cast Off Your Old Tired Ethics which
fought for prostitutes' rights. By 1976, activist Carol Leigh, a.k.a.
Scarlot Harlot, coined the term "sex worker" to address the industry both
legal tease and sex for sale through the lens of fair wages and workplace
By the early 1990s, strippers, too, began to stir. Clubs had classified the
women as "independent contractors," stopped paying wages and begun demanding
a "stage fee" to dance. Strippers with the Exotic Dancers Alliance, formed
in 1993, successfully brought the first wage complaints before the Labor
Commissioners and courts have repeatedly determined that the dancers are
employees, said commission attorney Miles Locker. Clubs were ordered to pay
back wages and repay stage fees, which were deemed illegally taken tips. One
1994 class-action suit against the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater
yielded a $2.85-million settlement.
But victory was hollow.
Dancers who won judgments against Steve Moses and his
Chez Paree club, for
example, were never paid. Moses is now under a Superior Court injunction
prohibiting him from doing any business in California until he posts a
$100,000 bond with the labor agency.
"Hell could freeze over before [the women] got a penny from me," he said.
The dancers signed agreements stating they were independent contractors,
made good money, then betrayed him, he said.
Other clubs paid their judgments but adapted. Many labeled lap dances a
"service" and demanded a preset quota. Locker said fees charged to the women
to dance jumped from $25 to as much as $200.
The strippers struck back. In 2000, they won support in the Legislature,
which amended the state Labor Code to categorize money handed directly to
dancers as "tips" and thus the dancers' property.
The clubs adjusted again, devising new payment methods so that technically
customers didn't hand money to dancers.
Strippers at some venues are told to carry hard makeup cases and tell
customers to slip the first $20 into a slot. Elsewhere, customers buy lap
dance coupons or insert cash into a machine. Dancers keep money earned after
their duty to the house is fulfilled.
Locker said those practices are legal as long as women receive minimum wage
and are not asked to pay out of pocket to meet quotas. Several pending
lawsuits allege such violations.
But whether the system forces women to prostitute themselves is less clear.
Few dispute that prostitution sometimes occurs in booths, but whether
management encourages it is fiercely contested.
Joe Carouba, president of BSC Management, which operates 11 of San
Francisco's 15 or so clubs and continues to classify workers as independent
contractors, said women who get "rambunctious" are terminated.
One recent BSC employee said she has never performed sex acts or been
pressured to do so, has always felt safe and wouldn't make her quotas
without the booths. But in written and verbal testimony, about half a dozen
women have told commissioners that they gave up dancing or struggle to
survive because they refuse to prostitute. In some cases, the women said,
management encouraged it.
"I can't tell you how many times I have struggled to pay my stage fees
after a night of hearing, 'Why should I get a lap dance from you when
another girl will give me oral sex for the same price?' " one dancer, who
calls herself Datura Larsen, told commissioners.
City officials have heard it before. Anarchy and seven other women made
statements to police about coerced prostitution and assaults after
construction of the booths took off eight years ago. They also met with
then-Mayor Willie Brown and then-Dist. Atty. Terence Hallinan.
But nothing happened. Anarchy blames snug ties with the industry. Brown once
served as private attorney to a strip club owner and gleefully declared a
"Marilyn Chambers Day" when the Mitchell Brothers' famed porn star returned
for a 1999 stage appearance. Hallinan, who lost a reelection bid to Harris
last fall, now works for Mitchell Brothers.
Hallinan said he asked police to investigate but the effort fizzled after
rumored intervention by Brown. Brown said recently that the women's concerns
rang no bells. "They're having lap dance fantasies," he chortled.
With Harris in office, however, things have changed.
"No one's been talking about this for a long time, and that's part of the
problem," Harris said.
Her office is pressing to make booths safer through stricter enforcement of
codes that require the interiors to be visible.
As for pimping and assault charges, Harris said, she would consider them if
women came forward with specific allegations. But the underlying question is
vexing: Can the clubs be held accountable for exploiting women through
economic coercion if that holds true only for some women?
Meanwhile, Anarchy battles another front of resistance, as longtime sex
worker activists like Leigh argue that the dancers' concerns about
exploitative working conditions can be addressed through labor law alone.
The involvement of police and prosecutors, they say, can only bring trouble
for women who are selling sex.
"Many other communities may not have an open forum where people can feel
safe talking about these kinds of issues," said Shorter, the president of
the Commission on the Status of Women, which plans to continue its review of
the issue next year. "Does that mean that all the issues are resolved here
around safety or sex workers' rights? No."
From Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO Strippers in this city will soon have to put on something they
can't take off a business license.
The City Council on Friday approved a measure requiring exotic dancers to
apply for permits and wear them while performing.
Law enforcement authorities said the rule, which was unanimously approved by
the 11-member council and goes into effect in 10 days, will allow them to
quickly identify dancers who are breaking nudity ordinances. (Among other
things, full nudity and contact with customers are not allowed in San
Antonio strip clubs.)
"We're trying to reduce criminal activity inside the establishments on the
part of the entertainers i.e., prostitution," said Lt. Mike Gorhum, who
heads the vice squad.
The permit expected to be half the size of a credit card would include
the dancer's stage name and a photo. Police would be able to check that
information against club records to determine her real name and other
"I really don't know where we're supposed to place it," complained a dancer
who called herself Tempest. "It's definitely going to get in the way of our
performing, and it might just look a little bit tacky."
By Claire Luna
LA Times Staff Writer
An exotic dancer and her boss were convicted Wednesday of murdering a San
Clemente engineer and face mandatory sentences of life in prison.
Charles Ray George, 54, was bludgeoned to death in his apartment on Jan. 29,
2001, after paying $150 to a performer from Lakewood-based Ambrosia Escorts
in the hope of having sex with her. After she refused and he complained,
Elizabeth Nava, now 30, of Irvine called Daniel Louis Parra, 37, of Cerritos
who then beat him with a metal flashlight, prosecutors say.
Nava and Parra, who were arrested in Northern California about two weeks
after the slaying, were also found guilty Wednesday of robbing and beating
another client, Bert Madison, 46, in a San Clemente motel room in 2000.
Madison, of Northern California, testified at the monthlong trial.
"They were out to hurt people who didn't like being robbed," Madison said in
a phone interview Wednesday. "There was no reason for him to beat me like he
Madison said that after Nava text-messaged him, Parra "came in swinging" a
flashlight. The first blow fractured his skull, giving him a wound that
required 12 staples. After beating him, Madison said, Parra chased him into
the bathroom and squirted pepper spray in his eyes as Madison knelt on the
"I'm not surprised that someone ended up being killed because of that same
behavior," Madison said. "It wasn't about protecting anybody. It was about
beating and robbing."
Outside Judge Frank F. Fasel's Santa Ana courtroom, jurors declined to talk
about the verdict they reached after deliberating 1 1/2 days.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Murray said that in picking jurors for the trial
he sought people who understood that the law protects everybody even those
trying to engage in criminal conduct such as hiring a prostitute.
"Once you start picking and choosing who can be a victim, what's next?"
Murray said after the verdicts were read. "If you prepare jurors for that
concept in advance, they'll be offended if the defense tries to argue that
someone engaged in misdemeanor or felony conduct doesn't deserve
During the trial, Murray said Parra and Nava had been luring clients with
promises of sex, then taking their money, knowing that few would call
Lawyers for Parra and Nava tried to show during the trial that some men who
hired exotic dancers became volatile after they were told that sex wasn't
included in the deal. George and Madison, they claimed, had tried to rape
Nava, and Parra had stepped in to protect her.
As the court clerk read aloud the verdicts related to Parra first, his head
sank lower in his hands each time the word "guilty" was read. Nava appeared
torn between tears and anger when her verdicts were read, staring at Parra
with narrowed eyes before looking blankly down at the defense table.
Nava's lawyer, Deputy Alternate Public Defender George Douveas, said Nava
planned to file an appeal immediately after her Jan. 7 sentencing. Nava was
convicted of murder during a burglary despite being outside the apartment
when Parra was beating George.
"She's a 30-year-old woman who will spend the rest of her life in prison
when she didn't touch or hurt George," Douveas said. "It's very frustrating
that the justice in this case meted out for Parra and Nava will be the same.
It doesn't seem right based on her conduct."
Parra is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 28.
By Rodney Tanaka
San Gabriel Valley
Tribune Staff Writer
INDUSTRY -- The city of Industry has six strip clubs and 777 residents.
Surrounding communities have four strip clubs and 690,000 residents.
"The city feels we have more than our fair share,' Industry Planning
Director Mike Kissell said.
Tired of being the strip-club capital of the San Gabriel Valley, the
Industry City Council is considering changes that could eliminate three of
the city's six strip clubs.
The council recently introduced the amendments and will consider final
approval Dec. 9.
The council adopted an Adult Business Overlay Zone in 1996, which allowed
strip clubs to operate in areas of the city.
Three clubs Paradise
Rhino and Exotica,
all on Valley Boulevard fall within the four zones and are in compliance.
But three other clubs
Miss Kitty's at 13079 E. Valley Blvd.,
Hawaii Theatre at 15333 E.
Gale Ave. and Sahara Theatre
at 16025 E. Gale Ave. are not within those zones and are considered
non-conforming adult businesses.
These three businesses have operated out of compliance for eight years,
Kissell said, and were given 20 years to meet criteria when the overlay zone
was approved in 1996. But the proposed amendment would reduce that grace
period in half, giving them until Dec. 31, 2006, to comply or leave. The
businesses also could apply for an extension.
Of the three, Miss Kitty's might be able to meet the criteria for an
Adult Business Overlay Zone, but owners there must apply, Kissell said.
The other two, based on preliminary reviews, would not be able to meet
requirements because they are too close to homes, he said.
A representative of Miss Kitty's, who did not want to give his name,
declined to comment. The manager of Hawaii Theatre could not be reached for
Sahara Theatre is closed, but the property owner has expressed interest
in re-opening another adult business at the location, Kissell said.
Industry also has tried to clean up prostitution at massage parlors by
beefing up regulations and requiring workers to pass a massage therapy test.
Strip malls with adult businesses record higher incidences of criminal
activity, such as prostitution, graffiti, drug use and assaults, Kissell
"The information the Sheriff's Department has speaks for itself,'
Councilman Jeff Parriott said. "We're being responsible to neighboring
communities and trying to improve these areas.'
The clubs may fight the city in court, Parriott said, but Industry has a
strong argument and precedents from other cities.
Rodney Tanaka can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2230, or by e-mail
at firstname.lastname@example.org .
By Kristopher Hanson
LONG BEACH A gentleman's club had its entertainment permit yanked
Tuesday after officials said the establishment violated city rules by
allowing nude dancing.
The decision by the City Council to revoke the permit at
Gentleman's Club was stayed for 45 days, however, to allow the club time
to appeal the ruling and possibly challenge the city's ordinance banning
In casting the lone vote in the club's favor, 2nd District Councilman Dan
Baker said that taking away Flamingo's permit could lead to a court
challenge against the city's nudity ban, which Baker said he would welcome.
"It seems to me that the law is inappropriate
and I hope somebody will
challenge that law," said Baker, a former federal prosecutor.
The club, located at 2421 E. Artesia Blvd., is accused of violating city
rules banning nude or topless dancing by allowing girls to dance fully
disrobed and allowing customers to touch them in private lap dance sessions.
The club is also accused of employing two 16-year-old girls as dancers,
though club management contends the girls used fake documents to get their
A city ordinance approved in 1999 requires dancers to wear nontransparent
coverings on their nipples.
Not long after the club was issued a renewed permit allowing alcohol
sales and live entertainment in February 2003, Long Beach police vice
detectives testified observing on several occasions women dancing topless
and naked in violation of the permit.
During permit review hearings earlier this year, an officer also said he
observed the two underage girls working as dancers. Afterward, a hearing
officer recommended the permit be revoked.
Council members had the option of revoking the permit, holding additional
hearings or sending it back to the hearing officer for more testimony.
Flamingo attorney Larry Diamond told the council he may challenge not
only Tuesday's ruling, but the city's ban against nude dancing as well.
"The court will have the authority to decide if the nude ordinance is
constitutional," Diamond said after the vote. "The bottom line is, had they
not stayed the decision for 45 days, I was prepared to file a lawsuit (this)
If such a lawsuit is filed, it wouldn't be the first time Flamingo owners
have gone to court challenging the city's nudity ban. A 1999 court challenge
of the law was thrown out by a judge who said communities can restrict
nudity, but not adult entertainment.
Before the council voted, Long Beach City Attorney Bob Shannon said that
the city's nudity ban would withstand a court challenger.
Diamond has made a career out of representing adult entertainment
businesses, and successfully challenged a proposed Los Angeles City
ordinance requiring dancers and strip club patrons be separated by at least
The proposal ended with the Los Angeles City Council approving a
watered-down version allowing lap dances, but banning private dance rooms.
Red light cameras
In other action at Tuesday's meeting, the council voted 8-1 for a new
two-year agreement with a red light camera operator to provide services at
intersections across the city.
The new agreement, which should have bulbs flashing by week's end, is
expected to eliminate six of the 16 cameras in use until Aug. 9, when the
previous agreement lapsed. Since that time, the cameras have been off as
officials discussed a new agreement and reviewed their effectiveness at
curbing red light violations and accidents.
The cameras capture digital images of motorists running red lights, which
police use to review and issue tickets by mail if so decided.
The $341 infractions net the city a percentage for each violation, and
the city expects to collect $464,000 from the tickets per year, with Nestor
receiving about $240,000 of that amount and the rest going to cover
Citing invasion of privacy concerns, lack of promised revenue from the
tickets, high overhead costs and discrepancies on their usefulness,
Councilman Dan Baker voted against the renewal.
The previous agreement called for Nestor to receive $97 per ticket, but a
new law sponsored by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, requires
vendors like Nestor to be paid a flat monthly fee.
Intersections targeted for removal have not yet been decided, but may
include east/west Willow Street at Bellflower Boulevard and north/south
Cherry Avenue at Artesia Boulevard.
By Lance Pugmire
LA Times Staff Writer
Riverside County sheriff's investigators knew something was fishy when some
golfers showed up for a golf tournament in Norco without their clubs.
When deputies raided the Hidden Valley Golf Club during the June 14, 2002,
tournament, they found more than a dozen prostitutes and strippers providing
sex and entertainment to golfers in tents set up near several tees.
On Thursday, a woman and two golf course managers who organized the
tournament were sentenced to 125 days of house arrest and three years'
probation for felony conspiracy to corrupt public morals.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian F. "Rick" Thierbach
chastised the three for the "immoral and illegal actions," telling them that
the results of Tuesday's presidential election showed that many in the
community place a high value on morality.
Hidden Valley Golf Club general manager Jason Wood, 38, his former assistant
Darren James Bollinger, 30, and Sandy Juarez, 39, had organized two
tournaments that drew an estimated 160 golfers. Along with a day of golf,
Juarez provided prostitutes and strippers inside tents along the course.
The strippers and prostitutes, including one 16-year-old girl, advertised
their services and prices on boards posted outside the tents, Riverside
County Deputy Dist. Atty. Arthur Chang said.
"Some were drink girls; others were pure strippers who didn't let guys touch
them, and others were there to have full-on sex," Chang said.
Juarez, of Lancaster, lured the golfers from various strip clubs, charging
each $200 to play. Wood and Bollinger brought in an estimated $5,110 to
$5,810 to the club by allowing the so-called "girlie" tournament to take
place on May 23 and June 14, 2002.
Riverside County sheriff's deputies, dressed in camouflage and equipped with
binoculars, were in the surrounding hills monitoring the June 14 tournament.
Deputies raided the event, detaining 90 golfers, 17 strippers and
prostitutes and several golf course employees. Two male golfers were
convicted of engaging in prostitution, and Angie Peraza, the mother of the
16-year-old prostitute, faces charges of prostitution and child
Wood, Bollinger and Juarez initially were charged with eight counts of
felony pimping and pandering and could have been sentenced to three years in
prison. Juarez struck a plea bargain in February 2003, agreeing to testify
about Wood and Bollinger's knowledge that the sexual acts were being
provided at the tournament.
"Women degrading themselves
lewd sexual activity for money, golfers
without golf clubs; these tournaments involved both largely illegal and
highly antisocial conduct, all purely for profit," Chang wrote in his
Outside of court, Chang said he had heard of similar "girlie" tournaments at
other Southern California courses.
"We'd like to send the message [that] this type of activity is illegal,
immoral and something that will be prosecuted," Chang said.
Wood and Bollinger, both of Temecula, and Juarez were convicted of felony
conspiracy to corrupt public morals and, along with the house arrest and
probation, were each ordered to pay $10,000 to a nonprofit charity of the
district attorney's choosing and ordered to perform 100 hours of community
"[Wood and Bollinger] are both happy this is all over now; they are happy to
look forward to the future," said Steve Harmon, Bollinger's attorney. "This
has been quite an ordeal for both of them."
PICO RIVERA -- The city's only strip club will get to stay put in a Slauson
Avenue mini-mall near a McDonald's restaurant and several small shops at
least through 2007, when the club's lease expires, a federal judge has
The owners of
Imperial Showgirls challenged a city ordinance that barred adult
entertainment business outside the city's commercial manufacturing zone and
within 1,000 feet of any residential property, church, school or park.
The plaintiffs claimed the ordinance violated their free-speech rights
and gave them no options for relocating their business.
Pico Rivera City Attorney James Casso said Thursday's ruling by federal
District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian was "a sad day for Pico Rivera,'
which has spent thousands of dollars and more than two years defending
itself against the lawsuit by Imperial Showgirls' owners.
"The ruling essentially states that a court of law, not the elected
members of the City Council, will decide where adult-oriented businesses can
operate,' Casso added.
Councilman David Armenta went further.
"It was a total loss,' he said. "We're going to have to pay all their
attorney's fees, plus our own. I think ours are up around $200,000.'
Imperial Showgirls opened in January 2002, but city officials ordered it
shut down within days of the opening. The strip club then sued the city.
In February of that year, Tevrizian issued a preliminary injunction
prohibiting Pico Rivera from forcing the club to comply with its ordinance.
On Friday, attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who represented the club's owners
during a five-day trail last month, said Tevrizian's ruling essentially
upholds the 2002 injunction.
"The reason we won - the first time around - is that no place qualified.
Every property was within 1,000 feet of homes,' he said.
The city has since revised its adult ordinance, making it illegal for any
adult business to open within 150 feet of any church, school or residences.
During the trial last month, city officials sought to show that there
were several viable locations for the club to move to within the city's
commercial- manufacturing zone, which is on Slauson, between Serapis Avenue
and Rosemead Boulevard, about two blocks from the club's present location.
However, city officials admitted that there are currently no vacant
properties within that zone.
"Our lease is up 2.5 years,' Diamond said Friday. "If properties become
available, we move. Right now, no properties are available.'
Armenta said the city should have presented several more sites within the
city where the club could move for the judge to consider.
"We needed a different strategy. It was a mistake not giving the judge
four or five sites to choose from,' he said.
Diamond said the club's spot on Slauson is "the best spot we have in the
"We're delighted we won,' he said but added, "I feel bad for the
citizens' whose tax dollars paid for the city's legal battle.
"This has been a vendetta by a couple City Council members,' he said.
By Arlene Martνnez
Los Angeles Times
Lap dancing is still illegal in La Habra. That's what U.S. District Judge
Gary L. Taylor ruled last week in his Santa Ana courtroom, dismissing a
lawsuit filed by a strip club owner who alleged that such a ban was
The attorney representing Bill Gammoh, who owns
Taboo Gentlemen's Club,
said he would appeal the decision to the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals.
The judge said contact with customers was not a right guaranteed to dancers
under the 1st Amendment, and that the ban did not infringe on protected
At issue is a city ordinance that prohibits dancers from being within two
feet of customers. Taboo Gentleman's Club, which opened in 1998, is the only
adult cabaret in La Habra. Gammoh took legal action soon after the club's
opening, protesting the required separation between dancer and patron.
The ordinance "unfairly impedes on your right to expression and speech,"
said Scott Wellman, the attorney representing Gammoh.
City Atty. Richard D. Jones said La Habra must regulate the activities of
adult clubs to prevent "secondary" effects.
"The city's concerned about potential for prostitution and other criminal
activity" that stems from such physical closeness, Jones said. The
possibility of the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is also a
factor, he said.
In the lawsuit, Wellman argued that such claims were false. "I can't find
that shows dancing between two clothed individuals with no
alcohol leads to prostitution, drug dealing or STDs," Wellman said.
Wellman said the dancers are dressed, at minimum, in a bikini.
The city uses such restrictive measures against adult clubs because they
don't want them there, he said.
"They know clubs won't be able to survive" without lap dancing, Wellman
Attorney Deborah Fox, who represented the city in court, said that that
argument lacked teeth. "They also claim that they're not doing physical
touching, and they are doing major physical touching, gyrating and
grinding," she said.
La Habra spent at least $800,000 arguing the case, Jones said.
In an unrelated case, Gammoh received a $2-million settlement from Anaheim
in March after successfully arguing that the city prevented the opening of
an adult club by the same name there, which resulted in lost profits.
The Los Angeles City Council briefly banned lap dancing last year in strip
clubs, before repealing the ordinance following aggressive opposition by the
By James Nash
Los Angeles Daily News
An adult club has applied for a city permit that would allow it to host a
full range of sexual activities -- fueling concerns among residents that it
could lead to a resurgence of prostitution along Sepulveda Boulevard.
A representative of Eros
Station, which has operated on Oxnard Street near Sepulveda Boulevard
for eight years, said the business won't allow everything permitted under
the city of Los Angeles' definition of a "sexual encounter establishment,"
where just about anything goes.
City officials did not have statistics on the number of permitted "sexual
encounter establishments" in Los Angeles.
Some neighbors of Eros Station say there's a thin line between hosting
sexual encounters between consenting adults and tolerating prostitution,
since money could change hands outside the doors of the business.
"Whether or not the club owners want to admit that happens, it happens on
a regular basis," said Victoria Davidson-Castillo, a neighborhood activist
who said she worked near sexual-encounter establishments in Hollywood.
"To give a company a permit that legitimizes sexual encounters could lead
to problems in the community. It would be a step backward for a community
that's worked hard to clean up Sepulveda Boulevard."
Stephen Afriat, a lobbyist representing Eros Station, said the business
decided to apply for the permit after city officials issued a citation
forbidding a type of sexual contact that was occurring.
"The city had reinterpreted how they allow some of the activities that
have taken place in this business all along," Afriat said. "Nothing is
changing at the club. This is an opportunity for neighbors and people at
City Hall to put new conditions on this business that don't currently
City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who represents the area, said she opposes
Eros Station's bid for a sexual-encounter permit.
"My opposition to this is relative to its location near areas where we
have had serious prostitution issues. That issue alone is enough for me to
oppose that establishment."
The area near Sepulveda Boulevard and Oxnard Street already has another
adult club, the Spearmint Rhino. Nearby residents opposed both clubs, but
they admit that Eros Station has caused few problems in the community.
"We have to come up with a way to assure the neighbors that we're
prepared to have conditions that will address their concerns," Afriat said.
Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Association, said
residents would stand firm against businesses that degrade the quality of
life in their community.
"This isn't Hollywood or North Hollywood. This is Van Nuys, and we won't
tolerate that kind of thing."
James Nash, (213) 978-0390 email@example.com
By Ian Gregor
The corporation that operates Hawthorne's
Bare Elegance strip club,
which inspires rave reviews from patrons and scorn from some local
residents, is under new ownership, spurring claims that the business can no
longer operate in its current location.
Michael Galam, who owns the
Valley Ball Cabaret in
San Fernando, bought all of the stock in the corporation that owns Bare
Elegance earlier this month, said his attorney, John Weston.
Michael Woods and David Amos,
the previous stockholders in Imperial Projects LLC, are serving lengthy
prison sentences related to the 1989 murder of their former business
partner, Horace McKenna.
Rumors of the Bare Elegance sale prompted a slew of e-mails from a man
who identified himself as Eli Jones and claimed to represent a group called
"115th Street Neighbors."
Jones alleged the club would no longer be able to operate because new
zoning laws ban such businesses within 500 feet of homes and 1,000 feet of
schools. Bare Elegance, which is located on the southwest corner of
Inglewood Avenue and Imperial Highway, was exempt from the new zoning laws
because it began operating before the City Council adopted them.
Weston said the club remains exempt from those regulations because its
ownership -- the corporation -- has not changed. Only the officers in the
corporation are different, he said.
"The same corporation which has owned and operated the business for many
years will continue to own and operate the business," Weston said. "The
business is going to continue to be essentially as it is."
Hawthorne City Attorney Glen Shishido said the city hired an outside
legal expert to provide an opinion on the sale. He said he could not discuss
the opinion because it is a privileged communication. The City Council was
scheduled Tuesday to consider releasing the opinion.
Lisa Miller, Hawthorne's director of licensing and code enforcement, said
the corporate stock transfer does not require a new business permit or adult
"It's not a change of ownership," Miller said.
However, the dancers must now buy business licenses because the new
corporate owners made them independent contractors rather than employees of
the corporation, Miller said. They are not covered by the zoning regulation
because the adult business permit rests with the corporation and not the
individual dancers, she said.
Some residents and City Councilwoman Ginny Lambert have tried for years
to shut down Bare Elegance.
In 2001, Lambert said she believed the city could shutter the business
because the owners had been convicted of the crimes related to McKenna's
murder. Woods was convicted in 2001 of arranging the 1989 machine-gun murder
of McKenna. Amos pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge in exchange for his
testimony against Woods.
But the City Council did not act after the club's attorney argued that
the corporation existed independently of its stockholders and had done
Lambert also said that a private investigator had uncovered numerous
municipal code violations during visits to the club, including nude dancers
touching their breasts and genitals and rubbing their bodies against
patrons. But Hawthorne police said they repeatedly sent undercover officers
from three other police agencies into Bare Elegance to see if anything
illegal was occurring and they never found any violations.
Weston, the attorney, said Galam is committed to maintaining the club's
attractive exterior and tight security inside and out.
"He will keep the business the very best neighbor and corporate citizen
it can be," Weston said.
Galam did not buy the nearby
Jet Strip club on
Hawthorne Boulevard in Lennox, which Woods and Amos also controlled, Weston
By Regine Labossiere
LA Times Staff Writer
Anaheim recently lost $2 million to a strip club owner, and some believe a
similar fate may await La Habra.
In March, Anaheim settled a lawsuit filed by Bill Gammoh that alleged city
officials unconstitutionally prevented him from opening a
Taboo Gentlemen's Club
there, causing him to lose profits, court documents state.
Gammoh and his attorney, Scott Wellman, are also fighting La Habra City
Hall. They are scheduled to head to court in June in lawsuits filed over an
Although the issues are different in each city, the common goal of city
officials and many residents is to bar strip clubs near homes. Similar
battles have been waged for decades by cities nationwide.
In La Habra, the city in 1995 denied Gammoh the permits to open the cabaret,
which then was called the Pelican Theater, court documents say. An appellate
court ordered the city to issue Gammoh the permits in 1996 and 1998.
Taboo Gentlemen's Club, as it is called in both cities, has been open in La
Habra since December 1998. It is the only adult entertainment club in the
city of 60,000.
According to one of Gammoh's suits against La Habra, the city then passed
restrictive ordinances, including one calling for exotic dancers to remain
at least two feet from patrons. That suit contends that La Habra's laws are
unconstitutionally vague and seeks to have them overturned.
A second suit seeks an unspecified sum to compensate Gammoh for lost profits
because of the restrictions and for what Gammoh calls police harassment of
"This case never had to happen," Wellman said. "All they had to do was give
Mr. Gammoh his permit in 1995 and then no one would have known [the cabaret]
was there. My pet peeve in this is that they're spending tons of taxpayers'
money. This is getting ridiculous."
La Habra City Manager Brad Bridenbecker said that Gammoh's allegations are
false and that the city has a duty to defend its laws.
"We have a business owner that has challenged the ordinances of this city,
and the city has an obligation to defend those," he said. "I don't think the
ordinances have the ability to limit the businesses that open in town."
La Habra has spent about $800,000 on the court cases so far, Bridenbecker
said. "We'd love to be able to spend the money in other areas," he said,
"but you have to defend the ordinances on the books, and that's what we're
Bridenbecker declined to discuss the specifics of the two suits, but said,
"If [Taboo Gentlemen's Club] was operated in a manner that conformed with
the code, we probably wouldn't be spending all this money."
Roger Jon Diamond, a Santa Monica-based attorney who has won many strip club
cases over the years, said cities will always be in an uproar over the clubs
"simply for moral reasons." People don't like the idea that men enjoy
watching scantily clad women dance, he said.
Diamond represented Gammoh when he first sued Anaheim and La Habra, then
left the cases for undisclosed reasons.
He said city council members tend to succumb to pressure from residents who
don't want strip clubs in their neighborhoods, but judges tend to find that
there is no constitutional reason to prevent strip clubs from coming into
"We keep winning in court as long as the judges are faithful to the
Constitution," Diamond said.
He said there was a good chance that Gammoh will win his case against La
Bridenbecker, however, said La Habra is not worried about losing.
"We feel the ordinances we've got on the books would survive any legal
By Kimi Yoshino
LA Times Staff Writer
After a nine-year court battle that tested Anaheim's right to restrict adult
entertainment, the city has paid $2 million to the owner of the
Taboo Gentlemen's Club,
officials said Tuesday.
In 1994, the city denied Bill Gammoh permission to open the nude
entertainment venue. He sued the city, claiming violation of his
An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled in the city's favor, but the
California Court of Appeal overturned that decision in 1999 and ordered
Anaheim to issue the permit, said Scott Wellman, Gammoh's attorney.
The $2-million settlement covers Gammoh's lost profits during a roughly
six-year period from the time the permit was first denied to 2001, when he
opened the club near the Riverside Freeway and Kraemer Boulevard. Deputy
City Atty. Moses Johnson said the city agreed to settle because Gammoh's
experts estimated his lost profits at $6 million.
"We thought $2 million was a pretty good deal," Johnson said.
Gammoh has a similar case pending in a federal court against La Habra, which
also denied him a business permit, but was later ordered to issue one.
The city of Anaheim, over a nine-year period, spent about $430,000 in legal
fees, Johnson said. La Habra has spent more than $800,000, Wellman said,
citing city documents.
By Jessica Keating
Nude dancers at the
Spearmint Rhino, an adults-only club in Oxnard, were coerced into
performing illegal sex acts and punished if they refused to comply, a former
performer alleges in a lawsuit.
The dancer, a 34-year-old Oxnard woman, claims in a lawsuit filed last week
in Ventura County Superior Court that she was fired after being sexually
assaulted by a manager who had asked her to engage in acts of prostitution.
The suit seeks $1.6 million in compensatory damages for workplace injury and
lost wages and benefits, plus unspecified punitive damages for sexual
"If these allegations prove to be true, then this is a very serious matter,"
said Samuel Galici, a Ventura employment lawyer who is representing the
According to the suit, a manager forced the dancer into an office, held her
down and performed several unwanted sex acts with her.
Galici said the dancer never took her charges to the police, fearing
David Keith, an Oxnard police spokesman, said investigators could not recall
any reports of a sexual assault at the Spearmint Rhino over the past year.
Still, Galici said, the club should be held accountable for its managers'
behavior. Spearmint Rhino corporate officers kept the manager in place even
after another dancer complained about sexual harassment, according to the
"That should have put the Spearmint Rhino on notice, and yet they kept him
there," the attorney said.
The manager named in the suit declined to comment on the charges. Kathy Mac,
president of Spearmint Rhino Worldwide, based in City of Industry, also
declined to discuss the lawsuit.
In the suit, the dancer says she refused the manager's request that she
perform sex acts for a friend of his in exchange for $300. She alleges that
dancers who complied with such requests were given preferential treatment.
Because she would not consent to such favors, the dancer says, she was
repeatedly removed from the club floor, preventing her from performing
privately for customers and earning tips.
The dancer alleges she was fired after being sexually assaulted in October
2003, about nine months after she signed a contract with the club. She says
she was fired because she refused to willingly have sex with the manager or
The dancer filed suit under the state's fair employment laws, although she
worked at the club under a lease agreement. The agreement refers to the
dancer as a "tenant" and essentially allowed her to rent space for her
Galici said the dancer must prove that an employee-employer relationship
existed in order to claim lost wages and benefits.
The suit alleges Spearmint Rhino controlled the dancer's work schedule,
costumes, song selection and routines, yet as an independent contractor she
was denied overtime pay and was required to give part of her tips to the
The dancer seeks to recoup $300,000 in tips and $100,000 in overtime pay she
claims she was denied over an unspecified period.
Because workers' compensation benefits were denied to her as a contract
worker, she also is seeking $1.2 million for a shoulder injury she alleges
she sustained while dancing around a pole. She says she may not be able to
By James Nash
Daily News Staff
A North Hollywood strip club won't be able to trade its permit for fully
nude shows for a liquor license, a hearing officer decided Monday.
opened in September at Valley Plaza despite strong opposition from
neighboring residents and members of a nearby storefront church.
The club's management has petitioned city officials for the right to sell
alcohol, while at the same time converting from an all-nude club to a
Many residents opposed the move at a hearing Monday, arguing that alcohol
sales would contribute to loitering, crime and sexual misbehavior.
A Los Angeles city hearing officer sided with the residents Monday.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who represents Valley Plaza, called the decision
a victory for residents fighting to keep public sex and drunkenness out of
"I really believe that this was a bait and switch (by VIP Showgirls),"
Greuel said. "They came to the hearing (last year) and testified that this
was OK because this was going to be a juice bar and then they came back for
a conditional use permit to sell alcoholic beverages. That combination of
alcohol is what causes all the problems."
Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney for
VIP Showgirls, said the city's decision put politics ahead of common sense.
"If the place went topless with alcohol, 18- to 20-year-olds would not be
permitted there," Diamond said. "(The decision) was a knee-jerk reaction,
really contrary to the interests of the city."
By Michael Del Muro
News Staff Writer
PICO RIVERA -- Pico Rivera has spent about $240,000 in legal fees so far in
its two-year effort to move the city's only strip club out of a busy Slauson
Avenue mini-mall flanked by residences, churches and a McDonald's restaurant
And the costs of the legal fight undoubtedly will climb higher once trial
in a lawsuit filed against the city in January 2002 by the owners of the
strip club gets under way April 27. Attorneys for both sides expect the
trial to last about a week.
Part of the $240,000 went to pay attorneys who drafted new zoning
ordinances that city officials hope will withstand any future legal
challenges, officials said.
But has it been worth it?
City officials say yes. They believe much more is at stake than just the
Imperial Showgirls lawsuit, or even whether they succeed in moving the club
from its current location. The city is fighting for nothing less than the
right to determine where adult businesses will be allowed in the city in the
future, its attorney and council members say.
"What the city is doing is trying to protect itself,' City Councilman
Gregory Salcido said.
Roger Jon Diamond, who is representing the club's owners in the suit,
thinks the city is wasting taxpayers' money.
"That money could have gone to hire deputy sheriffs, gone to schools, to
shelter the homeless. Instead, that money has gone to lawyers,' he said.
The dispute began Jan. 7, 2002, when Imperial Showgirls, an all-nude,
no-alcohol strip club owned by two brothers, Leroy and Glenn Smith, opened
its doors at the site of a former pool hall on Slauson Avenue. The move
caught both the city and residents by surprise. There had never been a strip
club in Pico Rivera before, let alone an all-nude establishment. It
immediately became a magnet for protesters.
Pico Rivera City Attorney Jamie Casso said the club opened without a
city-issued business permit and without any inspections by the fire and
Looking back at it now, Casso believes the club's owners and their
attorney must have known the city was vulnerable.
"I think it's evident by their actions what they were looking for,' he
Because the city had never had a strip club, officials had never bothered
to update Pico Rivera's 23-year-old ordinance governing adult businesses a
lag in the local law the club's owners and their attorney were quick to
The decades-old ordinance banned adult businesses from opening within
1,000 feet of any church, residences or school and relegated them to the
city's commercial-manufacturing zones.
Using those regulations as legal grounds, city officials closed Imperial
Showgirls three days after it opened, sending the owners straight to federal
court for relief. A judge reversed the city's decision, issued a temporary
order barring the city from closing it, and set the stage for the civil
In a statement issued in March 2002, Diamond blasted the ordinance's
1,000-foot buffer provision as unconstitutional.
"The adult business would have to be far from churches, schools and other
sensitive uses. There are no such properties in the
(commercial-manufacturing) zone ... thus, the city unconstitutionally zoned
out adult businesses,' he wrote.
The Smiths sued in federal court Jan. 14, 2002. In February, Judge
Dickran Tevrizian sided with the club's owners, issuing a partial ruling in
the lawsuit and declaring Pico Rivera's old ordinance unconstitutional.
The club reopened March 1.
In August 2002, city officials drafted a new adult-business ordinance
that prohibits such businesses from opening within 150 feet of residences,
schools or churches.
City Council members also passed regulations banning lap dances, imposed
a 3-foot "no touching' zone between dancers and patrons, and required
strippers to be licensed by the city.
In October 2002, Tevrizian issued a preliminary injunction that
temporarily prohibited the city from retroactively applying its new rules to
Whether the new ordinance is constitutional and whether the city can
apply it to the Showgirls club is at the heart of the lawsuit to be heard in
April. Casso and council members believe the new law will pass muster.
Officials, however, could take a cue from nearby Whittier.
In the 1980s, city officials there spent $670,000 in legal fees in an
effort to move an X-rated theater out of Uptown Whittier, using an ordinance
that prohibited the sale of sexually explicit materials within 1,000 feet of
churches or schools and 500 feet of residences.
The theater, which opened before the ordinance took effect, violated the
buffer zone, but its owners sued in federal court. The case eventually
reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices ruled Whittier's ordinance
But in 1987, an act of God did what the city could not do: The Whittier
Narrows earthquake struck Uptown, severely damaging the theater, which never
Councilman Bob Henderson, who was on the council in 1977 when the theater
opened, said the ordeal was a waste of tax money.
"It's tough to make a place that went in legally to make it illegal after
the fact,' Henderson said.
Michael Del Muro can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext.
3050, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Hugo Mart
LA Times Staff Writer
The state Transportation Department wants to make it clear that it is not
sponsoring an establishment that promotes itself as "the Inland Empire's No.
1 topless club."
Caltrans is demanding that Club
215, located along Interstate 215 in Colton, stop using a replica of the
freeway emblem as its logo on billboards and signs. The state is so
concerned that the signs might lead motorists to believe the state has
entered the adult entertainment business that it is seeking an
administrative hearing to strip the club of its logo.
But the club's owners refuse to budge. "Nobody thinks Caltrans is sponsoring
a strip club," said Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney for Club 215. "It's
The club's logo, shaped like a freeway shield but emblazoned in red, white
and blue, is prominently displayed at the club, on a sign facing Interstate
215 and on several freeway-adjacent billboards in Riverside and San
Bernardino counties, including one near the offramp near the club. The logo
also appears on T-shirts and tank tops sold at the club, which opened in
Caltrans is not objecting to the club's billboard ad of a suggestive slogan
and a female torso wearing nothing but a tool belt.
State law prohibits freeway advertisements that include "any human figure in
such detail as to offend public morals." But a 1976 appellate court ruling
determined that the standard for offensive material was too vague.
Caltrans officials say the Club 215 logo violates state law regarding the
use of signs that resemble highway markers near freeways. The sign could
mislead motorists into believing the strip club is affiliated with the state
agency, said Rose Melgoza, a Caltrans spokeswoman.
But Diamond said Caltrans' objections are outrageous and vowed to fight to
keep the sign.
In June, Caltrans determined that the billboards violated state law after an
administrative hearing before the agency's Outdoor Advertising Review Board.
The board is responsible for enforcing the state's Outdoor Advertising Act,
which prohibits signs within 660 feet of a freeway that are "likely to be
mistaken" for "any directional, warning, danger or information sign."
But Diamond said Caltrans did not notify him or any representative of the
club of the meeting. Instead, the state agency invited the owners of the
billboard, Heywood Co. Outdoor Advertising, to participate.
The board concluded that the club's billboards must be modified to eliminate
the Club 215 logo or removed, according to Diamond. A spokesperson for the
Heywood Co. could not be reached.
After the June hearing, Diamond said, he contacted Caltrans, demanding that
he be included in future hearings.
Caltrans officials have requested a second review board hearing, later this
month, to decide whether a 7-foot-tall sign bearing the logo outside the
club violates state rules.
Diamond said Caltrans doesn't have the authority to impose the ruling unless
the agency sues the club and wins.
David Anderson, a Caltrans spokesman, declined to discuss the case, except
to say that the agency has yet to decide whether to take legal action.
But Diamond said he's not ready to budge.
"No one can possibly confuse the billboard sign for a freeway sign," he
said. "There is no danger to the motoring public."
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