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Z Bone Zone

Z Bone's Media Bites For 2005

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.

Pico Rivera Strip Club Case Comes to a Close

December 26, 2005
By Pam Wight
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

PICO RIVERA - Pico Rivera officials voted last week to join a consent decree with the the city's first and only strip club after a four-year legal fight to shut the establishment down.

Under the new agreement, Imperial Showgirls, a strip club featuring all-nude female dancers, will be allowed to remain at its current location on Slauson Avenue until 2009, at which point it will have to leave permanently.

In addition, the city's own rules against lap dancing or tipping the dancers cannot be enforced against Imperial Showgirls, although the agreement does not prevent the city from imposing the rules on any other adult businesses that attempts to open in the city, said Jamie Casso, city attorney for Pico Rivera.

The city must also pay the club's owner, Leroy Smith, $97,000 in attorney fees, the consent agreement states.

But does every adult establishment result in increased criminal and lewd behavior or prostitution in the area, as critics suggest?

Wherever a strip club attempts to open its doors, community activists, religious leaders and residents inevitably make dire predictions of moral and neighborhood decay.

When Imperial Showgirls opened in 2002, the Rev. Richard Ochoa led protesters who camped outside the club for 18 months until a court order forced Ochoa off the private property.

Ochoa said that during the 18 months he protested against the club he saw plenty of moral turpitude and negative ramifications resulting from the club's presence.

"The club is terrible," Ochoa said. "It fosters divorce, bad marriages, breakups ... all the perversion that goes on in there. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that the men that go in there can't be very happily married. They come out with all that perversion in their minds.

"During the time we were picketing, we saw very angry wives come to the doors. I witnessed women crying to their husbands to get out of there. It's just a bad thing."

An anecdotal survey of area residents, however, did not reveal any spike in criminal behavior related to the club's inception, although it remained unpopular. Also, officials at the sheriff's Pico Rivera Station said there was no significant crime associated with the club.

Victor Godoy, 24, grew up on Passons Boulevard, around the corner from where Showgirls is located.

"There's no extra crime or trouble from it that I'm aware of," Godoy said. "But it just feels kind of wrong. I grew up here. A lot of kids live around here and many of them pass it on their way home from school."

Even though Raymond Marmolejo, 60, worried about declining property values and increased crime when the Showgirls opened up, he said he has not witnessed such activity.

"I'm not really against it - it's the wrong place," Marmolejo said. "There are too many kids here that walk past it to the 7-Eleven."

Two hefty bouncers guard the front entrance and ban patrons from bringing in handbags. According to state law, no alcohol is served on the premises.


(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029


Strip Club Banned from Using Sign

December 21, 2005
By Ben Baeder
Whittier Daily News Staff Writer

INDUSTRY - The electronic advertising sign at an all-nude club just can't get turned on, at least not legally.

The Industry City Council has refused to let the owners of the Deja Vu Showgirls at 16025 Gale Ave. activate an electronic advertising sign, which city officials say was modified without permission.

Management at Deja Vu declined to comment for this story. The plaza is owned by Amusement Industry Inc. An official from the the plaza's management company declin- ed to comment, saying he was unfamiliar with the issue. Electronic display signs have been banned in the city since 1993, but the club's sign, built in 1982, was grandfathered in with the caveat that it never be altered, only repaired, said Mike Kissell, Industry planning director. The sign was used to advertise activities at the all-nude club.

When workers "ripped the guts out and completely overhauled the sign" at Cathay Bank Plaza a few months ago, city officials declared the sign illegal, Kissell said.

Since the electronic message board makes up only a portion of the sign, the city will not force Deja Vu to tear it down, Kissell said. But the club is prohibited from activating the electronic display.

The company that renovated the sign on Dec. 8 appealed to the City Council, but the council denied the appeal. Company officials argued the sign was not significantly altered.

City officials said electronic display signs are not appropriate for the area.

"It's a matter of them doing the work without checking with us first," Mayor Dave Perez said. "They weren't supposed to be upgrading the sign. The city a long time ago decided we didn't want electronic signs. We're trying to be good neighbors, and we don't think people in La Puente and the unincorporated areas, like Hacienda Heights, want a bunch of flashing lights all over the place."


(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2703


Is Charlize Theron a Strip Club Fan?

December 21, 2005
By Cathy Beers
National Ledger

Sexy Charlize Theron is reportedly hanging out at the Hollywood strip club Crazy Girls according to a regular at the club.


A report in Star People cites the patron that says Charlize hangs out at the club and plays billiards with others at the strip bar.

Calling her down to earth, the strip club regular tells Star People that Charlize is just a regular person that plays pool, hangs out by the tables and throws down a few beers and watches the strippers.

No word on Charlize's tipping policy for the girls.

"She's not a bad pool player and mostly hangs out by the tables, but will also grab a booth and watch the strippers perform."

And Charlize Theron's hotness factor just clicks up a few notches in every red-blooded American male's book.

The report notes that a rep for the sexy Oscar winner didn't return Star's call asking for a comment.


Strip Club Court Battle Continues

December 5, 2005
By Araceli Esparza
Pasadena Star-News Staff Writer

SOUTH EL MONTE - Akbar Mehr has not given up in his quest to bring a strip club to South El Monte.

Despite a recent Superior Court ruling denying him a permit to open Diamonds Showgirls, Mehr plans to take the matter to the appellate courts.

"The judge ruled in favor of the city," said Mehr, a planning adviser. "Usually we don't care about the decision of the lower court. I expected something like that."

Mehr alleges South El Monte council members adopted an emergency ordinance to prevent him from opening his strip club at 1225 Durfee Ave. The site, which formerly housed Cindy's Restaurant, is zoned for commercial businesses, he said.

Under the previous ordinance, Mehr added, adult businesses were allowed in that area so long as their front doors were 500 feet away from the property line of homes, schools, religious establishments or parks. Mehr's business met those criteria, he said.

South El Monte City Attorney Quinn Barrow disagreed, saying the ordinance terms were inadvertently incorrect.

"There was a period (in 1999) where, just for adult uses, the measurements had changed to the primary door," Barrow said. "No one knows how that change got into the books. At the time the council was adapting an ordinance that was 25 pages long."

"It's property line to property line," Barrow said of the correct zoning code, noting Whittier Narrows Recreation Area lies in too close a proximity to Mehr's potential club.

Barrow also said discrepancies in the ordinance were not discovered until Mehr and another business requested a permit in late 2004, prompting the council's response.

On that basis, the city denied his application for a permit, Barrow said.

According to Mehr's attorney, the city's move was illegal.

"The city changed the ordinance and claimed it was simply correcting a prior mistake," said attorney Roger Diamond, who has defended adult businesses in the past.

Most recently, he helped Anaheim's Taboo Club win $2 million after officials in that city tried to keep the cabaret out of their boundaries using similar tactics, Diamond said.

In the South El Monte case, Diamond and his client are seeking upward of $1 million in lost profits over the last year.

Barrow say his City Council's actions were within legal reason.

"City councils are presented a lot of different ordinances at different times, and so when you have a 25-page ordinance, unless someone has done a red-line version, there's no way to see how it applies to the current ordinance," he said. "It was clear that no one brought this to the City Council."


(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2303


Pico Rivera to Levy Stripper Fees

November 24, 2005
By Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell
Whittier Daily News Staff Writer

PICO RIVERA - Taking your clothes off in public for profit in Pico Rivera will soon cost a pretty penny.

Beginning this January, professional strippers must pay the city $415 for an "adult business performer permit" - plus $60 for a background check.

"It's in the city's best interest to do as much as we can legally do to make sure the people who participate in this type of employment are reputable," said City Councilman Ron Beilke.

It smacks of discrimination, said LeRoy Smith, who is the co-owner of the city's only strip joint, Imperial Showgirls, which features all-nude dancers but no alcohol.

"No one else pays those kind of fees," Smith said. "I don't understand why entertainers would have to."

City Attorney Jamie Casso said Pico Rivera has the right to impose the stripper fee, which was included in the city's operating standards for adult entertainment businesses adopted in 2002.

Under the standards, strippers have to be licensed in order to perform. Also, dancers at strip clubs must never leave the stage while performing.

No touching is allowed between dancers and club patrons, and patrons must refrain from tossing tips onto the stage, no matter how appreciative they are of the performance, according to the regulations.

Imperial Showgirls' owners are in a legal fight with the city over the standards.

The battle could be resolved soon, however, as both sides are close to reaching an agreement that could ultimately impact the city's operating standards, Casso said.


(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028


SoCal Strip Club Turkey Giveaway Gets Cold Shoulder

November 11, 2005
Associated Press

INDUSTRY, Calif. -- Workers at a strip club that wanted to give away Thanksgiving turkeys couldn't find any takers until the cops came to the rescue.

Employees at the Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen's Club planned a football game for male employees. A turkey was to be donated for every point scored. Then they tried to find a charity to distribute the birds.

"We called a lot of different organizations and it was a little frustrating and surprising that people didn't call us back," Spearmint Rhino's Erick Sikkenga said.

It's not the first time the club, which features exotic dancers, has faced charitable rejection.

"We did a bike run and we tried to give $5,000 to a well-known children's hospital and they turned it down," he said. "Some people aren't interested because of who we are, but we aren't going to local churches, or trying to offend anyone, we just want to help out."

United Way spokeswoman Diane Creyaufmiller said many organizations have guidelines for accepting donations.

The local sheriff's station finally came to the rescue.

"I figured they want to do something good for the community, so let's allow them to help out," Industry sheriff's Lt. Tim Murakami said.

Turkeys from the upcoming game will be donated to needy families identified by the sheriff's department.


L.A. Police Commision Wants Lap Dancing Ban

October 11, 2005
By Jill Leovy
LA Times Staff Writer

Lap dancing, the political hot potato that pits free expression against indecency, should be outlawed, Los Angeles' top police officials voted today.

And no tipping allowed.

The Los Angeles City Police Commission today urged city council members to adopt a "six-foot rule" for adult clubs, which would outlaw physical contact between dancers and patrons. The legislation would also prohibit direct tipping of performers by patrons.

The Los Angeles Police Department has long sought the change, saying the existing prohibition on skin-to-skin contact is insufficient and difficult to enforce.

Adult club operators loudly cried foul.

"This is a city of 3 million people," said attorney John Weston, spokesman for some 20 business owners who are fighting the measure. "Surely you can have room for diversity in the laws."

The measure passed by the commission would also require patrons to remain at least six feet away from exotic dancers, who would be limited to performing only on raised stages with rails.

The measure, which the council unsuccessfully tried to make law two years ago, is supported by police who say they have difficulty enforcing the current law.

But Weston said that restricting dancers to a stage is, "like saying all television has to go back to black and white."

The Los Angeles City Council passed a similar measure in 2003, but it was immediately challenged by industry opponents, who filed a petition for a voter-referendum aimed at overturning the new rules.

Faced with a choice of putting the issue to a vote, the council opted to repeal a rule requiring patrons to keep their distance from dancers. What remained on the books was a watered-down version of the original that prohibited VIP rooms and set standards for security guards, but allowed lap-dancing. Skin-to-skin touching between dancers and patrons had been illegal, and remains so.

Since then court decisions have allowed more restrictions.

The courts would view the current proposal favorably, assistant City Atty. Michael Klekner told the commission, because "you are not regulating dance, you are regulating physical contact. That is conduct that is not protected...by the constitution."

LAPD Det. Ben Jones told the police commissioners that the ordinance is needed because some adult dance halls are hotbeds of prostitution, workplace violence and other crimes, and police have had difficulty enforcing laws in them.

He told of officers arriving at clubs to find used condoms littering the floors. Right now, the law allows a nude dancer, "to go into a dark corner with a patron and sit on his lap, and for him to grab her buttocks and move up and down and there is no way to know if there is prostitution going on unless we go up to them and separate them."

But industry representative Weston objected, calling the proposed measure unnecessary, and wasteful of police time. "If there's prostitution, arrest those involved," he told the commission.

Police Commission president John Mack called the proposal, "a well-crafted ordinance," and after a few questions about how directly lap-dancing relates to prostitution and other crimes, the board voted to recommend the measure to the City Council Public Safety Committee.


Strip Club Prepares to Open

Construction also slated to start within two weeks on another spot for adult entertainment

September 11, 2005
By JAMES BURGER, Californian staff writer
Bakersfield Californian

The new blue building at the corner of Gilmore Avenue and Buck Owens Boulevard is small, neat and unobtrusive.
For now.

But renovation work on the building should be finished within a month and the Teaser Pleaser, Bakersfield's second strip club, will open shortly after.

That may make the small building -- visible from Highway 99 -- a little more noticeable.

And within two weeks, if things go smoothly for Porterville welder John Stevens, the city's third strip club will start construction on Sillect Avenue.

The two clubs will join the Deja Vu club in providing adult entertainment to Bakersfield.

Stevens has yet to get construction permits from the city of Bakersfield.

But city building official Steve Ewing said meetings last week clarified problems with plans for Stevens' Exotic Kitty gentlemen's club. Most of the architectural problems are minor and will be worked out in a matter of weeks, Ewing said.

Electrical and plumbing work also needs to be approved.

Stevens said the city is "nitpicking" the project but he expects to get his plans approved in the next week or so.

He is already poised to give the pre-fabrication plant the go-ahead to start construction on the Kitty at a remote location.

If the idea of stopping the Exotic Kitty or the Teaser Pleaser sounds good to you -- you aren't alone.

Stevens and his Exotic Kitty sparked intense controversy several years ago when they proposed opening the club on Buck Owens Boulevard.

A coalition of local anti-porn activists and Bakersfield City Council members spoke out against the strip club. City staff members, who first thought the location was legal, discovered it was too close to a mobile home park, a protected use.

The Exotic Kitty was denied.

Stevens moved its location to Sillect Avenue It was denied again -- still too close to the mobile homes.

Stevens sued. He lost.

But, while the legal pressure was on, the Bakersfield City Council was forced to consider that its adult entertainment ordinance was too tough and didn't allow adult businesses enough opportunity to open in town.

First Amendment rulings have stated that cities cannot zone adult businesses out of their boundaries.

The council reviewed the size of the buffer zone that keeps adult businesses away from homes, parks, schools and other protected places.

Council members decided that to avoid violating the laws that protect adult entertainment as free speech, to shrink the size of the buffer zone.

That opened up new locations where adult businesses could be operated.

That left room for Hovik Vahanian to locate the Teaser Pleaser on Buck Owens and Stevens to fit the Kitty onto the property he owned on Sillect.

"I hope to open in the next one and a half months," Vahanian said of his gentlemen's club. "Definitely before New Year's."

Porn activists said the law protects the strip clubs, but they will be watching for any violations of the rules by Vahanian or Stevens.


Strip Club Stirs Outrage with Less-than-subtle Sign

August 5, 2005
By Andrea Sudano
Daily Breeze

A McDonald's near LAX has a big poster outside showing hamburgers, and a neighboring gas station mini-mart ad displays its snacks and beverages.

And now a nearby strip club and adult shop on Los Angeles' Century Boulevard is advertising exactly what it has to offer -- in very plain language.

Passersby on the busy thoroughfare were greeted Tuesday with a freshly posted sign outside the Century Lounge proclaiming "Vaginas R' Us."

As no surprise, the less-than-subtle advertisement has heads turning and adjacent businesses calling for the sign's removal.

"We don't appreciate the signage and we're working with the city (of Los Angeles) to make sure this establishment is adhering to all codes," said Laurie Hughes, executive director of Gateway to L.A., an association that promotes airport-area businesses along Century Boulevard.

The association has urged its board of directors -- mostly managers and owners of surrounding hotels and businesses -- to write letters to the city government and the owner of land on Century and Aviation boulevards.

Juan Garcia, a manager at the Carl's Jr. restaurant next door to the club, said it was just a matter of time until he receives complaints from customers about the sign.

"It'll bring some comments," he said. "It shouldn't be up there."

But Century Lounge owner Howard White insists he's simply advertising his business, and says it's no different than a Broadway marquee hawking a popular play.

"In sort of a naive way, I felt that there was nothing terrible about it since the 'Vagina Monologues' was on Broadway forever," he said. "I didn't feel there was anything terrible about it."

And technically, there isn't, Los Angeles city officials say.

"The word 'vagina' is not an obscene word and we're not in a position to question the First Amendment," Councilman Bill Rosendahl said.

But White won't get off that easy.

Pasted over a portion of the original sign heralding "Live Nude Nude Nudes," the addition is made of plastic vinyl. The material is combustible and violates municipal code standards for pole signs.

White was served with a citation Thursday, and has until close of business Sunday to replace the sign, said David Keim, chief of code enforcement for the city.

White, whose family has used the corner of Century and Aviation boulevards for various businesses for almost 70 years, does not own the land.

Joe Lumer, a representative for landowner LRW Investment Co., declined to comment on the sign but said, as a tenant, White has his rights. His lease from LRW expires in 2009.

The business association has also contacted popular toy store chain Toys "R" Us in hopes a cease-and-desist letter might speed the sign's removal.

Susan McLaughlin, a Toys "R" Us spokeswoman, said the company was aware of the situation and would be "looking into it immediately."

But surrounding businesses better not get their hopes up. While White says he'll change the materials, the wording is staying -- even if Toys "R" Us' Geoffrey the Giraffe is breathing down his neck.

"If I hear anything from them, I'll just change 'us' to 'Vaginas is Us' or 'Vaginas Are Us,' " he said.

This isn't the first time White has pushed the envelope.

In the 1980s, he was told he couldn't use "nude" in a sign. Instead he displayed "N-U-D-E" in big letters and placed a small "g" between the "d" and "e."

No "nude." Just "nudge."

He kept it up for two weeks.

Association members argue the newest sign only reinforces a seedy image the area has worked hard to shed, and shouldn't be one of the first things visitors to Los Angeles should see after leaving the airport.

Toronto resident Martin McCann has spent the past two weeks traveling throughout California with his wife and two sons.

The Century Lounge wasn't on the family's list of attractions to visit while in Los Angeles, and McCann thought the sign was offensive and unnecessary.

"The 'nude, nude' part already gives you a good idea of what's inside," he said.

But some tourists took a more lighthearted approach.

"I love it," said Andrew Mates, from Sydney, Australia. "It's hilarious. I've never seen anything like it. It's the first thing I saw when we got here."


Strip-club Owner Cries 'Dirty Deal'

August 2, 2005
The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA Motorists entering Auto Mall Drive off the freeway only have two places to go: a car dealership or a strip club.

Signs point toward Honda, BMW and Jaguar - and exotic dancers at Mr. J's.

The proximity of two high-profile industries has resulted in a legal battle over expanding the auto mall and allegations that the city conspired to oust the strip club in favor of more sales-tax revenue.

The conflict arose after Mr. J's agreed to sell to Honda Santa Ana, but the owners, Mohammed and Saher Joher, backed out at the last minute. Honda took them to court and won $15 million in damages.

The Johers are still operating Mr. J's seven days a week but filed for bankruptcy and have a $25 million claim against the city.

The Johers claim Santa Ana orchestrated the deal, using Honda as a straw man to acquire Mr. J's, then immediately sell to the city, allowing Santa Ana to avoid paying to relocate the strip club as required by law.

"It's a dirty deal," said Mohammed "Joe" Joher, 61.

Just a middleman?

Honda and city officials say they did not concoct a straw-man deal.

Honda attorney Michael Vivoli and general manager Ryan Busnardo said Honda approached the Johers in order to expand long before the city expressed interest.

"It's no different than any middleman who buys a piece of real estate and flips it," Vivoli said.

In January 2004, the Johers agreed to sell their business and 45-year land lease to Honda for $4.2 million.

Two weeks before escrow was to close, the Santa Ana City Council, acting as the redevelopment agency, approved a deal to buy the strip club from Honda for the exact purchase price the Johers were to receive - $4,247,897.

The property, off the Costa Mesa (I-55) Freeway, was to transfer from the Johers to Honda to the city on the same day.

For reasons both sides dispute, the Johers pulled out.

John Murphy, an Irvine attorney specializing in public-acquisition cases, said state case law forbids straw- man deals that shield government from paying relocation costs and higher real-estate prices than in the free market.

"If Honda had told Mr. J's the city was in the background, Mr. J's would have far preferred to deal with the city," said Murphy, who is not involved in the case. "They could have gotten more money. They also could have gotten some favorable tax treatment."

HONDA hired empLoyees

After the deal fell through, Honda sued Mr. J's. The topless dance club and restaurant opened in 1988 and is one of five adult businesses in Santa Ana.

Honda had planned to triple its inventory space and had already hired nearly 200 more employees, Vivoli said.

"They would have had that property cleared and integrated as part of the dealership within less than two weeks," Vivoli said.

"What drives sales in the car business is having enough models and trim lines and options and accessories when the customer comes on the lot."

In May, Judge James M. Brooks awarded Honda $14.9million in damages, based on lost sales, and ordered the Johers to sell. The order has been stayed pending appeal and bankruptcy proceedings.

The Johers have filed for bankruptcy and blame the city for their predicament.

According to trial transcripts from the bankruptcy proceedings, Vivoli said in court that the city didn't want to relocate an adult business and wanted to eliminate the liquor license.

He also said the dealership "would never have agreed to pay the purchase price ... without the city's agreement to finance that acquisition."

In an interview, Vivoli said Honda received a ceiling price from the city during final negotiations as the Johers demanded higher and higher prices.

He called $4.2 million "grotesquely generous."

The Johers say they believed the city would condemn their property if they didn't agree to sell to Honda.

The city used eminent domain to help Crevier BMW expand.

Eminent domain was out

Ben Kaufman, chief assistant city attorney, said the city did not consider using its powers of eminent domain on Mr. J's because of the First Amendment protections afforded adult businesses.

Kaufman said the Johers willingly entered into an agreement with Honda to sell their entire business, and if they hadn't wanted to sell, they could have operated along Edinger Avenue indefinitely.

"They presumably got a price they were satisfied with or they wouldn't have agreed to sell," Kaufman said.

Murphy said the dispute sounds like a classic case of the city using a third party as a way to expand the auto mall and rid itself of an undesirable business.

"It's right there at the entry of the auto mall," Murphy said.

"I could see how from a planning perspective there would be a strong interest on the city's part to close it down. They would need to find someplace else, and that would be tough.

"I can understand why the city would very much want to get rid of that."


Labor Board Rules in Favor of Strippers

July 29, 2005
By Kristopher Hanson
Long Beach Press Telegram staff writer

LONG BEACH A local cabaret has been ordered by the state labor board to pay two strippers more than $50,000 in unpaid wages and "stage fees' the women had to pay when they performed.

In February, Cynthia DeMassi of Long Beach and Shenandoah Malaise of Los Angeles filed a claim against Gold Club-LA, a topless establishment in Harbor City, alleging they were forced to dance, waitress, clean tables, perform lap dances and work regularly scheduled, eight-hour shifts without being paid an hourly wage.

The women testified they were forced to pay $10 stage fees for each shift they danced, and made to share 10 percent of their tips with the strip club's bartenders, DJs and security guards.

"We had to dance, clean mirrors, clean tables, serve drinks and food and clean up around the club after closing, and we weren't getting paid anything except tips, which we had to share with practically everyone," said Malaise, who worked at the club from May to October 2004. "It was like slave labor."

An attorney for the club contended that the women were independent contractors not subject to labor laws that apply to employees.

The cabaret is owned by Charles "Jerry' Westlund Jr., who also owns the Fantasy Castle in Signal Hill and the Fantasy Ranch in Long Beach. His attorney argued that Westlund shouldn't be held responsible for labor practices at the club before he purchased it in May 2004.

"Most of the award is reflective of conduct before the Westlund group took over the club," said attorney Gregory Silver of Long Beach. "If you're not there, you don't have any ability to control the situation that you didn't know about."

Silver said dancers are no longer allowed to serve drinks, clean or waitress, and they may come and go as they please.

"They are absolute independent contractors, and they sign agreements to that effect," Silver said.

In the 18-page ruling handed down this week, California Labor Commissioner Fern Carrasquillo found that the club violated several labor laws, including not paying taxes and Social Security withholdings and forcing dancers to pay stage fees before they danced.

"No employer can legally charge its employees a fee in order to work for the employer or a fee for use of the stage in carrying out the work that the employee was hired to perform," Carrasquillo wrote.

DeMassi, who worked at the club under the stage name "C.J." from March 2001 to October 2004, was awarded $45,350.30 for unpaid wages, interest, stage fees and tips. Malaise, who now lives in Los Angeles and owns an adult furniture business, Adult Depot, was awarded $8,824.34.

The women, who did not disclose their ages, were represented by attorney Steve Renshaw. The lawyer predicted more women would be coming forward to report similar working situations.

"I'm sure additional lawsuits will be brought, and from what I've heard, it was common practice not only at these clubs, but others," Renshaw said.

For DeMassi and Malaise, the ruling is a small victory for workers in an often ridiculed business.

"Working in the entertainment industry is hard enough," Malaise said. "Hopefully, speaking out will help other dancers recover lost wages and compel more clubs, owners and managers to get it right."

It isn't the first time Westlund's business ventures have been investigated by federal authorities. In 1998, Westlund was found guilty of forgery and tax evasion and sentenced to probation and community service.


Ban on Lap Dancing Again Put in Motion

July 14, 2005
By Steve Hymon and Richard Fausset
LA Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas introduced a motion Wednesday to ban lap dancing, almost two years after lawmakers shimmied away from such a ban under opposition from strip club owners.

"Some of these establishments are in my district, and I've had a lot of complaints from constituents," Cardenas said. He said he was motivated by hearing that children were picking up used condoms near the clubs.

The council on Wednesday also approved a trial plan to allow the public to testify via video feed from the San Fernando Valley. And it heard a report that Native American slave quarters may have been unearthed during construction of a dog pound in Mission Hills.

But it was feather boas and gyrating women that created a buzz around City Hall.

In 2003, adult club owners threatened to sue the city over the ban and to organize a citywide ballot measure. The council then repealed the ban and opted instead for rules forbidding private rooms where prostitution was feared to be taking place and prohibiting patrons from groping the dancers.

But Cardenas said that this time around, the city may be in a stronger position because the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in January upheld a lap dance ban in La Habra. That city's law states that dancers must remain at least 2 feet away from strip club patrons. The court found that the law doesn't stop dancers from being provocative.

On Wednesday, the manager of The Score, a downtown strip club, sounded a note of exasperation when informed of the revived proposals.

David Cardenas, no relation to the councilman, said his business suffered during the 2003 lap dance debate because some customers believed, mistakenly, that his club could no longer allow lap dancing. This time around, Cardenas said he was less worried. He figured patrons would see the renewed motion as an idle threat from a politician.

"There are a lot of other things going on right now people getting killed on the corners," he said. "A lot worse things than somebody getting a lap dance. "Councilman Greig Smith, who seconded Cardenas' motion, said the city was in better financial health than in 2003 and in a better position to fight off an attempt by club owners to challenge the ban.

The council, in other action Wednesday, approved a pilot program to allow the public to testify before the council via a video camera in the new Van Nuys City Hall, which is to open in late August. The program, initiated by Smith, is intended to save people who live far from City Hall the trip downtown. There is a catch: People who speak at City Hall can see that council members sometimes don't listen. Those who testify via video will have to watch a feed on the city's Channel 35.

The council also learned that a 200-year-old foundation of Indian homes was uncovered last week during work on an animal shelter in Mission Hills. Excavation will continue, and findings reported to the council.


Federal Court Won't Consider Appeal Of La Habra Lap Dance Ruling

April 4, 2005
Associated Press

LA HABRA, Calif. -- A federal appeals court refused to reconsider a January ruling that upheld La Habra's so-called "two-foot rule" banning lap dances.

Strip-club owner Badi "Bill" Gammoh, who owns clubs in Anaheim, La Habra and Arcadia, challenged La Habra's 2003 ordinance that requires dancers to keep at least two feet away from customers. Strippers also joined the suit, saying the law cost them lucrative earnings.

The suit claimed the ordinance was vague and illegally curtailed their freedom of expression.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous opinion Jan. 27, said the ordinance did not improperly limit Gammoh or the dancers' protected freedoms. The appellate court on Friday denied another hearing.

Gammoh attorney Scott Wellman said the appellate court ruling doesn't mean the fight is over, and he suggested his client may simply ignore the rule at his Taboo Theater.

"I'm not saying that's what he's going to do, but that's certainly an option," he said.

Because of the ruling, Los Angeles officials said they may revive a similar ban proposed in late 2003 but abandoned when it drew strong opposition from the adult-business industry.

"We'll certainly be considering reintroducing the ordinance," said Jose Cornejo, chief of staff for Councilman Tony Cardenas.


Strip Club Owner Threatens to Sue City

February 23, 2005
By Jason Kosareff
Pasadena Star-News Staff Writer

SOUTH EL MONTE -- Akbar Mehr says he is following the law, and he wants the city to do the same.

Mehr is warning City Hall that if it blocks his plans for a strip club, he will sue for any lost business.

"Every day that the city drags their feet and we are closed, we are going to ask for damages,' said Mehr, who has filed an application to set up Diamonds Showgirls at 1225 S. Durfee Ave.

South El Monte City Manager Gary Chicots denied the application and Mehr is appealing to the City Council. A public forum on the application is tentatively set for March 8.

School officials on Tuesday urged the council to vote against a zoning ordinance that would allow the strip club, saying students will likely come into contact the the business.

Mehr said in a Monday interview the city would be wise to accept his constitutional right to set up the strip club, which he says meets every city, state and federal code.

Anaheim paid $2 million to a strip club owner in March because that city would not let him open his Taboo Gentlemen's Club, according to the Associated Press.

"That project was 100- percent identical to this project,' Mehr said. He said he had a hand in setting up Taboo, among other strip clubs around Southern California.

"(South El Monte's) ordinances are the most strict I've ever seen in the 20 years I've been setting up these businesses,' Mehr said.

The c ity of Industry adopted an Adult Business Overlay Zone in 1996. It allowed strip clubs to operate in areas of the city.

But two strip clubs that fall outside this zone could be shut down in two years due to code amendments approved by the Industry City Council in December.

Mehr has in his corner Los Angeles-based attorney Roger Diamond, considered one of the top litigators in the country for strip clubs.

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, City Attorney Quinn Barrow said there might not be much South El Monte can do to stop Diamonds Showgirls. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of strip clubs on the basis of freedom of speech, he said.

In a Wednesday interview, Chicots said the city is looking at tightening its adult business ordinances. The council on Tuesday expanded zoning for adult businesses to head off any potential lawsuits, he said.

"We can't totally prohibit them,' Chicots said.

Mehr said his club, in the abandoned Cindy's Restaurant, is more than 500 feet away from the nearest home, park or school. Mehr has renovated the old building and added 1,100 square feet, for a total of 2,400 square feet, he said.

He plans to open four to five months after the council approves his plans.

"There is nothing to worry about,' Mehr said. "I know this is the first business like this to go into that city and they think the Russians are coming, but it's not true.'

-- Staff Writer Rodney Tanaka contributed to this story. Jason Kosareff can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2717, or by e-mail at jason.kosareff@sgvn.com


Court Upholds La Habra's Ban Against Lap Dancing

January 27, 2005
By David Haldane
LA Times Staff Writer

In a decision that La Habra officials believe could encourage other cities, a federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a city ordinance that effectively bans lap dancing by requiring exotic performers to stay two feet from their customers.

Deborah Fox, who represented the city in its fight with the owner of Taboo Gentleman's Club, called the 3-0 ruling "really huge," since "lap dancing is the financial linchpin of the adult industry and this is the end of the argument about its prohibition."

Neither club owner Bill Gammoh nor his attorney could be reached for comment. Gammoh's fight with La Habra began shortly after he opened the city's only strip club in 1998 and filed a lawsuit challenging the city's anti-lap dance ordinance as vague and unconstitutional.

The ordinance "unfairly impedes on [a dancer's] right to expression and speech," attorney Scott Wellman argued last year. The reason La Habra enforces such strict ordinances against adult clubs, Wellman said, is that it doesn't want them in the city, and officials know the clubs can't survive without lap dances.

La Habra countered that it enacted the ordinance because the activity leads to prostitution, crime, drug use and disease.

Wednesday's ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision a lower court made last year.

"The 2-foot rule," Judge Richard Tallman wrote, "merely requires that dancers give their performances from a slight distance; it does not prohibit them from giving their performances altogether. The rule limits the dancers' freedom to convey their erotic message but does not prohibit them from performing erotic one-on-one dances for patrons."

Furthermore, the judge reasoned, "the ordinance was thoroughly researched and narrowly tailored to combat the negative side effects of adult businesses that the city's research identified" and thus is not too "vague or overbroad."

Fox said she hoped the ruling would encourage other cities to consider ordinances limiting lap dancing, many of which have been challenged.

"Jurisdictions that were reluctant to adopt lap-dancing prohibitions for fear of costly litigation will now be more confident" the law is on their side, she said.

The Los Angeles City Council briefly banned lap dancing two years ago before repealing the ordinance after opposition by the adult entertainment industry.

Fox said she would speak on the topic next month before a gathering of the League of California Cities in Newport Beach. "I think [the decision] will spur a great interest by all jurisdictions in a re-examination of the viability and financial risk of adopting lap-dance ordinances."


City Lap Dancing Law Ruled Unconstitutional

January 23, 2005
From Times Wire Services

A judge has ruled that a Las Vegas law defining what strippers can and can't do during lap dances is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Sally Loehrer affirmed a lower court ruling that as many as five misdemeanor criminal cases filed against Las Vegas strippers should be dismissed because the city code was vague and unenforceable.

"I don't think the law is clear enough," Loehrer said. "I don't think it's possible for the law enforcement to know what is allowable and what is not."


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