Naked Oppression

Attention, adult gentlemen! A crusade against strip joints in the metro area may leave Denver the capital of the lap dance.

The NFLF prides itself on providing legal assistance to towns "fending off sexually oriented businesses without running afoul of the courts." In addition to trying to fight the porn industry in Colorado, the group has received 300 requests for assistance from around the country in the past three and a half months, says NFLF coordinator Scott Bergthold.

Denver's Bigler says that the group sent an unsolicited packet of materials to the city but adds that the packet "was in no way" used by the city in its study of adult businesses. That move by the NFLF was not surprising. The group lobbies hard across the country to spread its anti-obscenity message by drafting suggested anti-porn laws and marketing them. It suggests that cities "cut into profits" by using regulations or even physical barriers that prevent customers from tucking tips into the dancers' G-strings.

"Like any business," says Bergthold, "the bottom line is money."
Shotgun Willie's Matthews agrees, and that's why she feels threatened by the proposed Glendale ordinances and plans to vociferously oppose them at a March 17 public hearing. "We've been here since 1982," she says, "and that's longer than all the [time served by] city council members."

Bill Junor, a Glendale city councilman from 1990 to 1996, says that lack of maturity on the council may be why the city government is going after the strip clubs. "What really bothers me," says Junor, who drafted the city's original sexually oriented business ordinance in 1993, "is that a city council of amateurs can make a decision that will profoundly affect people's ability to make a living without taking responsibility for the consequences. A city council's job is to regulate, not eliminate. And that's what this new ordinance will do. I think one of the reasons they're doing this is because it's popular right now."

Morality may be the driving force behind the NFLF. But Junor, who lost to Rice in the last mayoral race, says the real motivation in Glendale may have more to do with the real estate business. "What we're seeing under the guise of morality," says Junor, "is a quest for real estate. I can't prove that it's economically driven, but everyone on the city council is a protege of the old mayor [Steve Ward], who wanted to buy those clubs up to change the character of the area." Some people in the strip joints have the same suspicions.

The 28-year-old Rice says that contrary to what club owners and some residents believe, the purpose of the new ordinance isn't to close the strip joints down. "If that was our intent, there are mechanisms that we could use to do it," says Rice. "Strip clubs have been a topic of conversation for a long time out here, and we're taking an opportunity to look at how they affect the community. This isn't a complicated smokescreen conspiracy like the owners say. There are no hidden motives."

Shotgun Willie's didn't attempt to hide its feelings about Rice when it recently took a shot at him on its marquee along Colorado Boulevard. The message read that the business was being threatened by a "Rice diet." Rice, however, was more amused than angered by the jab and says he asked the club if he could have a photo of the marquee message for a keepsake.

"Mom would have been proud," says Rice.

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