Westside City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski doesn’t look much like Dana Carvey. Or does she? Y’better move over, Church Lady, because there’s a new Sex Sheriff in town, and it’s Cindy. Miscikowski, as chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, is fast-tracking a new measure — that might be law by the time you read this — which would essentially ban lap dancing in our fair city. It’s a more-common-than-you-think ritual that legally flourishes in dozens of clubs in L.A. and in thousands across the country. This is one helluva a councilwoman and one far-out City Council we’re stuck with. They wouldn’t approve the hiring of new police officers, or assure us that home burglar alarms would be responded to by the LAPD, but they’re itching to shield us from wandering hands and flying pasties.
Miscikowski’s ordinance would ban any physical contact between lap dancers and their clients by enforcing a 6-foot “no-touch zone” between them and would explicitly ban the established tradition of placing tips in the working girls’ G-strings. Lap dances cost about 20 bucks a pop and consist of a scantily clad gal writhing and groaning for three or four minutes on . . . well . . . the lap of the poor lonely bastard who’s hired her.
“This will clean up the industry,” Sex Sheriff Cindy vowed during last week’s committee meetings as her morality deputies Dennis Zine and Jan Perry heartily agreed to the proposed measure. Sure, Cindy. And as soon as that task is accomplished, you and your purity posse will find Osama, Saddam and the missing weapons of mass destruction.
With no other city near our size backward or boneheaded enough to adopt such a pointless and absolutely unenforceable measure, passage of the law would mean L.A. would be joining the ranks of such podunk and prudish burbs as Kent, Washington, and slumbering Newport Beach — both of which have seen fit to stick it to nude dancers. More importantly, this law — I guarantee you — wouldn’t put a dent in all the activity Sheriff Cindy wants to outlaw. Last summer, the commissioners in Las Vegas’ Clark County, no less, passed a similar but much milder measure. Seems like the big casinos didn’t think unregulated lap dancing was moral enough for Las Vegas. More likely, the corporate gaming interests that control Vegas politics were pissed that Sin City’s blossoming dance clubs were sucking away millions of dollars they thought should be rightfully invested in much more wholesome activities — like Caribbean Stud Poker and Single Zero French Roulette.
The Vegas law hasn’t stopped a single lap dance. A recent Saturday night at the $30 million Sapphire Club looked to me like a re-enactment of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Scores of near-nekkid ladies were unrestrictedly bumping and grinding on the laps of their elated, cash-paying admirers, raking in the bucks and flagrantly violating the law. Andrea Hackett, president of the Las Vegas Dancers Alliance, which sprang into existence to fight the regulation, told me: “All this measure does is turn us into criminals.” The dancing continues as always. It’s just that now, whenever the Vegas cops get bored, they come in, roust the dancers, and shake them down for fines and penalties. At least in the clubs that aren’t paying off Metro vice.
The same thing’s going to happen here if this law passes. And worse. Worse, because the only way to enforce this ban is to saturate clubs with undercover agents. And wouldn’t that make us all sleep better at night? Now that the gang-violence problem has been solved, we can redeploy all those extra cops to overtime undercover shifts at Saucy Sally’s.
In our case, Sheriff Cindy is no shill to the casinos. Rather, she’s a toady to the powerful Westside NIMBY home-moaner clubs who have been loudly doing what they do best: moaning about the activity in the clubs “spilling over” into their sacrosanct and wildly overpriced, oh-so-pristine neighborhoods. Who knows who’s doing what in the bushes and leaving all those used condoms lying around?
Two points need to be made here: First, people have been known to screw in the bushes even before strip clubs were invented, even in West L.A. And second, why would clamping down on whatever sex takes place in the clubs reduce the so-called spillover? Indeed, the opposite seems much more likely. Imposing the 6-foot no-touch zone with a phalanx of steely-eyed vice cops in Hawaiian shirts, jeans and tennies would only encourage the frustrated customers to precisely take whatever more intimate business they have with the ladies right out into the alleys and shrubs.
I’m no friend of the club owners, by the way, who tend to be certifiable scumbags. Right up there with the kind of sleaze you’d find in the boardrooms of an Enron or WorldCom. The women who work in these dance clubs are generally quite exploited. With scant exceptions they are denied status as payroll employees and receive no benefits, insurance or job security. They are usually classified as “independent contractors” and are forced to pay the club owners for the “right” to perform, essentially renting out stage time. The club also takes a cut of the dough they collect for each dance. If Sex Sheriff Cindy were truly as interested as she claims to be in cleaning up this industry, she’d require the clubs to adhere to an elevated employment standard in exchange for their licensing. Something like the living-wage law. But you just know that isn’t going to happen. It’s okay for janitors but not for, omigod, showgirls. There isn’t that much political backbone on the City Council if you laid out its whole membership in a straight line.
In the meantime, Sheriff Cindy, you’re fighting a losing battle. My educated guess is that groping, fondling and all sorts of illicit sex are going to steam right ahead with or without your silly law. Unless, of course, you decide to aerial-spray some of your constituent neighborhoods with saltpeter. Now that’s a measure even I might support.