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The plan was quite simple: Bring the Goddess Exotic pole dancers into Camouflage downtown, and customers will follow--the kind of customers who find sensual dancing entertaining and might be interested in lessons; the kind of customers who might buy stuff from Camouflage.

But some members of the community didn't like the idea of cross-promotional pole dancing in a downtown storefront window, even after the organizers promised to move the whole event inside and cover the windows with butcher paper. GRANT WILSON and ANN SIMONTON, of Art & Revolution and Media Watch, respectively, planned to protest the piece with a performance of their own that promised to somehow connect pole dancing to GEORGE BUSH and WMDs.

Via email, they invited the community to "Join Us Friday 6pm to see President Bush wrapping himself dizzily around his BIG military weapons. Bush is coming to our MALL and will be guarded by secret service wearing CAMOUFLAGE to show us what really turns this country ON!!!!!!! BIG WEAPONS. Even though Bush's favorite store (Camouflage) has decided to cover their sex show while women on strip poles dance inside and give lap dances, GW Bush couldn't miss the fun. If you have some CAMO gear--wear it and join us for some real rod humping of WMDs. GW Bush wants to remind women what they are really good for. Cooking, Cleaning and a Roll in the HAY--BUSH will reminds us that the W stands for women and weapons."

But the protest became redundant when the opposition turned dangerous and sinister. A Camouflage employee answered a threatening phone call from a man who told her she was a "sinner," and that "vandalism would be the least of her worries," at which point Camouflage owner JOAN LEVINE canceled the event, much to the chagrin of the three dancers.

"If we were in window of Camouflage as belly dancers and had cleavage and bellies exposed, nobody would say anything, and this really isn't that different ... we were wearing more clothes than most people wear to the beach" said JULIE BETTIE, a friend and ally of Goddess Exotic.

Undeterred, the dancers quickly loaded up their pole and spirited it and themselves away to CLUB CAUTION, where they held a photo shoot for the press and a very diverse, very happy group of patrons.

After the event, Goddess Exotic owner JENNI GOUDGE was satisfied that the show still went on, but was peeved with the most vocal protestor, Ann Simonton, who did not return our phone call as of presstime, but who told the Sentinel that "the popularity of poles is not without consequence, and what the consequence is, is telling women what they're good for is taking their clothes off."

"I call her the 'so-called feminist,' because she is trying to dictate how women exercise, and that's pretty oppressive," says Goudge. "She's targeting two businesses that are owned by women and run by--and primarily for--women, and she would like to tell women how they should be sexual and what they should wear, and that's being very oppressive. We are the true feminists, we support every aspect of a woman and a woman's sexuality; her feminine essence. The idea that a woman should have to shelve that to be seen as a credible person is just ridiculous, and I'm surprised it's not more obvious to Ann that she keeps end up on the same platform as the religious right ... she has turned into what she fights against."

When they wear their Goddess Exotic shirts around town, both Goudge and Bettie relate stories of tremendous enthusiasm and support from women in the community, and believe Simonton is not voicing the opinion of the majority.

"Ultimately," says Bettie, "Ann Simonton and the Media Watch folks should be on the same team, they both want women to be safe, and they both want women to be empowered. The reason why Camouflage didn't go through with it wasn't because of Media Watch, they didn't go through with it because one man called and threatened violence, and in a situation like that, Goddess Exotic and Media Watch are, or at least should be, on the same team, because Media Watch is all about resisting violence against women. So it's kind of ironic that they'd be in a little battle, when the real issue is that this guy called and threatened violence."

A Modest Announcement

Sometimes in Santa Cruz we can't believe the rent we pay to get by. Then the Catalyst goes and books someone like MODEST MOUSE for two nights, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, and we feel, if just for a moment, hip enough to love being broke.

Mike Connor

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From the December 22-29, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

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