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[whitespace] Gratuitous Legislation: Local strip clubs are fighting a bill authored by a conservative Orange County legislator.

Dirty Dancing

Yep, it's an election year, and state lawmakers are busily crafting legislation that makes them look tough on crime or hard on smut. One bill attracting the attention of local strip club owners Bill Orton (Sunnyvale's Kit Kat Club) and Peter Kuzinich (San Jose's Pink Poodle) is the so-called "Dirty Dancing Bill" penned by Orange County Assemblyman Scott Baugh. (He's the clever guy who has been hounded in recent years for alleged election fraud by District Attorney Mike Capizzi, now a candidate for attorney general.) Baugh's bill gives cities the power to shut down strip clubs by eliminating a loophole used by some clubs that classifies them as theaters instead of houses of sin. That provision apparently won't affect either the Kit Kat or the Pink Poodle. Nevertheless, both Orton and Kuzinich have signed on as opponents of the bill. Orton calls it unconstitutional and predicts mega-lawsuits if it passes. "I don't like the idea of a politician using strip clubs to gain political brownie points. He just wants to be able to say on a brochure, 'I shut down the sex clubs.' " Eye couldn't resist asking Baugh if he had ever visited a strip club. "You're not gonna go there, are you?" he replied, insinuating that Eye's angle was different than the one hoped for. A long pause. "I don't think I'm going to comment on that." ... One listed supporter of the bill is the city of Sunnyvale, home to the lion's share of the valley's adult entertainment joints. Though the bill doesn't directly affect any of those clubs, it should be noted that Sunnyvale supported an earlier version that prohibited tipping strippers. Baugh has agreed to strip the tipping ban from his bill, but cities still can pass their own tipping ban if they want. ... After sailing through the Assembly, the bill is now headed for a tougher test in the Senate, where, most likely, it will land on the desk of John Vasconcellos, the liberal chair of the Public Safety Committee.

We Bad

A sad lot, those Merc reporters assigned to cover the machinations of aspartame daddy corporation Knight Ridder. How can they honestly report a story--without biting the proverbial hand that feeds them? For last week's big story about how the Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times (both KR-owned papers) "teamed up" with KPIX Channel 5 to share content and promote each other, the task fell to Merc reporter-turned-flack Miguel Helft, who covered the deal with all the flair of a seasoned publicist. First, Helft quotes KPIX general manager Jerry Eaton, who says the deal "allows us to be more visible in the South Bay and East Bay." No mention of the fact that it's cheaper than actually sending reporters there. Then Helft turns to Merc managing editor David Yarnold, who obliges with this zinger: "I really think it extends our reach." Helft reports that cross-promotion could increase the circulation of his Contra Costa paper, but dodges the question of what it means for the reader and viewer. ... Eye notes that across the bay, the KRON-Chronicle alliance has resulted in more stories on the evening news that start with "According to Chronicle political columnists Matier and Ross..." And Phil Matier, increasingly a television celebrity, appears in person on KRON broadcasts courtesy of the Chronicle. Of course, TV news reporters have always poached the morning paper for their evening stories. At least now the paper gets credit. ... But as Bay Area television and print news outlets hop into bed with one another, what other issues are raised? Media critic Norman Solomon argues, "You only have a dozen or so major media outlets in the Bay Area. When they bond with each other, they are promoting each other. They are going to cover each other's asses at times." Hmmm. Ever wonder what those Merc corporate fannies looks like? Better tune in to KPIX to find out.

Ancient Orange

In these politically correct times, the offhand joke is no longer safe, as was discovered recently by Los Gatos Mayor Linda Lubeck, who received an anonymous letter blasting her for an allegedly "racist" comment she made at a Town Council workshop. Eye-watchers can judge for themselves if Lubeck crossed the line. Here's the skinny: At the workshop, the council began discussing replacing the hideous orange chairs they were sitting on. Council-shaman Jan Hutchins, who is black, joked, "I wouldn't mind having a couple of those for my living room." According to the anonymous letter, Lubeck retorted, "You only like it because it is the same color as the furniture at Sambo's." (Hutchins and another participant recall Lubeck saying something more neutral like "It looks just like the furniture at Sambo's.") For those not old enough to remember, Sambo's was a chain greasy-spoon restaurant that once featured a tiger chasing a black man on its signs. And there used to be a Sambo's in Los Gatos with, yes, atrocious orange furniture. "There was no connection between me and her comment," Hutchins reports, "nor did I take offense or think it racist or any of that stuff." However, after receving the letter, a worried Lubeck gave Hutchins a call. When the Jan-man returned her call, he greeted the answering machine by saying, "Hi, this is Sambo."

Coming Out

A Hard Copy reporter looking for the "San Jose reporter who interviewed Chastity Bono" called the Metro newsroom Monday. He tried the Mercury News first but was assured by an editor there that we were the most likely suspects. Nope, no celebrity reporting here, we said. Feeling falsely accused, Eye checked the Merc's Web site. Sure enough, in last Wednesday's "Silicon Valley Life" section, Glenn Lovell broke the story of lesbian activist Chastity Bono's campaign to convince ABC to save Ellen. Thus, a Merc editor inadvertently "outed" himself for not reading the Silicon Valley Life section.

Hand Me a Tissue, Tito

Judging from their similar policy agendas, mayoral wannabes Pat Dando and Ron Gonzales are looking at the same polling numbers. Both are falling all over themselves to appear as if they're going to do something to improve schools. Nice sentiment, though in reality there's not a helluva lot a mayor can do, since schools are controlled by the state and local school boards. That's why the candidates are making careful and sometimes awkward promises. Dando pledges to put homework centers in every school, enforce a daytime curfew and magically resolve overcrowding. Gonzales promises to (yech!) appoint a Blue Ribbon Education Committee to ponder how to improve schools. He also is making the brave pledge to convene a group of "educators, parents and community leaders to talk about how we can help our schoolchildren build character." Someone who obviously hadn't heard Gonzo's schoolchildren spiel chose to play a Michael Jackson song--"Keep On" from Off the Wall--after his announcement speech last week.

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From the March 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro.

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