Mayor Sonny at War With 'The Thong'

Courtesy of the fax machine at Palm Springs City Hall, I am in receipt of His Honor Mayor Sonny Bono's new anti-nudity law. This is the law, you will recall, that the mayor is employing to roust the spring breakers and rid his hometown of college kids forever.

Not to mention exterminating and rendering extinct "The Thong."

More about "The Thong" later. First, in the interest of staying abreast of legal trends, here are some excerpts from the mayor's new law:

Section 11.10.040, subsection (A): No person shall appear, bathe, sunbathe, dress or undress, or ride in or on any vehicle . . . in such a manner that the genitals, pubic hair, buttocks, anus, anal regions, natal cleft, perineum . . . or any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola thereof of any female person, is exposed to public view. . . .

Subsection (B): The provisions of this section shall not apply to children under the age of 10.

I like subsection (B). A nice touch. It lets us know that the Palm Springs jail won't be filled with toddlers caught in the act of getting their diapers changed.

Otherwise, the news looks grim. The mayor seems finally to have found the tool that will allow him to wipe the concept of Sun 'n' Fun utterly and forevermore from the map of Palm Springs.

This campaign of Mayor Sonny has been proceeding for three years. The man who once appeared on national television wearing love beads and headbands now heaps scorn on the notion of a little youthful decolletage.

In the first year he took to roaring down Palm Canyon Drive on his Harley--his Harley!--busting spring breakers who were cruising too fast, or too slow, for the mayor's taste.

It was great sport, but the spring breakers were still having fun. That wouldn't do. So the next year Mayor Sonny hauled out an army of cops and passed laws against stuff like squirt guns and water balloons. The water balloon business just had to stop, the mayor said.

And, thanks to the fines, the water balloon business did stop. But that, of course, left the thong business. The mayor did not like the thong business one bit. The spring breakers would cut out the thongs, or else.

Maybe I should explain the thongs. They are bathing suits. Bikinis. It appears they have borrowed their name from the flip-flop shoes because they, like the shoes, employ rather thin strips of material for attachment purposes.

In Palm Springs, the thong business gets played out like this: A male spring breaker will hop aboard his bullet bike with the aim of luring a female breaker to ride along with him. It's crucial that her attire consist of a thong. When she climbs aboard, legs astride the Honda or whatever, the effect is spectacular.

And for His Honor, unacceptable. So this season we have the Sonny Bono anti-nudity law. No way any thong will ever pass muster under that law. Thongs are goners, along with squirt guns and the water balloons.

The question is this: Why is Bono saving Palm Springs from the spring breakers? What higher destiny awaits Palm Springs when the breakers tire of dealing with a grouch and go elsewhere?

Palm Springs, see, is not what it was. It's a city gone comatose. And Palm Canyon Drive has become a desert version of Hollywood Boulevard. You cruise down Palm Canyon Drive these days and think to yourself, "Once, this was a major street."

No more. The empty storefronts remind you of a town in the Midwest that lost the fight for the interstate. What remains these days are T-shirt shops and Yogurt Delites.

No one knows who killed Palm Springs. Its demise may be one of the enduring urban mysteries. In any case, all the action is now "down valley," in Rancho Mirage or Cathedral City.

And there's nothing Sonny Bono can do to change that equation. Many, including Sonny, have tried. No luck. The quality has fled Palm Springs. And when the quality leaves, it does not return.

But the kids love it. The seediness of the T-shirt shops suits them just fine. The cheap motels fit the bill. The ambience of faded glory seems perfect.

These kids and their water balloons may not be the kind of customers that Palm Springs wants. But they're what Palm Springs has got. And they do spend their money. They spend it in a rush of seven or eight days and then get out.

So let's ask again: What is this thong business, and why is Sonny Bono saving Palm Springs from its last loyal customers?

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