There's Less to 'Scanty Panty' Dispute Than Meets Eye

Ever run into one of those situations where you'd like to get the people on every side of a controversy and just give them all a good spanking?

That's my gut reaction to Case No. 676539 filed recently in Orange County Superior Court, hereinafter known throughout the legal world as the Scanty Panty Suit.

I'm not sure where to start with this one, but it really doesn't matter because it sounds just as dopey no matter where you begin.

In December of 1990, the Red Onion restaurant/bar in Santa Ana was holding a "Scanty Panty Dance Contest." I don't have a copy of the contest rules, but this is the same chain that once got in trouble for holding a fake orgasm contest in its Huntington Beach outlet, so I don't know whether rules make that much difference, anyway.

On the fateful night in question, undercover Santa Ana cops in the audience eventually arrested seven women for displaying too much of their wares. Four of them are now suing the restaurant for not advising them that what they were doing violated Santa Ana city ordinances. They're also suing the Police Department for alleged improper conduct after the arrests.

Two of the four women held a press conference Thursday. One of them, Andrea Haug, still just 23, said she has been in about 250 Red Onion contests. The other, Wendee Hagen, has been in about 20 contests.

For the uninitiated, the contests generally consist of getting up onstage in the bar and doing a little simulated striptease. Wendee said Thursday that the first time she ever performed for a crowd she felt like throwing up, but that she eventually got to like it because she's a ham.

On the night they were arrested, Andrea was wearing bikini-like bottoms that featured the T-back design you can see on any California beach. Wendee wore silk panties. In both cases, you could see quite a fair amount of buttock if you were paying attention.

The tale now shifts to Santa Ana Jail. Instead of being cited and released after their arrests, the women were jailed. Wendee Hagen says one officer ordered her to strip down to the bikini bottoms she was wearing in the contest so he could photograph her for evidence. Her attorney says those photos cannot be found and have been subpoenaed.

The women say they were jailed for five hours, during which lots of cops milled around and looked at them. "We felt like zoo animals," Wendee said, adding later: "It was like we were in a display for them to gawk at."

The women say they thought their subsequent legal problems were being handled by Red Onion. Instead, they found out months afterward that there were warrants for their arrests because they never showed up for scheduled court appearances. That's when they decided to go after both the restaurant and the police.

I'm afraid that's where this story now stands. I hate to leave you with such a cliffhanger, but we'll keep you posted. In their suit, the scanty panty plaintiffs don't specify a dollar figure for damages but allege that they "suffered from fear, embarrassment, anger and humiliation."

That's from their handling at the police station, by the way.

I'm being harder on them than I mean to. I don't care how many scanty panty contests they enter, even with an operation with the reputation of Red Onion. I'm perfectly willing to take their word for it that some Santa Ana cops might have turned the police station into an extension of the girls' Red Onion act. Good luck proving anything on that one. Furthermore, maybe the Red Onion management didn't "protect" the girls as it should.

Yo, Wendee, Andrea--does the word "exploitation" mean anything to you?

But this suit just has one of those aromas to it.

Wendee said she "didn't do a bikini contest for a long time after that." When she did decide to get back onstage, it was a "tight jeans" contest at a Red Onion in Riverside. Andrea just grinned when asked whether she had performed at a Red Onion since, eventually saying, "I've done a couple."

When asked what they thought the appropriate remedy should be, Wendee said she would like to make the Santa Ana officers go through what they did: Enter a contest and then be forced later to drop their pants and be photographed in a humiliating fashion.

If the cops agree to that, can we dispense with a trial?

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626, or calling (714) 966-7821.

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