Four women who were arrested in connection with a “scanty panty” contest at a Red Onion restaurant in Santa Ana have filed a lawsuit contending that the restaurant management misled them and knew that the event violated a city ordinance.
The women, three of whom are professional models, also allege that five Santa Ana police officers violated their civil rights and humiliated them by making snide comments and “putting them on display” in the Police Department’s holding cells, the women’s attorney, David L. Douglas, said Thursday at a press conference.
Wendee Arleen Hagen, 21, of Riverside, said she was made to strip to her underwear so a male officer could take a photograph of her for evidence, Douglas said.
“He said, ‘You just stripped down for a thousand other men, so why can’t you do it for me?’ ” Hagen recalled. She said she was so scared that she complied, but then “started to cry.”
Douglas said the photograph could not be located.
“It was humiliating,” said another model, Andrea Haug, 23, of Huntington Beach, of the arrest. “They treated us like we were criminals or something.”
She said undercover vice officers “watched the whole thing” at the restaurant. “They should have stopped it in the middle,” she said.
The other plaintiffs are Donna Fleagle, 24, of Westminster and Cary Ashmore. Although Ashmore did not participate in the contest, she was arrested after she removed her blouse to win a T-shirt.
Police spokesman Lt. Robert Helton declined comment on the lawsuit. But he confirmed that the women were arrested Dec. 18, 1990, for violating a city ordinance that prohibits “the exposure of a person’s private parts in a public place such as a restaurant.” The ordinance includes buttocks.
Helton said eight people were arrested, including the restaurant’s manager. The case against the three models was later dropped, he said. It was unclear what happened to the other people arrested.
On Thursday, Haug and Hagen said they had participated in such contests before and since the arrests. On the night they were arrested, first prize in the contest was $100, and Hagen said she won a $50 second prize.
To win the contest, a contestant would walk onto the dance floor and remove clothing until she was wearing just underwear.
Hagen said the panties she wore that night were “more than I wear at the beach.”
All three women contend in their lawsuit that the restaurant called them and asked them to participate in the contest. Further, they allege, the management knew the event violated city law, but did not tell them.
Haug said that the manager even “approved” the outfits.
As a result of the restaurant’s negligence, the women “suffered from fear, embarrassment, anger and humiliation due to their being arrested,” according to the lawsuit.
Stephen W. Solomon, an attorney for International Onion Inc., the parent company of The Red Onion restaurant chain, said the restaurant’s contest did not violate any city laws. Restaurant management “didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Santa Ana City Atty. Edward J. Cooper said he had not seen the suit and would have no comment.
The suit, filed last week in Orange County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages. It also names radio station KNAC as a defendant. The radio station co-sponsored and advertised the event.