An Odd Twist to Stripper ‘Shower Shows’
Perhaps you’ve heard the odd news about the Odd Ball Cabaret, the North Hills strip joint that has been forced to shut down its “shower shows.” The city’s Disabled Access Appeals Commission, it seems, has ruled that the Odd Ball’s shower is in essence a stage, and by law must be accessible not only to able-bodied nude dancers, but those who require wheelchairs as well. (Not that Odd Ball employs any.)
Neil Blitstein, general manager of the rival Bob’s Classy Lady, was upset when he read the story. What galled Blitstein wasn’t the specter of overzealous government interference in the adult entertainment industry, but the fact that Bob’s Classy Lady wasn’t getting its due.
“We’re the home of the original shower show,” boasts Blitstein, a dapper fellow with a small ponytail.
Not only does Bob’s Classy Lady claim to have originated this dance medium, but its shower is still open for business.
That’s right: The outrage here isn’t meddlesome authorities. It’s a case of selective enforcement.
Exactly why city inspectors have looked favorably upon Bob’s Classy Lady while cracking down on the Odd Ball is an intriguing question. It’s even more intriguing if you compare the two showers.
The Odd Ball’s forbidden shower looks not unlike one you may have in your home. To enter, a dancer must step over a ledge a few inches high. Patrons walk around a corner for a private view of the shower dance.
Bob’s shower, however, is on a perch about five feet above the floor that can be reached only by walking up a few steps. If anything, Bob’s shower poses more difficulty for people in wheelchairs.
But Blitstein isn’t worried that the city will come shut down Bob’s famous shower shows. “They can’t. We’ve got permits,” he says.
So what makes Bob’s shower kosher? The best that Blitstein can figure is that an inspector judged it to be “a prop,” not “a stage.” The difference, he figures, is that Bob’s shower is nominally portable, while the Odd Ball’s is not.
Still, it seems safe to assume that members of the Disabled Access Appeals Commission have never visited Bob’s Classy Lady, at least officially. The five-member panel voted 4 to 0 in its disapproval of the Odd Ball’s shower. Only Commissioner David Honda was courageous enough to abstain and call the issue “absurd” and “anti-business.” That he couldn’t bring himself to vote no doesn’t speak well for the great American tradition of dissent.
The commission’s ruling, ridiculous though it was, was accepted by the Odd Ball with equanimity. Carl Salvati, the Odd Ball’s manager, says the shower shutdown has no appreciable effect on business. Rather than fight City Hall, the Odd Ball was either going to modify the fixture or remove it.
But the other day, Salvati received a call out of the blue from Americans With Disabilities Act National Inc., a Fresno-based nonprofit public benefit agency that helps businesses comply with the 1990 law that extends access for the disabled.
Mary Beth Gil, the agency’s vice president, suggested that the city had misinterpreted the law. Both clubs would have to make modifications, she suggested, only if they employed dancers in wheelchairs and if those dancers requested access to the showers.
Ron Shigeta, chief of the Disabled Access Division of the city’s Department of Building and Safety, suggested that Gil may be confusing codes pertaining to “work stations” with those pertaining to performance stages.
But more than anything, Shigeta wanted to say that it’s unfair for the media to have exploited the shower dispute to its own ends while ignoring the important work of the Disabled Access Appeals Commission.
This may be so. Then again, it’s up to such commissions to make exceptions where exceptions make sense. People in wheelchairs play basketball and tennis and do marathons. But with more than 30 years in adult entertainment business between them, Salvati and Blitstein say they’ve yet to audition a prospective nude dancer who uses a wheelchair.
This being Los Angeles, my hunch is that may soon change. My other hunch is that somebody may well file a complaint and Bob’s Classy Lady will get a visit from the disabilities police.
Shutting down the shower would deny dancers the opportunity to earn a few extra bucks from guys who not only like to watch nude women take showers, but like to decorate them with Barbasol as well. (“PLEASE,” says a sign by the shower, “DO NOT SPRAY CREAM ABOVE THE NECK.”)
The bigger loss would be sentimental. Truth is, the shower doesn’t get much use these days. The novelty seems to have worn off. But Blitstein still likes to boast that Bob’s Classy Lady was the first.
He seems so proud, you might wonder if it was his idea.
It wasn’t. It was his mom’s.
It's a date
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