What happens when 15,000 members of the media are enlisted to 4,400 delegates to the Republican National Convention? You read lots of stories about strip clubs, naturally. It's time for the quadrennial discovery (at least since 1992) that strip clubs love publicity as much as reporters like writing about them!
The underlying joke of this meme/story/cliché is that there's something wrong with family value Republicans spending their hard-earned money "making it rain" on exotic dancers and keeping one of America's seediest industries ("We built this!") in business. It's a story that has its beginnings in (if you can believe it) a pre-Lewinsky America, and has run rampant ever since--even though the trend may have lived and died out some 20 years ago:
It All Starts with "Family Values" and Houston in 1992:
"While the Astrodome overflows with talk of family values, other values are on display at Houston landmarks for the libidinous. And they, too, are attracting conventioneers," wrote the Washington Times' Matt Vane while covering the RNC's 1992 convention in Houston. Adding that, "Some of Houston's 39 topless clubs began preparing for the convention more than a year ago." No, we aren't quite sure what kind of business protocol a strip club enacts a year in advance to prepare for GOP delegates, but apparently it worked. "There's more money. It doubled," a 21-year-old stripper told Vane, while a strip club owner he interviewed told him that the week brought in two and half times more money than normal.
The key point, as Vane found back then, was that reporting on something as boring as the same old speeches touting economic reform and family values is a lot more enjoyable when done through the scope of a strip club (and juxtaposing that with Barbara Bush and Marilyn Quayle).
The Cleanup of 2000 and Club Risque
Putting a twist on the "GOP loves its stripclubs" meme was the 2000 convention, or rather the lead up to the convention when then Gov. Christie Whitman of New Jersey vowed to clean up a stretch of Admiral Wilson Boulevard that featured strip clubs and sex shops lest delegates be scandalized as they drove past. Apparently the Delaware River Port Authority, according to the Philadelphia Daily News at the time, vowed to use some $30 million to acquire and demolish strip clubs and other businesses. So that was nice of Whitman--making the seedy strip-club peppered road ready for the delegates. But akin to how drunken uncles ruin Thanksgivings, planners of the 2000 Republican National Convention, according to the Los Angeles Times, listed "Club Risque" as one of their must see attractions for delegates. A happy hour there, they wrote, was "guaranteed to put a smile on your face."
The 2004 Bust
With the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden and in The New York Times' backyard, the Grey Lady took a stab at figuring out if this stripclub-GOP connection was true. "The Times sent a reporter to one of the city's strip clubs early Tuesday, trying to determine whether the convention had sent the burlesque industry booming. It hadn't," wrote Matthew Tully of the The Indianapolis Star."According to the newspaper, the Penthouse Executive Club was quiet around 1:30 a.m., filled mainly with bored dancers," he added. And even if this GOP-Strip club connection was waning, it prompted this tongue-in-cheek editorial from The News & Observer's Barry Saunders:
Think about it: even members of a party that preaches family values may want a lap dance at some point. Besides, where is it written that family values and watching two statuesque women Jello rasslin' are antithetical?
Nowhere, at least not in my Bible. The increased demand for adult entertainment -- many such clubs are reported to have hired extra women to keep up with the deluge -- simply reflects the Republicans' desire to make self-determination a reality and to keep taxes low. By patronizing Scores and other high-class -- i.e. expensive -- strip clubs in the Big Apple, the delegates -- or the thousands of convention hangers-on, including members of the media -- are employing and thus empowering women who might otherwise have become welfare moms living on the public dole.
One Last Gasp in 2008 ...
Minnesota's City Pages reported at the time that bars and clubs didn't think Republican National Convention delegates would be out until 4:00 a.m. and so many didn't invest in a license that allowed them to stay up this late. Of the six establishments that added later hours was Schieks Palace Royal--yes a strip club. "We're very much looking forward to the RNC," someone at Schieks told them. "Getting the permit was a no-brainer."
Which Brings Us To Tampa ...
With Republicans touting more family values than ever, the story of former RNC chair Michael Steele spending $2,000 at a West Hollywood Strip Club in 2010, a bunch of nothing happening on opening day, and Tampa being the "strip club capital of the country"--it's as good a time as any to report on GOP delegates getting (or not getting) lapdances.
- Coverage of the alleged strip club windfall dates as far back as 2010, thanks to the intrepid economic reporters at the Tampa Tribune.
- CNN's Ann O'Neill gets personal with Go-Go and Ezili, exotic dancers, who are ready for GOP hopefuls. "That is to say they're spinning, glute to glute, on a polished chrome pole at a strip club," writes O'Neill, which is a little ummm...cheeky? Anyways, Go-Go and Ezili (easily?) will totally be there waiting for the "rain."
- Go-Go and Ezili, if you ask the AP, won't be making that much money. "More than sunshine, cigars or the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens, Tampa is known for its naked ladies," they write, but experts told them that most of the money made will likely be made at the private parties. "I don't expect the RNC to be as busy as Super Bowl," the "Strip Club King of Tampa" Joe Redner told the AP. "I don't think those people are coming to party."
Go-Go and Ezili, if you ask the Tampa Bay Times, should really have their eyes peeled for mundane men. They asked an ID checker about who's coming in and out her club, and apparently it's a phenomenon like the Swallows at Capistrano.
"The main people I'm seeing is Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.," she said. "They are dressed nicer, more conservative. Business casual for the men and Ann Taylor Loft for the women, for sure."
- The TBT also reports that conservative turnout has been low, with one stripper telling them what we've come to surmise all long:
"When you come to Tampa, everyone knows the Mons Venus is the No. 1 strip club. So where is everyone? What is everyone doing? Are they sleeping? Republicans have money."
- Go-Go and Ezili, if you ask the Wisconsin Gazette, aren't the only ones looking for money in this cash-strapped era. At the Ybor Resort and Spa--a gay bathhouse--the Gazette reports that there will be a Paul Ryan lookalike stripping his little heart out. And The Onion satirizes the whole stripper-GOP-gay meme with its faux story: "Tampa Bay Gay Prostitutes Gearing Up For Flood Of Closeted Republicans."
- And if all else fails, a Sarah Palin lookalike stripping is a story... right?
Of course, Republicans are unpredictable and the spirit could move them to the nearest breast bar where they will throw away all of the individually built, family-valued money. And that would make for a stellar Tampa story and a happy ending for Go-Go and Ezili. On the other hand, the lack of Republicans doing just that haven't really stopped the stories from coming either.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.