MANAGEMENT OR BUST

EX-DANCER DEBBY KOSOBUCKI THOUGHT SHE'D BEEN HIRED TO MANAGE A FIRST-CLASS TOPLESS CLUB. NOW SHE BELIEVES SHE WAS MERELY A FRONT TO CONCEAL THE INVOLVEMENT OF A CRIMINAL.

Mondavano was arrested twice in 1987, both times in Phoenix--once for driving with a suspended license and again three months later for shoplifting. And in 1988, he was indicted in Los Angeles--along with his father and his mother, Rose--for operating a scheme that bilked investors out of an estimated $4 million. Dennis and his father were charged with physically intimidating investors who threatened to report the scheme to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the indictment.

All three Mondavanos served time in connection with the IRS case. Dennis was sentenced to four years, after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to deceive the IRS. Daniel was sentenced to five and a half years and Rose just 60 days.

Dennis Mondavano was released from prison in 1991. According to a 1992 federal tax lien, he owes the IRS almost $34,000 in back taxes.

"He's a very nice person. And he's trying to rebuild his life," Elizabeth Brazee says.

Brazee readily admits that were it not for Mondavano's criminal record, he would have been the club manager.

"But we knew from the very first that he couldn't be," she says.
Brazee turned to Hugh Ennis. For most of his career, Ennis fought people like Mondavano, he didn't help them. Ennis is a 22-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department. As superintendent of the Department of Liquor Licensing and Control under then-governor Rose Mofford, he turned the department into a mini-police force, complete with military titles and firearms. And he earned a reputation as a tough superintendent.

Now he runs a consulting company, Ennis and Cassidy, working as an international lottery consultant. He also helps people get liquor licenses.

Brazee hired Ennis in early 1994, after the Phoenix City Council had recommended disapproval of her liquor license--automatically booting it to the state liquor board. Ennis looked at the principal parties: Brazee, an ailing old lady with no background in the liquor business; her son, Jim, also inexperienced and living in St. Louis; and Dennis Mondavano. Ennis tells New Times he didn't know of Mondavano's criminal record until months later, but was informed that although Mondavano was basically running the show as the "turnkey" coordinator, Mondavano would be unable to go on record as the club manager.

Ennis' advice: "Get a professional manager who knew the business."
That person would be Debby Kosobucki.

Once Kosobucki learned that she would be the manager of Expos‚ Cabaret in name only, she set out to prove that she had been scammed. She started tape-recording her phone conversations with Brazee and Mondavano.

Brazee assures Kosobucki over the phone that she will be "in charge of the girls," that Brazee and Kosobucki will order the liquor, although they'll be told what to order (she doesn't specify by whom), and that Kosobucki will be called the manager.

But it was becoming clear to Kosobucki that Mondavano was actually managing things. She caught Mondavano on tape one afternoon in late September. He answers groggily, apologizing that he just tried to catch a half-hour nap before going to dinner with Brazee and her son, Jim, who was arriving from St. Louis.

"I'm just so fucking--excuse me--so busy," he says.
The power, the phones--everything's behind schedule, he tells her. The new liquor board hearing's been postponed 'til November.

Hiring was supposed to be Kosobucki's responsibility, but Mondavano makes it sound like his: "If I can open with 15 [dancers] a night, 8, 9, 10 a day, I'm happy. I mean, I don't even think we'll open with that. I mean quality chicks, I'm not looking for chicks that you see in the Foxtrot."

As for the dancers Kosobucki has been recruiting, he tells her: "You can start telling them to come down. I'm going to have to pick up some applications and W4s and shit. Jimmy's [Brazee] in here and we'll probably start doing some of that tomorrow."

He tells her he'll "take care of" doormen, and he knows a guy he might use as deejay.

The next day, Kosobucki called Brazee at home.
Nearly in tears, she says, "When I went into this, the way I understood it, I was hired as the manager. Comes out, I'm not no manager. All I'm gonna be is a housemother, that's it. I really feel that I've been used. That my name was put down on this. For what?"

Later in the conversation, Brazee all but confirms Kosobucki's theory, telling her, "I still feel that you did us a great favor and that in return that you can be a part of our team."

Kosobucki tries to appeal to Brazee, woman to woman, telling her, "I was fired at the Foxtrot because it's a man's world. . . . When I got involved in this, I was writing up ads and everything for us, because it was woman-owned and woman-run. And I knew that we could make this bar a hell of a success because I could get dancers to leave every bar, because it's female. Then I find out this female has nothing to do with it."

Later, Brazee says, "Well, Debby, that happens a lot of times. A woman does a good job and gets shafted."

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