By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
Is there something wrong with this story? Something that's, oh, I don't know, perhaps just a wee bit utterly ridiculous? You bet there is. But if you've read the papers recently, you'll know that police and zoning officials in Tempe took it all pretty darn seriously, responding to complaints about the Get-Acquainted Social Club (who couldn't see through a subversive name like that!), which opened its friendly doors some six weeks ago.
But now they are closed. Closed on the big "Main Room" full of thrift-store couches, lamps, coffee tables and starving-artists-quality work on the walls. Closed on the "Aerobics Room," featuring a treadmill and a couple stationary bikes, closed on the wide and airy "Ballroom," closed on the "TV Room," and, alas, closed on the so-called "Orgy Room."
Not as a result of any alleged lascivious high jinks, but because of zoning problems. See, it's not illegal to open a private club where members pay dues, show up and perform exciting, nasty acts upon one another. But a "sexual encounter center" can exist only in a properly zoned area.
Not to imply that GASC was anything of the sort--undercover cops saw no sex acts whatsoever, no one has been charged with any crime. It's just that in the eyes of the authorities, what was allegedly going on at the club did not match what Donna and LaMonte Githens applied for on their permit.
Oh, yeah. Donna, 69, and LaMonte, 81, are the couple behind this controversial scene. And since the cinder-block walls of the lodge can't talk--and don't you wish they could?--we'll head down to the Get-Acquainted to do just that.
That's LaMonte over there sprawled out on the long couch. He wears his red jumpsuit, has a full head of hair slicked back and is in his 67th year of puffing on nonfilter Camels. He likes to be called "Monty"; Monty of the razor-sharp wit, ex-professional gambler, ex-Hollywood actor. The last, of course, was a short-lived deal that began in 1935--"They starved me out after two and a half years. I realize now how stupid I was, but at the time I thought I was as good as Gable!"
He's a rogue, a charming devil, likes the ladies and isn't afraid to let passionate compliments to the female gender slip out in wonderfully horrible un-PC fashion. Can this guy actually be 81?
Yes, Donna will tell you; she's fondly sick of people telling him he looks like he's 51. She's here at the club, too, cracking up, tossing in barbs and insights, a Minnesota girl who clearly gets a kick out of her husband. Even when he starts describing the physical attributes of various female media personalities he's encountered since Acquainted-gate began.
"Oh, that one gal, she was a hell of a gal, she'd a been a member of the club, if it'd a been a whorehouse!" exclaims Monty. "What was her name--oh, yeah, Donna Rossi. She laughed like hell when I told her that."
Now here's Monty's side of the story:
"This club was exactly what we applied for on our permit; it was a social club for mature adults. And we have lived very closely to our prospectus, the only difference being that we have a neighbor that seems to resent our being here. The reason being that she is trying to improve the neighborhood, and she thought that because we had single men and single women and couples that we must be doing something that she didn't want in the neighborhood. This woman has a lot of political clout and therefore she made an effort to call the Tribune and the city and told them she suspected we were running a whorehouse. And I was very much offended by that particular term, because that's the last thing we were doing."
So what were you doing, Monty?
"We were simply supplying a place where people could come and meet, get acquainted--just as the name implies--the Get-Acquainted Social Club. We had picnics, barbecues, dances, parties, we had an ongoing bridge tournament, and such things as that."
Tempe police Sergeant Toby Dyas confirms that the complaining "neighbor" is "from the bowling alley" next door, Tempe Bowl. Dyas says there were reports of nonbowling women--suspicious-looking ladies who might have emerged from the club after an intense session of getting acquainted--using bowler-only rest rooms.
Terry Mullens, deputy director of Tempe's Community Development Department (the zoning-permit people) adds to the tale: "The neighbors, who actually supported that [social club permit] request, complained that when they went in there to welcome them to the neighborhood, it appeared to them as though it was something quite different from that. It smacked of a place for sexual encounters. The police went out there and filed a report that it appeared to them that there were sexual encounters occurring."