Wendy Cashaback is wearing a stiff upper lip these days. She's also wearing a tiny Danskin dress and flashing a warm smile at everyone who visits her shop, even that creepy guy over by the sex lotions who's been admiring the fur-lined handcuffs for way too long. When Creepy Guy asks Cashaback, "Do you guys have layaway?" she just smiles and says, "No, but we have a great line of tee shirts over in the corner."
It's those tee shirts that have gotten Cashaback into trouble lately with Scottsdale officials and her uptight neighbors. Her racy Old Town clothing boutique, The Love Bug, was recently served with a formal request from Scottsdale police asking that Cashaback remove the tee shirts -- most of which are printed with slogans containing the word "fuck" -- from her front window. Today, the shirts -- including "I Have the Dick, I Make the Rules"; "Fuck Me, I'm Mexican"; and the always-popular "Fuck You, You Fuckin' Fuck" -- are displayed toward the back of the store, safe from discovery by the hordes of impressionable youngsters who apparently flock to downtown Scottsdale's shopping district.
Typically, cases like this one begin with police and are moved to a city prosecutor. But Cashaback's dirty laundry case began with Scottsdale City Attorney Joseph Bertoldo, who apparently sicced police on The Love Bug. Bertoldo doesn't seem too concerned about possible First Amendment violations, probably because Cashaback's naughty window display violated a city code banning "projection or display of specific sexual activities" within 1,000 feet of a community building. The only community building within that distance belongs to the Downtown Group, a city department charged with managing downtown Scottsdale. The Downtown Group filed the formal complaint against Cashaback, who swears that her store is selling "good, clean fun" and is considering a lawsuit claiming her First Amendment rights are being violated.
Meantime, with no "Fuck" in her window, sales are down, and Cashaback's nerves are beginning to fray. "But I'm a warrior," she says while ringing up a pair of crotchless panties. "This story isn't over yet."
New Times: I guess when you hang a giant dildo in a store window, your First Amendment rights go right out that window.
Wendy Cashaback: But that's the thing. We had nothing like that in the window. It was just the tee shirts.
NT: Tee shirts with the word "fuck" printed on them. Which have since been classified as "provocative merchandise" that is "emblazoned with profanity."
Cashaback: Right. The police dropped this note off saying we were in violation, and we had to take the shirts out of the window. We complied. Because apparently it's a Class 6 felony. $150,000 in fines if I didn't remove them. I was like, "Wow!" I understand how [the shirts] can be offensive to kids and so on. But you know something? I even covered them up. I put big stickers over the letter "U" on each shirt, so you couldn't read them anymore, and they said it wasn't acceptable. There's some law that you can't have sexually explicit material on display in public.
NT: I guess the word "fuck" is sexually explicit. What will happen now?
Cashaback: I've taken the shirts out of the window, and my lawyers are investigating whether I have the right to do anything about putting whatever I want back in my windows. Because 99 percent of our business comes from that window. People walk by and see those shirts and laugh their heads off and come in and buy one for themselves. And you know what [the Downtown Group] said? That we were frightening tourists with our window display. Frightening tourists!
NT: The nerve! Do you suppose that Scottsdale is too snooty for sex?
Cashaback: I can see their point that this might be offensive to some people, but at the same time the city was plastered with posters for that movie Meet the Fockers. Come on. Get real. Meanwhile, I'm scaring tourists with my window displays. I'd like to meet those frightened tourists.
NT: Maybe the thinking is that if kids see this stuff in the window, they'll be corrupted.
Cashaback: We don't even get kids around here. I took the shirts out of the window and now no one's coming in. I've got all this nice stuff in here, and the people who walk by keep walking. I'm starting to think, Well, we can't display the shirts in the window, but we can wear them. Maybe we should put one of the shirts on and go stand outside the store. Is that public display?
NT: Meanwhile, I'll bet the people who turned you in are in here all the time, buying dildos and thong underwear.
Cashaback: I wouldn't recognize them. I mean, they came in and asked me to move the shirts to the back of the store, and I didn't. And then the city attorney went to the police, and it's just exploded. Now people are taking polls about whether I should be allowed to display what I want to. There was a letter to the editor that said that I am "arrogant and uncivil." What's that? People are calling up to say, "The Love Bug used to be a Disney family movie, now it's a raunchy store on Craftsman Court."
NT: Maybe the problem is that you run a sexy store and the director of the Downtown Group is named John Little.
Cashaback: You're funny. I haven't met him. But there are people in the City of Scottsdale office who have come and told me that people higher up just want me to go away.
NT: All because you displayed a shirt printed with the slogan "I Fuck on the First Date."
Cashaback: It's a word in the dictionary. Well, I've heard it's in the dictionary. I haven't looked it up. I had this old British lady, 85 years old, come into the store and say, "I love these shirts. And you know, it's a good strong word. It's in the dictionary." Maybe I should display the dictionary in my window, open to that page. With a light on it! And a sign that reads, "As seen in Webster's."
NT: That'll show 'em. Sounds like the Downtown Group is just a bunch of old biddies who need to get laid.
Cashaback: Somebody's got issues. Because the whole store is geared around good, clean fun. And people love it. There was a poll on the TV news, and only 3 percent of people said I shouldn't be allowed to display the shirts in the window. Three percent. And 83 percent were for it. And the other percent, whatever that would be, didn't have an opinion.
NT: This is Old Town Scottsdale. Maybe you should display turquoise-encrusted cock rings.
Cashaback: There are people who would like that. One of them got mad because I said there were too many turquoise jewelry stores down here, and we were just trying to give people something different. This person called me and said I shouldn't even exist. All because I said that about some squash blossoms. How many cowboy art galleries do we need?
NT: Dozens, apparently. Will you prevail?
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Cashaback: Absolutely. I'm a Viking. What I really don't like is the defamation of my character. People I've never met are slamming me. I'm "arrogant and uncivil." They're trashing me. I'm not running an abortion clinic here. It's a sad situation. But you know something? This whole thing is putting The Love Bug on the map.
NT: Free publicity!
Cashaback: If we don't [win], we'll just wear the shirts if we can't display them. One of the girls who works here is Mexican, and she was wearing the "Fuck Me, I'm Mexican" shirt, and she was in the window and people were just laughing and waving at her. I'll just pay the staff to stand outside the store in our shirts. Put some spotlights on them. Then what? We'll see how that goes over.