Attention, fight fans: The Bird would like to direct your attention to Scottsdale, where anxious strippers are gearing up for a battle that may prove epic. In this corner, the City of Scottsdale, armed with the best legal advice money can buy and a burning desire to save its citizens from bare breasts. In the other corner, billionaire porn star Jenna Jameson, who sports the best bosom money can buy.
Jameson, who's lived in the Valley since 2000, recently purchased a one-quarter interest in Babe's, a hot local strip club. She's hired happening designer Jeff Low -- the guy who designed Scottsdale's so-hot-it's-cool club SIX -- and word is, there are plans to relaunch the place as Club Jenna.
If Jameson's recent wins -- a best-selling autobiography; a Web site hawking everything from vibrators to hoodies; and (what else!) a reality TV show on the Playboy Channel -- are any indication, Club Jenna ought to be an instant smash. That is, if the Scottsdale City Council minds its own damn business.
City of Scottsdale
Which doesn't seem likely. Last week, The Bird got a freshly printed copy of Scottsdale's opening salvo: a proposed ordinance that would (yikes!) ban liquor from any establishment with topless dancing.
The city already has a three-foot rule, keeping drooling customers far from the goods. Now it would be six feet. And although the general custom is for strip clubs that can't serve liquor to go all nude, the proposal would close that loophole, too.
So: No lap dances. No booze.
It's hard to imagine how any strip club could survive. In fact, it probably couldn't, according to Todd Borowsky. Borowsky owns Skin Cabaret, the other strip club in Scottsdale. He's been quietly doing business for three years, he says, without complaint from cops or citizens. But his prominent new neighbor has changed all that.
After Jameson's interest in Babe's was announced, cops began dropping by both strip clubs -- and not to party. Borowsky now faces seven criminal citations for red-tape infractions like not submitting a floor plan and not maintaining an employee log.
"Before Babe's sold, we had no problems whatsoever," Borowsky bleated to The Bird. "Now all of a sudden there are 15 articles in the newspaper, and council members are making comments -- this is 100 percent connected."
Naturally, City of Scottsdale spokesman Mike Phillips says this is all hooey. The city has been planning to update its strip club laws for some time, he swears.
Behind the scenes, though, are indications that this is no routine nightclub shakedown. Besides the draconian nature of Scottsdale's plan -- no liquor at a titty bar? -- there is the man behind the ordinance, rumored to be one Scott Bergthold, a household name to people who remove their blouses for money (or at least those who employ them).
For years, Bergthold ran the Community Defense Counsel, a nonprofit group based in Scottsdale devoted to -- surprise! -- closing down strip clubs. Now he's in Tennessee where, according to his Web site, he runs a law practice devoted to -- say it with me, now! -- closing down strip clubs.
Bergthold is a smart feller. Reached by phone, he knew without being told that The Bird was calling about "that Scottsdale matter." Then he said he didn't have time to talk anymore.
Phillips, the Scottsdale spokesman, doesn't know if Bergthold is involved in the ordinance, and he's quick to stress that the ordinance is only a list of various legally defensible "options," and that there's no pressure for the Scottsdale City Council to actually adopt any of them.
The council is expected to discuss the ordinance December 12. Members could approve it then, or they could take a tip from The Bird: Stall a little, you guys. Wait until the angry mob of horny heteros is distracted by stuff like football or the next Jenna Jameson video, and slip it through then.
Crow Dot Bomb
For the first time during his magnanimous reign as Arizona State University's top dawg, Michael Crow has finally fired a dud of ennui from his arsenal of hype. Crow -- also known as the architect of the "New American University," the purveyor of the Valley's biotechnological boom, and the Iron Fist that delivered an insane threat to censor ASU's free college press last year -- unveiled his new blog on December 1.
Alas, the inaugural edition of The President's Post (www.michaelcrow.net) was hardly worth the wait. The first Post, cleverly headlined "A New Page," turned out not to offer anything actually new at all. There were no insights into Crow's numerous tuition hikes, no update on the construction of ASU Downtown, no explanation of why supremely overrated football coach Dirk Koetter still has a job.
Okay, so this was just Crow's first entry.
Instead of sharing info or dishing dirt, Crow pontificated: "Can this blog be all things to all people? Probably not. Can it be a source of direct discourse, enhanced understanding, and maybe even a bit of humor? I definitely hope so."
Can it be well-written? Interesting? Worth the several minutes it takes to slog through it? The Bird definitely doesn't think so. On the other hand, at least the Post (which links us not only to such sites as CNN.com and Reuters.com, but also to a trailer for Batman Begins) isn't required reading.
Culture in Our Yogurt
When The Bird flew over to the Phoenix City Council's Transportation Committee meeting last month, it was aghast to hear that "antique airplanes" are actually "art," and therefore considered a good use of $9 million of your tax dollars that have been earmarked for public art projects ("Just Plane Artsy," November 24).
Artists, naturally, shrieked and wept over the unfairness of the process: The Phoenix City Council was swiping their loot, without even putting the project through the city's Arts and Culture Commission, which administers public art money and probably would have been smart enough to ix-nay the idea.
But The Bird took great solace in the promise City Councilman Dave Siebert made at that meeting. Siebert, who concocted the dastardly art-robbing scheme, assured both the committee and this bogus bird that his butting into the arts process was a one-time deal.
"I want to make it very clear," he told the committee, "that this is not a precedent-setting issue."
Turns out, at the same time that Siebert was trying to swipe arts money for airplanes, in fact, the city council was attempting to take another $350,000 from the same till.
According to a November 9 memo from Phil Jones, the city's Arts and Culture Administrator, the money would be used to commission "life-size portraits (8 feet by 5 feet) illustrating great aviation heroes, placed in historical context."
Sounds reasonable enough, right? After all, the Arts and Culture Commission hires artists to create new art all the time. And aviation heroes are about as interesting as anything else The Bird has seen depicted around town.
The problem is that the Arts and Culture Commission didn't propose the portraits. Instead, sources say, Councilman Siebert -- who isn't setting a precedent, okay? -- suggested the project, then had the nerve to pitch an artist for the job: Robert McCall, a Paradise Valley oldster known for the sort of hyper-realistic paintings of astronauts and galaxies that fourth-graders love.
There's more. The aviation department apparently discussed the project with McCall before anybody got around to telling the Arts Commission.
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"The suggestion came from Council through the Aviation Department to us," confirms Jones. "And no, that wouldn't be the normal way these things happen."
McCall's hire has since been sent to the Arts and Culture Commission. The Bird hears that the idea was not enthusiastically received, and that the commission has marked it "for further review." Which The Bird hopes means, "Figuring out a way to reject it, and pronto."
But stay tuned. Because The Bird is guessing that, if the precedent set at the Transportation Committee is any indication, the artists in this story don't stand a chance.