By Nancy Smith
Come on, fellas, what’s the real reason for a bill that threatens the livelihood of exotic dancers aka strippers — and looks to “out” their clients as well? You must know it hasn’t a snowball’s chance.
As a friend close to the House office told me, “Half the men in the Legislature patronize strip clubs, you think they’re going to let somebody write down their names?”
No, I don’t. Nor should they. But here’s the thing:
Word was out on the street about proposed “sin tax” legislation — charging a $10 tax on top of the price of “adult club” admission and taking clients’ names in the process — even before the idea was introduced at Tuesday’s House Finance and Tax Committee workshop.
I heard about it 24 hours before it was presented. Trust me, by the time news like this gets to me, it’s already spread across town like a thick rolling fog. That’s how rampant the rumor was.
Here’s the back story — rather, how the rumor goes: A group of male legislators thought it would be a hoot to bring strippers to town and figured the easiest way to get them here was to lure them as a lobbying group. “Think of it,” one Capitol staffer said, “a town full of adult entertainers who need a favor from their elected officials …”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, is chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee and said during the workshop a $10 tax and name-taking would be a good way to discourage people from patronizing strip clubs. I tried to reach Gaetz Wednesday, left the rumor as I heard it on his phone. But I never got a call or text back. That probably doesn’t mean anything; Wednesday was a busy day at the Capitol.
But a stripper roundup does sound ringingly similar to a story I once heard that apparently happened in the Florida Legislature of the early 1960s: A group of good-time good ol’ boys, looking to “improve the scenery” and their prospects during the legislative session deliberately crafted a bill to abolish the Beauty Board — the board governing hairdressers. There was no earthly reason to disband the Beauty Board, except, well … you know. And sure enough, outraged beauticians flocked to town, hoping for — and getting — one-on-one time with their legislators.
Ask an old-timer, I’ll bet he’ll remember.
It’s such a sexist rumor. But even if it isn’t true, the bill proposal is just as sexist. Shouldn’t female customers be taxed for paying to see male strippers? And while we’re at it, let’s have a few Chippendales or Thunder from Down Under running around town this session, too. And if we’re going to take men’s names for visiting a strip club, shouldn’t we keep a list of women, too?
This bill — if it becomes a bill — will not work. I’m convinced that on reflection, the Legislature, and particularly the Senate, won’t give it the time of day. Visiting a strip club, whatever your personal opinion, is still a legal pastime. Why should the patrons of a legal private business have to surrender their rights to privacy?
Oh, yes, and of the 10 Strip Club Commandments, “Thou shalt not use your real name” is No. 9. The rationale is, strippers don’t use their real names, why should you? Besides, does any customer really want to be on a strip club’s mailing list? How responsible will the club be to make sure the names they’re taking are legit? Is the state going to close them down for missing a few fake names and addresses?
Taking names? Really, comrades? Let’s not.
Even demanding $10 sin tax per customer visit … to be used by the state how? To pay for rehabilitating victims of human trafficking? Or another trust fund ripe for raiding?