Read it and weep. At least the city's safer now.

And We Do Mean Strip 

Read it and weep. At least the city's safer now.

We're still trying to figure out what made four pathetic guys, busted in the recent metrowide prostitution sting, worthy of getting their names published in The Kansas City Star on Thursday, June 19, when more than ninety other pillars of society apparently didn't merit such attention. Oh, sure, the Star said, the pastor from St. Joseph, the sheriff's deputy from up north, the high school track coach, and the Bible college vice president "stood out for their positions of public trust in the fields of education, law enforcement and the clergy."

Stood out for their positions of public trust? Is this Mayberry? Why didn't the paper just run everybody's picture -- all the hookers and drug addicts and guys who just can't get laid at home? We're still waiting for editor Mark Zieman to return our phone call, because we're also curious about why the Star kept referring to how the cops lured unsuspecting lonely hearts into sin by placing escort-service ads in "a weekly paper." Hey, give a little credit where credit's due, we say.

Of course, the cops couldn't have caught hookers trolling the pages of the oh-so-respectable Star, which has traditionally been proud of itself for not running distasteful and socially destructive escort-service ads. But what, pray tell, were those sexxy ads in the Star's Classified section on Sunday, June 15, under the heading "The Companion Connection," or the ones under "Personal Services" urging readers to "Call nightline to chat with hot locals"? Also in that issue was a whole stack of pictures advertising the "hundreds of beautiful dancers" at Legs; the "Live Adult Entertainment" at Temptations; and the gorgeous blonde, her mouth slightly open and ready for action, supposedly to be found at Satin Dolls. The same salacious spread showed up on the following Lord's day, too!

More relevant, perhaps, to the Star's role of safeguarding the public trust was the huge ad in the Sports section on June 20 for the Big Boys Toy Show, a pantload of cars, boats, motorcycles, barbecue grills, and stereos this weekend at the Overland Park Convention Center. Among the celebrity guests are sports heroes George Brett and Buck O'Neill -- along with Estelle Reyna, advertised as the "Most Downloaded Woman on the Internet," and, um, Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss.

Hookers meeting lonely guys in KC hotel rooms? Gotcha! You're under arrest, and your name's in the paper.

Hookers meeting Star sports-reading "big boys" at the Overland Park Convention Center? Hey, don't forget to bring the little ones along for the advertised kid rides! Ages nine and under free!

Weirdly, though, by Sunday, June 22, the Big Boys ad had been emasculated: Gone were the pictures of nearly naked swimsuit gals. Miss Reyna was now an "Internet Entrepreneur" instead of the "Most Downloaded Woman on the Internet." And Ms. Fleiss was now being referred to not as "Hollywood Madam" but as "Best-Selling Author." Someone must have pointed out to the Star's morality police that the paper was, in fact, advertising prostitution -- but how is it that you can protect the "public trust" by making advertisers lie about the true identity of this weekend's celebrity guest hooker?

Such mixed messages make us wonder about our sorry little hometown. We're not the only ones, either. Perhaps our local identity crisis when it comes to sex helps explain why, out of forty cities listed in its June 5 "Special Report: Best Cities for Singles," Forbes online rated Kansas City among the five worst places in the country to try and hook up.

"From its humble beginnings as a stop along the way for Lewis and Clark, to its role in the turbulent years leading up to the Civil War, and then as a railroad hub for the expansion of the American West, few cities offer a history that is as raw, colorful and pivotal as that of Kansas City," the magazine began. "At the same time, though, few cities can conjure up such images of middle-American dullness. Even its nickname -- 'the City of Fountains' -- attests to a lack of imagination. And while its inhabitants may defend its many virtues, Kansas City scores terribly in every one of our categories, except cost of living, in which it ranks eighth. Despite the presence of giant companies -- including tax behemoth H&R Block and medical-systems provider Cerner -- the city continues to score in the bottom half of our list in terms of job growth. Kansas City might be a great place to find a tax accountant, a herd of cattle or, evidently, a fountain, but for singles even St. Louis looks good by comparison."

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