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The way Megan describes it, to dance is to present an exaggerated idea of eroticism, the same way professional wrestlers use cartoonish exaggerations of violence to take their audiences on a ride.
It's ridiculous to think that a private dance simulates sex, she says. "You're going through handstands and supporting yourself over the guy so you don't crush him — you have to be really strong to do it. You're going through a routine that looks great, but it wouldn't even be possible to have sex in the positions. This is about putting on a show and, a lot of times, talking to guys who come in just because they need someone to talk to."
She's almost reverent about Kansas City's cabaret history, one nearly as storied as its jazz legacy. The life of legendary performer Gypsy Rose Lee, for example, was adapted into a Broadway musical.
Bartle and his allies say the business drives up crime, that it's unsafe because it puts alcohol and women under one roof, and that it creates a haven for prostitutes who meet clients by dancing.
There's not much evidence to support Bartle's argument.
Far from being a detriment to development, both Bazooka's and Temptations (at 15th Street and Grand) watched the Crossroads Arts District grow around them while Kansas City's downtown underwent a multimillion-dollar nightlife revival. Spinello's business is a block from a police station. "They bring half their guys down here once a month to show them how to read the licenses," Spinello says.
"You can't have a town get any convention business if they don't have clubs," he continues. "Ask anyone. It's always the second question conventions ask the Chamber of Commerce when they're considering booking a city, after asking about hotels. If you don't have clubs, they don't book the convention. I promise." (The Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association declined to comment for this story about whether convention planners inquire about adult businesses.)
It's hard to tell where Bartle has found his ideas about prostitution and crime. Missouri's strip clubs are already among the state's most regulated businesses, and available statistics don't paint the picture of a trouble-causing industry. At all licensed clubs, security cameras keep close watch on the floor, on the exits and on the private rooms. Located on the city's higher-crime East Side, the Shady Lady had just one police call in the past month, when someone tried to rob the place.
Club owners were the ones who came up with the idea of licensing dancers. Now, once a year, every performer must apply for an adult-entertainer license, which can be revoked if the dancer is convicted of a crime. A spokesman at the Regulated Industries Division, which is part of the city department that grants licenses, says no license has been revoked "since at least 2007."
Besides, how are community standards determined in a city that has used millions of tax dollars to finance businesses in the Power & Light District, where Tengo Sed Cantina has a house stripper pole and where, at Angel's Rock Bar, booking a XXX porn star for a meet-and-greet is just innocent fun?
Missouri's adult-club owners might be paying for Rod Jetton's sins.
"The only thing different between 2005 and now is what happened with Jetton," says Curt Dougherty, a Democratic state representative from Independence who opposed Bartle's legislation.
In 2005, House Speaker Rod Jetton, a Republican, assigned Bartle's first anti-nudity bill to an unreceptive Local Government Committee, where it died before it could get a House vote.