Striptease And Prohibition. Again.

Does anyone recall the film “Footloose”? Not the reprehensible remake (why? WHY? Just make a new movie…honestly) but the 1984 classic with Kevin Bacon. If you’ve not seen it, then please, go rent it. If your a dance movie aficionado, this is a staple of the diet. If you’ve not the time, I’ll give you the skinny: It centres around Ren McCormack (Mr.Bacon) who hails from Chicago who moves to a small town in which, as a result of a local minister (John Lithgow) rock music and dancing have been banned. It’s scary, but the film was based loosely on the events that went down in a small rural religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma. Yes, for real. It was a favourite movie for me growing up, partly because the thought that you could ban music or dancing was so ludicrous and alien. I mean, why would you do that?

Fast forward from 1984 to 2008 when I was on tour in Bismarck, North Dakota. I had played shows in this town before but the promoter was having a devil of a time securing a venue. As the tour progressed, we’d get word that the show was being moved from venue to venue. It wasn’t until we arrived that we were told why this game of promoter’s Hot Potato was happening. There is a law in Bismarck that in a stage show, unless you are singing or playing an instrument, you can’t dance onstage where liquor is being served. This puzzles me, since I guess they don’t have much ballet or Riverdance there. So being a burlesque dancer who was neither singing or playing an instrument onstage while performing what I was doing was considered illegal, and therefore our poor promoter, Matt, was trying everything he could to make the show happen (which it finally did) but it weirded me out. Why would people go out of their way to legislate a law making it illegal to dance and have liquor?

One train of thought on this is that it was a way to try and ensure there was a town dry of strippers. But in making that law, they force bars that would have burlesque entertainment to close. Yet they’ve also managed to enact a law that denies them of other cultural forms of dance. This also it allows for mass arrests at any and all Scottish weddings when the whiskey starts flowing… But odd as it sounds, it’s not limited to North Dakota. I remember performing in Salt Lake City and the city had ‘zones’ where exotic dancing could happen. Anything else that involved striptease and dance that took place outside of those zones (such as, ALL the places I performed in while there) you were subject to arrests and fines.

It’s easy to shake our heads, being from the West Coast in Canada and cluck about the strange conservative and backwards attitudes of our neighbours to the south. But I recently got word that we had that in Canada too. In Saskatchewan, another place I have performed in countless times, has seen a ban on stripping. The law is that there is to be no stripping of ANY kind (not even a glove) where alcohol is sold. This law has shut down all but one (dry) strip club and made burlesque impossible. When Cherry OnTop, Lola Frost and Burgundy Brixx were hired to perform at a gig there, they were informed they couldn’t remove anything. ANYTHING. Me, being the jerk that I am asked if reverse striptease was acceptable, coming out nearly nude and dressing onstage. Apparently that’s bearding the lion, I’m told. All three are accomplished performers and could do numbers that didn’t involve stripping, but it begs the question, what problem do people have with striptease, dance and alcohol in concert together?

“A decade ago, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a challenge to the law, which skirts the constitutional issue by not imposing a ban on strippers — only the mixture of alcohol and nudity. Since that time, numerous establishments have been hit with fines or suspensions. One club was fined when a dancer removed her clothes backstage while changing, even though she was not in view of the public. A recent breast-cancer fundraiser that featured Chippendale dancers, who also did not take off all their cloths, is currently under investigation by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA).”

Source: Jesse Klein, National Post

This takes me back to the fight on Prohibition and it’s attitudes. The idea that people will not be able to control themselves if gives a choice, so the choice is taken away from them. I would like to think of Canada, and indeed America, as an enlightened society. But the fact remains that people harbour this idea that alcohol and nudity will unleash some kind of of immoral Tsunami on us all and we’ll all drown in sin. My rebuttal is that I’m a very strong swimmer, and I would prefer a choice to being legislated against with prejudice because I choose to perform nearly nude in a place where alcohol is being served.

A few battles for the conservatives have been won, but my friends, as long as I’m twirling a pastie, shaking my hips and drinking fine vodka, the war is far from won.

Little Miss Risk


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