Did Roger Forbes and Harry Mohney Run The Unionized Lusty Lady Out of San Francisco?

from www.dailymail.co.uk- The only strip club to successfully become unionized and the first to function as a stripper-run co-operative has announced it is closing its doors after its landlord refused to re-sign the lease.

The venerable Lusty Lady first opened in San Francisco’s North Beach area in the Broadway strip club district of North Beach in the 1970s.

The club’s landlord is Roger Forbes, a strip-joint magnate who is a partner in Déjà Vu, Inc, which owns most of the adult theaters and clubs in San Francisco.

Forbes business partner is Harry V. Mohney [pictured], known as the ‘Howard Hughes of Porn’. According to SFGate, Mohney’s name does not appear on city permit applications for Déjà Vu, Inc’s clubs in San Francisco, which are solely attributed to Forbes.

Investigators are now determining whether Forbes is the sole owner of the company’s interests in California, because state liquor licensing laws state that all ownership must be disclosed.

Déjà Vu, Inc, has been quietly taking over many of the city’s strip clubs and night spots.

The club was the second opened by two business associates, the first being Lusty Lady in Seattle, which closed in 2010 citing the financial climate and the online pornography industry for its closure.

Originally, the clubs showed 16mm peep show films, but in 1983 live nude dancers were introduced.

In 1997, following several grievances, the Lusty Lady became the only successfully unionized sex business in America.

Its dancers, nicknamed Lusties, differ from the usual blonde, pneumatic and tanned women in mainstream strip-joints and are known for their unusual monikers such as Fortune Cookie and Kitty McMuffin.

After its owners decided to close the business, the club’s workers bought the club for $400,000 in 2003. Two years earlier, in 2001, Forbes had acquired the building housing the Lusty Lady and more than doubled its rent.

Forbes, 71, told The New York Times that he’s not evicting the Lusty Lady because it’s a competitor to his other businesses, which number eight strip clubs just in the Lusty Lady’s North Beach neighborhood, but because of a default on rent.

‘If I was concerned about [the competition], I’ve had that building fifteen years now, I could have found a way not to extend their lease for the last ten,” he told The New York Times.

The Lusties disagree, saying, ‘You can say it was because you’re delinquent on rent… but the truth is that there’s $80,000 that walks through this door every month that, once you close, is likely going to go to one of [Forbes’s] other establishments in the neighborhood,” said Scott ‘Big Red’ Farrell, the Lusty Lady’s general manager.

One Lusty Lady worker, identified only as Tora, was more direct: ‘Our landlord is a dildo and didn’t want to negotiate,’ she told The New York Times.

Unlike the dancers at Forbes’ clubs who actually pay the club for their stage time and work as independent contractors, the Lusties belong to the Service Employees International Union and earn hourly wages and overtime.

According to SFGate, Mohney, Forbes and their companies have recently been named in a federal lawsuit that alleges the ‘leases’ they force their lap dancers to sign for their stage time are a scam designed to avoid their legal responsibility to pay minimum wage and employment taxes.

‘Mohney and Forbes have created an elaborate scheme of corporations, business entities, trusts, straw men, consulting agreements and licensing agreements, all for the specific purpose of concealing their ownership, operation or control of these clubs, and avoid compliance with various federal and state labor laws,’ said the suit, filed in April on behalf of five Déjà Vu dancers.

Many see this latest closure of a San Francisco institution as a sign the city is losing the eclectic small businesses and liberal attitude that has made it so culturally rich.

A message on the Lusty Lady Facebook page reads:

‘Dear Ladies and Friends in the Community,

It is with shaking hands & tear stained cheeks that I write to say, we just heard from our land lord, they will NOT agree to a new lease, they are closing our doors.

They have given us just TWO WEEKS. WE CLOSE OUR DOORS AND SAY GOODBYE on 9/2/13

Please help us spread the word, and make it a glorious & glamorous two weeks!

Thank you so much for all the love and support over the years!

– The Lusties’

The two Lusty Lady strip clubs spawned numerous books, articles and film references.

Lily Burana, who worked in the San Francisco Lusty Lady documented her experiences there in the 2001 book Strip City: A Stripper’s Farewell Journey Across America.

Another Lusty Lady alumnus Carol Queen, pHD, also wrote about the club in Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of a Sex-Positive Culture.

She told blogger Vanessa L. Pinto: ‘When I began there in 1990, it already had a reputation of hiring interesting, edgy women who would not necessarily have fit at other clubs. We had punks, dykes, women’s studies majors plus one sexology grad student, me.’

A worker at the club, named Prince$$ told The New York Times that if people want to keep their small local strip clubs, they should support them financially.

‘I tell people, if there’s a local place they love, hollah with a dollah. You can’t pay the rent with Facebook likes,’ she said.

Lusty Lady workers once described the worker-owned strip club business model as ‘a rare and ideal situation’ but ‘not without its challenges,’ but it seems the club couldn’t overcome its biggest challenge, rising rents and increasing homogenization that has touched even the stripping industry.

Dancer Courtney Crimson told Vanessa L. Pinto that even though the club is closing, the ideals it embraced will live on.

‘Despite this pitfall I feel that the Lusty Lady has started a revolution for the rights of sex workers everywhere. And I feel that this revolution will continue long after we’re gone.’

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