from www.twincities.com – With his tattooed arms and torso, his felony record and swashbuckling style as the strip club prince of Daytona Beach, Fla., Sean Bishop embodies the underbelly of fame and fortune that challenges the NFL’s corporate-conscious image. He would seem an unlikely candidate to dispense wisdom at Winter Park.
But there was Bishop this past spring, accepting the Vikings’ invitation to warn rookies about self-promoting entourages, predatory bar owners and perverted economics of the booze-and-sex trade.
“I don’t need their money,” he insists in a telephone interview. “I tell them I am a scumbag club owner who will use and abuse you. I just don’t want to see any of them ruin their lives. They need to be protected from themselves.”
Sean Bishop owned Lollipops Gentlemen’s Club in Daytona Beach, Fla., before a 2008 bribery conviction landed him in prison for six months and stripped him of proprietary rights for five years. He still works at the club. The Vikings fly him to Winter Park each year to warn rookies about predatory bar owners and teach them how to protect their money and reputations. “They need to be protected from themselves,” Bishop said about high-profile professional athletes.
Blunt advice the Vikings’ brass hopes resonates among its 2012 class as the team tries to curtail an embarrassing run of arrests and run-ins with police.
It was the second time in three years Bishop was part of the Vikings’ rookie symposium, a mandatory event for all new players; he missed 2011 because of the NFL lockout.
Bishop, 45, is a live wire and a quick wit willing to relive randy nights in VIP lounges with Hell’s Angels and NASCAR drivers while unafraid to share details about his own downfall.
He served six months in prison in 2008 for trying to bribe two county commissioners with $1,500, a conviction that stripped his proprietary rights to Lollipops Gentlemen’s Club until 2015. Nicknamed the Tony Soprano of Daytona Beach, he remains active at Lollipops as the self-titled director of advertising.
Sure, it is a marketing coup for the strip club to attract young, independently wealthy pro athletes. And Bishop gladly will ply them and their posses with free drinks because he can barter in liquor and rake in cash from private dances.
“I can buy 100 cases of Crown Royal (whiskey) for $36,000, and the distributor will just give me 15 cases of Captain Morgan (rum) that I can sell for $5.25 a shot and (pay off) the whole transaction,” Bishop says.
“I can sell a guy a bottle of beer for $4.25 when it costs me 26 cents, and Uncle Sam keeps track of every nickel.
“But I get a $3 cut for every $20 lap dance, and on a race week it’s nothing to get 4,000 lap dances. And that doesn’t include the $10 it costs to enter the VIP area or the $60 each girl pays to work here as an independent contractor.
“I’m buying drinks for pennies, and I’m making a percentage off your thousands.”
He boasted about once denying entry to Michael Jordan and his following because they had scrimped on tipping their waitresses after their drinks were comped the previous night.
Bishop is a longtime friend of Vikings executive director of player development Les Pico who coached Bishop in football when both were at Washburn (Kan.) University in the early 1990s. Pico said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf spares no expense for his unconventional methods.
“He’s not a choirboy by any means,” Pico said about Bishop. “I can’t legislate morality. Sean’s a guy who isn’t afraid to talk negatively about the business he’s in. Our owners give us great latitude allowing us to run these programs and put a convicted felon on a plane to come here and talk to our rookies about why they shouldn’t be in strip clubs.”
Bishop, who said he also has been invited by the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders to advise their rookies, is willing to tell prospective customers to spend their money elsewhere.
“We have two gentlemen who own car dealerships in Pennsylvania and lumberyards in North Carolina who don’t pay for anything here, but average about $15,000 per night in tips (and dances), and they’ll do it for 10 straight nights,” he said. “There’s plenty of money out there. I don’t need (players’) money. I’m in a dark business. It’s almost sad. They’re too easy to push into trouble.”
Bishop said the common mistake high-profile customers make in his club is lack of self-awareness.
“These guys get comfortable in the VIP section and think they’re not being seen and forget where they’re at,” he said. “Being a competitive athlete, it’s hard for them to turn the other cheek or swallow their pride and walk away from bad situations. Instead, they make a scene and forget where they’re at because the owner’s treating them like a king, they’re young and think they’re invincible when all it takes is one snapshot and you’re done.”