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Penthouse/Hustler Turf War

New York- Manhattan’s western fringe is turning into Skin City. Long the turf of car dealers and cheap parking lots, the city’s far West Side is firming up as a battleground for two notorious names in porn – Penthouse and Hustler.

In a rivalry no longer confined to newsstands, the struggling skin magazines have tagged their names on two “gentlemen’s clubs” within 6 blocks of each other.

“There will be girls, girls, girls,” crowed Larry Flynt, head of the Hustler porn empire.

The trend is alarming local politicians who instead have fantasies of high-rise developments and an Olympic stadium for the area.

“These types of [clubs] are the last thing you want near a new, world-class park,” said City Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), referring to the Hudson River Park.

Flynt’s Hustler Club on W. 51st St. and the West Side Highway is opening March 17. The Penthouse Executive Club on W. 45th St. opened last summer. Farther south, Scores West, the W. 28th St. outpost of the East Side strip club, is primed for a March 16 launch.

“I happen to enjoy spice,” said Cal, a Manhattan financial executive making his 10th visit to the Penthouse locale. “And let’s face it, guys like being surrounded by beautiful women.”

The topless clubs’ arrival is part of a transformation of the area west of 10th Ave. – one of the last spots in the city where adult businesses can operate with few limits.

Zoning changes passed in 1995 restrict new adult establishments to manufacturing districts, provided they don’t come within 500 feet of schools, houses of worship and residential areas.

“Sex sells – it always has and always will,” said Angelina Spencer, executive director of the Association for Club Executives National, a trade group. “Is there room for more in New York? Oh my goodness, yes.”

The new clubs are joining an already busy scene on the wild West Side that includes nightclubs and two other so-called gentlemen’s clubs, Privilege on W. 23rd St. and Legz Diamond on W. 47th St.

“The customers will have a lot of choice,” said Mike, a Manhattan lawyer sipping a $14 glass of Johnny Walker Black at the Penthouse spot. “The good thing is they’re in a part of town where they’re not in the face of families and tourists.”

But some worry that revved-up patrons will turn the one-time wasteland into a red-light district not far from the now cleaned-up W. 42nd St.

“If a bunch of guys are in a strip club getting turned on, it’s not like they’re turned off the moment they walk out the door,” said state Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan).

The new spots are hardly the seedy joints from New York’s past.

For one, patrons need credit cards or wads of big bills – not sweaty singles – to watch women strip down to G-strings and 6-inch heels. And the clubs are targeting high-rollers with pricey steaks, wine cellars and dress codes. A Budweiser costs $9.

“We’re looking for the upscale clientele,” said Mark Yackow, chief operating officer of the Penthouse place. “The businessmen, the Wall Street professionals, the brokers.”

The 10,000-square-foot Penthouse Executive Club – which shares its first name and logo in a licensing deal with the bankrupt magazine – has imported leather and marble interiors. It houses Robert’s Steakhouse, where clients dine on prime cuts while showgirls shed their gowns on a stage one floor below.

Scores has spent $10 million to outfit an 8,700-square-foot club with Spanish marble and South American leather. The Hustler Club is opening a 5,700-square-foot club with Flynt’s name in neon and carvings of nude women overlooking the West Side Highway.

But Flynt, the paraplegic pornographer who also deals in adult films and erotic stores, isn’t too worried if New Yorkers get all hot and bothered by the sights.

“They should close their eyes when they drive past,” Flynt said of his many critics. “They’ll get over it.”

Sirens like this woman at the Penthouse Strip Club are becoming the staple on the far West Side.

Where the girls are

1. Hustler Club 51st St. and West Side Highway.

2. Scores West 28th St. between 10th and 11th Aves.

3. Penthouse Executive Club 45th St. and 11th Ave.

4. Privilege 23rd St. and 11th Ave.

5. Legz Diamond 47th St. and 12th Ave.



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