RON HART: Tax collectors: Thar’s gold in that thar' stripper glitter

Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 08:07 AM.

ROSEMARY BEACH — Having chased many viable enterprises out of the United States with burdensome taxes and regulations, the tax-addicted state of New York went to court to collect taxes on lap dances. The case boiled down to whether nude dancing in strip clubs is "art" and entitled to the same tax breaks as ballet performed in theaters.

I realize that the type of artistic offerings in these clubs is not the Bolshoi Ballet; then again, ballet patrons do not value "Swan Lake" so much that they stuff $5 bills into the ballerinas' tutus after the show.

Stripping is one of the few jobs in America that cannot yet be outsourced to another country, so politicians had to find out a way to muscle in on the action. Like New York crime families, government likes to dip its beak in all the vices. Politicians already control the numbers (lottery), booze (alcohol taxes), cigarettes (heavily taxed and then sued), etc. I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability.

Politicians have long grappled with how to get their cut from cash businesses. Traditionally, for every ten lap dances given, one grind and two bumps go to a state alderman — payment in kind, if you will. This government overreach is nothing new; it's right out of Bill Clinton’s "I Have a Dream" speech of 1995.

Two of the last three New York governors flamed out for cavorting with women. They argued that these fast women needed to have a governor put on them to slow them down. It seems the only New York politician who is not involved in sex in any way is Hillary Clinton.

This case, billed in tabloids as the “NY Strip,” almost dragged in that newly-minted Obama lover, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. When he found out it was not a steak, he walked away from the case in bitter disappointment.

Stephen Dick, owner-operator of Nite Moves strip club on Route 9 in Albany, New York, brought the case on behalf of his “gentlemen’s club.” (I know for sure that patrons of a Route 9 stripper joint are nothing if not “gentlemen.”) His friends say he is an aggressive guy and, in what they referred to as "just another Dick-ish move," he lawyered up and fought the tax “on artistic grounds and on a First Amendment basis.  There is no question that if you start drawing the line you have no clear line to stop at. If it’s exotic dancing today, it could be rap music next year.” I think I speak for most gentlemen when I would rather get rid of rap music than tax  strippers out of town.

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