Most troubled, though, is the venerable Two O’Clock, the largest, most profitable place down there-the so-called flagship of the Zone-which seems, for these very reasons, to have been singled out by the district attorney as a prime target. The Two O’Clock faces a revocation order from the local board on prostitution charges (now being argued on appeal before the ABCC), a suit by the DA seeking to close the place under an old and seldom used “public nuisance” statute, and a continuing stream of police complaints.
One has to assume that many, if not most of these clubs will eventually be shut down. And then what? Well, Tim O’Neill hopes that will be the end of it, though no one else is that sanguine. Even Police Superintendent Doyle continues to concur, in principle, with the zoning concept (“The idea of keeping all that entertainment in one spot, I like”) and agrees you can’t-and maybe shouldn’t-do away with adult entertainment (“This is a town with a lot of conventioneers and tourists. You can’t wipe it out”).
O’Neill, though, dismisses the possibility that sex clubs and dirty bookstores will crop up in the neighborhoods because “the neighborhoods won’t tolerate them. They’ll be knocked out, burned out, or kicked out.” And in answer to the suggestion that such decadent distraction may be protected by the First Amendment, O’Neill says, “Then let them rebuild the Old Howard and put on nude stage shows. But it should be banned from liquor establishments. It’s the mixture of nude dancing and drinking customers up close that creates the atmosphere and inevitability of prostitution.”
Barney Frank takes exception. “It’s in my experience,” he said, “that drinking mixed with nudity leads to failed erections.”
At the very least, it can lead to a degree of frustration. As one well-informed Combat Zone source describes the nefarious phenomenon of “mingling”-which Zone lawyer Morris Goldings insists is protected under the constitutional right of “free association”-it works like this: The customer (or “mark”) is approached by a “B-girl” or “mixer” who offers companionship if he’ll by her a drink, usually a $6 split of champagne that is actually ginger ale or apple cider. As long as he’ll buy her these drinks, she’ll sit with him, usually leading him on with the stated or implied promise of sex in a darkened booth later. Whether the sex is delivered, or the mark is abandoned once hi wallet is empty, seems generally to be up to the woman. All the club cares about is that she meet her weekly quota, roughly the equivalent of drinks in her weekly salary.
Goldings contents the clubs can’t make a profit without employing the “mixer” system or instituting heavy cover chargers. Jon Straight counters that it’s greed, not economics, that requires such fraud, but it’s clear the Zone is hurting financially these days. Some clubs have cut back to four or five strippers, forcing each to perform for 20 minutes or longer at a time, and others are considering replacing their live bands with taped disco music. One Zone stripper confided there’s a lower class of customers as a consequence. “You used to get a lot of well-dressed big spenders who’d be honored just to buy you a drink if you’d given a good show. Now everyone at the bar seems a little weird and they don’t spend their money as willingly. They want something for it- a blowjob or a hand job, or maybe you can con them into believing you’ll meet them later. The customers have degraded the strippers.”