Arts Center Brought Down to Earth

There certainly are performers at the Verona Performing Arts Center (search), but the "arts" part is open to interpretation.

Residents of Brewster, N.Y., about 40 miles north of New York City, were a bit miffed to discover that the recently opened venue, whose tasteful sign and name conjure up leotards, free-form dance and herbal tea, is actually a good old-fashioned strip club.

"We certainly didn't expect it to be nude dancing, and we were all disappointed, and we were concerned," one village resident told WNBC-TV of New York.

Village officials have cited the club for violating an ordinance forbidding adult entertainment, as well as for failing to get a sign permit, reports the Putnam County (N.Y.) Courier.

"A nudie bar is a slap in the face," said resident Carla Fitzgerald at a village board meeting last week. "It doesn't belong here."

"A club like this belongs in Las Vegas, not Brewster," said fellow resident Bernadette Mortabano.

The center, which is known as Club Verona (search) to its patrons, isn't breaking any laws, its lawyer retorts.

"I think it's a lot of pontifications [sic], because you have a couple of hysterical blue hairs there," Jonathan Lovett told the Journal News of Putnam County.

He said a nightclub license was granted when the space was a teen juice bar in the mid-1990s, and that the Constitution protected erotic dancing.

"It IS a performing arts center," Lovett told WNBC-TV. "It depends on your perspective as to art, but the First Amendment protects what is going on at these premises."

One local man was worried about would-be patrons driving drunk through the middle of town trying to find the place, which per New York State law has to be alcohol-free in order to feature full nudity.

"As an American male, I say, 'OK,'" Richard Wakeford, 46, told the Journal News. "But it's got to be in the right setting. Let's face it. Guys are coming tanked up to this place. It should be isolated, away from Main Street, like in New York City."

Judging from a Courier reporter's visit to the club last Saturday night, the problem might go away on its own.

Only about 15 people had paid $10 each to watch a supposed "porn actress" named XXXena bump and grind her way across the small stage as dollar bills landed at her feet.

"There's no action here," grumbled one young man to the Courier before he left.

"This place won't make it 'til Christmas," said another customer.

Animal House, Berkeley-Style

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — A student housing co-op faces a lawsuit from neighbors who claim that it is a public nuisance.

Twenty-one neighbors of Le Chateau, a housing cooperative for students at the University of California at Berkeley (search), are seeking $5,000 each, or $105,000 total, in small claims court.

The neighbors say they have endured years or raucous pool parties, nighttime bongo drumming and garbage that attracts rats.

Disturbances described range from the beheading of a chicken with garden shears to Chateau residents flinging chunks of a cooked pig at passing cars.

Neighbors also say they heard one man on a rooftop deck yelling, "Where's the heroin?"

Assistant City Manager Jim Hynes said the co-op has received several notices of violation from the city, and pressure from the city has forced the it to recently reduce the number of its residents from 85 to 60.

But George Proper, the University Students Cooperative Association's (search) general manager, told the San Francisco Chronicle that activity at Le Chateau "is pretty much identical to what happens in every fraternity and sorority on campus."

The co-op association also said that most of the claims are overblown and too old to justify damages. Residents insist that they have tried to mollify neighbors by prohibiting "intrusive" noise past 10 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.

"There's quite a respect for the rules," said Ian Latta, 21, an English major and a co-house manager.

A larger co-op, Barrington Hall (search), was shuttered in 1990 after well-publicized drug overdoses and a lawsuit by its neighbors.

That co-op, in which at least one Out There editor lived for a few years, was known for its nude parties where objects ranging from bottles to clothes dryers were thrown out of the building.

Jolly Good Ruckus, I Say, What?

LONDON (AP) — The owner of the 15th-century White Hart pub in sleepy Fyfield, near Oxford in southern England, was not amused earlier this month when 14 well-dressed young men showed up, ate salmon and steak, and started to brawl.

"It was very peculiar. They were not rude or violent to my staff," said Ian Rogers, who called police when fighting broke out the evening of Dec 1.

As it turns out, for decades, members of Oxford University's Bullingdon Club (search) have had a tradition — they dress up in smart suits and ties, dine in a quiet pub or restaurant, then trash the place.

Rogers said one of the men said the group was from the Bullingdon Club. The publican said he had refused an offer of $770 to pay for the damage, which included 17 smashed bottles of wine, broken crockery and a broken window.

Rogers accepted $194, plus $1,160 for the food-and-drink bill and a $390 tip for traumatized staff.

"They were acting out some kind of ritual," said waitress Nicola Rees. "It was not through excess drinking, it was planned. ... They had not come here to eat, they had come to trash the place. Apparently it's been going on for years. It's some kind of tradition."

Four of the students were arrested, jailed overnight and fined $155 each, Thames Valley Police said. Oxford University said university officials were looking into the incident.

Founded a century ago, the secretive Bullingdon Club has a reputation for involving some of Oxford's most affluent students in rowdiness. It was fictionalized as the thuggish Bollinger Club in Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall."

The Marquess of Bath, president of the club in the 1950s, noted that it "had the record of being the rowdiest, and perhaps the most troublesome of all Oxford clubs."

Left-wing lawmaker Tom Driberg, who went to Oxford in the 1920s, once said the damage wrought by the society was awesome.

"Such a profusion of glass I never saw until the height of the Blitz," he noted.

Soiler of Money Made to Part With More of It

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — A psychiatrist who police say smeared excrement on dollar bills used to pay a parking ticket has been fined $250.

As previously reported in Out There, Ronald Preston McPike, 52, of Bonaparte, was charged with harassment of a public official after officials received an envelope in July labeled "Foreign brown substance on bills."

The envelope contained several dollar bills and a parking ticket made up to McPike, police said.

Tests indicated the brown substance was fecal matter that had been smeared on the bills.

McPike told police the money fell into a toilet and was retrieved to pay the $5 parking ticket, police said.

Assistant Des Moines County Attorney Heidi Van Winkle had sought the maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail for McPike.

"Something this disgusting requires more from the court than a minimum fine. This was a snub at law enforcement officers who are just doing their job," Van Winkle said.

McPike's lawyer, Bryan Schulte, said his client had a "serious error in judgment."

"He was vexed at getting parking tickets left and right and didn't consider what he did a criminal act," Schulte said.

Associate Judge Gary Snyder said McPike demonstrated "immature behavior unbecoming a professional person."

"It's hard to put this case into perspective because people seem to get more riled up about parking tickets than anything else," Snyder said. "This is a public heath issue which shouldn't have happened."

McPike declined to comment.

So Sad About Your Losses

SINGAPORE (AP) — Card games are a common pastime at traditional Chinese funerals, but criminals are reportedly paying off grieving relatives to run their gambling operations at wakes.

Crime syndicate "runners" check newspaper obituary pages for funerals and obtain permission from bereaved families to gamble there, The Straits Times said last Monday.

A family is offered $183 a night, and the "runners" are paid $61, every time they secure a funeral, the report said.

Gamblers are informed at the last minute where to turn up, and "runners" act as lookouts during the gambling sessions.

Traditional Chinese funerals can sometimes last more than a week. Card games are a common sight as mourners play to pass time.

Police spokeswoman Sandra Yip told The Associated Press nine people were arrested on Dec. 3 for gambling at a wake. Gamblers and card game organizers face fines and jail time if convicted.

Put On Your Dancing Shoes, Crazy Mule Drivers

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — It's now legal to bring an insane person into Washington County, dance immodestly or let more than 25 mules cross a Virgin River bridge.

These acts were illegal until this past Tuesday, when the Washington County Commission cleaned its books of a raft of obsolete laws.

The housecleaning came as commissioners adopted a modern, comprehensive county code.

The former county code was a collection of laws dating as far back as 1896, when ordinances were handwritten and stored in bulky, oversized books.

Among ordinances repealed:

— 1902: "Any person or common carrier bringing into the County any indigent or insane person or the bodies of persons who die while traveling, who refuse or fail to carry said indigent or insane persons out of the County, or bury, or remove from the County, the body of any person who dies while traveling ... shall be guilty of an offense."

— 1913: "It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or allow at any one time more than twenty-five head of horses, mules, asses or cattle, or more than Two hundred (200) head of sheep, goats or swine on the Bridge over the Rio Virgin near St. George."

— 1935: "An ordinance ... defining and establishing a pure beet seed district ... and prohibiting the planting therein of beet seeds and plants other than pure beet seeds and pure beet seed plants ... ."

— 1942: "Any person who affects or maintains any illumination ... during the period of air raid alarm ... shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

— 1956: "It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to dance in any public dance hall or cabaret in any indecent or immodest manner or to perform any dance which is characterized by any indecent or immodest motion of the body."

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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