Live nude girls say goodnight

The unionized, worker-owned strip club Lusty Lady is forced to close by high rent

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rebecca@sfbg.com

When we caught up with Prince$$, who has spent more than a decade at the Lusty Lady — not just as a dancer but in roles ranging from marketing guru to shop steward for the peep show's unionized dancers — she wasn't in her favorite over-the-knee platform boots or a classic burlesque getup.

Instead, her dyed-purple hair was tied back, and she was taking a moment to catch her breath between organizing a hasty archiving project, pulling together the Lusty's final farewell bash, and absorbing the earth shattering news that the famed North Beach strip club would be closing its doors for good on Sept. 2 after a storied 37-year run in San Francisco.

What's the difference between the Lusty Lady and any other strip club in the city? For one, it's earned a political rep with its co-op ethos, feminist vibe, and array of dancers showcasing all shapes, sizes, colors, aesthetics, tattoos, and body piercings. It was even the subject of a 2000 documentary, Live Nude Girls Unite!, which chronicled the mid-1990s unionization effort.

"Without the Lusty, there's no alternative, non-homogenized club," says Prince$$, who never leaves home without fliers promoting the peep show and even carries around a Lusty Lady pen in her purse. "It would be like if every restaurant in San Francisco was shut down and all you got was TGI Friday's. It's like comparing Zeitgeist to Ruby Skye."

With a dingier interior than its flashy counterparts, the Lusty is a place that might stage such events as a (sexy) May the Fourth Star Wars themed bash, a (sexy) Fleet Week celebration with pirates and singing mermaids, or a (sexy) Kiss-themed holiday blowout. This isn't your black-tie, $50-cover, arrive-in-a-limo sort of establishment, observes Prince$$, who has also worked in other clubs and said she chose her name because "that was the silliest stripper name I could think of."

A little over a year ago, she found herself shouldering the Lusty's legacy after nearly everyone else split, because it looked like the peep show might be toast. "I was literally left holding a handful of keys. I was left just holding this thing. No one would take it, and I said, I will. It was my life for most of last year. You make a promise, and you keep it," she added.

But the Lusty's ship was already listing dangerously then, and now it has finally capsized. And of course it all comes down to money, honey. In an odd twist, the Lusty's landlord, Roger Forbes, also happens to own every other strip club in San Francisco through his parent company, Déjà Vu Entertainment. That includes The Hustler Club, a strip joint sandwiched up against the iconic Lusty in the city's red light district on Kearny and Broadway streets.

"For about 10 years now, the Lusty Lady has been paying twice market value for our property here," explained Scott Farrell, who stepped in as a management consultant earlier this year in a last-ditch effort to help save the club, which he'd initially had an eye toward buying. "When I came into the picture, the rent was $16,500" per month for the 3,423 square foot nightclub, he explained. Yet he'd seen similar properties rent nearby for $8,400.

A porn actor and member of the BDSM community himself, Farrell said he'd engaged in negotiations with Forbes to reduce the rent, which he says would have allowed the club to launch a webcam project to bring in extra revenue, spruce up the interior, and get back on track financially. But unpaid back rent and a lengthy back-and-forth eventually resulted in Forbes cutting off the dialogue.

"I called him and said, 'can we sit down and talk?'" Farrell recalled. "His words were: 'I don't care anymore. I just want you guys out." Forbes could not be reached for comment.

You might call the loss of the Lusty another nail in the coffin for San Francisco's famously freakish wild side, an element that feels thinner with each passing day.

Comments

If their rent was twice market value, why didn't they relocate?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

Landlords know better than anyone else what their property is worth because they are getting real-world offers backed by real-world money.

Some writer's sense of what the rent should be isn't worth shit.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

it's all moot anyway.

Lusty Lady's model was outdated. People don't want a "peep show" any more. They want hands-on action, which the other clubs all offer.

Posted by anon on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

Please don't confuse the writers with basic economics.

Posted by Chromefields on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

Would you rent your space to a place not paying the bills at their old place?

Not many places in the city you can move with an adult business. The build out would be hugely expensive, contractors do not work based on good intentions.

For a place that size in that area they were paying market value. The employees confuse market value with what you can afford to pay.

Why would you try and prolong the ultimate ending of your typewriter company a few months?

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

we should have relocated butt at that point we were sooo poor we couldn't afford to move and build everything again. Butt you are right, we should have relocated

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 11:14 am

If you can't pay the rent, you move.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 11:58 am

"Princess" is not the great person this article makes her out to be. She would not perform her job as PR and complain that there wasn't a budget for it yet I have seen more advertising in the past few days than the entire time I have known the Lusty Lady, most of which cost little to nothing. A budget was created for PR and no new advertising was created. In the past she was granted use of company money for PR, which she misused for her own agenda.

Complants requiring the unions envolvement would never reach the desks of those who could help. According to the bylaws, which were not followed at all, required the Shop Steward to train and teach all new employees about the union and bylaws. Violations of the bylaws were never reported due to either not knowing of them or distruction of reports.

It is a good thing the Lusty Lady is closing. Let it be a example of how not to run a business and let's remember those people who truely fought tooth and nail to save the business, not work one day a week and hysterically complain that "there is just too much work".

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

"Hey pervs, pervs, pervs - it's pervy the Lusty Lady is closing!"

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

To bad that we have so many girls doing this stuff!

Posted by Andre on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 2:05 am

it is quite an interesting article, you made a real investigation!

Posted by medical on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 5:40 am

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