Philadelphia Politicians Investigating Lap Dances
The Philadelphia “Tax Review Board” is conducting in depth hearings about lap dances:
Philadelphia, in its constant search for revenue, wants to draw bucks from a G-string. The city’s Tax Review Board is trying to decide whether a lap dance is an amusement or legitimate theater.
Is a performance over a lap a luxury or an art?
The hearings, scheduled to continue this week, involve sex, shrimp, champagne, sequins, and footwear, but mostly money, about $1.5 million the city is trying to collect from three strip clubs in amusement taxes on heretofore untaxed lap dances.
The five-member board heard disquisitions on “multifocal, immersive theater,” as one expert noted, filled with “manifestly skilled artists, conveying an expressive message through their performance artists.” \
George Bochetto, attorney for Club Risqué and Cheerleaders, posed the philosophical question: “Is there more to a lap dance than just a lap?”
Deputy City Solicitor Marissa O’Connell, who studied ballet, wondered, “Does choreography have to be expressive to be narrative?”
The answers, in case you’re wondering, are yes and no.
Bochetto and the lawyer for Delilah’s argue the city is trying to tax patrons twice, at the door, then at the lap. The city is not a fool. There is serious revenue in lap dances, which range in price from $20 to $600 for an hour in the “champagne court.” That’s where the shrimp come in. Shrimp cocktail is big in the court.
Witnesses have included two “manifestly skilled artists,” a Yale-trained professor and dramaturge, a choreographer, a private investigator, accountants, and club impresarios.
Indeed, it may be the first tax hearing where strippers and accountants shared equal billing. Also, where a strip club was compared to a piano bar, Broadway, Dave & Buster’s, Isadora Duncan, Japanese Kabuki, and English Restoration drama. Constitutional law was invoked. Six-figure tax bills will do that. C
ruel shoes were discussed at length on two occasions, the challenges of ballet pointe shoes vs. vertiginous platform stilettos, and how they both have a tendency to cause bloody feet. As an investigative shoe reporter, I observed that the manifestly skilled artists opted for more sensible shoes than O’Connell, ballerina flats and flip-flops over her towering wedges. Modesty was the order of the hearing. At one point, “Katalina” – creative orthography a hallmark of the nom de strip – demurely tucked a bra strap inside her blouse.
No word on whether any of the members of the Tax Review Board were considering a committee field trip to investigate the situation up close.