Out with a wink

Leave it to City Councilman Clyde Cleveland to keep an eye on the details right down to his final days on the job. Cleveland, who is retiring after nearly three decades in office, did some fact-finding with a former topless dancer after more than 100 dancers, club owners, DJs and agents crowded a City Council meeting last week.

The group raised a ruckus and convinced the council to postpone a vote on such regulations as prohibiting club employees from mingling (eating, drinking, lap-dancing, etc.) with clientele. It seems the ordinance — in the works for years and proposed by councilmen Rev. Nicholas Hood III and Ken Cockrel — came up for a vote without input from anyone in the affected industry.

“I think they were trying to slide behind our backs and take food off our tables and clothes off our kids’ backs,” said Howard Taylor, co-owner of Chocolate City topless club.

Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said she wants to make sure dancers are heard before a January vote. “There’s a lot of young women whose livelihoods are directly affected by this and frankly, I don’t want a group of men to make all the decisions for these women.” (The new council will feature seven women and two men.)

After the hoopla subsided, Cleveland approached 29-year-old Lashawanda Willis as she was being interviewed outside the council auditorium. Clyde, 66, asked Willis where she danced, professing that he’s never been to a strip club. “I don’t understand what people get out of it,” he explained. With a friendly wink, Cleveland told Willis he’d tried to scuttle the ordinance. Then, he looked her up and down and asked if she danced “topless or bottomless?” Before ending the bizarre exchange, Cleveland gave Willis — who plans to open a club of her own — his card and asked her to call him.

Willis said she wasn’t offended by the “strange man” who is, after all, “only a sexual being.”

Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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