In June, Portland will lose a legend. For three decades, the Jiggles sign at exit 289 on I-5 has stood as a tantalizing promise of adult privilege to adolescent males of all ages. It may be difficult to remember now, but Jiggles opened as a drearily normal strip club in 1984 before being forced to surrender its liquor license because of alleged mob ties. Instead of closing, it morphed into an 18-and-over juice bar with topless dancers. It also became a rite of passage for local teens. "Having no other point of reference," says local DJ Greg Nibler, "it was the greatest place on earth."
"Jiggles had this mystique," says Austin Paradise, a Portland musician. "You drive up and down I-5, and it's right there! It's amazing, y'know? Being 18, that was some place you could actually go to. You had something you could actually look forward to at age 18. You could go see boobs. It was a magical place."
After a quarter-century, the Jiggles sign has itself been stripped by the elements, and its bottom now stands exposed. No one plans to replace it. The club's lease expires June 30 and will not be renewed. Tualatin's best-known landmark is slated to be torn down to make room for a massive shopping mall anchored by a Cabela's outdoor store and a bronze statue of a juvenile mastodon meant to bolster the town's "Ice Age Tourism Plan."
This week as we roll out a guide to Portland's best strip clubs (which can be found in print form in WW issues at these locations, or on the web here), we say goodbye to a roadside legend. (Many copies of today's issue include the guide. If yours doesn't, see the site Wednesday morning for a list of distribution locations that include the guide.) We dug through past press coverage and talked to Jiggles customers, lawyers, dancers and owners about the club's enduring charms.
Jiggles opened in January 1984 with beer and $3 table dances. It was Tualatin's first topless tavern and received its liquor license before city officials were aware the club would feature topless dancers.
"With red lights flashing overhead and a jukebox blaring Madonna's 'Material Girl,' a young woman danced on a raised stage wearing earrings, a G-string and high heels. Five men were sitting at a counter surrounding the stage drinking beers that cost $2.25 apiece. One young man lobbed wadded-up bills at the dancer's feet."
—The Oregonian, Jan. 19, 1986
In 1985, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission began a lengthy investigation of the club. Jiggles listed its owner as Jane M. Coppedge, a local woman who'd previously been a cook, bartender and waitress in Springfield. The OLCC alleged the club was actually controlled in part by Seattle's Colacurcio organized-crime family. The fight culminated in a seven-day liquor license hearing in February 1986. That hearing was widely covered in the media, including a three-day investigative series published by The Oregonian.
"The gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearing before the liquor control commission was grist for the television mill for about two weeks. Seems as if every night when I came home to sit down to dinner, I'd see another piece by [KGW's] Cathy Kiyomura live from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for the hearing on Jiggles. She covered that with gusto.â
—John Henry Hingson III, attorney for Jiggles
"Oregon Liquor Control Commission officials say the Jiggles case is one of the lengthiest and most complex cases in the agency's history."
—The Oregonian, Jan. 27, 1987
"I was a freshman at Oregon State, and there was someone in the fraternity from Portland who started talking about Jiggles. It was hard to believe, but we went on trust. Eight of us piling into two cars and heading up here at the same time from Corvallis with this vague notion of dancers at a gentlemen's club that would let us inside. I remember being nervous about the doorman—that was my first experience around a bouncer other than at concerts—and for some reason I felt guilty just being there. Even though I was technically of legal age, I still felt like I was getting away with something."
—Greg Nibler, co-host of Funemployment Radio, on his first and only visit to Jiggles, in 1995.
"This was before the Internet. There wasn't an entire fucking information system based around the porn industry. For the first time in my life, I'm in a position where I can sit and observe the female anatomy and then interact with a woman with no real expectation or fear of rejection, y'know? As a young man, that was very important. I drank enough Cokes to give me diabetes. That was sort of a rite of passage."
—Jeff Truhn, former owner of the East End and Plan B bars, on his first visit the week of his 18th birthday, in 1992.
"As the school year winds down, we parents of graduating seniors have a last chance at guiding and directing our kids. One direction you may want to steer your high school son or daughter away from is the Tualatin exit, just off Interstate 5 and a joint known to all as Jiggles.... You delude yourself if you think your sons aren't making a beeline there the moment they turn voting age."
—The Oregonian, April 17, 2003
"I'm happy with the way the business turned out. It has really worked out much better this way…. It's an icon! I couldn't tell you how many people walk in and say, 'Oh, I celebrated my 18th birthday here or I had my bachelor party here.'"
—Jane Coppedge, owner of Jiggles
"Some parents even call before their boys show up to see if it's a safe place. You gotta admire those concerned moms and dads."
—The Oregonian, April 17, 2003
It wasn't just teenage boys who found Jiggles to be a different world. The lack of alcohol also made it a different experience for the staff.
"They just had soda and coffee, and it was a two-drink minimum. After you ordered your Pepsi or your coffee, I would have to bring out two full cups at once—that was part of the admission—or it was one cup of coffee and then another empty cup. So, that was kind of awkward. Most of them got poured out. Who's gonna drink two 20-ouncers of Pepsi? Then, they decided that they would start serving little bits of food, and what do they choose? Hot dogs! It was pretty hilarious to watch a man at the rack eating a hot dog while watching a stripper dance…. On some level, it just felt a little more wholesome."
"There were more girls there than at the other clubs—I'm not sure why—and they were all really into it. They were all really excited and really liked each other. So whatever the chemistry was at that time and space among them, they were having fun, and that was very sweet. That was the only time I was invited back to perform with them, and I am not a dancer. The girls were like: 'You should come back, you should dance with us, you're so pretty!' They were so sweet. It felt like this sex-positive, third-wave feminism."
—Sally Eck, senior instructor in women, gender and sexuality studies at Portland State University, on her first and only visit to Jiggles for a sociology thesis project, in 1999.
The Tualatin Police Department has logged 94 complaints or incidents between June 2013 and March 2014 at Jiggles, including a presumed overdose—though that patron was actually just very drunk.
"Our officers generally catch underage people consuming alcohol, smoking and/or doing drugs."
—Jennifer Massey, spokeswoman for the Tualatin Police Department
"You could only count on just the young fuckers who'd drink out in the car and then go back in and make about 20 trips getting wasted. We're the only people there giving money, so they don't say shitââyouâre not drinking in the bar, so we donât care!ââ
"We were fairly clean-cut kids. It was pretty weird just to walk into a strip club anyway, and that was the night I saw this dude try to touch a stripper or something. All of a sudden, the bouncer's throwing him out. The guy comes back in and tries a cheap shot, and then the bouncer pushed him through the pillar that was right near the door. It sorta just bent into an L-shape. We just wanted to get out of there before the bullets started flying."
"We don't have any trouble that I'm aware of with the police. It's been an OK relationship, as far as I'm concerned."
Jiggles was, however, questioned by the FBI about Shawn Eckhardt, the Tonya Harding bodyguard who hired Shane Stant to hit figure-skating rival Nancy Kerrigan in the knee with a club in 1994.
"A few men came in and went with the manager to the back room. People normally went and found a table. And they were dressed in power suits. It was suspicious. I knew something was up, and when they left, the manager said they had come in to ask questions about Shawn Eckhardt, who I guess had been a doorman."
"I would think that everyone would want the strip club to go, but there's been an overwhelming outpouring of locals that come in and ask, 'Where are you going? Are you going far? Are you going to stay around?' There may be a consensus on the more conservative end of locals that are happy to see it go, but there are a lot of other people who look at the place as being almost historic. It's sat on that corner since the '80s."
—DJ Dastardly, Jiggles manager
"They weren't upfront with me about what they were going to do. They just fenced me off and tried to run me out of business before they had to buy me out."
"I don't have much good to say about places like [Jiggles]. When we were developing Bridgeport Village, people would ask what other retailers were in town, and I had to say K-Mart and Jiggles. It wasn't
a great calling card for the city. When you look at Cabela's, they'll be bringing people from 200 miles away—from Olympia, Pendleton, probably even Northern California—and, when people travel very long distances, they usually stay a couple of days. People tend to shop at a Cabela's for a long time, so oftentimes they'll stay the night and actually explore the community, go down to wine country."
—Fred Bruning, CEO of Nyberg Rivers developer CenterCal Properties
"After three decades, the entrance to our city will no longer be a strip bar, but rather a premier shopping center that will be another regional jewel located in Tualatin."
—Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, during his Jan. 29 State of the City address, which he delivered at the Grand Hotel at Bridgeport Village.
"To make the mastodon more accessible, and to endear him to younger shoppers, the bronze display will also include a contemplative, but awestruck, human boy—the idea being that the child is wondering what it would be like to live in prehistory."
—The Times, Feb. 20, 2014
Jiggles plans to move to a new location.
"I'm not going to close down. The plan is to move. I would like to stay in Tualatin..... The new club will be run just like this is. It's worked real well over the years."
The Jiggles Index
Number of pages in Jiggles lawyer John Henry Hingson III's filing to stay the OLCC closure of Jiggles in 1987
Cost of admission at Jiggles, including coffee, an 18-ounce soda, lemonade, cranberry juice or a Rave energy drink
Price after 9 pm
Cost of refill
Price of a beer in 1987
Cost of lap dance at Jiggles in 1984
Cost of lap dance at Jiggles in 2014
Cost of sexual attractant at Cabela's
Cost of fletching stripper at Cabela's
Amount of the unsecured loan Coppedge improperly disclosed, according to the 1987 OLCC ruling that withdrew her club's liquor license
$10.1 million Settlement paid by Cabela's in restitution to unsecured borrowers after a 2011 FDIC investigation accused the corporation's banking arm of unsavory lending practices
Fines assessed as a result
Estimated number of handguns that fit comfortably around Cabela's largest rack
Estimated number of patrons that fit comfortably around Jiggles' largest rack