March 9th, 2005 Adam S. Moore, Byron Beck | Special Section Stories
 

1995

     
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Bump and Grind

BY ADAM S. MOORE

If you've been in town for a week or more, you've probably heard someone spout the factoid that "Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any city in America." Spend another week touring the clubs and you won't doubt it-but how did we get to be the epicenter of the ecdysiastic arts?

Portland's sex industry boom started in the mid-'80s, spurred on by a series of Oregon Supreme Court decisions forbidding the regulation of any speech-even legally "obscene" speech-on the basis of content. This also made Oregon one of the few states that allowed full nudity and alcohol in the same club. Portland's relative handful of adult entertainment establishments boomed into dozens of strip clubs where free speech could be seen shaking and gyrating all over town (not to mention numerous "lingerie modeling" salons with private shows where clients could... gratify themselves in ways not allowed in a public dance club).

By the mid-'90s, sex was one of Portland's signature industries, with its own culture-and its own voice. In 1995, amid the dim lights and smoky atmosphere of the Magic Gardens, dancer Teresa Dulce brought the sex biz into the age of DIY self-empowerment with Danzine, a publication by and for sex workers.

"I felt Portland was really cool because there were these family-owned and privately owned business, and not corporate conglomoslabs," Dulce says. "Our mission was to share the information we needed to make more informed decisions both personally and professionally."

Inspired by the Gen-X culture of self-published zines, Danzine was aimed at all of Portland's sex-industry performers (including dancers, models, porn actors, dominatrices, escorts and working girls). The first hand-copied and stapled issues were distributed in local clubs and contained articles on women's self-defense, filing your taxes, needle safety and recommendations for a good dentist.

(Over the next few years, Danzine morphed into an outreach agency and worked with the Multnomah County Health Department on several projects, including HIV education and a needle-exchange program.)

Meanwhile, as the home base for revolutionary alt-porn website www.suicidegirls.com and artsy upstart www.fatalbeauty.com, Portland has been on the cutting edge of a cultural shift in the sex business. The Internet makes it possible for anyone with a digital camera to be a nude model from the privacy of her home. At the same time, over the last decade the sex industry has become mainstreamed-especially here in Portland, where Internet models can be minor celebrities. Our fetish balls, burlesque troupes and alt-porn websites are filled with part-time exhibitionists who perform less for money than for the chance to express their sexuality and creativity.

All this adds up to a town with a varied and vibrant sex industry, whose facets range from sad to sleazy to exuberant fun.

And what of that "most strip clubs" boast? Our Internet survey of Las Vegas, the gold standard of urban debauchery, reveals 30 clubs, which works out to 5.85 strip joints per 100,000 residents. San Francisco, that legendarily libidinous burg, is estimated by SF's adult weekly, The Spectator, to have 17 strip clubs, or 2.2 per 100,000 residents. By comparison, Uncovered and Exotic list 41 strip clubs within the Portland city limits. With a whopping 7.74 clubs per 100,000 residents, Portland solidly trounces these two centers of vice in number of brass poles per citizen. In your face, San Francisco!

THE REAL DEAL

BY BYRON BECK

Who's William Jamison? The short answer is that he was an art dealer, a queer activist and one of the first entrepreneurs to take a shine to the Pearl District. But he can't be so quickly summarized.

Originally from Ohio, Jamison staked his first claim to fame with the restaurant he opened in 1974, Victoria's Nephew, where he had the bright idea of (gasp!) putting chairs on the sidewalk and-according to local legend-operated Portland's first espresso machine. Next came his Folk Craft Gallery, which later evolved into the Jamison/Thomas Gallery. In 1987, Jamison helped start Art/AIDS to support people stricken with the disease. When he moved his gallery to the Pearl a few years later, he helped developed one of its best-known traditions-First Thursday.

Jamison was just 49 when he died of AIDS on June 21, 1995. He was a visionary and a rebel, and he had a really great laugh. He would probably get a kick out of the ruckus that has been made regarding how "regular people" have invaded the family-friendly park that bears his name, Jamison Square, in the now-posh Pearl District. He was just that kind of guy.


* Sen. Mark Hatfield defies his party and casts the deciding vote against the balanced-budget amendment, the conservative cause du jour. Hatfield says he would rather resign than vote against his conscience. Dittoheads across the nation heap scorn on Oregon's senior senator, but at home Hatfield's mail runs 7-1 in his favor.

* Russia, China, India-now even Portland gets da bomb with the first annual POH-Hop hip-hop festival at LaLuna. Highlights include Hungry Mob and Cool Nutz.

* They may have lousy road manners, but they've got great attorneys. Critical Mass, a ragtag band of bicycle activists who enjoy tying up traffic during rush hour, wins a lawsuit against the city after police kick them out of Pioneer Square.

* In wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the media spotlight focuses on local militia groups. Results are disappointing: Far from fuming about black helicopters, the founder of the self-styled Militia of Washington County turns out to be a mild-mannered computer nerd whose most radical belief is that Waco was a cover-up.

* The Lucille Hart dinner, an annual black-tie fundraiser for queer-friendly causes, is picketed by transsexuals claiming that its namesake, a celebrated Oregon physician and author who was born a woman but lived as a man, was actually transsexual, not lesbian. Protesters demand a name change; organizers reluctantly agree.

* A staggering 89 women line up to testify against Portland gynecologist Dr. Phillip S. Alberts, 62, for allegedly molesting them during pelvic exams during his 30 years in practice. They never get the chance: Alberts suffers a fatal stroke shortly before he can stand trial.

* The doors of history clang shut on the Dammasch State Hospital, 34 years after the first mental patient crossed its barbed-wire threshold. Neuroleptic drugs have made the 500-bed facility's barred windows and long, echoing halls obsolete. Will head nurse Cathy Miller, who has worked at Dammasch since 1969, miss the institution? "No," she says.

* Troy Harding, 19, of Gresham, accidentally shish-kabobs a car antenna up his nose and several inches into his brain while getting into his vehicle.

* The Recovery Inn-formerly known as Baloney Joe's-serves its final bowl of soup when the Salvation Army closes it down for lack of operating funds.

* Rock, hip-hop, acid jazz, reggae and hard-driving rhythm and blues hit the local club scene when the first NXNW Music Festival turns up the volume with 250 bands.

* It's in the mail: Ballots go out for the nation's first vote-by-mail primary election to weed out contenders for Bob Packwood's empty Senate seat. Proponents say postal ballots will improve participation-but, gripes opponent Don McIntire, only by "indolent Beavis and Butt-Head types."

* More than 2,000 Deadheads throb and chant in the Rose Quarter when Jerry Garcia plays that great gig in the sky. Mourners wave skull-shaped candles and breathe in patchouli-scented air-under a full moon, of course.

* WW publishes a cover story on a barely credible problem known as the millennium bug. Five years later, Y2K will turn out to be a very, very expensive non-event.


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