Martie Troy, a 40-year-old woman originally from Florida, has been working as one of McIlvenna's interns, interviewing dancers and compiling elaborate demographic information on each. She is working toward a master's degree in sexology and has hopes of eventually becoming a radio talk-show host like Dr. Ruth. "College girls are more sophisticated about sex than many of the girls dancing in the clubs," she observes. "We couldn't find any prostitution at all. With this crackdown by the city here, they can't make a decent living anymore. It's very sad. They are very politically naïve, and most of them don't want to hassle with the city. They are also private people and don't always want it known by the world that they dance for a living, so it is very easy for the city to take advantage of them. What these girls do for a living is the most harmless thing on earth."
McIlvenna's nemesis, and one of the main reasons for his presence in San Diego, is the Cincinnati-based National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, formerly known as the National Coalition Against Pornography. Founded in 1983 by the Reverend Jerry Kirk, a Presbyterian minister, the organization has raised millions of dollars in an effort to combat pornography. Among its early battles was an effort ten years ago to convict the director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center for obscenity in connection with an exhibition the museum had staged of allegedly pornographic, homoerotic, and sadomasochistic photographs taken by the late gay artist Robert Mapplethorpe. A jury found the director not guilty on all counts, but the battle put Kirk's group on the map and greatly increased its fundraising clout. By 2000, the coalition was taking in $2.6 million in contributions each year.
In 1996, the coalition set up what it calls its "Model Cities of America" program, targeting nine cities, including Atlanta, El Paso, Kansas City, Long Island, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Richmond, as well as San Diego. The aim of the project, according to the group's website, is to "increase public awareness of the harm and availability of pornography. This includes, but is not limited to, sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and adult bookstores." The group also says it seeks to "develop appropriate zoning ordinances where they do not exist and maintain and enforce existing laws."
By 1998, the national coalition had established Citizens for Community Values, San Diego, a separate nonprofit with a board of local directors including its chairman, Bishop George McKinney, and Kent Peters, director of the Office of Social Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of San Diego. According to the group's 2000 tax return, it collected about $164,000 in donations in 1999, $50,000 of that from a single donor, whose identity was not disclosed. The group did not waste time advancing its agenda.
In a September 1999 interview with Reader contributor Ky Plaskon, Darcy Taylor, the model cities program's national director, made it clear that San Diego's main attraction as a regional nerve center for the anti-dirty dancing group was City Attorney Casey Gwinn, who stood ready to push through tough new strip-club regulations. "We look for a number of things, one being the legal climate in terms of the district attorney or the city attorney and whether or not there is a willingness to help curb the proliferation of pornography in a city," Taylor said. "We brought in $90,000 worth of seed money -- at least we did in San Diego, anyway -- so we are looking to make sure that our investment yields some returns in regard to the city's willingness to look at the issue."
Gwinn, the son of a Congregational minister, is a self-professed born-again Christian who preaches sermons at local evangelical churches. "One of my jobs as city attorney is to sit at city council meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays with the mayor and council and the public as we go through the whole docket for city business," he told the congregation of the Mission Valley Christian Fellowship last fall, not long after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. "It is an assignment that I do not particularly enjoy. One of the things that I enjoy least about that assignment is what we call 'public comment.'
"That's where anybody that wants to say anything about anything gets to come and have three minutes. We run anywhere between 15 and 30 people during public comment. These are items that are not on the agenda for that day, and everybody just gets to come and do their thing. Do you know that on the Monday after September 11, the following week, there were no speakers during public comment but one who spoke the name of Jesus Christ! One!"
The congregation broke into cheers and applause as Gwinn continued. "And I thought to myself, this is a wonderful thing! Amidst all the tragedy and all the pain and all the destruction and sorrow of this, the people in the public-comment section of city council finally get it; that there are very few things that really matter in the context of eternity. And all their little petty gripes and grievances really aren't that significant. I was so excited!"
There were more cheers and applause, and Gwinn paused briefly, then resumed. "Until Tuesday morning a day later, when we had 25 speakers yet again, and just like that, in a matter of hours, they were back focused on their petty gripes all over again. And we listened to speaker after speaker after speaker. We listened to a woman who complained in a rage because she had not gotten notice of a public meeting in the district where she lived -- a meeting that happened two days after the terrorist attacks in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. I got up and walked out. I couldn't stand it! I couldn't stand to listen to her!
"I'm not here today, though, as the city attorney," he went on. "I'm just here as a follower of Jesus. I'm not going to talk about really anything related to city government, because it really doesn't matter in the context of eternity.