"In 1995 I had the opportunity to hear Carl Sagan at the Insights conference here in San Diego. Carl Sagan, the scientist, astronomer, revered man in many circles, who devoted most of his life to proving that God did not exist. And in 1995, Carl Sagan was at the Insights conference here in San Diego, sponsored by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Union-Tribune. And he was dying of cancer, he was terminal, he would not recover.
"And I sat in the audience and I took these notes of his words. And these were his exact words. Quote: 'There is not a hint that help will come from someplace else to save us from ourselves. We alone are the saviors of our own destiny.' Unquote."
There was a long, silent pause and then Gwinn said: "He was without question the most eloquent scientist and philosopher on the road to Hell that I have ever heard!"
Thunderous applause filled the hall. Later in the sermon, Gwinn added: "We won't allow anything to cause finger-pointing that would divide the country at a time when we have to be unified. We stand together in all that. But it doesn't mean that we compromise what we believe. And it doesn't mean that we say, as some say, all faiths are basically the same and all roads lead to the top of the mountain, and everything is going to work out for everybody that's sincere. I gotta tell ya, it's not in this book. You won't find a line that says everybody that really tries hard and really tries to do what's right, and everybody that's really sincere about what they believe, they're going to spend eternity with the God that created them. It doesn't say that in the Bible. Jesus never said it.
"The way that we experience that everlasting life is to accept a personal relationship with Jesus and to say I claim him as my way to eternal life. There's no other way, there's just no other way to get there.... Our faith cannot be in the church. The Catholic Church, the Protestant church never saved a soul. Jesus saves souls, not the church."
It was with this kind of moral and religious certitude and evangelical fervor that Gwinn and his allies at Citizens for Community Values set out to exorcise the demon of nude dancing from San Diego's soul. All through the winter, summer, and fall of 2000, they lobbied the city council to adopt tough new restrictions on the city's strip clubs. The chief aim was to restrict nude dancers from approaching closer than within six feet of their customers. In addition, the entertainers, whether nude or not, would be banned from touching any patron. In effect, that meant that "Lap dances," in which customers sit on couches or overstuffed chairs while dancers hover above them, and which had heretofore been legal as long as the dancers wore clothing, were to be forbidden. To make dancing even less lucrative for the performers, Gwinn also wanted to ban direct tipping of dancers.
As the proposed ordinance made its way through city hall, progress reports appeared on the Citizens for Community Values website, each noting Gwinn's special role in helping the cause. "On May 3, updates to the Adult Entertainment ordinances were presented to the San Diego City Council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee," said one. "The City Attorney's Office and the San Diego Police Department recommended further updates including leaving the doors off peep-show booths.
"City Attorney Casey Gwinn predicts that negative 'secondary effects,' such as an increase in crime, could result if the ordinance to leave the doors on is adopted. This will be voted on by the full city council soon. You are urged to write or call your councilmember to express your concerns."
A few months later, the website warned that the proposed ordinance was in danger of being watered down: "The next committee debate held August 2, focused on ordinance updates regarding no touching and no direct tipping of nude dancers. The divided PS&NS committee chose to take the no-direct-tipping language completely out of the ordinance update, ignoring the recommendations of the SDPD and the city attorney before sending it onto the full council. Direct tipping subjects the dancers to increased exploitation through sequential seduction."
The see-saw battle over the new regulations spawned a lobbying war between the anti-strip-club group, which hired lobbyist Marc Wolfsheimer to bring its case directly to city councilmembers in a series of private meetings, and the California Cabaret Association, representing the strip clubs, which hired Wolfsheimer's father Louis and his partner Jim Milch, to lobby on its behalf. The elder Wolfsheimer and Milch, blue-blood Republicans and the deans of the San Diego lobbying corps, have been plying their trade in the corridors of city hall for many years, even before their friend, ex-governor Pete Wilson, was elected mayor of the city in 1971.
But their best efforts proved to be no match for the fundamentalists, who consistently outflanked them by waging a largely below-the-radar letter-writing campaign to individual councilmembers. For their part, the strip-club owners sought to combat the Christian influence by funneling thousands of dollars to the campaigns of ambitious city council aides seeking to succeed their bosses.
During the summer and fall of 2000, Toni Atkins and Jim Madaffer, two city council aides who were running to replace their bosses, collected sizable contributions from many donors with strip-club connections, including employees and dancers at Cheetahs. A year later, Ralph Inzunza and Charles Lewis, two other council aides seeking to succeed their bosses, also received substantial financial support from employees of Cheetahs. Atkins, Madaffer, and Inzunza were subsequently elected to the council. Lewis faces a run-off in the fall.
"I go to all our people myself," notes Peter Luster, a management consultant for the Deja Vu chain, which opposed the new law. "I give campaign contributions. My managers, too. I have had some entertainers also give, I think. I put a notice up, or else I'll just tell the manager we'll have a meeting. If I have somebody who is running for office or I know somebody who is in office that is open-minded to our business -- and not only our business but the First Amendment, in general -- I like to see them there. And anybody that wants to contribute, I let them know that we endorse this particular person. We've never been able to drum up the funds that Cheetahs has, but we have made contributions."