G-strings for GIs

By The Associated Press

O’FALLON, Ill. – Fran Harris considered it thinking outside the box by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post – male dancers stripped down to their G-strings to raise cash for GIs.

The 49-year-old federal worker gladly plunked down $18 for a seat to the all-ladies “Hot August Night.” Other tickets to see the “Men of the USA” beefcakes sold quickly, raising what three months worth of fish fries would have generated for VFW Post 805 in this St. Louis suburb.

Under pressure by city officials, the show was called off. But here’s the naked truth: the entertainment will press on Saturday night, just not here.

O’Fallon administrators had questioned the decency of the event, causing the VFW post on Tuesday to cancel it in order to head off a potentially costly legal fight or prospects the post could be fined or lose its liquor license.

But on Wednesday, the post commander, Vietnam veteran Chip Shaffer, learned that the Oz nightclub in Sauget, about 18 miles from here, had agreed to host the show.

“I’m proud to see other communities have stood up to help us out,” said the 52-year-old retired Navy veteran who heads the roughly 300-member post in this town in the shadow of Scott Air Force Base.

While appreciative of the VFW, O’Fallon City Administrator Walter Denton said the city’s opposition to the event was about what’s appropriate – and not about what’s patriotic.

“We have no problem with the VFW and their mission of supporting the troops deployed,” Denton said, noting that the city for the past three years has covered shipping costs of care packages the post has sent overseas. “We just felt the show was inappropriate and in violation of our ordinances.”

Shaffer said the VFW canceled the event Tuesday, just days after receiving a letter from the city saying the show would violate city codes regulating “illicit dancing,” “sexually oriented” establishments, and alcohol sales or consumption within certain distances of a school.

Denying that the show would have been obscene or too risque, Shaffer says the VFW had been exploring whether the dancers could wear less-revealing Speedo-style garments instead of G-strings in O’Fallon, an option he said city leaders also panned.

The event already has sold more than half of the 300 available tickets while keeping the plans “low-key,” advertising at the post but not around town, Shaffer said. The best seats fetched $20, with each woman promised champagne and a rose.

The VFW expects to clear $3,000 to $4,000 that will go to U.S. military personnel overseas for supplies, like sunscreen, reading materials and bug spray, and to their families needing help with bills, Shaffer said.

Oz’s operations chief couldn’t resist volunteering his club and staff for the three-hour show.

“I think I’m caught up in the whole troops business just like everyone else,” Richard Donald said. “I realize just how much they do for us, and I’m glad to do this.”

Any ticket holder who doesn’t care to make the trip to Sauget can get a refund, Shaffer says. But those folks won’t include Harris, who called news of the new venue “wonderful.”

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “I’ll be there, to support the post.”

All of it had Shaffer shaking his head, wondering what all the fuss was about.

“We didn’t mean any harm,” he said. “You could go to any public swimming pool and see more than you’d see at this show.

“After this week, I’m still trying to figure out what country we’re in. This would have never gone over in the 1950s or ’60s, but this is the 21st century.”