Sorry to break it to you, Baltimore. But you may have seen the last of Larry Flynt's stripper-mobile.
The converted U-Haul truck advertising Flynt's Hustler Club is outfitted with a Plexiglas box, sort of like the Popemobile. But this vehicle is outfitted with a stripper's pole and a bunch of itsy-bitsy-bikini-clad dancers doing – what else? – pole dancing. It was last seen rolling around Camden Yards as a game was letting out, treating fans to more action than the Orioles seem capable of providing.
Marc Felizzi of Wilmington, Del. was leaving the ballpark with his wife and two young sons when they came across burlesque on wheels.
"My 9-year-old said, ‘Look at that!'" Felizzi told me by phone this week. "And there it was, big as day."
The post-game analysis that usually fills the family's ride back to Wilmington was replaced by an advanced lesson in birds and bees.
"We spent a great deal of time on the ride home explaining why people dance in ‘gentlemen's clubs' and why people patronize them," Felizzi wrote in letter to the editor that appeared in The Sun. "I would have liked to have done so when my sons were a bit older, but apparently the city of Baltimore feels it's their and the strip clubs' responsibility to educate our pre-teens about easy access to sexual activity."
City strip joints have long trolled for customers outside the stadiums after Orioles and Ravens games with shuttle buses that carry dancers inside. The stripper-mobile takes that come-hither marketing to the next level by putting the show on the road. Granted, the dancers keep their bikinis on, but I'm told their moves are as raunchy as any inside a darkened club.
Baltimore already makes it easy for unsuspecting tourists to stumble on The Block, the strip district just blocks from the Inner Harbor. But gyrations that would make Blaze Starr blush, right there on Pratt Street? Will Charm City stand for that?
I asked Orioles spokeswoman Monica Barlow if the team was concerned that the stripper-mobile might detract from the fan experience.
"In our view, this is an issue for the city, so we are not able to comment," she said.
The mayor's office said it would look into the matter.
The police department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said the stripper-mobile may be perfectly legal, if not an ideal addition to the family-friendly Inner Harbor scene.
"Things like this are expected in Las Vegas," he said. "In Baltimore, this is a family town. We have the Inner Harbor. We have the Orioles. Businesses need to use a little more common sense."
Much as I'd like to belive Larry Flynt is a community-minded kinda guy, I wondered if there might be a way for the city to put the brakes on the stripper mobile.
How about seat belt laws, I asked Guglielmi. Can you really pole-dance in a moving vehicle?
Depends on the class of vehicle, Guglielmi said.
"Certain buses have standees and have poles," Guglielmi said.
Flynt could have saved himself a bunch of money and just put his dancers on the Charm City Circulator. I think it has poles. And it could use more riders.
Maybe he will someday, since it turns out the stripper-mobile is not the type of vehicle approved for rolling poll dancing. At least not in the opinion of the city officer who pulled it over on opening weekend.
Victoria Reichenberg, a manager at Hustler Club, said the officer gave the driver a warning or ticket — she was not sure which — listing two violations: unsecured passengers and blocking traffic.
The stripper-mobile was created a few years ago to advertise Flynt's clubs in Las Vegas, and has since moved to other cities where he operates clubs, Reichenberg said. It was in St. Louis before coming to Baltimore for the start of the baseball season. And it returned to St. Louis after the driver got that ticket.
(So much for Larry Flynt, First-Amendment champ. He's supposed to go to the mat on this stuff. One traffic ticket and he hits the road. Quitter!)
"It started in Vegas and basically they got in trouble," Reichenberg said. "It gets in trouble everywhere it goes. It didn't take long here."