AMERICAN JOE Miedusiewski is coming to the Sun building to talk about, well, nekkid women.
I am a little nervous, as I usually am when this topic -- American Joe, not nekkid women -- comes up.
What do you call a guy named American Joe? Do you think his close friends call him U.S. Joe? On his charge card, does it say American Express Joe?
He legally changed his name to American Joe because his family owned a bar named, coincidentally, American Joe's. He's pretty lucky, actually. The bar could have been called Les Deux Magots.
In any case, he isn't coming here to talk names. American Joe's coming here to talk about why a guy who was in the legislature for 20 years and recently ran for governor now supports himself by lobbying for nudie dance clubs, which are rarely (outside of Louisiana, anyway) seen as beneficial for your political career.
There's a good reason, of course. And it can't just be the $8,000 a month his firm gets from his nudie-club client, plus expenses to travel across America in order to study the art of standing on top of a bar and, to use the technical term, grinding.
"I'm a businessman now," A.J. says. "I'm in the private sector."
Sadly, A.J.'s storied political career is over. He's a businessman now, and yet more than a businessman. He's still American Joe. He wants to bring all-nude dancing to Baltimore, not just for a paycheck, but because, he insists, it will clean up semi-nude dancing in Baltimore. All he has to do is convince a few politicians.
"This is the death knell for The Block," says A.J., who calls The Block a "blemish on Baltimore's character."
When he says this, it sounds like he's running for office again.
His kind of high-class nude dancers, he says, would be something that Baltimore could be proud of, like, say, its waitresses. High-class tourists would flock to the club, for the food and the music and maybe to see naked women -- all naked, all the time. The Block couldn't stand the competition.
Businessman Joe (that could be his new moniker, unless it's Let's Get Naked Joe) represents something called the Cheetah Club, a high-class nudie spot in Atlanta that wants to move to Baltimore, except that in Baltimore, you can't have all-nude dancing and also serve liquor. The liquor board, in a nod to modesty, says dancers must use pasties and g-strings. No, I can't explain it either.
At the Cheetah Club, the dancers are all nude. But, as Maxine Adler, who's Businessman Joe's partner, puts it, "The women are nude, but not lewd."
They don't touch themselves. The customers can't touch them. They don't even grind.And, besides that, the Cheetah Club is a dining-out spot so classy that on a single night, according to Businessman Joe, the joint can sell as much as a $1,000 worth of cigars. I won't even guess what Freud would do with that.
Businessman Joe eagerly describes his first visit to the Cheetah Club. He wants you to share his vision for Baltimore.
"As you walk in, you gawk and you look and you watch and you see what happens," he says, giggling ever so slightly. "But once that all simmers and settles down, you have a drink, you order dinner and everything that's happening around you sort of subsides and becomes part of the decor.
"In other words, the women almost become like a portrait or a vase."
A portrait or a vase?
Where do you put the flowers? (Don't answer.)
The Block is different, he says, meaning scummy and dangerous and the food ain't so hot, either. "There has to be distance put between us and The Block," Businessman Joe says.
To make his point, he gives me an article from, yes, Playboy. What'd you expect -- National Geographic?
One pages past pictures of extremely nude women who may have more than a passing acquaintance with the silicone controversy until you get to the article on high-class, Vegas-style nudie joints that are sweeping the nation, or at least certain parts of the nation.
They're different. No prostitution. No lap dancing. No dancers soliciting watered-down drinks. No walking around the place nekkid (although if a guy hands you a twenty, you strip down right in front of him, so close he could sweat on you, but he can't touch). The writer describes this new kind of club as a place with "three-star food and with someone you gotta tip in the john."
"We're looking to raise the standards," Businessman Joe says. "We don't agree with what The Block does. We don't support what The Block does."
Businessman Joe wants clean nudity.
He wants nudity that the convention bureau can get behind.
He wants nudity our town can be proud of.