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Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the United States. With one strip club for every 11, residents, Portland far outranks Miami, New Orleans, and Las Vegas—larger cities with long-held reputations as meccas for adult entertainment. The boom in strip clubs can be traced to State vs. Henrya landmark Oregon Supreme Court Oregon nude clubs in that protected all-nude stripping under the First Amendment. From its beginnings as a wide-open port town, Portland developed a strong culture of vice that proved resilient to attempts to eradicate it.
Brothels, saloons, gambling halls, and burlesque and vaudeville theaters became essential parts of a growing city largely populated by unattached males and seasonal workers. Drinking, gambling, and illicit sex often could be obtained in a single location, allowing men to indulge a variety of vices in one building.
Red-light districts have been a presence in major cities in the United States since at least the s, and districts such as Storyville in New Orleans became famous. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a rough-and-ready frontier ethos in Portland battled against Victorian cultural values—and often won. Occasionally, the city experimented with anti-gambling, anti-opium, and anti-prostitution ordinances and imposed heavy taxes and prohibitive licensing fees on barrooms and saloons.
Portlanders, however, cared more about government corruption and inefficiency than the presence of vice, which many of them indulged in. Most attempts to curb vice and stop the commercial sex trade had little practical effect.
Reports or reform efforts during the first half of the twentieth century sometimes brought the issue of vice to the city's attention, but by the end of the s the anti-vice crusade was being largely overshadowed by a rapidly changing culture. Changing sexual norms used nudity not only as a source of sexual titillation but also as a political tool and form of artistic expression. Pornography became a thriving industry, and new ratings, X and XXX, were created.
Hollywood production codes loosened, and graphic sex increasingly became a part of many feature films. InLarry Flint created Hustlerwhich confirmed that nude and hard-core pornography magazines had become an economically sound industry. Strip clubs were forced to compete with a society where sex was free, nudity was not taboo, and explicit pornography was available to anyone who had the money to buy a movie ticket or a magazine.
Many Portland businesses adapted to the changes and considered fully nude dancing as a viable business model. InRoy H. Keller converted his piano bar on Southwest Broadway into the first topless bar in Portland. Thalhofer issued a search warrant for an adult bookstore in Redmond owned by Earl Henry. Oregon constitutional jurisprudence requires the Oregon Oregon nude clubs Court to interpret state law under the Oregon Constitution rather than referring to federal law. Because the statute that the Henry decision overturned was based on federal law, it did not hold up under the broader provisions of the Oregon Constitution.
The first all-nude strip club opened in Portland inand fully nude dancing became the norm in the city. Within a year of the Henry ruling, fifty strip clubs were operating in Portland. Half of the strip clubs in the post- Henry boom were located on the economically depressed southeast side of the city, with 25 percent in northeast Portland, 10 percent on the west side, and a smaller portion in the outer suburbs.
Because nude dancing was protected as a form of free speech in Oregon, opponents to strip clubs had to find creative ways to remove them from their neighborhoods.
Neighborhood organizations petitioned to repeal the Henry ruling and urged the legislature to pass laws that would curtail the growth of nude strip clubs near residential areas. They complained that nude-dancing establishments would increase Oregon nude clubs and parking problems, create litter and noise, and attract criminal activity such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and street brawls. Groups picketed, petitioned, wrote letters to city officials, and attempted to partner with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to deny adult businesses their liquor s.
None of the attempts succeeded. Other groups turned to zoning laws, but those attempts also failed because adult businesses in Oregon cannot be zoned differently than other businesses. Inthe legislature considered t House Resolution 20, a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at overturning Henry and allowing state or local governments to regulate and prohibit all-nude dancing.
The proposal died in the Senate by an vote. Portland Mayor Bud Clark caused a stir when he voiced support for Henrystating that he was more concerned with violence on the streets and on film than the issue of nudity in strip clubs.
Inin the City of Nyssa vs. The Time article exemplifies the way strip clubs have become intertwined with widely recognized symbols of the city, removing them from the margins of culture to places of prominence and historical ificance. Though the city has far to go in establishing firm rights for its dancers and protecting vulnerable and underage populations from the sex traffic industry, Portland is nonetheless a pro-strip-club city.
Two women were arrested for dancing nude at the Star; charges dismissed Courtesy Oregon Hist. Research Library, Orhi, photo file Laverne, "the girl with the million dollar legs," was a headliner at the Star Theater, Abbott, Carl.
Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, Lansing, Jewel. Portland: People, Politics, and Power Liepe-Levinson, Katherine. Strip Show: Performance of Sex and Desire. London: Routeledge, Cizmar, Martin. Posner, Richard A. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Sanchez, Lisa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Crockett, Zachary. A project of the Oregon Historical Society. Search Search. Explore Entries A-Z Browse the complete list of entries.
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Staff and Board. Donate Donors. Federal Tax ID Close modal View Source. Zoom image. Star Theater, Portland, June Courtesy Oregon Hist. Research Lib. Journal, Dorothy McCullough Lee Inthe city of Portland crawled with gambling halls, strip ts…. Written by Marlena Williams. Last updated Jan.Oregon nude clubs
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