tampabay.com

Stripping aside some political dirty tricks

By SUE CARLTON, Times Columnist
Published September 14, 2007


Strippers, or what upon closer inspection appeared to be women dressed like strippers for a Halloween party, showed up for a political breakfast forum in Tampa this week.

In spike heels and skimpy outfits, they carried signs of support for Florida Hometown Democracy, the proposed constitutional amendment that would give voters control over development and growth.

It's fair to say big business doesn't much like the idea. From the looks of things outside the forum that morning, it's one hot topic on the strip club circuit, too.

WE ♥ JOE, a sign read, apparently referring to infamous strip club owner-turned-politician Joe Redner, who was there to speak in favor of Hometown Democracy. Told of the ladies and their signs, Redner came out to see them.

Problem was, they were not his dancers. He said he didn't know them. Apparently they didn't know him, either.

"They said, 'We support Joe, we support Joe,'" Redner said later. "I said, 'I am Joe.'"

Consider this parody-esque detail of one "supporter's" ensemble: she sported a dollar bill-stuffed garter on her upper thigh. Oh, so dancers wear these things to Publix, PTA meetings and the dry cleaner, just in case?

Consider the writing on their signs, recorded here verbatim:

DANCERS 4

DIMACRACY

HOMETOWN

DIMACRACY ROXXX

LET US DECIDE

Now I suppose it's possible some politically minded dancers who don't know jack about Joe left work and decided to head over to have their say. Oops, no time to change!

Isn't it more likely that somewhere, someone is chortling at his own cleverness?

Because here's the not-so-subtle message: Pass this Hometown Democracy deal and people like sleazy triple-X rated strippers who can't even spell democracy will be making mighty important decisions. We don't want that, do we?

To understand the dirty-trick nature of this related specifically to Redner - and yes, we get the irony of "dirty" trick applied to the local strip club king - recall his most recent political joust.

Redner, Mons Venus club owner and public access perennial, has run for office again and again. Love him or hate him, the guy knows his issues. Some people around here thought his most recent campaign for Tampa City Council against an incumbent who was not exactly a fireball was his best shot.

But Redner couldn't resist a little get-out-the-vote fun, offering free admission to anyone who showed up at the Mons with an I-Voted sticker. This got him national attention.

Today Redner will tell you it distracted from the issues and, he believes, cost him the race. He calls it stupid and a lack of judgment.

"I definitely regret that," he says.

Do not expect him to slink off. Redner says he considered moving to Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan's district to run against him, but currently has his sights set on countywide Commissioner Brian Blair.

Interesting, the reaction of some readers to the strippergate story: "I may not be a supporter of his," one wrote on the Times' Web site. "However, this smacks of a smear campaign."

Fake strippers? We're just getting started.