Does anybody besides me remember The Fabulous Sam? If you do, you reveal your age—and also the fact you’ve been inside a strip joint. See, Sam was once Salt Lake City’s most famous “go-go girl.” Watching her dance was a rite of passage for young men from throughout Salt Lake City, and even in Park City, where, I think, she did her doo-wop at the C’est Bon. In Salt Lake City, she performed the most magical acts known to barely postpubescent men at the Joker Lounge, downtown just east of State Street.
She also performed to full-grown men. It goes without saying that men of all ages had a firm appreciation for her abilities. For instance, I’ve never seen a hat worn in such fashion before or since (hint: it wasn’t on her head—always leaving one guy who got to brag for a while, “Guess where my hat has been?”). Neither have I seen tassles—remember them?—spin so wildly. Only a Puritan would suggest that I, or anyone else, merely visited the Joker Lounge for the titillating special effects. Nope, we were all there for the burgers.
The area near the old Joker Lounge was once a vibrant part of Salt Lake City. We had the Congress Hotel on one corner, the Astronaut Lounge on another, and down the street, Jerry’s Brown Bag and the Tin Angel—Salt Lake’s first transvestite show club, operated by my enterprising brother, Gary. Sandwiched between were at least one adult movie theatre, a Mexican restaurant run by the Cardenas family (Red Iguana), Wolfe’s Sporting Goods and Shulsen-Dillon Sports. A case can be made that after The Fabulous Sam pastied up for the last time, the entire neighborhood entered a sagging decline. Just look at that region of State Street today, between 200 South and 400 South. Someday, a mayor of Salt Lake will pay attention to the Grande Dame of our city, State Street.
For now, though, the battle rages a few blocks west. Daniel Darger and some partners own several buildings in Arrow Press Square, as well as the Dead Goat Lounge, famously residing down an Arrow Press alley. Darger believes his club can no longer survive financially as a blues and live-music venue and had petitioned the city to grant him a cabaret license. For the unwashed, a cabaret is what the movie Moulin Rouge was all about. Seems boring to me. A bizarre list of confusing city codes caused Darger’s chosen route to hit a dead end. So, Darger applied for and was granted a full-on sexually oriented business license. Bada bing, bada boom—somebody call Poles-R-Us.
But wait, the LDS Church (via its real estate arm) and at least one tenant of the nearby ZCMI Center, are crying foul and suing Salt Lake City for allowing a business such as Darger’s to detract from businesses such as theirs. Wanna bet the City Council rolls over? To be honest, I never was much of a frequenter of strip joints, especially so now in this silicone age. But that doesn’t mean some men—and yes, women—aren’t. If it’s legal, then Darger should be allowed to take his shot without the moral intonations he’s facing now. It’s a little guy vs. the big guy ... and I vote for Sam. Even though there was nothing little about her.