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Leaning back in one of the club chairs, Jeff Fambro, a former realtor who looks to be in his mid-thirties, told me he suspects that the troubles for Ector County topless clubs stem largely from the ongoing antagonism between him and Lieutenant Jess Aguilar of the Ector County sheriff’s office. After Fambro refused to turn over a list of his dancers to Aguilar, “that’s when [Aguilar] started coming in every night, picking a girl, griping at her, threatening to arrest her, sending her home, that kind of stuff.” Aguilar himself implied that Caesar’s had provided the impetus for the undercover operation. “I coordinated it,” said Aguilar, when asked who initiated the April sweep. “My office doesn’t have the funds” to do such a thing independently, he said, “it was initiated, orchestrated, and directed by myself.” Caesar’s, he went on to suggest, simply refused to toe the line. A thirty-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and director of its Internal Affairs Department, Aguilar assumed oversight of the county’s sexually oriented businesses in January of 1997. At the time, he says, “The sheriff instructed me that we would bring them [the clubs] under control.” Controversy over a proposed topless club across the street from the Ector County Coliseum had stirred up anti-adult-entertainment sentiment in Odessa the year before, and the City Council had voted to ban topless and nude dancing within the city limits although dancing with “pasties” result, Odessa topless clubs were shutting their doors, while others were opening up just beyond the city limits, Caesar’s among them. As soon as he took over supervision of the county clubs, Aguilar requested that each clubowner volunteer a list of all its dancers, their aliases and real names, their driver’s license and social security numbers, and their dates of birth. Fambro refused. Apparently, a pissing match ensued. \(Fambro on Aguilar: “He was just throwing his weight around ‘You’re going to do what I say….’ He yelled and screamed and came into my office.” Aguilar on Fambro: “He was the one who verbally told me I was a pain in his ass, and that According to Aguilar, Caesar’s was a den of public lewdness.s “I have visually seen it happen, a dancer performing oral sex on a customer,” he said. “I asked [Fambro] to help me, to comply with some of the requests that I asked, voluntarily, but he was very rude, very crude, and told me he wasn’t going to do it…. It was more than fifteen separate offenses…. If anything I tried to keep him open, tried to work with him.” If Aguilar had a problem with Caesar’s, Tracey Bright, the county attorney, is widely thought to have had it out for all the clubs. “I don’t know what it is,” said one Odessa lawyer who has represented topless dancers charged with public lewdness. “The only cases she wants to try [personally] are these cases [of public lewdness],” he continued. “She’s a hard-core feminist, I guess; she thinks it’s degrading.” One of the women tried for public lewdness last April, Sandy Rich, recalls Bright saying during the trial, “They [the dancers] need to get respectable jobs.” \(Calls to Bright’s office AUGUST 6, 1999 Bright dislikes the clubs: “I think she’s against them…. It’s a popular political view to take.” Bright herself insists that her personal views do not influence her work: “I feel like I uphold what the law says I should.” Not one to ingratiate herself with reporters, Bright granted one interview and did not return follow-up calls. Tall, slim, and hawkeyed, she seemed quite tense as we spoke, and her right hand, which for the most part hovered in front of her mouth, would occasionally whip out beside her ear, as if she were preparing either to swear an oath or slap somebody. Early last year, she says, the subject of public lewdness arose at a meeting of the Mayor’s Drug and Crime Commission. “It just came up, and I don’t think anyone even knew that I went back to my office and did something about it,” Bright says. “I felt like we were not having the impact on the people who were committing the crime that we needed to be,” and as a result she changed the standard plea-bargain offer for public lewdness charges, from a fine-only plea to thirty days in jail. To criminal defense lawyer Adrian Chavez, this was an unusual step. “All of a sudden they were wanting thirty days in jail,” he says. “Nobody gets jail time on a first offense except for these dancers.” Then last fall, the commissioner’s court adopted new regulations for clubs, introduced by Bright, requiring that dancers must remain six feet away from patrons, on a stage at least eighteen inches high. “My office discussed it last year because the public lewdness charges we were seeing were the result of contact between patrons and dancers, and we felt like that would work toward alleviating that type of criminal charge,” Bright said. “But quite frankly, we need to have a public hearing on that and introduce the evidence to the Commissioner’s Court about all the charges that we’ve had, and that has not been done yet, so that’s why we have not actively enforced that yet.” In fact, clubowners did not find out about the new rules for some time; Fambro says he received notice of them with the letter revoking his license. “Now her favorite thing to say is, ‘All we do is enforce the law.'” Fambro says of Bright. “Well that’s true, but it’s also her office that wrote the law.” curious thing about topless clubs is the way that they both feed on and make a mockery of old-fashioned notions of male and female roles: the men are “gentlemen,” the dancers are alternately sluts and virtuous mothers \(or college stu way: “They come from all over, and … instead of prostituting themselves in the street, they’re prostituting in the clubs. Some of them are trying to do it [dance] legitimately, but for others, it’s ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to make the most money.’ A lot of them are mothers, they have a home, they have a husband, to them it’s just a job, and those don’t allow the guys to stick their fingers where they shouldn’t be sticking them and suckle where they THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 eaProl ,PW.”..obwPwaffiw 000rrow ,