Sex Industry Polishes Image with Charitable Acts

By Michael L. Betsch | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - Whether it's a genuine attempt to 'give back' to the community or a chance to put a positive spin on the pornography industry, charitable organizations are increasingly finding themselves at the receiving end of donations from sexually-oriented businesses.

With efforts ranging from a charity telethon for a suicide prevention hotline hosted by porn stars to a little league baseball team sponsored by exotic dancers, the sex industry is paying more attention to charity.

"Whether you're in the ball-bearing business or the adult entertainment club business, you've got a responsibility to give back to the community that tolerates your presence besides just paying your taxes," said Mike Riportella, owner of Racers Gentleman's Club in Sparta, Ky.

Since he established Racers three years ago, Riportella and his staff of topless dancers have raised $175,000 to purchase a new engine for Sparta's volunteer fire department, sent a group of high school students to study in the Florida Everglades and outfitted a local little league baseball team.

Riportella said he has an obligation to serve his community because the City of Sparta is financially strapped. But he said media coverage rarely reflects the positive impact his contributions have had on the community, focusing instead on the controversial nature of his business.

Now, Riportella is running radio advertisements on six stations in Louisville and neighboring Cincinnati to raise awareness of his establishment's philanthropic activities. He hopes the message will encourage other area businesses, adult and traditional, to follow his lead.

But not everyone is convinced of the club's charitable intentions.

"Certainly, you're going to have people like Riportella and Racers try to push this out into the adult entertainment industry as a way to put a different face on a very ugly industry because they have no other option," said David Miller, vice president of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values (CCV). "We want to educate the public to what really goes on in these places."

Miller said his organization is currently educating local government officials and law enforcement officers on the adverse affects that adult businesses have on communities.

He cited increased crime, decreased property values, health hazards and urban blight as secondary effects of strip clubs.

"We shouldn't be trying to put the spin on an industry and a business that is actually tearing the community down," Miller said of Riportella's radio campaign.

"If the parents knew and if the kids knew how disgusting these places really were, I think that there would be a whole different perception of how charitable this organization was," said Miller, who called the contributions "tainted money."

Miller said the citizens of Sparta should look inwards before they turn to Riportella's strip club for financial support. But the prospect of self-sufficiency is not likely, he said.

"One of the reasons I believe [adult businesses] are going out into the smaller communities is not so they can help the community. It's so that they can get away from the regulations," Miller said. "Smaller communities don't have the money to fight adult businesses, so it's difficult for them to pass ordinances that will stand up to a lawsuit."

Swingers and Sadists Brighten the Holidays

The U.S. Marine Corps. (USMC) has collected and distributed millions of toys to needy children across the nation since the inception of its Toys for Tots drive in 1947. But this past holiday season marked one of the more difficult fundraising and toy raising challenges.

Apparently, the alternative lifestyles community was determined not to disappoint the needy children.

Mistress Cyan, a professional dominatrix, held a "slave auction" in November benefiting both Toys for Tots and an Orange County, Calif. food bank. For every charity item brought to the auction, donors received play money to bid on submissive "male, female, transgender" sex slaves.

Also contributing to the Toys for Tots campaign was the Central Maine Alliance, which calls itself a "pansexual BDSM educational and social organization" serving the state of Maine. The group reported on its website that children's toys were collected at its annual Toys for Tots Spaghetti Feed in December.

Rocky Mountain Connections, a Colorado-based swingers club, hosted its annual Toys for Tots campaign on Dec. 7. Apparently, the group which has been "promoting the swinging lifestyle since 1992" also "gives back to the community by helping children."

But the Marine Corps isn't thrilled with the approach, particularly when it comes to the use of the corps' Toys for Tots slogan by the sex industry.

"We certainly don't seek these people out to do it," said Maj. Bill Grein, USMC (Ret.). "It happens with more frequency than we would like."

Grein said it's not uncommon for organizations to host Toys for Tots programs that are not affiliated with the USMC. Typically, those groups are asked to "cease and desist" in using the copyrighted name, he said.

But it's likely that the alternative lifestyles group's toys were deposited at one of the thousands of Toys for Tots collection bins or walk-in locations.

"I'm quite certain anyone involved in any of those kind of clubs looks pretty normal when they walk in with a winter coat and regular clothes on," Grein said.

Porn Star Telethon to Benefit Suicide Hotline

Adult film stars will unite Thursday in Las Vegas to help raise awareness for a nationwide suicide prevention telephone network.

The 2nd annual "Night of Adult Stars" hosted by Las Vegas Plush Magazine and the Sapphire Gentleman's Club is expected to raise almost $50,000 for the National Hopeline Network's suicide hotline.

Hopeline operates the toll-free emergency hotline in conjunction with certified counseling and treatment centers throughout the United States.

All proceeds are expected to help offset the hotline's more than $1 million yearly operational costs, said Hopeline spokesperson H. Reese Butler II.

"We don't give the crisis centers any money directly," Butler said. "We make it possible for them to get more calls than they otherwise would get and we give them a national brand that they otherwise wouldn't have."

E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.