When sex and politics meet, the results are often less than desirable. But Cleveland businesswoman Angelina Spencer seems to have found at least one way to bring these two taboo subjects together with positive results.
Spencer is co-owner of Circus in the Flats, a Cleveland "gentleman's club" that now offers voter registration services to all of its customers. The club's servers provide patrons with all of the forms and instructions they need to register, and DJs there remind visitors of the new service every 30 minutes or so during shows. On their breaks, dancers at the club also help out with a mass mailing to an estimated 3,800 other adult establishments across the country, urging them to hold registration drives as well.
Workers at the Circus have registered over 400 voters so far, since casual conversations with her dancers spurred Spencer to action several months ago. "I'm passionate about politics," she explained in a telephone interview. "I started asking my entertainers how much they knew about women's suffrage, and it really wasn't that much. So we started discussing the war, the presidency and women's suffrage, and I thought, 'this is a perfect opportunity.'"
Spencer is now taking her registration work to the national level through her position as executive director for the Association of Club Executives, a trade organization that represents over 700 adult businesses nationwide, and her efforts seem to be paying off. The organization's Ohio chapter claims to have registered 5,000 voters, and similar drives are now underway at adult establishments in several other states including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina, among others.
All of the registration efforts are billed as strictly non-partisan and Spencer stressed that the drives are meant to encourage voter participation, regardless of party orientation. "I want people to vote their conscience," she said. "The more people we get registered to vote, the more people will make it to the polls."
Dan Trevas, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party, echoed Spencer's sentiments. "I think it's just important that people are starting to understand how politics and government affect their lives," he said. "It really doesn't matter to the Democratic Party if they are registering Democratic or Republican, as long as people are getting out to the polls."
On a personal level, however, Spencer is open about her feelings towards the Bush administration and its policies, starting with the more stringent enforcement of FCC regulations since Janet Jackson's now infamous breast-baring. "This is about civil liberties, and this is about censorship," she said, adding that censorship in adult entertainment usually filters out to other media, like music, films and journalism.
Spencer said that she also disagrees with the war in Iraq &emdash; an issue which hits especially close to home since one of her dancers is currently serving as a truck driver in the US military &emdash; although she is most concerned by the tremendous influence religious groups have on the current administration's decisions. "The thing that is most disconcerting to me," she said, "is the fundamentalist agenda that's being pushed through Congress. At what point are we governed by the New Testament, rather than the Constitution?"
Predictably, some of the right-wing's most conservative organizations have already been critical of Spencer's efforts, due to the association with the adult entertainment industry. However, as the Democratic Party's Trevas pointed out, Spencer and her organization aren't the first people to try and influence an election this way. "Big business," he said, "has been doing this for years."
And according to Trevas, citizens on both sides of the party line have been extremely well organized this year, especially in swing-states like Ohio. He went on to say that Democrats in particular, though, have been exceptionally active in grassroots-style movements. "People organized on their own early in this state," he explained, "and I believe the reason that they are organizing is because they feel that the current administration is not representative of their views."
Matt Clevenger is a writer in Dayton, Ohio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.