Features

The party's over

National | A year of protests and legal action in Longview, Texas, led to the closing of several sex-oriented businesses

Issue: "Bush's tax-cut plan," March 10, 2001

Evelyn Scott of Longview, Texas, recalls seeing a couple in lawn chairs sporting hand-lettered signs outside a local shopping center one Wednesday in the summer of 1996. Bruce and Judy Edge explained they were picketing the new nude XTC Tanning saloon. A few days earlier, Ms. Scott's 15-year-old grandson had joked, when he heard a nude carwash was opening in town, "Boy, I am going to have to get me a car." She grabbed a chair and joined the picketers in the Texas heat.

"We started talking and people started stopping. Soon a crowd had gathered, and a New Orleans man with a band declared, 'Why don't we have a revival on the parking lot Saturday!'" laughed Ms. Scott. WORLD covered Longview's fight against nearly a dozen sex-oriented businesses, known as SOBs ("Up from Potterville," Nov. 23, 1996). But did Longview have long-term success?

The battle raged one year. XTC Tanning was an early casualty, biting the dust after only 59 days. "That building is close to a church, a karate school for children, and just around the corner from my house," said 68-year-old Ms. Scott. "God sent [protesters] from everywhere. We were there from 10 in the morning till 10 at night, six days a week." On closing day, XTC employees celebrated with the protesters, eating cake and sipping punch. XTC workers also signed and presented to the protesters a metal bat used for security. One young XTC bouncer, who quit during the demonstrations, began attending church and now works at Good Shepherd hospital. A printing company now occupies that spot in the mall.

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Twelve months of persistent pecking also beheaded East Texas Chicken Ranch, Longview's "all-nude steak house" and the toughest SOB egg to crack. "They turned their water sprinklers on us, but we just brought our umbrellas," said Ms. Scott. Ranch chicks, hoping to attract Dallasites headed east to Shreveport's casinos, used to flash the thick Highway 31 traffic and motion toward their driveway. After years of vacancy, the brick, two-story house is being white-washed for a family.

The protesting focused public attention on the issue, but the decisive blow landed when the city passed an ordinance that prohibits mixing nudity and alcohol. "We put petitions in Wal-Mart and in the mall for people to sign," said bookkeeper Ms. Scott. "Then we loaded an eight-feet-tall stack of petitions on a dolly and rolled it right into the courthouse, into the sheriff's office, then the district attorney's, and then we carried it to the mayor." A nightclub owner sued the city in 1996, claiming that the law stepped outside the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, but the Texas Court of Appeals in Tyler let the ordinance stand.

During the Longview saga, Ms. Scott was elected President of Citizens Against Pornography in Texas (CAP-IT). CAP-IT has jumped from Longview to surrounding cities like Lufkin, Kilgore, Waskom, and Texarkana. "We went to Lufkin as a group with legal literature and the [SOB] didn't last long," said Ms. Scott.

But Longview's gains were nearly wiped out last year. On March 29, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Erie, Penn., ordinance prohibiting public nudity. Michael DePrimo, American Family Association Center for Law and Policy litigation counsel, said, "If the decision had gone the other way it would have been an unmitigated disaster for states and communities that regulate sexually oriented businesses." The ruling, he added, should encourage cities across the country to adopt similar restrictions to fight sex-oriented businesses.

No upstart nude SOBs have tried to open in Longview since the righteous ruckus cleaned out the town. "It was a year I'll never forget. I've always thought I was just one person. But I have found out that it takes just one person to get started," said Ms. Scott. "I laugh every time I drive downtown and the Executive Club is boarded up. It used to have big signs with lights that said 'Girls, girls, girls!' I am proud." And the grandsons? "They are proud, too."

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