Minister in Training Makes Pro-Stripper Documentary

MARLBORO, Md. — A Maryland lawyer studying to become a man of the cloth has produced a documentary chronicling his suit on behalf of a male strip club against Prince George's County.

Jimmy A. Bell, The Gazette reports, was convinced to take the case in 2006 by longtime friend Ed Cloyd, a dancer at the club. Titled Don't Hate: Strippers Fight the Government, the 50-minute documentary attempts to "humanize" both exotic dancers and those who pay to watch them. Bell saw a need to do so, he said, because he found in handling the case that opponents of adult clubs have a distorted idea of what goes on inside them.

"I thought it might make a good documentary because they don't look at [exotic dancers] like human beings," Bell told The Gazette.

Cloyd sought Bell's help because most lawyers, he said, "don't look at this like it's our job. Once they hear 'entertainers,' they immediately look down on us." Bell, Cloyd felt, "understood that's how we feed our family."

And even though Bell had represented local adult nightclubs in the past, he admittedly had his own reservations about doing it again, in light of his religious beliefs.

"It was very difficult for me to do that," Bell said. "You try to place yourself in a situation that gives the appearance of not doing anything wrong. I think my grandmother, who was a very religious woman, wouldn't want me protecting nightclubs in spite of the Constitutional rights they have."

Cloyd's club, Classics in Suitland, filed the suit against the county after it passed an ordinance that, among other things, prevented dancers from being semi-nude unless they were on a raised stage and from receiving tips while performing. The county drafted the ordinance under the pretext that adult clubs "may and do generate secondary effects which are detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare" including drug use, prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis struck the law down because the county was unable to produce "any credible evidence" that its regulations would curb such secondary effects. And Bell said he hoped to show with his movie that exotic dancers are professionals.

"People have misconceptions when dealing with adult entertainment," Bell said. "It's a licensed business. They have the same issues as if they owned a McDonald's franchise or an auto parts store."

Bell is also involved in another ongoing case against the state and the county challenging a 2005 law that would revoke the liquor licenses of clubs offering adult entertainment. Garbis is hearing that case, as well, and granted a preliminary injunction in March 2006 against the state in connection with it due to a possible violation of the 14th Amendment.

"Hopefully this is the last one," Bell said of the case. "Hopefully, the county won't try something like this again."

Don't Hate: Strippers Fight the Government has been accepted to both the Black International Cinema festival in Berlin in May and the Hollywood Black Film Festival in June.