I just looked back at the column I wrote for March 13, 2010. It was about the strip club proposed by Terry Stephenson offering topless dancing at The Oasis on Mountain Drive.
Having failed in his bid, he redoubled his efforts, setting his sights on Airport Road because it was considered industrial zoning, and thus suitable for such businesses.
My column drew such a lot of hate email and hate comments online I expected an angry, torch-bearing mob to show up at my door. After getting my head verbally ripped off, I laid low and spoke no more on the topic of Destin’s cloning itself as Sodom and Gomorrah. When Mr. Stephenson was shot to death outside one of his clubs in Atlanta, I felt a little remorseful over my disparagement of him. That “speaking ill of the dead” kind of guilt.
Well, here we go again. The Sin City Monster has re-emerged.
I’m going to repeat the opening lines of that 2010 column just to demonstrate what a narrow-minded, puritanical old biddy I am:
Once upon a time, Airport Road was not Airport Road. There was no airport, nor anything else out that way. It was a rough stretch of dust and potholes, but it served its purpose.
Known then as “Garbage Dump Road,” it led to our little village’s dumping ground for residential trash back in the 1950s.
Then came, with paving, the modest homes, small businesses, a veterinary clinic, later a hospital (now gone), and a small airstrip. And the people looked upon it all and declared it good. Safe Harbor Presbyterian was built in 1982 on the corner of Airport and Main across from the Texaco station. The location of The Destin Log moved there from its tiny quarters on Marler Street in 1984. And the people declared it good. The garbage dump became a fading memory for old residents. But the people still declared it good."
Now the garbage dump is back, but it’s not for coffee grounds, banana peels, egg shells, and yard debris. It’s a dump for another kind of trash. And I can only hope Destin’s citizens will look upon it and declare it NOT GOOD.
It doesn’t take an empirical study to predict the escalation in crime that will descend on Destin with the advent of a strip club, whether it’s on Airport Road or anywhere else in town.
And it really makes no difference whether or not nude dancers gyrate four feet or six feet from patrons. It also doesn’t matter if advertising will be limited or billboards will be restricted. A drunk in heat will follow his nose to the spot without any media directions.
So, it’s only one strip club, and if we don’t like it, we can just not patronize it.
What would prevent other erotically inclined entrepreneurs from following suit, once the precedence has been established? After all, they would say, “It’s only fair.”
Interestingly enough, it seems the city has agreed to expedite permit applications to allow alcohol to be sold in the bar even if it violates a law that prohibits the sale of alcohol at businesses within 1,000 feet of a church. In this case, Safe Harbor Presbyterian. Funny, I remember when First Baptist was building an addition, the permit authorities turned it into a lengthy ordeal of one obstacle after another. The joke at the time was “Gee, if we were building a topless bar, we’d probably get permitted immediately.” Words of prophecy.
Laissez les bons temps rouler, and bring on the drugs, rapes, muggings, and knife fights that will follow.
Call me old-fashioned, moralistic, prudish, Bible-thumping, and bigoted, but don’t ever call me a “sell-out,” like some of our city’s leaders who seem dedicated to turning Destin into a harlot, welcoming every low-life to spend his money with her. Shakespeare said “the evil that men do lives after them.” I think we’re going to find out the truth of that statement the hard way as the garbage dump re-appears, but this time as a refuse heap for human lives.
If there is any blessing in this obscenity, it may be divine intervention that strippers, their clients, and assorted criminals will congregate in the shadow of a church. Pastor James Calderazzo has said, “There is a darkness, a sadness, especially for the women who work in these places. Often they are broken, hurting, and in need. Jesus said to love our neighbor, and that includes this neighbor on Airport Road.”
True, no one makes strippers sell themselves as objects to be leered at. But it’s important to acknowledge them as human beings who just may be earning a living this way out of desperate circumstances. And, even if some ladies get a kick out of taking off their clothes for the entertainment of drooling drunks, they deserve kindness, not judgment.
Pastor Calderazzo added, “They need our prayers.”
O.K., I’m done now. Bring on the lynch mob.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.