The Left of Center adult bookstore closed its doors in April, but during its time its two sets of owners and managers accumulated scores of interesting items, some of them gained by attending prominent international porn conventions.
At those annual confabs they rubbed elbows with some the biggest adult movie stars, going out to dinner or just hanging out. As a result, they came home with some impressive memorabilia.
The shop, which unlike most suburban adult bookstores had about any genre you could ask for, ended a several-year run by clearing house of all its merchandise, at very deep price reductions, and the building has been put up for sale. Among the things it had available were dozens of autographed DVDs and posters from some of the most prominent names in the business. Most were for sale and were snapped up fairly quickly, but others were not offered for purchase. One of them was a bondage model, who signed her DVD, is shown doing acts that — let’s just put it this way — wouldn’t seem logistically possible.
The shop’s owners blamed the closing, in part, to a legal battle conducted against them by the city of Hudson, which claimed that it was selling paraphernalia that could be used for smoking drugs. They have said that all proper care was taken to ensure that such items were only used for legal purposes. A sign outside the club’s door on main street pointed to mounting legal costs, in the five-digit range, to defend themselves, and this helped put them out of business. They had catered to patrons in the east metro suburbs, who didn’t want to travel all the way into Minneapolis to obtain their adult items.
There weren’t as many patrons from the immediate area, who probably were squeamish about being seen going in. The shop was never fully accepted locally, as its location was not typical — it was nextdoor to a bike shop that catered to families with small children and was just over a block away from a church. (At least like the bike shop, Left of Center had a pair of very affectionate cats who wouldn’t let you leave without being petted).
The adult bookstore’s former use was an exotic dance club, called Centerfolds, which was even less popular among the local do-gooders, a group of whom picketed the joint for a while, claiming amongst other things that they feared it would bring prostitution. Oddly, there often were freedom of speech counter-picketers across the street, which created a kind of circus sideshow aspect.
The club made news all over the metro area, and I used that popularity to milk the story for all it was worth. I called my contact at the Minneapolis-based Star-Tribune, and he assigned a reporter to meet with me so I could feed him information and collect a nice tip fee. So I ended up sitting with the reporter, for an hour, in a car a block away, watching the picketers as I told him all I knew.
One thing that did not happen was use of a great photo I had of the picketers. Most metro papers are squeamish when it comes to use of a photo by a correspondent, even it its of great quality. Like with stories, the editors feel a need to have the content be their own, so they sent over a photog late at night and all he got was a shot of an empty doorway! But that’s what ran.
A different approach was taken by a prominent national legal publication, which wanted my photo for a story they were doing on the precedent set by the fight against the club. Turns out, despite being rich lawyers, they didn’t pay me anything.
All this time, the matter was playing out in Hudson nightlife, as the entertainers and others at the club would go out for last call after they were done working. The club’s manager told me that whatever politician had the balls to vote for paying for the club to move to a more fitting area, like the industrial park, would reap political hay, as families would benefit from the better location and both sides would save tons on legal costs. Like it or not, he was right.
Some of those same people from the club were doing something a bit more unseemly in trying to recruit female bartenders to strip, they complained. Reminds me of one local server I got to know a few years later, who said she was offered to be flown free to Las Vegas for a weekend of dancing, and be paid $20,000. She turned it down.
But not everyone is so scrupulous. When taking in a band in the former Dibbo’s during the heyday of Centerfolds, a beautiful woman came up to me and said, “are you the one who writes the articles about our club?” What followed was an off-the-cuff interview where I asked her, among other things, do you ever feel less than comfortable when gyrating in front of, say, a toothless 70-year-old with bad breath?
Her answer. “No. It’s a turn-on that they want me that bad.”
Centerfolds’ main owner, the Thor Gunderson, had said that if the city succeeded in closing down his dance club, he would come back with something with even nastier content. He seemed to have succeeded, as Left of Center catered to many kinds of kinky fetishes in its extensive video section, which took up the entire back room where the dancers once were. In front were all kinds of adult novelties, but what made their business unusual was the almost complete absence of magazines.
How do I know so much about Left of Center? As a reporter for a community newspaper, I felt the community had a right to know just what was — and was not — being offered in their midst. So, every once in a while I happened in, (hey, it’s a tough job), just to make sure that the content wasn’t getting too racy, and worthy of a follow-up story. What I found was that at any given time, there was a particular type of kink that seemed to be featured. The aforementioned do-gooders seemed to think that they had won when the strip club closed, but they maybe should have been even more offended but what took its place.
One thing that I felt should have been reported was that, by all accounts, Centerfolds was not as permissive about what the dancers could get away with doing as some other clubs in St. Croix County at the time. Centerfolds even had bouncers sitting from a high perch to watch and see that no touching occurred, various employees said. Again, I felt that the public should know this, but I was essentially censored by the powers-that-be at the Star-Observer, who said that there’s was a family newspaper (whatever that is?) Better to put the mangled aftermath of a car crash on the front page.
Also, in my initial report I had any kind of content edited out that described just what happens at a strip club. It also didn’t go over too well when Gunderson made a stab at being community minded and tried to join the local Rotary Club.
In my first story, reporters became aware that a longtime business at the same site, the Sandbar, had lost it lease. So on a Thursday night, the operators threw an invitation-only party to let’s just say unload their inventory, since they had to be out the next day. That was quite a party.
Over the weekend, it became obvious that extensive remodeling was being done. Everyone assumed another bar and grill was going in. So I went over on Monday night to talk to the owners, thinking I would be doing a brief item about it for the business page. When I walked to the door and was told, “that will be a $5 cover,” I knew something more was afoot. Once inside, I saw that there already were strobe lights — and dancers — flashing.
Gunderson had found a weakness in the city ordinance on cabarets, and moved in quickly. The city fathers were not pleased, and after much legal maneuvering were able to shut the place down, by making a requirement that dancers needed to keep a certain distance from customers. Since the dance room was long and narrow, and the stage had seating on both sides, there was not enough space available to meet the new rule.