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Friday, August 8, 2008

Congressman Defends His Burlesque Fundraiser

We had never heard of a member of Congress holding a fundraiser at a Las Vegas burlesque nightclub... until now.

And the culprit is card-carrying conservative Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.). The same Pete Sessions who scolded Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for forcing "their liberal values upon the rest of the country" after their infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime striptease.

But that was then.

Now we learn that Sessions held a racey (for Washington) fundraiser for his leadership political action committee last year at Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce nightclub in Sin City. A description of the club on its web site, which features a scantily clad dancer, reads: "A blue light silhouettes the sax man as one of the sexy, sensual dancers slowly slinks down the stairs to the stage and leans out over the crowd, holding on with only a handful of the world-famous curtain of pearls! Jaws drop and drinks are ignored as the tempo picks up and the dancer steps up, shedding boa, gown and gloves towards the electrifying finale."

The fundraiser was first reported in a little-noticed segment on the public radio show Marketplace last week. Even though, according to Sessions' office, the Marketplace interview with him was conducted back in December, ostensibly to discuss the congressman's role in Rudy Giuliani's now defunct presidential campaign.

Here's a partial transcript of the Marketplace interview:

Sessions: That's right, we do a Las Vegas fundraiser every year and not only raise money, but see Las Vegas. It's a beautiful town.

Henn: Forty Deuce is a strip club.

Sessions: You know, I've never seen that. It is what I would call a burlesque show where there's a woman who comes out and has a dress on... Uh, she never get's naked. There's no nudity, there's no nudity in there.

This is how the club's owner, Ivan Kane, describes his brand of burlesque.

Ivan Kane: The key component would be to have girls who were dancers taking their clothes off, not just girls taking their clothes off.

But the Forty Deuce Web site does not suggest the dancers are nude. And Sessions' chief of staff, Guy Harrison, tells the Sleuth there was no nudity at the fundraiser at all, just good old fashioned burlesque.

"It was as racey as a 1940's movie," Harrison assured us.

Still, it's probably a good thing that Sessions was given his "true blue" award from the Christian conservative Family Research Council and Focus on the Family organizations before holding his burlesque fundraiser. Just a hunch.

Sessions' PAC, called People of Enterprise, Trade and Economic Growth, paid $5,378 to rent out the entire Forty Deuce club last year, according to federal election records. (Instead of going burlesque, Sessions held his PAC's annual Vegas fundraiser this year at the 40/40 sports lounge owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.)

Sessions himself has been known to have an exhibitionist streak -- streak being the operative word.

In 1974, as a college freshman, he participated in a mass streaking rampage across the campus of what was then called Texas State University. As the Sleuth, in a previous incarnation, reported in this subscription-only Roll Call newspaper column in 2004, Sessions bragged about his streaking abilities to the San Antonio News. At the time, he was two weeks shy of his 19th birthday.

"Just taking off your clothes and running around is kind of a free spirit thing," Sessions said.

And so is holding a political fundraiser at a burlesque club in Vegas.

1 comment:

Ginger Valentine said...

Hee Hee! This story was especially funny for the girls in my troupe, The Velvet Kittens; we're a troupe based in Texas.

We tried to tell Mr. Sessions that he didn't have to leave the state to find a good burlesque revue, but he just wouldn't listen!