Monday, February 06, 2012

Baltimore Vice

The Night They Raided the 14Karat Cabaret
July 17, 1993

14Karat Cabaret director Laure Drogoul (photo by Kirsten Beckerman)

I was digging through the piles of yellowing newspaper clippings I've accumulated over the years and came across this City Paper article by Associate Editor Sono Motoyama (who loved any story involving sex) from July 23, 1993. It described a vice squad bust of Laure Drogoul's 14Karat Cabaret during an evening of performance art - an event I attended. As I recall, the performer who caused all the fuss was Jeffrey Clagett (aka "Hermaphrodite"), a local hairdresser and Cher impersonator who was a member of that evening's Haus of Frau ensemble; he distributed the fliers advertising "Free Blow Jobs" that caught the eye of the city vice squad, who should have known better because there's no such thing as a free munch. - Tom Warner

14Karat Cabaret Director Locked Up on Permit Violations

by Sono Motoyama (City Paper, July 23, 1993)

Responding to a flier announcing a "Biggest Dick Contest" and "Free Blow Jobs" at the 14Karat Cabaret, plain-clothes officers from the central district vice unit of the Baltimore City police department and a representative from the city's zoning enforcement agency descended on 14Karat Cabaret late Saturday evening, July 17, the cabaret's final performance for the season.

Finding no violations of the type implied by the flier at the cabaret, part of Maryland Art Place (MAP), a nonprofit arts organization and gallery on West Saratoga Street, police arrested cabaret director Laure Drogoul for permit violations.

According to sector supervisor Sergeant John Baker, who was at the scene, Drogoul was charged with "operating a business without a permit and selling alcohol without a license." Licenses are required by the city and state for venues offering live entertainment and serving alcohol.

After being handcuffed and taken to the central district lockup in a paddy wagon, Drogoul spent about 13 hours locked up downtown. She was released Sunday on her own recognizance. Reached Monday afternoon, Drogoul said that she "forgot" to get a temporary liquor license as, she maintains, she has done during every cabaret performance except Saturday's.

Jack Rasmussen, director of MAP, speaking of the cabaret's lack of a permit for live entertainment, said, "We though we had all the permits we needed...We always thought we had all the permits we needed...We always thought of ourselves as an art gallery with performance art."

"You may call it art. They may call it entertainment," interjected Drogoul.

"We've been here for eleven years," noted Rasmussen, "and the cabaret's been here for four years, and it's never come up before. You have to be an attorney to figure it out.

The cabaret, which was characterized by one central district lieutenant as "primarily a homosexual or gay club," featured as emcees on Saturday night the Headhuntresses XXXtraordinaire, a duo who wore dildoes strung around their waists. Also on the bill were the experimental music group the Recordings, saxophonists John Eaton and Nancy Sexten, and Haus of Frau, a drag-queen performance group. It was the Haus of Frau who printed and distributed the fliers announcing the fictitious "Biggest Dick Contest" and "Free Blow Jobs."

"[The police officers] wanted vice and they didn't get vice," said Drogoul, "and they were just angry and looking to find anything they could. They had six [officers] here and a paddy wagon. I wonder why they weren't picking up real prostitutes on Read Street and Howard Street three blocks away. Our tax money could be better spent cleaning up crime and violence on the street."

Drogoul said she was taken across town while still wearing the gold lame dress she wore to introduce the Headhuntresses, and she was fingerprinted and photographed at the police station. She calims she was not told she had been arrested and not read her rights.

"It was very unpleasant," she said. "They just didn't like what they saw. They probably saw acts the didn't understand and music they didn't like." She characterized the officers as "mean and rude."

In a peripheral arrest, Joseph T. Brady, a comedian and a receptionist, was arrested outside MAP for disorderly conduct. After police asked everyone to leave the cabaret, Brady and some friends were standing outside MAP's front door. While waiting, they saw Drogoul being led away in handcuffs and driven off.

"We tried to find out why they were taking her away," Brady said, When he and his friends were told to disperse, Brady answered that he was waiting for a pizza he had ordered from a nearby shop. "Then they arrested me," Brady said. "I didn't expect it. When we were talking to the police, we weren't aware how serious they were being. We were upset and trying to find out what was going on. I don't believe we were going outside of our rights." Instead of enjoying his mushroom-and-onion pie, Brady commented, he spent about 12 hours locked up.

Tom Warner (an occasional City Paper contributor), who was with Brady at the time, said, "All [the pizza-parlor owners] were concerned about was who's gonna pay for the pizza. They did give us a bonus Pepsi, though - the incarceration special."


Below is the infamous Haus of Frau flier:

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