Thursday, April 16, 2009

This week's LVW Col: Funny While It Lasted

Here's my take for Las Vegas Weekly on the whore-tax proceedings and their, uh, broader purpose. Enjoy. -sf.

Funny While It Lasted
The brothel tax never had a chance, but one thing’s sure: a good time was had by all

For a split second, I lost my cool and my mind. That’s always fun.

I was in a small conference room at the Sawyer State Office Building in Downtown Las Vegas crowded with people who hate prostitution (because they love prostitutes) watching the feed from Carson City where the most surreal public hearings to take place anywhere in America this year were under way.

The folks in Nevada’s capital had had their say, for the most part. State Sen. Bob Coffin, who sponsored the bill that might have assessed a $5 tax on every legally sold sex act in the state, had laid out his views. A bevy of babes-for-sale spoke up in support, as did Dennis Hof—the Moonlite Bunny Ranch owner—and a few others.

Finally it was Las Vegas’ turn to contribute to the proceedings, and I couldn’t have been more excited. The people who hate prostitution (because they love prostitutes) had waited patiently through dullsville chatter from the Senate Taxation Committee about money for cops, something about property taxes and some other blah-blah-blah before, finally, the discussion had turned to the good stuff: whores!

It began slowly with some guy in Vegas who was incorrectly introduced as being in favor of the whore tax but who instead read a letter from a nun who hates prostitution (because she loves prostitutes). But it then got good in a jiffy when prominent anti-prostitution activist Melissa Farley insisted all legal prostitutes need to be rescued, but, anyway, the idea of the state taxing this crime against humanity would amount to “legislative pimping.”

Awesome, I thought. The bar is set high now! Here we go! Let’s see how totally nuts the rest of these folks can get!

But as Farley finished, the feed from Carson City switched to some other hearing. The Vegas crowd, which had just started sharpening its pitchforks, was short-circuited. A secretary came in to explain that the Taxation Committee had run long thanks to the earlier snooze festival on serious tax matters, and anyone who hadn’t testified could fax or e-mail their views to Sen. Coffin and friends.

I was furious. I claimed to be furious on behalf of all the people who hate prostitution (because they love prostitutes) because they were being deprived of their ability to speak and because this outage interfered with my ability to observe as a working journalist.

Yet as I muttered my righteous indignation to the hapless secretary and then barreled out of Sawyer, I caught myself. I wasn’t angry because First Amendment rights were being trampled or because I was missing a news event I needed to cover. (It turned out the hearing was halted when the Vegas feed stopped, so I missed nothing.)

No, I was angry for the same reason my mom used to get pissed when some news event interrupted her soap opera: Somebody had interrupted a good show.

And then, suddenly, I realized: It was just a show.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.