Funny Thing ... the Arts

ALBANY — A Tax Appeals Tribunal has rejected a judge’s finding that the Nite Moves exotic dance club near Albany qualified for a sales tax exemption on the grounds that exotic dances on stage and in private booths were “dramatic or musical arts performances.”
— The Associated Press (April 27, 2010)

Nice try, Nite Moves, but the performers at Club Juana (get it?) in Casselberry, Fla., could have told you this ruse wasn’t going to work.

Back in June 1999 (we here at Column Central have very thorough files on such topics), performers at the club challenged a then-new anti-nudity law by classing up their act with a little Shakespeare.

The Club Juana Institute for the Performing Arts, or whatever the performers called themselves, staged the opening witches scene from “Macbeth.” “Double, double toil and trouble; Our names are Crystal, Jade and Bubbles.”

The club owner said the show was legit, since the law exempted “bona fide performances.” Seminole County officials, however, said everyone should know that “bona fide performances” refers to legitimate theater. But we ask you, if “Macbeth” isn’t legitimate theater — even if with a soundtrack of Donna Summer hits — what is?

The law-writers of Seminole County struck us at the time as being a tad elitist. If “Macbeth” is good enough for the dames and dandies of Florida’s creme de la creme, it certainly ought to be good enough for Joe Sixpack and his buddies at the the Club Juana Academy of Fine Arts, or whatever they called the place.

So “Macbeth” it was, with the performers hoping lines like “Say, from whence you owe this strange intelligence? Or why upon this blasted heath you stop our way with such prophetic greeting?” would somehow obscure the fact that the soliloqueens were dressed more for the beach than the stage.

It didn’t work. The club owner and three of the thespians were promptly arrested.

Talk about tough critics.

Well, the gang at New York’s Tax Appeals Tribunal wasn’t much easier to placate.

“We reject the argument that petitioner’s place of business constituted a ‘theatre, opera house, concert hall or other hall or place of assembly for a live dramatic, choreographic or musical performance’ for purposes of the tax statute (Tax Law §1101[d][5]),” the panel said, according to an account by the New York Law Journal. “As the Court stated in Matter of 1605 Book Center, ‘what was omitted from the exemptions was not intended to be excluded from the otherwise comprehensive taxable sweep of section 1105(f)(1).’”

Leave it to a bunch of tax experts to put you to sleep while talking about adult entertainment.

So there you have it. Shakespeare is out at the Club Juana, they’ve lost their sales tax exemption at Nite Moves, and I’m suddenly much less excited about the tickets I have for this weekend’s performance at the Plausibly Legitimate Playhouse of  “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each Sunday in the Daily Messenger. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com.