Judo Chop Suey

September 5, 2006
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If not for the Danish Festival in Greenville, West Michigan might never have realized that it is home to a surprisingly out-of-place cottage industry: judo erotica. Cascade Township firm Lusa Entertainment made headlines last week when the festival removed its reigning queen for appearing in one of the company’s fantasy wrestling videos.

Apparently, the company has carved itself quite a niche in the online world. It’s not about female dancers; it’s about wrestling. Co-owner Jasmine Tuttle offers private matches to interested partners. A student of judo, jujitsu and wrestling, a match with Tuttle runs $300 an hour.   Sybil Starr, another Lusa wrestler available for shows in the Grand Rapids area, trains with former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Dan “The Beast” Severn and is a featured performer in his Michigan-based minor league professional wrestling circuit, Price of Glory Wrestling. POG!, as it’s commonly known, is hosting an event Sept. 17 at Michigan Sports Camps in Coldwater: “POG! Presents: Intrusion. Plastic wrapped to preserve freshness.”
  • On a related note, Sensations, the region’s flagship strip club, has now declared itself a “bikini bar.” Similar in fashion to Tini Bikini’s, which quietly opened on South Division two years ago, the new Sensations is not technically a sexually-oriented business.
If the Parkway Tropics and Little Red Barn follow suit, Sensations proprietor Mark London, whose attempt to open a downtown strip club prompted the city ban, believes this will create an enormous opportunity for any entrepreneur with enough chutzpah to get a strip club off the ground. “If anyone in the region were to open a place anywhere right now, they’d do fantastic,” London said. “There is nothing else. But I think trying to open a place in Wyoming, Kentwood or anywhere else would be harder than in Grand Rapids — just about impossible.” And he should know, London admitted; he’s looked into locations everywhere from Marne to Ada, and Sparta to Wayland. Rumor has it Parkway Tropics proprietor J.R. Sayfee once had plans to open a location blocks away from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, but backed away under pressure from Cascade Township officials. Always good for a quote, London was admittedly disappointed by his U.S. District Court hearing two weeks ago. He had been dreading the appearance since learning that Federal District Court Chief Judge Robert Holmes Bell had drawn the case, and the judge did not disappoint. What London didn’t expect was that his lawyers would get trounced as they did. Scott Bergthold looked like the smartest man in the room,” London said of the costly Tennessee attorney brought in to defend the strip club ban by the city. Two points were especially annoying to London. First, that Bell had apparently not read his lawyers’ brief, which quoted Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with “This is not to say that a municipality can get away with shoddy data or reasoning” — or the judge likely would not have torn apart a lawyer for repeating it. No. 2: He did not feel the lawyers were able to articulate why the identities of the donors to Michigan Decency Action Council’s city-defense fund should be revealed. Bell argued that the fund was no different than Frederik Meijer donating money for a new zoo. Both sides are looking ahead to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. With that in mind, there is still a strong possibility Bell will grant discovery of the fund donors. After all, if the appeals court decides differently, Bell may wish he had known the donor identities. Bell’s son is Rob Bell, Mars Hill megachurch founder.
  • The WBCT-FM 93.7 morning show is up for a Country Music Award for the Medium Market Broadcast Personality of the Year. Neal Dionne and Reese Richards of “Neal and Reese, The Moy’nin Boys” are the only Michigan nominees in any category and one of the few representatives of the Midwest. The award show is in November.
  • The Right Place Inc. President Birgit Klohs is making her first trip to China this week as guest of the Midwest U.S.-China Association. This puts her four trips behind Right Place Vice President Ray DeWinkle, and 40 trips behind JSJ Corp. President Nelson Jacobsen
  • The West Michigan business climate is certainly marked by the number of long-term economic development initiatives seeded by Amaway/Alticor founders Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, and the continued beneficence of their heirs, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. And the West Michigan business community is as steeped in politics as any metropolitan area.
But “the employees of Amway” apparently want clear separation. The corporation called a press conference last week because, according to the public relations staff, employees believe they are being made a target of attack in the Michigan campaign for governor. Parent company Alticor unleashed a blitz of TV, radio and online ads Thursday that feature a number of its 4,000 Michigan-based employees talking one-on-one with audiences about what makes the company a great place to work. In a conference call last week, Rob Zeiger, director of corporate communications, said the company has taken to the airwaves with its “I Am Amway” ad campaign because it believes Amway’s good name has become collateral damage in a political debate. “We think that’s the way the debate has turned, and we’re tired of it,” he said. “This is the name that holds up our business in 80 percent of the world. We guard that brand very jealously, and we don’t like the thought that there are things out there being said about us and things that are out there online. We think our reality is a lot better than what’s being said.” The ads do not carry any political message, Zeiger said. The Amway name, he said, is being used as a scare word in the increasingly heated political banter, long anticipated as DeVos and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are nearly tied in pre-election polling. “This is a company where Republicans and Democrats both work,” Zeigler commented. “This is a company where Republicans and Democrats are both respected. We’re not in this to influence anything. Quite frankly, the money we’re spending on these ads we would much rather be spending on keeping our business running. We’re a little peeved that we’ve got to get out there and put ourselves out on the airwaves to keep our name clean because others are in the mood to bruise it up.” And some would say it’s a brilliant stroke in the Michigan campaign. Even if the Dems were to take issue with the “true intent” of the ads and go to court, the issue won’t be heard until the ad blitz is finished. But then, every appearance by Gov. Granholm is considered political grandstanding in what is now surely the silly season.
  • Of historic note: Longtime Herman Miller designer and icon Bill Stumpf, father of the Aeron chair, died last week.    

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