What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 7, 2009

Uh, You Might Wanna Take A Look At This

Jerome Sherman and Rich Lord have the story:

A racy Strip District club at which a man died Sunday was threatened with closure by the city of Pittsburgh in August but it was allowed to continue to operate after its politically connected owners approached city officials.

Although Club Pittsburgh is zoned as a health and fitness center, the city initially ordered it to close because of other adult-related activities that didn't comply with its operating permit. The club's Web site has pictures of nude and partially clothed men in erotic poses and a complaint filed with the city claimed there was open sexual activity at the club.

Those owners, Peter Karlovich and Steven Herforth, hold political fundraisers at their Mount Washington home, including one for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in May 2007. When the Bureau of Building Inspection threatened to close the club, they appealed to Council President Doug Shields, and then to the mayor's Chief of Staff Yarone Zober, who connected them with city lawyers.

After talks with the club, the city lawyers told building inspectors to let it stay open pending discussions that never occurred.

There seem to be two different stories going on here. First is the procedural zoning story - was the place doing business in a way proscribed by the city's zoning laws and if it was did it get the city to look the other way with some well-placed political donations. And second is the lascivious sex story - Ohmigodohmigodohmigod gay men having sex! At a health club! And buying lubricant! And watching porn! In Pittsburgh!

Somehow I suspect that had the details of the second story been different, the first would not be so prominent.

But I could be wrong.

Questions? Comments? Remarks? Drop me an email.

UPDATE from reader CZ:
Anyway, it seemed to me that a key element of the story was/is the dead body. Without that, it wouldn't have been in the paper, or at least not at the top of the front page.

And just to beat the PG editorial board to the cliche ... this story gives a whole new meaning to pay to play!
That is true. At the core of the whole story is the tragedy of the man's death. I would not wish for anyone reading my posting to think that that wasn't worth mentioning. On the other hand, I was commenting on the P-G's coverage of the story. Lord and Sherman (who I genuinely admire) told of the man's death in paragraph 9. The whole story's only 32 paragraphs long, if I counted correctly.

UPDATE from Bram:
I think you're wrong. The Post-Gazette has been on its horse regarding pay to play schemes for some time now, and almost all of it has been above-the-fold prominent. Now, if the teevee news starts covering this story in a way that it failed to with Hill District parking lot contracts, we'll know it's being sensational. (Not that I'll complain. We could totally use some sensationalism up in herre.)
UPDATE about this story:
In the interest of full disclosure, the other political junkie informed me this afternoon that she's been to at least one political fundraiser at the home mentioned in the P-G story.
UPDATE from reader MB:
On June 30, 2008, a resident called the city's 311 help line, saying that she went in seeking a health club, but instead found that "pornographic movies were being displayed. They [sic] were men engaging in live sex acts everywhere. The facility also rents rooms for use," as the city's notes on the complaint put it.
--->This women is lying. Women are not allowed in the clubhouse.

and she called 311 to find a health club. Who would do that? There would have to be a log record of this call. Sloppy reporting by the PG.
Update from Ed Heath:
Um, I think MB might have misunderstood part of the PG story. I don't think the anonymous woman mentioned in the story called 311 to find a health club, I think she called 311 to complain. I couldn't tell from a quick glance at Club Pittsburgh's web site whether it is actually men only, but it is absolutely oriented towards (gay) men. I don't see how anyone could mistake Club Pittsburgh for a health club only, from its website. Which brings up a disturbing point, given the Club's emphasis on sex, are their any protections against minors gaining entry? Not to be a nag, but that's one of the reasons there are zoning regulations.

Unfortunately I think Ravenstahl will get away with denying an improprieties on the part of the Mayor’s office. Maybe someone from the building inspectors office will be fired, even though I think anyone who saw even the current website would have a clue what Club Pittsburgh is all about. It would be nice if Ravenstahl could actually focus on what needs to happen going forward, but instead it appears he wants to focus on whether someone said anything negative about him
UPDATE from JC:
WHAT WOULD LUKE AND FRIENDS RESPONSE HAVE BEEN, IF THE "CLUB" WAS A HOUSE OF PROSTITUTION ? GAY SEX IS OK ,BUT PROSTITUTION IS ILLEGAL? DO YOU THINK THE POLICE WERE BEING PAID TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY ? WERE THE POLICE UNAWARE OF THE ACTIVITY GOING ON AT THE 'HEALTH' CLUB ?
DIDN’T ZAPPALA AND FRIENDS JUST ARREST A GROUP PLYING THEIR TRADE ON CRAIG'S LIST?
THE REAL STORY HERE IS THE COMPLICITY OF LAW 'ENFORCEMENT'
Note: JC's email was in all caps. That's how it arrived in my mailbox.