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Laff Stop: Victim of Comedy Boom Gone Bust : Clubs: Santa Ana Heights venue now features topless dancing most of the week. Stand-up takes the stage only on Fridays and Saturdays.

February 10, 1993|RICK VANDERKNYFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In talking to other club owners and reading trade journals, Rossi slowly came to the conclusion that "there was no future in comedy." That led to the decision to start the "Newport Fantasy" show.

Moving to the revue format allows the club, now open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., to tap into the lunch crowd. Rossi stressed the "theatrical" nature of the show, which he said will be further emphasized with more rehearsal and planned stage effects.

Business has started strongly, he said. "We've been well-received by the business community. . . . We're getting doctors, lawyers. (The parking lot) looks like Jim Slemons Mercedes Benz at night."

The county, of course, could stand in the way of Rossi's designs. While he didn't discuss details of his lawsuit, he said: "I know the law. I'm running this club to the letter of the law and then some."

If Rossi comes out on top in his standoff with the county, it won't be the first time a comedy club has turned to topless entertainment. The legendary Hungry i in San Francisco, which helped launch such comics as Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby and Mort Sahl in the '50s (as well as such folk-music acts as the Kingston Trio and Odetta) has been a topless joint for years.

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