Strip club attorney Roger Jon Diamond was on the radio last week, railing against a Los Angeles ordinance to protect us from lap dancing and related hanky-panky that spills onto neighborhood streets.
If we're worried about vice in the community, Diamond suggested on KPCC's Larry Mantle show, why aren't we clamping down on churches?
I thought it was a bit of a stretch, but the idea resonated for me as the week wore on. While I was interviewing strippers, whose candor was commendable, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony made headlines again for resisting full disclosure on sex abuse inquiries.
Let's start with the lap dancing.
The proposed ordinance, which calls for a 6-foot distance between dancers and clients, struck me as frivolous. This is Los Angeles, center of the porn industry, home of the Playboy Mansion, and international purveyor of celluloid sex and desire.
We're worried about a little lap dancing among consenting adults?
At a City Council hearing, one dancer said she has an 85-year-old client who likes to lie down with her and cuddle in a private VIP room at her San Fernando Valley club. When I told this to a friend who's a doctor, he said: "Shouldn't cuddling be a Medicare benefit?"
I went to the club but couldn't find the cuddler. Instead I found Bambi, who said there's no sex in her neck of the woods, and that the lap dancing ban would practically wipe out her income.
But at another club in the Valley, the majority of entertainers I talked to saw it differently.
Lap dancing can get out of control, they said, because some of the randier boys like bending the rules. And some dancers don't mind "doing a little extra," as one entertainer put it. All they've got to do is slip a bouncer some protection money to look the other way.
Dancers said prostitution goes on inside the club, which has private lairs, and outside as well. That makes it harder to compete for dancers who play it straight.
"It's a brothel in here," complained one performer, who said she's rooting for the lap dance ban.
She might not win friends for her honesty, but moments after leaving the stage of the burlesque house, she's giving us all a lesson in morality.
What this stripper is preaching, quite clearly, is that breaking the law and sweeping the evidence under the rug is not just immoral in God's eyes, but it taints all exotic dancers and undermines their institution in the long run.
It's a sermon I regret the good cardinal wasn't around to hear.
You may recall that at the height of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, Mahony offered himself up as the vicar and spiritual leader of the cleanup.
"We want every single thing to be out, open and dealt with, period," he said at the time.
And yet, as L.A. County prosecutors pressed their plea for personnel files on suspected molesters, Mahony told them: Sorry, that's top secret.
On the national scene, Mahony and other U.S. bishops congratulated themselves last year for finally acknowledging they needed to throw open the doors and root out the bad priests. They set up a National Review Board and invited members to have a look around.
You could have argued that the fix was in when they picked an unabashedly devout Catholic, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, to peek behind the curtain. But Keating was nobody's stooge.
Keating told The Times' Larry Stammer that dealing with the bishops is like dealing with La Cosa Nostra. According to the ex-Gov., Mahony tried to head off a drive to determine how many molestations have been reported to church officials nationwide.
Keating called the resistance of bishops stunning and startling, and said he encountered "an underside" of the church "that I never knew existed."
Mahony, as you might have heard, isn't one to turn the other cheek.
The survey was flawed, he cried with indignation, calling Keating "off the wall," and questioning his fitness to serve on the review board. Then some weak-kneed board members caved, called Keating's tantrum inappropriate and ill-timed, and gunned for his ouster. Saturday night, Keating's spokesman said the former governor would quit.
For years, the church has needed someone to stand up and scream about a cover-up that continues to this day. He finally surfaces, and the bishops put together a hit squad.
Keating was right. Don Corleone would have been impressed. But Keating was wrong about another observation. He said the problem with Mahony is that he listens to his lawyers instead of his heart.
He doesn't listen to anyone.
I was dead wrong last year when I said, during one of the cardinal's spin jobs, that he should have gone into public relations.
The church would have been on its way to recovery if Mahony had gotten everything out in the open from the start. By holding back, he's dragged out the scandal, demoralized clergy and torpedoed his standing as a spokesman for social justice.
Now victims of abuse by priests are urging parishioners to ignore the basket this Sunday, and instead donate their money to charities.
That shouldn't surprise anyone. As the enlightened stripper reminded us, anything less than the truth can cost you in the end, and I don't think they were just talking about commerce.
On Judgment Day, we'll all stand naked before the Maker.
Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.