Sex sells, but in San Francisco it's also inclined to give. So one would think after observing the apparent largesse of local strip club magnate Joe Carouba. To date, he's bequeathed perhaps $100,000 to a Top of Broadway Community Benefit District, hoping to ramp up security, clean the street detritus, and beautify the den of vice he's helped to create.
His 10 local strip clubs have also amassed more than $250,000 for children in need, via a decade of annual toy drives to benefit the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 Union. Starting November 14, all clubs under the aegis of Carouba's company, BSC Management, will offer free admission to patrons who bring an unwrapped toy worth $20 or more. They'll also present nightly "charity" dances, during which strippers donate a portion of all proceeds into a fund for the toy program.
Despite rumblings of protest from Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, who at first snubbed the $20,000 check that a consortium of strip clubs offered the Fire Fighters Union Toy Program in 2011, BSC spokesman Axel Sang says the program has been a rousing success. "We've had VIPs donate UHauls full of bikes," he says, indicating that numerous local children benefit from these philanthropic fetes each year.
The fire department eventually acquiesced. Spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge says it has no authority over donors, since union members administer the toy program. A union spokesman says that Local 798 merely accepts checks and distributes the proceeds, regardless of their source.
Perhaps it shouldn't surprise anyone that strip club beneficence has become a tradition in San Francisco, which, as we've reported previously, is two venues shy of being a company town for BSC and its parent conglomerate, Deja Vu Entertainment. (Crazy Horse and O'Farrell Theater are the only clubs that don't bear the Deja Vu imprimatur.) Aside from funding the Broadway Community Benefit District, Carouba has chipped in for St. James Infirmary Sex Workers Clinic and a bevy of other nonprofits, four of which turned down a $4,330 gift in 2003. He declined to comment for this post.
But no one appears to be questioning this year's sexy toy drive, which lasts until December 18 and could generate another $20,000 in alms. In previous years Local 798 harvested donations from several forms of adult entertainment, including poker tournaments and bare chest calendars. That may be the new normal for local philanthropy, as BSC becomes more enmeshed in San Francisco's civic fabric, and its owner recasts himself as a benefactor.