Hustler Club seeking local families to benefit from not-so-topless fundraiser

First Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club couldn’t deliver on a key point of its advertised topless sky dive for charity: female jumpers landed with torsos covered.

Beyond missed shock value, the establishment now has a bigger problem with showing off its generosity: The nonprofit billed as the beneficiary of the July Fourth “Flight of the Tatas” won’t take the cash.

Managers at the cabaret plan to eliminate the middleman — Living Beyond Breast Cancer — and give the $20,000 to Las Vegas Valley locals affected by the disease. They will pick five families to receive $4,000 each, and it will be a contest.

Anyone interested just has to email the Hustler Club, at jrabbit@vegashustlerclub.com, and explain how breast cancer has taken a toll.

Recipients must fill out the proper tax forms and sign releases to allow their stories, and possibly their pictures, to be linked to club promotions.

Hearing that Pennsylvania-based Living Beyond Breast Cancer, focused on breast cancer education and support, said no to the donation was disappointing, Hustler Club manager Jessica Cottrill said. But she and her employees want to help, and now they’re reaching folks on their own.

“It was raised for a purpose,” Cottrill said. “So instead of going to another charity and another charity and another charity, we’ll just give it to the families directly. That way can pay their bills or whatever they need it for.”

The Hustler Club is still accepting applicants for the money and will make its choices in mid-September.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer spokesman Kevin Gianotto said Friday that miscommunication messed things up. A now-former employee at the nonprofit discussed details with the strip club, but that worker didn’t follow Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s protocol to let top managers know. Connecting the organization to potentially high-profile fundraisers requires board approval.

Topless sky diving falls into that category, Gianotto said, but he and other leaders didn’t know about the event until the day before it happened — when it turned up in a news release. Had there been conversation earlier, he said, Living Beyond Breast Cancer probably would have taken the money. It has accepted cash from gentlemen’s clubs before.

“It was a generous offer, and we were very appreciative,” Gianotto said. “But it really boils down to the fact that we ask for a process to be followed, and that wasn’t done.”

With pink-themed Breast Cancer Awareness Month coming up in October, more businesses and organizations might talk about proper ways to support a cause.

Chapters of Susan G. Komen, probably the best-known breast cancer-fighting organization, follow national guidelines when it comes to accepting money from certain companies, said Stephanie Kirby, executive director of the Southern Nevada affiliate. That’s to protect the organization, but also because the sponsor receives benefits: Many nonprofits send information about the businesses to their lengthy contact lists.

On the banned list are gentlemen’s clubs, gun manufacturers or “companies that are reasonably likely to bring disrepute to the Komen organization or brand.” That means enterprises that primarily produce pornography or other sexually explicit products. Money raised solely from the sale of alcohol also is not allowed. Gambling revenue is OK.

“Any time we say no to something like that we get both sides,” Kirby said. “One side says, ‘Good for you for saying no when the reputation might be a little questionable,’ and the other side is, ‘Oh, you think you’re too good for that money?’ ”

Many say using terms like “tatas” or promoting topless events sexualize the disease and demeans women. Also, men can get breast cancer.

The Hustler Club caught some flack in the breast cancer section of the blogosphere, Cottrill said. She recognizes the taboo of her industry.

It was evident the day of the jump, with Metropolitan Police Department officers on site to look for nudity. All they saw was shirtless men. The Federal Aviation Administration had to grant permission for the event because it cut into McCarran International Airport airspace. After doing so the agency emphasized its focus was safety, not “content of the activity.”

But for a woman paying for her own treatment or that of a loved one, Cottrill said, where the money comes from shouldn’t matter.”

“That’s the least of her concerns,” Cottrill said. “We’ll take the long scenic route around to make the donations.”

Contact reporter Adam Kealoha Causey at acausey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0361. Follow @akcausey on Twitter.