The Oasis Goodtime Emporium, the nude-dancing nightclub in Doraville fighting for its life, has hitched its survival to a legal argument before the Georgia Supreme Court: It should remain open because it qualifies as a “serious” art venue.
This artistic endeavour includes contortionists, burlesque dancers, body painters, and soon a former Republican state legislator — and Trump delegate — in a tux, top hat and fishnet stockings as master of ceremonies.
When we last met former state Rep. Jill Chambers, her life was caving in — a bankruptcy, a divorce, a foreclosure, a court-ordered freezing of her campaign funds and a bitter political defeat.
The Republican from DeKalb County winced when I brought up the waning era of her elected career that ended in 2010.
“Not my best time,” she said shaking her head. “That was when they said I was sleeping with Vernon Jones.”
That was the rumor spreading in 2008 when she opposed the movement to turn Dunwoody into a city. Word was she was in bed (literally) with the Democratic CEO of DeKalb.
It was not true, she announced from the well of the House of Representatives in one of the more peculiar public addresses in the annals of the Gold Dome.
Today, Chambers has reinvented herself from a pudgy and distressed pol to a fit and confident — albeit still quirky — consultant who has become the public face of several metro Atlanta adult businesses.
Americans love second acts, and Jill Chambers has carved out a doozy.
“I was below zero at age 48 when I left the Legislature, so I had to work for clients who paid me well,” she said.
During an interview this week at the Fellini’s pizza in Buckhead, Chambers suddenly straightened up at the table and flexed a bicep.
“Feel it,” she said.
“I can dead lift 175 pounds now,” the 53-year-old said with a cackle. “Apparently my butt and hips are perfect for dead lifts. I’m sexier now.”
Then she grows serious, talking about her daily weight-lifting regimen that changed her being.
“It has been transformative,” she said. “I’m more self-confident. I’m better mentally, emotionally and physically.”
I suppose you need to be in a much better space in your head if you’re planning to sashay out on stage in fishnet stockings and high heels.
Her new career path, she said, is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Upon leaving the Legislature, and the loss of her family art business, Chambers worked for a private investigator and later as a researcher for a litigation law firm. She used her knowledge of land use, zoning, and how to comply with city and county ordinances to set up a community improvement district (CID).
Then the Pink Pony came calling.
The “Pony,” as it is known, is another emporium along Buford Highway, one that was minding its own business when it was gobbled up when Brookhaven incorporated. The club then faced closure as the new City Council members deemed it unseemly to have nude women jiggling in their jurisdiction.
Chambers said she helped the club and surrounding businesses draw up a plan of de-annexation, a move that gave the Pink Pony leverage to forge a compromise with the city to stay open.
Soon, the Oasis called, she said.
The 26-year-old Oasis, which sits along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard outside I-285, was likewise minding its own business when the Legislature placed the club inside the limits of an expanded city of Doraville. City Council members, shocked to discover nude dancing was suddenly inside their city limits, decided to act to ensure that patrons couldn’t drink alcohol AND look at nude women at the same time.
The city and its attorney chose not to comment for this story.
Doraville’s move against the club led to litigation and ultimately to the state Supreme Court, where the case was argued last week.
Despite the seeming finality that the name Supreme Court brings, a pending decision seems to mean little more than another bump in a long legal road. These cases linger forever because of the wily Alan Begner, the bearded, pony-tailed legal brain of Atlanta’s adult industry.
Hence, the re-branding of Oasis as a serious artistic venue means Begner sees a legal loophole he can drive a truck through.
Begner said ex-legislator Chambers has been savvy in dealing with the city councils in Brookhaven and Doraville — and with the artistic direction.
“I’m excited by the return of (dancers using) the hula hoop,” he said. And, oddly, so was I.
In interviews, Begner and Chambers stayed true to the story line that it’s not gyrating, naked ladies and boozed-up men. It’s art, art, art!
“They are not strippers, they’re professional dancers,” said Chambers. “It’s like a Vegas show. Oasis is now a mainstream performing venue showcasing the beauty of the human form.”
She lets loose a hearty guffaw before returning to the seriousness of the matter.
“We run such a clean club that law enforcement officers bring their dates there,” she said. “Many employees of Oasis have worked there for 20 years. You don’t see people working anywhere for 20 years these days.”
Chambers was always a bit of an odd bird in the GOP caucus. Yes, she dutifully beat up on MARTA, as Republican legislators are wont to do. But in 2004, she was the only Republican in the 236-member Legislature to vote against putting an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot.
“I’m very libertarian but a fiscal conservative,” said Chambers, who was an early supporter of Donald Trump because she likes his promise to shake up political life.
As to politicians, she has a theory about those who oppose adult entertainment.
“It’s Democratic women and Republican men who don’t like clubs,” she declared.
“It’s third-rate feminism from the Democratic women, the victim mentality. And the Republican men? (She smiles and pauses.) I don’t know what they’re trying to compensate for.”