(The Baltimore Sun, 5/14/1951)
Greek mythology was set back to the tune of $40 in the classic interior of Central Police Court yesterday where an East Baltimore street snake dancer was dressed down by the law for writhing ungarbed in the eyes of snake, public and police.
Facing charges of giving an in-decent performance with her 7-foot reptile on the floor of the Two O’Clock Club runway Saturday night, “Zorita” denied her act was salacious.
Old Legend, He Avers
In fact, maintained her lawyer, the dance was worked up, after considerable research into Greek mythology, to interpret an old Hellenic legend.
Strictly art, eh? mused Magistrate William F. Laukaitis. Could the mythology student refer him to the legend she was interpreting when the cops cried, “Stop!”
“Zorita” obliged with the fable of a young princess and her prince. In her act, she said, she represented the princess dancing with the prince who had been bewitched and transformed into a snake.
Mythology Turns Rusty
Magistrate Laukaitis asked if she could tell him more of this myth.
“Zorita” admitted she could not.
She was a little rusty on her mythology, she said.
A disciple of Terpsichore, muse of the dance, “Zorita” was reaching the climax of her Saturday night show when she offended legal definitions of good taste, said Sergt. Joseph Byrne.
Seated with three other plain-clothes policemen at the bar, Sergeant Byrne noticed the offense, he said, when part of her costume loosened.
He immediately leaped up and shouted, “Stop!”
“I thought it was some jerk in the audience,” explained the mythology student. “So I went on and finished my act and took my bows.”
As for the loosened garment, “Zorita” was outspoken: “The cops claim my costume was loose.” Gingerly rubbing her flanks, she commented, “I don’t see how it could have been any tighter.”
Magistrate Laukaitis gingerly rubbed his chin.
Quickly, “Zorita” added, “The cops must have had x-ray eyes to be able to see—what they claim they saw.”
“Zorita” was garbed in a black fishnet-type of garment that hung about her like old window drapes, Sergeant Byrne testified.
During the climax of her act, the netting was slipped aside to allow closer proximity between artist and snake, Sergeant Byrne said.
And The Eyes Have It
As the snake nestled closer—and closer—and closer—the sergeant’s eyes grew wider—and wider—and wider.
The sergeant’s shock came as something of i surprise to her, “Zorita” said, because she once “gave the same act before the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent Association.”
“And they thought it was wonderful!”
Magistrate Laukaitis levied fines totaling $40 and costs on “Zorita,” who gave her name as Mrs. Ada Petillo and her age as 28.
“It’s possible,” the magistrate said, “that she might have over done it a little at the end of the act
“You know how it is—with all that applause from the crowd.”
“Zorita” was only one of three night-club dancers, arrested Saturday by Sergeant Byrne on indecent-performance charges.
The other two. arrested in the Bettye Mills Club, were dismissed for lack of evidence that they exposed more than the city fathers allow.
Sergeant Byrne testified “both had bumped too much” and “there were too many grinds.” He added that both also were “making suggestive motions with their hips and rolling their eyes in suggestive fashion.”
Replied one: “I can hardly move my eyes. How could I roll ’em?”
No Rule, They Say
Lawyers for the dancers argued that there was no definite rule in Baltimore by which a dancer can tell when she has exceeded the legal number of “bumps and grinds.”
There followed a conference before the magistrate’s desk among Magistrate Laukaitis, the attorneys and the police.
At its conclusion, it was suggested that Sergeant Byrne and his men make an investigative tour of all clubs in “The Block” to see what the general practice is among strippers. “I think that,” said Sergeant Byrne. “is a good idea.”
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