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Golden Moments Testimony in the Gold Club trial offers images of our heroes that are, regrettably, hard to forget

If I could offer but one bit of advice to aspiring sports
journalists, it would be this: Have yourselves Scotchgarded, for
you know not where these athletes have been. Or rather, you do
know where these athletes have been--to the Gold Club in Atlanta,
which means that every time you shake the hands of Magic center
Patrick Ewing or Braves outfielder Andruw Jones, you're not
merely shaking their hands, you're also shaking the hands (and
groping the booties) of every Amber, Angel and Ashlee who ever
favored these men, before a live audience, with (in a coinage so
familiar to them) "comped" stripper sex.

Children, use salad tongs when accepting an autograph from nearly
anyone involved in professional basketball, for a former Gold
Club stripper--when asked who else was present during one of
Ewing's VIP-room escapades--replied, "The whole [expletive] NBA."
Ladies, it is appropriate to wear white when attending your
wedding to a professional football player, but only if it's the
full fumigation getup worn by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters because
further physical contact with your affianced may be hazardous to
your health. (Gold Club strippers, if we can judge by their
testimony, have serviced more Broncos than your local authorized
Ford dealer.)

Among the patrons of the Gold Club--according to testimony at the
current racketeering trial of the establishment's owner, Steve
Kaplan, and six associates--were Falcons running back Jamal
Anderson, Broncos running back Terrell Davis, Pacers guard Reggie
Miller, Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo, Pistons forward Jerry
Stackhouse and Jazz guard John Starks. Mentioned during opening
statements were Donald Trump, Mick Jagger, Madonna and, as God is
my witness, the king of Sweden. These last two, through
representatives, deny having been to the Gold Club. To be fair,
the king's hussy of choice has always been Minnie the Moocher,
the "lowdown hoochie-coocher" made famous by Cab Calloway. ("She
had a dream about the king of Sweden/He gave her things that
she-eee was needin'.")

Of course, defense lawyers say the federal trial has less to do
with Minnie than Mickey. "Mickey Mouse," one lawyer called the
government's case, saying it was not so much a racketeering trial
as a "Mouseketeering" trial. Granted, this was the same defense
lawyer who stood on a table and mimed a jacket-swinging
striptease for jurors. Still, he may have a point: Was anyone
really shocked--shocked!--that the Gold Club arranged, according to
one witness quoted by the New York Daily News, a menage a trois
for Dennis Rodman? The (highly) offensive rebounder, who has
posed as a pirate, a biker and a bride, is, even when alone in
his suite at Caesars, a self-contained orgy of one.

But never mind Caesar: The testimony at the Gold Club trial
would have caused Caligula to blush. According to The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, Jones happily recalled watching two women
who were--in his memorable phrase--"doing lesbian action" in a
room at the Hotel Nikko. The outfielder then joined the act,
thus serving as the hypotenuse of a bizarre love triangle. All
the while several men looked on, completing a Mobius strip of
exploitation that has uncomfortable echoes of the sports arena.
Indeed, before Ewing and a stripper were in flagrante delicto at
the Gold Club, she was illuminated by the flashlights of
onlookers in a scene that almost paralleled the searchlit
introductions in darkened NBA arenas. The only thing missing was
that song by the Alan Parsons Project that usually accompanies
such spectacles. Naturally, the women prostituting themselves
were paid by the Gold Club. The athletes were usually comped.

The lesson in all of this is--well, there is no lesson in all of
this: not for Jones nor for Ewing. (There's no shame in airing
your dirty laundry in public when you've already aired--quite
literally--your dirty laundry in public.) There's certainly no
lesson for sports fans, who don't seem all that bothered. Scant
hours after Jones took the witness stand, he was playing at
Turner Field, where a 40-year-old fan--whose 11-year-old son wore
a Jones T-shirt--told the Journal-Constitution, "What he does on
his own time, I don't think it matters. We're still big Andruw
Jones fans."

Yet, just writing this column, I feel somehow slimed. Oh, I'm
still a big fan of Andruw Jones and Patrick Ewing. From now on,
though--when sitting courtside in an NBA arena or behind home
plate in a major league ballpark--I will watch my heroes from
beneath a transparent sheet of plastic. From now on, I treat
every game like a Gallagher performance.