Dozens of models claim Iowa strip clubs stole their ‘attention-generating qualities’

By: - May 13, 2022 10:51 am

Sixteen professional models are suing a Waterloo strip club for allegedly using their likenesses to promote the club. It’s one of several lawsuits filed against the owners of nine Iowa strip clubs. (Iowa Capital Dispatch photo illustration based on U.S. District Court filings)

Dozens of professional models are suing nine Iowa strip clubs for the alleged unauthorized use of images of their faces and bodies in online advertisements.

All of the plaintiffs are represented by the BMK Law Firm of Pella and the Aronowitz Law Firm of Royal Oak, Mich. The two firms have filed federal lawsuits against each of the Iowa clubs alleging the same basic set of facts, although the plaintiffs — who are from Ireland, Great Britain, Colombia and the United States — in each case vary.

The clubs being sued are New Shakers in rural Jackson County; the Risque Gentlemen’s Club in Waterloo; Beach Girls in West Des Moines; Big Earl’s Goldmine in Des Moines; the Lumberyard in Des Moines; the Lumberyard II in Cedar Rapids; the Minx Show Palace in Des Moines; Daisy Dooks in Davenport, and Flirts in Waterloo.

The lawsuits, each filed on the same day in U.S. District Court, seek compensation, damages and an injunction against the clubs’ owners.

The biggest of the cases, based on the number of plaintiffs, is against Flirts, the Waterloo club. In that case, 16 professional models allege that although they have never appeared at the club and have “no prior affiliation whatsoever” with Flirts, the owners have repeatedly used their likenesses to promote Flirts on social media.

The plaintiffs claim Flirts’ advertisements on its Facebook page use their likenesses to suggest they have performed at, or have at least agreed to promote, the club. They claim they would not advertise or promote such a club since that sort of affiliation can “harm, defame and disparage” their reputations and their brands, making it more difficult for them to obtain work or market their modeling services.

According to the lawsuit, Flirts advertises itself as “Cedar Valley’s Hottest Gentlemen’s Club” and serves alcohol to patrons while providing entertainment in the form of nude or partially nude entertainers. The club allegedly advertises a VIP membership program that “guarantees you premier access to any dancer you have your eyes on,” as well as “a fun time with sexy, exotic female dancers.”

The plaintiffs, some of whom are partially undressed in the photos at issue, allege that Flirts’ advertisements are damaging in that they suggest the women “approve of the full or partially nude live entertainment activities” offered by the club.

At the same time, the models claim the club is “competing with the plaintiffs over the very same consumer attention that contributes to the economic value of the plaintiffs’ images.”

In their petition, the models claim that due to their “attractiveness and individually distinctive physical looks,” they have all attained a “degree of fame, celebrity and public prominence” while cultivating a substantial social media following. The club, the lawsuit alleges, “palmed off the goodwill and consumer attention-generating qualities of the plaintiffs as their own, all without permission, compensation, consent, or license.”

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages, fair market value compensation for the use of their likenesses, and a permanent injunction barring the club from again using the images at issue.

The plaintiffs in the case against Flirts include Rosie Roff of the United Kingdom; Melanie Iglesias, a model from New York; Sandra Valencia of Colombia; Alana Souza and Jamillette Gaxiola, both of whom are from Nevada; and Tiffany Toth Gray, Ursula Mayes, Rosa Acosta, Megan Daniels, Katarina Van Derham, Lina Posada, Jesse Golden, Dessie Mitcheson, Jessica Hinton, Julianne Klaren and Emily Sears, all of whom are from California.

Some of the plaintiffs in the Flirts case are among the models named in the other lawsuits against Iowa clubs. The club owners have yet to file responses to the allegations.

In March, an exotic dancer filed a class-action lawsuit against the West Des Moines’ Beach Girls club where she allegedly worked without salary and had to pay the owner for the right to work for tips. Cierra Turner is suing the company Pretty Women Inc., which owns the club, for alleged violations of state and federal minimum-wage laws, unjust enrichment, and unlawful tip sharing.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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