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Crazy Horse Saloon
The Crazy Horse Saloon is an adult entertainment club and bar located at East 16th Avenue and Gambell Street, immediately east of the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage's Fairview neighborhood, just over two miles from downtown. The Crazy Horse Saloon is set discreetly back from the Seward Highway (Alaska Highway 1), one of Anchorage's primary north-to-south thoroughfares, and is surrounded by an asphalt parking lot. Accessible only to southbound motorists on the Seward Highway, the purple facade is unassuming, and it is easily mistaken for a vacant property, with signs at the parking lot entrance and atop the building alerting patrons to its presence.
Although the owner, Jeanette Johnson, established the Crazy Horse Saloon in 1985, the location has a storied history that extends back to the 1950s. The single-story concrete block structure originally housed the North Starlight Lounge, which was then addressed as 1015 East 18th Avenue. From 1969 to 1978, Johnson operated Le Pussycat Lounge and leased part of the building to the Premier Adult Theater, a notorious Anchorage hangout that ran pornographic films. From 1978 to 1985, Johnson operated the Metropolitan Show Club, a dance club, at the Gambell Street location. Although the building has undergone modest renovations over the years, it is still a rather austere establishment. Two entrances are located to the north and east sides of the building beneath a vinyl awning, surreptitiously directed away from Gambell Street. A vertical banded cornice is affixed to the south facade. One of the more notable design features is a decorative pole dancer attached to a blue light post that shines down on the parking lot to the west of the building.
The building has always had a reputation for enticing a rough clientele. It has been the sight of numerous controversies and has drawn the attention of the Anchorage Police Department for multiple disturbances over the years. In 1987, the Crazy Horse Saloon incited an interesting test of First Amendment rights. On February 17, Antony Tait entered the Saloon wearing a jacket embroidered with the insignia of “Hell’s Angels Alaska” and the motorcycle gang’s trademarked winged skull logo. After a bouncer ordered Tait to either remove his jacket or leave, Tait sued for a violation of his First Amendment rights. Said Johnson, “when people become inebriated, colors and associations with them stimulate debate and comments which sometimes erupt into violent confrontations.” Superior Court Judge Joan Katz found in favor of Tait. On appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision in 1989, ruling that the Hell’s Angels colors and logo were not protected by the Alaska Constitution’s free speech provision as such guarantees do not automatically extend onto private property.
In the mid-2000s, the Crazy Horse Saloon garnered local attention after it came to light that the owner allegedly shorted the pay of the bar's dancers and entertainers. The case went to court, and the workers ultimately won back their lost wages. Despite the lawsuit and a reputation for unlawful behavior and general seediness, the Crazy Horse Saloon continues to operate as an adult club into the present and retains a faithful base of patrons.
“Adult Theater Open Again.” Anchorage Daily Times, June 30, 1971, 3.
“Court Says Bar Can Ban Club ‘Colors.’” Anchorage Times, May 15, 1989, 9.
“Crazy Horse grand opening advertisement.” Anchorage Times, May 11, 1985, 23.
Grove, Casey. “Judge Rules that Strippers are Owed Lost Wages.” Anchorage Daily News, June 21, 2012, A3.
Harper, Patti. “Hell’s Angels Member Wins Lawsuit over Self-Expression.” Anchorage Times, August 15, 1987, 9.
Holland, Megan. “Strippers Fight for Back Pay.” Anchorage Daily News, September 6, 2006, B1.
“Metropolitan Show Club advertisement.” Anchorage Times, March 31, 1978, 23.
“Order is Issued to Seize Films from Le Pussycat.” Anchorage Daily Times, June 28, 1971, 2.
Toomey, Sheila. “Judge Rules Hell’s Angels May Wear Their Colors in Crazy Horse.” Anchorage Daily News, August 15, 1987, A1.
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