What do you think this is? I’ll give you a few pieces of information. Pretty obviously it’s an illustration of a pair of legs, but what you also need to know is that the idea is that the image is intended to be recreated about 30 foot high on the side of a building here in Melbourne. So, any ideas? Could a mural giant female legs be related to the giant purse sculpture next to the old post office on Bourke Street? Nope, not that. How about if I told you that the building is a business (I’ve hidden the name to stop early googling) and the mural is promotional. Ladies footwear, maybe? Sounds like a good guess but nope, not that either. What if I said the name of the business is the California Club? You might be thinking that sounds like a nightclub, but before you google it I’ll save you the trouble and tell you that while it may share some characteristics of some nightclubs it is in fact a knocking shop. Yes, it’s one of Melbourne’s licensed and legal brothels, and it wants to paint a big pair of legs on the side of the building to promote what has been a legal trade since 1994, and it has got the hump (pun intended) with St Kilda council because they’ve said no.
The California Club, in bayside St Kilda, applied in March to paint the legs on the front of its building, with the words “take a walk on the wild side”.
But Port Phillip Council this week rejected the proposal, telling the brothel the advertising image would attract “excessive attention” to the St Kilda Road business.
Excessive attention? Okay, on the one hand I’ve driven past it plenty of times without noticing it was a brothel, but on the other hand they’re not exactly shy about the nature of their trade (actually it’s the second instance where Mrs Exile has gone “What? Didn’t you notice there was a brothel there?”) what with advertising in Yellow Pages. And you have to ask why their council has a problem with a pair of legs painted on the wall of their own bloody building when elsewhere in Melbourne you can have a full size billboard advertising a brothel that’s somewhere else entirely.
Incidentally, looking at it from a couple of other views that crap on the number appears to be spray paint on the actual billboard rather than anything on Google maps. The missus, sharp eyed as ever, took one look and said, “Looks like a 7 and a 6. And they’ve left the name and the address.” So that was time well spent for some prudish graffitist… not.
The brothel said it wanted to negotiate with the council on the design but Port Phillip Mayor Frank O’Connor said once a decision was made, there was “no opportunity” for renegotiation.
That’s nice of the council. As I said, whatever people might think about it we’re talking about a legal business that is licensed and pays taxes, and its desire (can I say that or is it a dirty word in Port Phillip?) to promote itself with a mural on its own building, as opposed to a billboard over someone else’s business. But the answer’s no and that’s non-negotiable. It’s local government, who said it has to make sense?
The council received 17 objections to the design and the application was refused “on proper planning grounds,” he said.
Which, with the City of Port Phillip’s estimated population of 96,000 and assuming that an implausible third of them are under 18, is barely one five hundredth of one percent. Just looking at the California Club’s website (handily on their Yellow Pages listing and all in the name of research for this blog) I counted more than double that number of names under the “Our Prostitutes” section, and you have to assume there are also a few incomes that depend on the business that aren’t actually prostitutes. And let’s not forget all the thousands of locals who are either happy with the idea or sufficiently indifferent not to have bothered complaining. All of whom are trumped in the eyes of their local council by the views of 17 people who did complain.
The council said the proposal would be “inconsistent with the accepted planning principle that brothels should be discrete and not draw attention to themselves”.
Discreet and not drawing attention to themselves? Excuse me? I got this from fucking Google Maps.
“If the legs were outside a shoe store, I don’t think they’d have a problem,” club manager Rachel, who did not want her surname used, said.
Like I said, it’s local government and doesn’t have to make sense, but over the next couple of weeks while I’m out and about I’m going to keep my eye out for any businesses that aren’t brothels but which have similar sized murals or paint jobs on their buildings. It’d be funny if one of them did turn out to be a shoe shop in the St Kilda area, wouldn’t it?