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1967: A topless plan for Gaslight Square turns out to be a complete bust

1967: A topless plan for Gaslight Square turns out to be a complete bust

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Gaslight Square in 1965: Jim Rackwitz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

On Jan. 13, 1967, a plan to rejuvenate Gaslight Square in St. Louis failed to materialize. Here is how the Post-Dispatch reported the story.

The debut of the topless waitress in St. Louis last night failed to come off.

A large sign proclaiming the event was posted at noon yesterday in the window of the Dixie Belle nightclub, 4216 Gaslight Square. It was removed at 9: 12 p.m. when the three waitresses failed to show up and police did. They warned the proprietor of immediate arrest if the show went on as advertised.

J. C. (Cal) Zimmerli, operator of the establishment, expressed disappointment. He had predicted that topless waitresses and performers would give a lift to business on the square. Zimmerli, who operates the Apex Moving & Storage Co., also opened his doors optimistically last night. He told a reporter that a classified advertisement resulted in more than 100 responses to his call for "exotic dancers."

He said he selected three girls who had experience as topless performers in West Coast establishments.

"You need an attraction to make money," Zimmerli asserted. "What better attraction is there than this?"

As the minutes ticked away, Zimmerli began to worry about his girls showing up. "Maybe they chickened out," he said.

Shortly after 8 o'clock, two detectives from the morality squad arrived and conferred with Zimmerli. They told him that arrests would be made if the attire worn by the waitresses was considered obscene. When told that the girls had not arrived, the officers said they would return. "I don't expect to break the law," Zimmerli confided. "Nobody would deliberately throw money and a liquor license away."

Watching customers coming in and leaving immediately when they saw no topless waitresses, Zimmerli began to make telephone calls in search of his missing employees.

Having no success, he went outside and stood on the sidewalk watching the customers walk by. The detectives, accompanied by Detective Thomas Coniff, acting head of the ninth district morality squad, reappeared and Zimmerli asked for a clarification on what would be considered indecent exposure.

"Topless waitresses," Coniff replied.

"These girls would be almost topless," Zimmerli explained.

Coniff said later that "there's no doubt that this is going to start somewhere in St. Louis. We just don't want the square to be a proving ground. It's a judgment thing that the courts will have to decide."

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