Jumpin' Jupiter, a neo-supper club in Maplewood, narrowly evaded eviction this weekend after owner Jim Callahan settled a dispute with the state for $28,000 he owed in sales taxes. The city of Maplewood agreed to renew his business license on Friday, but the raunchy Saturday night show wasn't exactly a party for the restaurateur, who says he's run out of money and making some tough cuts.
On Saturday night at the Naughty Naughty Late Show, Callahan darts between computers behind the bar, oblivious to the three women on stage who are making out with each other in a blow-up kiddie pool.
After a very public falling out with St. Louis' burlesque queen Lola Van Ella, whose company Van Ella Productions was responsible for many of the shows at Jumpin' Jupiter since last year's opening, Callahan has streamlined operations and tightened the venue's budget... particularly its entertainment budget.
Van Ella took to Facebook last month to accuse Callahan of passing bad checks and not paying performers. On Thursday, Van Ella told RFT Music that, "we have, at this point received most of the money owed to us, which we believe is a result of our decision to make a public statement, which we still stand behind."
A new crew called Synful Entertainment has taken over Van Ella's spot on Saturday nights. Elliot Winter, who runs the company along with several of the dancers, described their shows as "burlesque meets Las Vegas erotica meets drag."
"St. Louis, in my opinion, is like a little brother to New Orleans. We're trying to get back to that walking-down-Bourbon-Street vibe," Winter says, adding that that's not easy in a "conservative" neighborhood like Maplewood.
Doug Miner of the Maplewood-Brentwood Patch has been documenting developments at Jumpin' Jupiter closely, and the coverage of Syn hasn't been met with the best response. Two weeks ago, to promote Synful Entertainment's first show at Jumpin' Jupiter, several of the dancers stood on the sidewalk in costume: fishnets, red panties, and cut up T-shirts. Others danced in the window. A commenter on Patch said the promotion "walks the line of being trashy strippers."
Winter says none of the women in Synful Entertainment are "East Side strippers," as some have speculated. But he does say they are amateurs, working fast food jobs or studying for nursing and teaching exams during the day.
It showed in the weekend's routines. Of the six performers, who were recruited through Facebook and mutual friends, only two have dance training. Most of them have a repertoire of "back it up," "shimmy" and not much else.