Vice Squad Shuts Down Milwaukee Naked Boys Singing!

By Andrew Gans
August 25, 2005

A production of Naked Boys Singing, the long-running Off-Broadway revue celebrating male nudity, has been shut down in Milwaukee, WI.

The Milwaukee City Vice Squad closed the show a week after its Aug. 11 opening on the grounds of "lack of license and public nuisance," according to a statement issued by the show's producer.

The fracas between Naked Boys and the City of Milwaukee began Aug. 10 when Milwaukee Vice Squad members called upon The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center — a co-producer of this mounting of the show — to confirm that the proper licenses had been issued to the theatre. Although the Center passed the initial inspection, Detective Garcia and Officer Schallhammer returned Aug. 18 in response to a complaint that the Center did not have a "small theatre license."

The license was immediately paid for; however, the city does not reconvene until September, and the officers said they would be shutting down the production until that time.

Producer Mark Hooker decided to assemble the press and the cast of Naked Boys for that evening's show. Hooker then received a call from Vice Squad Detective Wilcox, who said that performing that evening would not be advised. According to a statement made by Hooker, "[Wilcox] was very gruff and I perceived his voice as threatening. He informed me if I wanted to be all high and mighty and act like I was above the law, that he could take me down to the police station if I sold even one ticket, and have me booked and printed like any drug dealer who was breaking the law."

Larry DuPris of the ACLU Wisconsin advised Hooker, who has AIDS, to hold a press conference rather than a performance, since Hooker might not be able to receive his medications should he be sent to jail. A press conference was hold on the Aug. 18, in which the actions of the Vice Squad were denounced.

A second conference — regarding the filing of the Notice of Injury & Claim — is scheduled for Aug. 25. The notice, which seeks damages of $650,000, was filed by The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center and asserts that "its rights were violated when the employees of the City selectively enforced the Ordinance in violation of the constitutional rights of [the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center] and the staff of [Naked Boys Singing!] due to the organization's focus on gay-related and AIDS-related causes; that it is a charitable organization which disqualifies the Ordinance in question; and that the City of [Milwaukee] Ordinance is unconstitutional claiming it as vague and arbitrary."

ACLU Wisconsin's DuPris added, "It appears that the City has misapplied its own licensing ordinance in this case; which seems like a selective, if not homophobic slant, in response to one homophobic citizen's agitation."

The Milwaukee production marks the fourth production — including those in Provincetown, MA; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Atlanta, GE — of the musical shut down by local police forces.

Naked Boys Singing!'s original 16-song score includes such numbers as "Fight the Urge," "The Bliss of a Bris," "Muscle Addiction," "Nothing But the Radio On," "Members Only" and "Window to Window." The musical comedy revue opened in New York July 22, 1999, after a successful run at the Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles. The show's contributing writers are Stephen Bates, Marie Cain, Shelly Markham, Jim Morgan, David Pevsner, Rayme Sciaroni, Mark Savage, Ben Schaechter, Robert Schrock, Mark Winkler and Bruce Vilanch. Schrock directed with choreography by Jeffry Denman (The Producers) and musical direction by Stephen Bates, who died in 2003.

The musical revue now plays in New York at The Julia Miles Theater at 424 West 55th Street.