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Tag: the lodge

Newt’s strip club VIP card is in the mail

Newt Gingrich has been issued a lifetime VIP card by an upscale Dallas strip club, entitling him to free admission, preferred seating, free auto detailing, steak and lobster dinners and access to the the club’s “intimate members-only lounge.”

The owner of The Lodge, Dawn Rizos, thought it was the least she could do after Gingrich — who awarded, then snubbed her last year — got in touch with her again through American Solutions, his conservative “citizens action network,” sending her an unsolicited membership card and requesting a $2,000 donation.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Last year, Rizos was informed that her gentlemen’s club — doing business as DCG, Inc. — had been selected to receive one of the American Solutions “Entrepeneur of the Year” awards for is efforts to stimulate the economy.

Gingrich invited Rizos to a private dinner in Washington to receive the award, provided she made the requested $5,000 donation, which she did.

The week before the event, though, American Solutions realized they had accidentally bestowed the award on a strip club, and rescinded the invitation. The organization refunded the $5,000 to Rizos, who donated it to an animal rescue organization — specifically to create a shelter for pit bulls, which was dubbed “Newt’s Nook.”

This week, apparently not having learned from the mistake, American Solutions, under the signature of Gingrich, sent Rizos an unsolicited membership card and again asked her for money.

The letter referred to Rizos as “a key member of our American Solutions family of supporters” and added, “Will you enclose a special year-end contribution of $1,000, or even as much as $2,000, to American Solutions, Ms. Rizos?”

The letter said the money would go toward American Solution’s mission — more important than ever since “the resounding rejection of Barack Obama’s leftist ideology and governing policies on Nov. 2.”

“Thanks to  members like you, American Solutions played a critical role in helping create this year’s sea-change election,” the letter said. ”But our most important role now lies ahead of us … helping our newly elected officials lead the country to a future of jobs and prosperity.”

The letter, which carried Gingrich’s return address, included a facsimile of the membership card he said was on its way. Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, is general chairman of American Solutions.

Rizos said she will hold off making a new donation to Gingrich until they can discuss last year’s disinvitation. Instead, she said, she is sending him, at no charge, a Lifetime VIP membership card to The Lodge – with all the perks and privileges – which the club says is worth $2,000.

“His letter included an American Solutions membership card with my name on it, so I’m very happy to reciprocate,” she said. “It’s just a temporary card right now, but I promise we will have the permanent one waiting for him at the door.”

(Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as suggesting Newt Gingrich has ever been to The Lodge. But Ace and I have.)

Vick dog finds happy home in Dallas

I never expected our “Travels with Ace” adventures would include Ace riding in the back seat of a car with a former Michael Vick dog.

Then again, I never expected we’d be hanging out in a strip club, either.

But our visit to The Lodge in Dallas led us to meet Mel, a still meek and fearful, sad-eyed, mostly black pit bull — small in stature, short on confidence, and sweet as pecan pie.

Mel was adopted from Best Friends by Sunny Hunter, manager of VIP services at the swanky Dallas gentlemen’s club, and her husband Richard Hunter, a talk show host whose outlook on life isn’t as bleak as his goth appearance may lead you to think — especially since Mel came into their lives.

Meet Mel and the low esteem in which you may already hold Michael Vick — and, yes, we know he served his time — plummets even lower.

For one thing, you see – in his fearful eyes, his tentative stride – the effects of the torture Vick inflicted; for another you see a true innocent; a mild-mannered dog whose lack of killer instinct led him to be designated a bait dog, a living chew toy.

But you also see a dog who, despite all that humans did to him in his first year of life, seems to hold no grudge against the species.

Mel was only about a year old when he was seized from the Vick estate in Virginia. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah.

He spent nearly two years at Best Friends, where trainers worked to help him overcome his fearfulness and eventually pronounced him adoptable.

Richard and Sunny already had an application in by then — starting off a process that would take more than a year. Sunny had grown interested in adopting a Vick dog after seeing a documentary. Richard had one of Best Friends’ trainers on his talk show.

The couple waited for nine months, then underwent a criminal background check, and a home visit. Finally, they were invited up to Best Friends to spend a week living on the grounds and getting to know Mel. They brought their dog Pumpkin, a terrier mix, along as well.

Pumpkin immediately became friends with Mel, and became his guardian — a role he continues to fulfill.

Last fall, the adoption having been approved by the same judge who sent Vick to prison for two years, Mel was delivered to the Hunter’s home in Dallas by a Best Friends trainer and caregiver, who stayed in town for a week, visiting daily.

Richard describes the adoption process as “daunting,” but worth it. Mel slowly came out of his shell, and though he still quivers at first when strangers show up, or when he’s in new surroundings, he’s getting more used to meeting people. It used to take three visits before he was comfortable with a stranger, now it takes only 20 minutes or so.

Pumpkin, who is 13, has been a huge factor in his transition.

“At home, when a new person shows up, Mel sits in the corner with his back to the wall, like a statue. Pumpkin gets in front of him and screens him. Pumpkin has been instrumental in getting him to relax,” Richard said.

Mel has never barked, or made any sound, in the time they have had him. At night, if Mel needs a trip outside, Pumpkin takes note of him standing by the door and barks for him.

Mel seems most comfortable when he’s in a car, Sunny and Richard said — so we decided that’s how we all should meet. We greeted Mel and Pumpkin through a window, then loaded Ace into the backseat with them — a tight fit, but no one seemed bothered by it. Pumpkin shielded Mel the whole time, allowing him to be sniffed and petted, but never leaving his side.

After a spin around Dallas, we all got out and sat in a patch of grass outside The Lodge. Mel skulked and quivered at first but within a few minutes grew at ease.

Richard says Mel was used as a bait dog, due to his small size and mild temperament. He was likely muzzled when he was thrown into the ring with other dogs being trained to fight. He was not one of those that Bad Newz Kennels terminated — sometimes by drowning or hanging.

“Most people really didn’t take the time to look at the details of the case – the jumper cables, the hanging, the drowning, the distance throwing contests. That’s just bizarre. It’s diabolical,” Richard said. As for Vick’s return to the NFL, he said, “It was very disappointing to me that the American public stood for it. He’s psychopathic, like a serial killer.”

While Vick’s dogs were, in most cases, rehabilitated, Richard is among those who doubt the same was truly achieved by Vick, despite his appearances in an anti-dogfighting campaign.

Mel’s tail, which was broken in his youth, stayed between his legs for the first few months, Richard said. ”Now, he smiles and he walks with his head up. His tail was broken, so it doesn’t really wag.”

“When he plays, he plays in secret,” said Sunny. “At first he would just sit there and shake. Now he waits on the couch for me and gives me a kiss when I come home.”

“His resilience is amazing to me,” Richard said. “He really has changed my life. It’s amazing to me that he’s willing to love us — that he’s still able to judge people individualy when for the first year of his life, if he saw a human being, it meant something terrible was going to happen to him.

 “We just want to make him as happy as can be.”

The strip club with a heart of gold

How did Ace end up next to the stripper’s pole at a gentlemen’s club in Dallas?

It’s a long story, but the main factors are these: The decline of American journalism, Newt Gingrich and dogs.

Dallas doesn’t have more strip clubs per capita than any other U.S. city, it only seems that way. In some parts of town they are pretty hard to avoid. Most are big and glitzy, and they advertise heavily on billboards featuring scantily clad women with come hither looks.

But that’s not our excuse.

No, our connection to The Lodge — an upscale gentlemen’s club modeled after a Rocky Mountain hunting lodge — goes back about eight months when, while compiling an article for ohmidog!, we got in touch with the strip club’s public relations man, or, as his business card puts it, the club’s “Writer-in-Residence.”

Michael Precker — like me, I learned then — had devoted the bulk of his life to newspapers, serving as a Middle East correspondent for nearly seven years, covering a wide variety of stories across America and ending up, like me, as a feature writer.

Our career paths were similar, as was our dissatisfaction with the way newspapers were heading. Both of us, seeing the ships we were on seemed to be sinking — at least in terms of quality and depth — had recently jumped off.

Both of us took buyouts — the captains way of helping staff make the decision to go overboard — he from the Dallas Morning News, me from the Baltimore Sun. I ended up writing about dogs. He, after meeting the club’s owner at a charity event, ended up in a strip club.

Life’s funny that way.

I got in touch with Precker — whose unusual job transition made the pages of the Wall Street Journal — last October. I had called to get some details and a photo of “Newt’s Nook,” a sanctuary for pit bulls that was being established with funds provided by the owner of the gentlemen’s club, Dawn Rizos.

Rizos had donated $5,000 to the cause — the amount being a refund of what she paid in advance to attend a private dinner in Washington to receive an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Newt Gingrich’s organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

It seems American Solutions had mistakenly bestowed the award – “in recognition of the risks you take to create jobs and stimulate the economy” — on Rizos and the Lodge, which does business under the name DCG, Inc.

They’d sent the fax to the wrong DCG — though, as Precker points out, The Lodge does stimulate the economy (among other things), and it has created a lot of jobs, not to mention helped a lot of its dancers pay for college and move into more “respectable” careers.

Realizing their flub, American Solutions rescinded the award – just a week before the ceremony Rizos had made arrangements to attend. But they did at least offer her a refund.

Rizos donated that money to an animal rescue organization seeking to build ”Newt’s Nook,” named in honor of the former speaker of the House.

But that, it seems, was neither the first nor last time that the Dallas gentlemen’s club and its staff have done their bit, and then some, for animals.

Earlier this month they held a charity car and bike wash and buffet, with all proceeds going to the Metroplex Animal Coalition. Over the years, The Lodge’s car washes have raised more than $160,000 for local animal causes.

Also this month, the club’s manager of VIP services, Sunny Hunter, and her husband Richard Hunter – adopters of a Michael Vick dog — were among those who tried to help catch a stray dog that was holding up traffic for days on the LBJ Freeway. Once the dog, nicknamed Alley, was caught, Rizos adopted it, and now brings it to work along with her Chihuahua, Pedro.

Richard Hunter, a local talk show host, caught the dog with help from comedian Hal Sparks and Operation Kindness. Hunter has also been involved in trying to capture the elusive stray that has been hanging around a Dallas church whose pastor has threatened to have it shot.

According to Precker, who I’d agreed to look up if I ever came to town, The Lodge has a lot of dog lovers, in addition to its owner, on staff.

He and Sunny even went so far as to invite Ace for a visit. While I had lunch and an interview with Precker, Ace stayed upstairs in the office under the supervision of staff. He was more enamored with a stuffed bear — one of numerous mounted animals in the club — than the dancers.

The next day, before business hours, Ace was allowed to climb up on a stage, check out the stripper’s pole and pose for pictures with Carrie, one of the dancers, and Vanna, who works the front desk.

Dawn Rizos, who has been honored for bringing class and flair to an industry often viewed as seedy — and here we’re talking strip clubs, not journalism — was out of town, so we didn’t get to meet her, Alley or Pedro.

But Ace and I did get to meet Michael Precker, who’s found job security in a strip club;  and the Hunter’s and their Vick dog, Mel, whose found some security as well. We’ll bring you that story — unless some gentlemen’s club hires us as writer-in-residence in the interim – tomorrow.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

Something to be thankful for: Newt’s Nook

NewtsNook2Newt’s Nook is open for business, and just in time for Thanksgiving

The heated, air-conditioned facility at the Animal Guardians sanctuary in Texas, named for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, provides a safe, healthy environment for injured rescue dogs, particularly pit bulls, to recuperate until they are adopted.

“We’re thrilled to help such a worthy project,” said Dawn Rizos, owner of The Lodge gentlemen’s club in Dallas, who funded the shelter after Gingrich rejected her donation to his political organization. “I wish Newt were here to see these wonderful dogs and know that we’re giving them a chance for happier lives.”

Staff members of the Lodge and Animal Guardians teamed up for a dedication ceremony this week, hanging a large “Newt’s Nook” sign on the building and welcoming dogs to the new facility. The sign, created by Lodge bartender Bryan Calloway, features a caricature of a smiling Gingrich and a friendly pit bull.

The idea for the shelter stemmed from an Entrepreneur of the Year Award that Gingrich bestowed on Rizos, then rescinded. In September Gingrich’s organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, invited Rizos to receive the honor from him at a private dinner in Washington on October 7. A week before the dinner, upon learning The Lodge was a gentlemen’s club, Gingrich’s organization said there had been a mix-up and told Rizos not to attend. He refunded the $5,000 she had mailed in to attend the dinner, and Rizos used that amount to pay for construction of the shelter.

“… We were disappointed to suddenly be rejected,” Rizos said. “But instead of holding a grudge, we decided to make something positive out of his bad manners.”

“I can’t tell you how much this new building means to us,” said Annette Lambert, director of Animal Guardians, located 40 miles north of Dallas. The rescue organization cares for more than 100 dogs at its sanctuary.

Rizos announced that The Lodge would donate an additional $100 to Animal Guardians for every dog adopted from the facility through Valentine’s Day 2010, and give each adopter a gift certificate to The Lodge or, if that environment is not to their liking, Stratos Global Greek Taverna, a popular Dallas restaurant.

(Photo: Lodge VIP Manager Sunny Hunter with Animal Guardians rescue dogs outside the new Newt’s Nook rescue building; courtesy of Mike Precker)

Keeping abreast with Newt’s Nook

newtsnook

 
We’re proud to unofficially unveil the sign that will welcome visitors to “Newt’s Nook — A Home for Pitbulls.”

Now under construction in Celina, Texas, the shelter was made possible by a $5,000-plus donation from a Dallas strip club owner — the amount being a refund of what she paid to attend a dinner to receive an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Newt Gingrich’s organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

American Solutions, as we told you yesterday, mistakenly bestowed the honor on Dawn Rizos, the owner of The Lodge, a popular Dallas strip club.

When former Speaker of the House Gingrich, a week before the awards ceremony, uninvited Rizos, he agreed to refund the $5,000 that she, as instructed, had submitted in exchange for the privilege of eating dinner with him. He refunded her airfare as well.

“At first our feelings were hurt,” Rizos said. “But then we figured at least we could make something positive out of his bad manners.”

About the same time Rizos got her refund, she heard that Animal Guardians of America had an urgent need for a heated and  air-conditioned shelter for rescue dogs, primarily pit bulls, at its sanctuary in Celina.

“We do a lot of charitable work and we love animal rescue groups,” Ms. Rizos said. “The cost was about the same as the amount Newt sent back to us, so we decided to do something good with it.”

The formal dedication for Newt’s Nook is scheduled for early November.

“We’re sorry that Dawn was treated so unfairly,” said Annette Lambert, director of the Animal Guardians chapter in North Texas. “But this will be great for a lot of wonderful dogs. I hope Newt will stop by sometime to see what we’ve built in his name.”

Rizos says Gingrich is invited to the opening, as well as to The Lodge, which describes itself as “the country’s best-known and most-honored gentlemen’s club,” and one that has “set national standards for elegance and integrity, and helps hundreds of people support their families and improve their lives.”

“He’s always welcome at The Lodge,” Ms. Rizos said. “We don’t hold a grudge. And we still have a lot to talk about.”

(Photo:  The sign, created by The Lodge bartender Bryan Callaway, that will welcome pit bulls to their new shelter; courtesy of Mike Precker)

Of Newt Gingrich, strip clubs and pit bulls

thelodgeWhat do they have in common? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. But here’s a hilarious story, with a happy ending, that involves all three.

It all began in September when Dallas businesswoman Dawn Rizos learned she was to receive an  “Entrepreneur of the Year” award  from American Solutions for Winning the Future, a conservative group led by Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker.

Rizos didn’t think it all that odd that the organization would be honoring her business, legally known as DCG, Inc., but doing business as The Lodge, one of the finest strip clubs (I’m told) in all of Dallas.

American Solutions — designed to “rise above traditional gridlocked partisanship to provide real, significant solutions to the most important issues facing our country” — was one of the big pushers of that national tea party, and it serves as the political arm of Gingrich’s empire as author, pundit and consultant .

The fax from American Solutions explained that Rizos was being honored as “Entrepreneur of the Year” for her “success in building [her] business and recognition of the risks you take to create jobs and stimulate the economy.”

But apparently American Solutions didn’t know that Rizos’ DCG was stimulating more than the economy; it had sent the fax to the wrong DCG. (In point of fact, The Lodge does stimulate the economy, as well,  with 150 employees, and contracts with an additional 570 dancers or entertainers, one of whom they award with a college scholarship annually.)

Winning the award from the conservative think (but don’t double check) tank, came with a $5,000 fee, payable to American Solutions (a mailed check, since Newt doesn’t wear a garter belt), and for that Rizos would have had the chance to “dine privately with Newt,” and have his ear on ways to “turn this country around.”

Rizos paid, and she booked an airline reservation as well.

Then the conservative group learned they had honored the way wrong company, stripped The Lodge of the award, and promised to pay Rizos back the fee and what she had paid for the airline ticket.

Now, the owner of the topless club has decided to pass that refunded money on to Animal Guardians of America’s sanctuary for rescued dogs in Celina, about 35 miles north of Dallas. It will be to use to build a shelter for pit bulls and named in honor of the former House speaker, the Associated Press reported. 

“Newt’s Nook — A Home for Pit Bulls” is now under construction.

Rizos says she’ll invite Gingrich to the formal dedication in early November.