On Monday, a post surfaced on Twitter featuring a screengrab of a pop-up ad for a dual personal appearance at Southside Paper Moon, a gentleman’s club in Richmond, Virginia. The ad promoted an appearance by Kristin Davis, a woman best known as the “Manhattan Madam,” who ran an escort agency in the early-2000s before serving four months in prison for money laundering and promoting prostitution; and Roger Stone, the Nixon acolyte, notorious right-wing political operative and former Trump adviser who was arrested back in January and indicted for witness tampering, making false statements and obstruction of justice in connection with the Mueller investigation.
Holy fuckin shit. This was a pop up ad on an article I was reading for a strip club in my town. He’s appearing at strip clubs. For $25 dollars. Lmao pic.twitter.com/4TNNF5Agxz
— Matt (@WhoCare6969) April 22, 2019
On social media, the screengrab was widely derided, with many mocking the bombastic Stone (who has previously been reported to have had a net worth of about $5 million) for having fallen so far from grace as to charge $25 a pop for autographs at a strip club. This specific critique, of course, carried more than a whiff of sex-negativity; Stone is a free man out on bond who has every right to earn a living however he wants, and there’s no reason why it should be any more embarrassing for him to speak at a location where breasts are on display than at, say, a college campus, or a right-wing town hall. (In fact, I would proffer that both the food and the discourse would likely be far superior at the strip club.)
What is concerning about Stone’s upcoming appearance, however, is the fact that the strip club may be playing host to the Proud Boys, an ultra-right-wing, violent group that is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Stone has denied being a member of the Proud Boys, though he has used them as his de facto security force and he has reportedly employed Proud Boys as “volunteers,” saying under oath that a violent image he posted on Instagram of Judge Amy Berman Jackson in what appears to be crosshairs was supplied to him by one of these volunteers. Locals have vociferously protested his appearance, out of concern that the Proud Boys’ presence at the Richmond strip club appearance could incite violence — a legitimate fear, given that at least 10 Proud Boys members were arrested for violently attacking antifa protestors in New York City after a speech by founder Gavin MacInnes last year.
That said, it did seem somewhat unusual for Stone — a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who has worked behind the scenes on right-wing political campaigns for decades, including for those with such staid family values conservatives as Bob Dole and Ronald Reagan — to be selling autographs for $25 a pop at a gentlemen’s club — even though, in truth, it isn’t all that surprising, as he has long represented himself as a rakish sexual dynamo with ties to the adult world. (As writer Molly Jong-Fast put it on Twitter: “This is kind of on-brand for Roger Stone.”)
In a 2008 New Yorker profile, for instance, Stone took writer Jeffrey Toobin to a Miami swingers’ club where he told him he had met a sex worker who had been patronized by former New York governor Elliot Spitzer, information that he claimed help to usher the chain of events leading to Spitzer’s resignation. (Toobin could not confirm this specific allegation.) Additionally, Stone confirmed to Toobin the legitimacy of a 1996 National Enquirer story alleging that he and his wife had run personal ads in a swingers’ magazine, referring to themselves as a “hot, insatiable lady and her handsome body builder husband” and “experienced swingers” who were seeking couples or “exceptional muscular” men. While Stone denied the report at the time (and was subsequently fired from his role consulting on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign), he owned up to the ads in the New Yorker piece, telling Toobin he was “not guilty of hypocrisy. I’m a libertarian and a libertine.”
Stone and Davis, specifically, also have a longstanding relationship. Stone advised on Davis’s unsuccessful New York state gubernatorial and city comptroller runs in 2010 and 2013, respectively, and he is the godfather to her young son. (Stone says that the relationship is platonic, criticizing FBI agents in an August 2018 Instagram post for allegedly asking him about the paternity of Davis’s son.) Last year, the FBI started investigating Stone for potentially meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, specifically looking at his interactions with the online avatar Guccifer 2.0, whom U.S. officials allege served as the front of a Russian military scheme to release hacked Democratic emails via WikiLeaks. Due to her close relationship with Stone, Davis was subpoenaed by the Mueller investigation and testified before a grand jury in August 2018; she referred to the FBI investigation into Stone as a “witch hunt,” adding, “in terms of Russian collusion I know nothing.” Her home was also raided by the FBI around the same time Stone was arrested in Fort Lauderdale in January.
Davis and Stone also have another thing in common: the same publicist, Lainie Speiser, a veteran of the adult entertainment industry who represents a number of prominent adult performers, as well as a few mainstream comics and radio personalities. Speiser and Stone are longtime friends, and in an email to Rolling Stone she confirmed she was currently representing him and that Southside Paper Moon had reached out to her to book the gig.
“Roger Stone is speaking at a Gentleman’s Club in Richmond, Virginia. His appearance there is consistent with his longtime and oft-stated support of free speech, First Amendment rights, and free expression. Mr. Stone is speaking to benefit his Legal Defense Fund,” she said in a statement on Stone’s behalf. When asked why she had booked Stone at a gentleman’s club specifically, Speiser said that in raising money for Stone’s defense fund, “we are getting requests from all kinds of places, not only gentlemen’s clubs,” she said. “But I feel that a gentlemen’s club would show interest in Mr. Stone because of what he stands for: free speech, legalization of marijuana, LBGTQ rights.” (While Stone has publicly spoken in favor of all three of these causes, it’s worth noting that many advocates for all three of these groups publicly disavow any association with him due to his prior connection with the Trump administration, which has viciously attacked freedom of the press, diligently worked against federal marijuana legalization, and pushed anti-LGBTQ legislation.)
While Speiser did not confirm which other institutions had reached out to Stone to make appearances, it’s evident that he’s doing so largely out of necessity: as Stone has publicly stated more than once, he’s broke. “Two years of irresponsible and false news reports saying that Roger Stone would be charged with Russian collusion, conspiracy or treason have destroyed him financially and pushed him to the brink of bankruptcy,” the statement on Stone’s behalf said. “He has no choice but to raise the $2 million necessary for a vigorous legal defense.” Mounting legal fees have forced Stone and his wife to move from their $9,500-a-month mansion in Fort Lauderdale to a one-bedroom apartment; he has also had to get creative about raising money, selling autographed rocks, or “paperweights”, on his website and advertising them as “the perfect gift for the Trump supporter, InfoWarrior or Stonetrooper [Stone’s term for Roger Stone supporters].” (For what it’s worth, he is also selling a T-shirt that says “Roger Stone did nothing wrong,” despite a gag order preventing him from speaking publicly about the Mueller investigation; as well as T-shirts of a smiling Bill Clinton emblazoned with the word “RAPE” in all caps.)
Given his dire financial straits and the severity of the criminal charges against him (he may face one to five years in prison if convicted), Stone has clearly fallen on hard times. And yet, perhaps we shouldn’t shed a tear for the man who recently referred to himself as “really God’s instrument” just yet. Although Southside Gentlemen’s Club projects director Mike Dickinson declined to offer the exact sum of how much Stone was paid for his upcoming appearance, he told the Daily Beast, “let’s just say he’s getting paid a nice amount.”