All-star treatment

Ewing testifies to Gold Club's full-service hospitality

Dennis Rodman's name has come up so often during the Gold Club trial that it's almost become a punch line for a bleary-eyed jury watching their summer go down the tubes. So it was certainly refreshing to have a real-live NBA All-Star other than the ubiquitous Rodman take the stand this week.

Refreshing to everyone but Patrick Ewing, that is, who bore a low-key, let's-get-this-over-with attitude during his brief testimony to a packed-to-the-rafters courtroom Monday.

Ewing said he'd visited the Atlanta strip club an average of once a year over the past decade and yet had experienced a full-court press by the female staff on only two occasions.

According to Ewing and Jana Pelnis, a dancer who serviced him and several players to be named later, the 7-foot former Knickerbocker and his posse were first treated to a lesbian display by Pelnis and defendant Jacklyn "Diva" Bush.

The goings-on were illuminated by a flashlight-wielding Steve Kaplan in a darkened VIP room, presumably in the interest of lowering the club's utility bill. Then Ewing got his parquet waxed.

"They started fondling me, I got aroused, they performed oral sex on me, I hung out for a while, then I got tired and left," Ewing explained. Well, the veteran hoopster is getting up there and needs his rest.

Ewing's testimony did confirm one thing, according to defense attorney Bruce Harvey, who quipped out of jury earshot: "Just because he hasn't won an NBA championship doesn't mean he can't score."

Funny that amid the latent adulation currently being heaped on Founding Father John Adams, not one pundit has been heard to carp that the second president did nothing to ensure the inalienable right of ordinary Americans to serve on a jury. Never heard of that, right? That didn't stop a former Gold Club juror from filing a 10-page, hand-written federal lawsuit against U.S. District Judge Willis Hunt last week for dismissing him from service and thus denying him months of easy income and free lunches.

The average citizen views jury duty as, at best, a societal responsibility to be endured good-naturedly when it can't be avoided. But not Don Bailey, a frail-looking elderly man whose sense of civic duty is so strong that he petitioned Hunt to allow him to resume his seat as an alternate juror after missing a day of testimony because of an emergency hospital visit for cardiac tests.

Hunt explained that he couldn't reseat Bailey, thanked him for his service and even did him the inestimable favor of saving him a mauling by we pitbulls of the press corps by forbidding him from speaking to reporters, an order that drew petulant gasps from some of the broadcast crowd.

Despite Hunt's kind send-off, a few days later Bailey sued his ass, DIY style. Written in a shaky longhand and accompanied by a pauper's certificate exempting him from filing fees, his brief is peppered with just enough legalese to suggest he may be something of a recreational litigant.

Bailey argues that he could have gotten up to speed on his lost day of testimony by reading the court transcript. "I observe some of the jurors never taking any notes ..." he writes. "I don't believe the court expect(s) the jurors to remember every word."

While the legal logic is questionable, one must admire his eagerness to devote half a year of his life to a court case. And why not? Consider the perks of being a Gold Club juror: air conditioning eight hours a day without even having to sit through Pearl Harbor; lunch on the government's dime; hours of videotaped mobsters without needing to subscribe to HBO; close access to heroes from the NBA (no autographs, though); and trampy women describing their sexual exploits in exquisite detail. Hell, some guys pay $9 a minute for that privilege alone.

And let's not forget the $40-a-day jury pay, no small deal to someone living off a modest monthly Social Security check, as Bailey attests he does. In closing, his lawsuit brazenly demands that the now-armchair juror still be paid the $40 per diem until the trial is over. Astonishingly, the suit was tossed out faster than a dead hamster.

Perhaps Bailey simply got ideas after listening to tales of extortion from a couple of the prosecution's shadier characters, Michael Blutrich and Lyle Pfeffer, the former co-owners of Howard Stern's favorite Big Apple strip club, Scores.

One of the feds' main racketeering charges depends on convincing jurors that Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan had enough pull with the Gambino clan that he was able to arrange a late-night "sit-down" with several underworld types to iron out a personnel dispute involving Scores that otherwise could have resulted in someone getting whacked.

Kaplan was allegedly intervening on behalf of his buddy Craig Carlino, who, before being fired as Scores' manager, was allegedly earning 20 G's a week. Made man Michael DiLeonardo (aka "Mikey Scars") got a boost when Pfeffer admitted on the witness stand that he had earlier fingered a mobster other than Scars as having helped Kaplan in the New York sit-down to settle the Carlino dismissal.

Later, however, Kaplan was caught on tape cozying up to the Scores owners:

Kaplan: ... I just thought the wrong thing about you guys from this Craig Carlino. He just painted a picture like ...

Blutrich: Oh my God.

Steve Kaplan: I don't even want to tell you the stories he said about you.

Pfeffer: I didn't want to tell you the phone call that I got about you ...

Kaplan: Forget what he said. All right?

Pfeffer: ... from him.

Kaplan: If I told you what he said about you ...

Blutrich: I've heard them.

Kaplan: ... you might want to throw him through a window ...

Kaplan concludes by offering an assessment of his former associate Carlino: "He's a fucking scumbag. I'm going to ... fucking, I see him again, I'm going to tell him, 'You no-good ungrateful fuck, you.'"

Check the next edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations for that quotable bon mot, which, come to think of it, sounds almost like it could have come from a Michael Eisner memo re: Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Kaplan's taped attempts to ingratiate himself with his Scores colleagues won't win him any friends at the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, either. In touting the Gold Club's money-making efficiency, the native New Yorker boasts of its weekly earnings: "A hundred-ninety-seven [thousand] in bum-fuck Atlanta."

But then, such sales goals are not out of reach when one is dealing with customers like Stephen Leach, who testified last week that he bought a $1,000 VIP membership in 1999 and ended up getting screwed, but not in the way he had hoped.

Also last week, former VIP room manager George Kontos halted an aggressive cross-examination by defense attorney Steve Sadow to make sure they were speaking the same language when it came to describing some of the services provided to preferred customers.

"Can we not use the term 'oral sex?' Nobody called it oral sex," Kontos complained.

"What term would you prefer?" Sadow countered.

Kontos shot a nervous glance at the jury, then offered: "Blowjob."??