O DEM STICKY SLIPPERS . . .
It seemed that all of 2nd Street was atwitter yesterday with the news that police had arrested two executive officers of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade in connection with a whorehouse at their Snyder Avenue clubhouse.
"They are making every Mummer in the four divisions look bad," said Tommy Barker, 46, a member of Golden Crown. "They're an embarrassment."
Downtowners club steward Alfred Sanborn and Financial Secretary John Murray Sr. acted as bartenders, illegally serving drinks to johns, while prostitutes dressed in nothing fancy - some were nude - strutted around and performed sex acts in plain view, police said.
After a six-week investigation by undercover officers, the police vice squad raided the club Tuesday night and arrested Sanborn and Murray on state liquor law violations and a Feasterville man, Lawrence Crovetti, 65, on felony prostitution charges. Ten women, who range in age from 24 to 51 and reside in towns across the tristate area, were charged with solicitation. The investigation grew out of an anonymous tip to the department's website.
On the second Tuesday of each month, from 7 to 11 p.m., Crovetti rented the Downtowners club, brought in hookers and charged a $30 cover fee, police said. Patrons allegedly paid the women between $30 to $100 for sex acts. Sanborn, 44, of 3rd Street near Ritner, in the Whitman section of South Philadelphia, and Murray, 56, of Deptford, ran a cash bar, police said.
Police confiscated $4,000 and shut down the joint, clearing out 50 to 60 men and 15 to 20 women. The 10 women arrested had propositioned two undercover officers within about an hour of their entrance to the club, police said.
Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn described the scene as "appalling" and inexcusable, even if club members had rented out the space to raise money for costumes in a cash-poor economy.
"I cannot relate it to the recession," Blackburn said. "There is no excuse, whatever the recession is, it's an illegal act that took place."
Blackburn added: "There were actual sex acts taking place in plain view in the presence of other patrons and in front of the two bartenders."
Blackburn said police believe that other people "associated with the Mummers" were inside the club at the time of the raid.
"This was not a Mummers prostitution ring nor a Downtowners Fancy Brigade prostitution ring," said George J. Badey III, spokesman for the Philadelphia Mummers Association. "All in the Mummers community are shocked by the alleged behavior of the individuals who rented out the Downtowners' hall."
Leaders of the Downtowners have decided to donate any club rental money paid by Crovetti to charity, Badey said.
"The Downtowners . . . [are] cooperating fully with the Philadelphia Police Department to get to the bottom of exactly what happened," Badey said in a statement. "If it is determined that any members of the Downtowners were involved, it was most definitely without the knowledge or approval of the club itself, and any such individuals will also be subject to discipline from the club as well."
Suzanne Wolfinger, wife of Downtowners member Harry Wolfinger, called it "heartbreaking."
"This is a real family-oriented club . . . They're great guys," she said. The Downtowners, she said, sometimes rent the club, usually for birthday, christening or graduation parties. "It helps to pay the bills and pay for the costumes," she said. "It helps us stay alive."
When the Downtowners rent out the club, two members have to work there, she said. "It's just so unfortunate this had to happen to them," she said. "It's heartbreaking, especially when this is like your extended family . . . We're all family. We will stick together. We will get through this thing."
Also arrested wereMichelle Lauber, 32, of Earl Street near Thompson, Fishtown; Sherry Davidson, 40, of Cottman Avenue near Walker Street, Mayfair; Regina Mahoney, 26, of Devereaux Avenue near Ditman Street, Wissinoming; Chiante Galezniak, 35, of Widener Street near 2nd, Olney; Adriana Arena, 51, of County Line Road near Bustleton Avenue, Somerton, and Alexis Simon, 24, of Carpenter Street near 7th, Bella Vista. Also, Barbara Gogos, 44, of Cheltenham; Jennifer Quenderfield, 36, of Conshohocken; Judith Jacobs, 36, of Sicklerville, N.J., and Virginia Ruiz, 46, of Bear, Del.