The fate of our state's strippers is now in the hands of the Oregon Supreme Court justices. Last week, two cases dealing with strippers and live-act sex shows were argued in front of the court. Unlike 48 other states, free-speech allowances in Oregon are so liberal that strippers can take it all off and can pretty much rub it, move it, and shake it as they please. But the outcome of these two cases may roll back those permissive free-speech allowances and usher in a newly chaste era for strip clubs in Portland.

The more predominant of the two cases began nearly three years ago in the eastern Oregon town of Nyssa. Concerned about businessmen jumping the Idaho border to frequent Miss Sally's Gentleman's Club, Nyssa's city council passed an ordinance demanding that patrons remain at least four feet away from dancers. In April, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed that the City of Nyssa could set up regulations against nude dancers.

At first blush, the restrictions may seem like a minor concession. But, say legal experts more than a four-foot rule is at stake. If the City of Nyssa wins the lawsuit, cities or townships across the entire state may begin to regulate the stripping industry--something not allowed for decades in Oregon.

The case has also set in motion a terse battle between mayoral hopeful Jim Francesconi and the burgeoning stripping industry in Portland. Last May, council member Francesconi successfully pushed for city hall to draft and submit an amicus brief--a legal paper arguing that the city should be allowed to set up "time, place and manner" regulations against strip clubs. Such rules may include zoning laws and regulations demanding that dancers wear pasties and stand several feet back from patrons. That decision angered strip club owners and dancers who worry that if he becomes mayor, Francesconi will push for stricter, even more prudish laws.