Strip club operator runs for school board in St. Louis suburb

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- The president and director of a Colorado-based adult entertainment company is running for the school board of a suburban St. Louis district, and already many residents are giving the candidacy a thumbs down.

"I wouldn't want that kind of guy running a school board," said Jeremy Parks, 21. "If he's that great of a guy, with good morals, he wouldn't be running strip clubs."

Micheal Ocello is president and director of VCG Holding Corp., based in Lakewood, Colo., a company that says on its Web site that its clubs feature "premium quality female performers."

Ocello, 46, a husband and father of three, hopes to win one of two seats on the Mehlville School Board in south St. Louis County.

He said he knew the race would be tough, but is tiring of the strip club questions, and finds remarks about the business offensive. He was once a male dancer himself.

The other candidates, including two incumbents, are a Union Pacific worker, a pressroom supervisor, a salesman, a retired teacher and a church fund-raiser.

Several candidates said it will be rough for a man in adult entertainment to win the hearts of suburban, conservative district residents.

"I don't want to say anything negative about anybody," said Tom Diehl, a fund-raising consultant. "I imagine it might be tough for some voters to get beyond that issue."

Privately, at least one candidate asked Ocello what he's doing, Ocello said.

"I knew going into it I would receive a lot of scrutiny," Ocello said. "I think it's important enough to go through with it."

Several district residents told the Post-Dispatch a strip club executive would never get their vote.

But those who know Ocello speak highly of him.

Barbara Geno, executive director of Clayton Child Center, said Ocello has been a strong board member for 10 years at her school, and has "very high morals and ethics."

The candidates say they hope the race sticks to the issues.

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