Ghost in that Dallas club for men?

Every now and then, elite organizations such as the New York Times run strange, colorful stories about those strange people who live out there in flyover country, by which I mean the Bible Belt and other locations between the Hollywood sign and the Hudson River. What we have here is a classic example of this genre, a simple news feature that ran on the Op-Ed page of the Times for some unknown reason. Still, a GetReligion reader noticed the religious content of the piece and sent it to me.

It's hard to say that the story contains a religion "ghost,' since the religious content is right out in the open. In fact, this story is built on one of the oldest and most resilient stereotypes linked to Dallas (the city of my birth, to be perfectly honest). Supposedly, there are as many strip clubs in Dallas as there are Baptist churches. This "fact" is usually attributed to unscientific surveys (wink, wink), which almost certainly means that the journalists involved visited way more strip clubs than churches. Nevertheless, this old, old, old cliche is an interesting comment about Sunbelt culture.

Thus, here is the top of the "Naked Capitalism" feature:

Jack Rubey's fabled Carousel Club may be long gone, but the business of stripping is alive and well in Dallas, as a highly unscientific sampling of area clubs recently showed. While their alcohol sales remain 10 percent to 12 percent below the pre-recession peak, the clubs seem to have fared better in the recession than any other sector of the local economy, a commentary on human nature with implications too profound to be exhausted in a short Op-Ed article. ...

At the Lodge, Dallas's most upscale club, alcohol sales are up more than 11 percent from last year. "We're doing better than real estate," is how Michael Precker, the co-manager, put it. Even in a market as competitive as Dallas, which is home to upward of 40 topless clubs, neither Mr. Precker nor Dawn Rizos, the chief executive of the Lodge, could think of a single club that's closed its doors during the past two years. But what, a neophyte might wonder, made Dallas a mecca for strip clubs?

"Because we're in the Bible Belt," said Ms. Rizos. "There's a church on every block, and men just like to sneak around. Most of our customers are married men. They get a little bored with their wives, they can come in here and get some flirtation, our girls make them feel good and special, then they go home and feel so guilty about it that they treat their wives really nicely."

"It's very Baptist," she continued. "If you're going to give up sin, you got to sin."

The Lodge has received lots of media coverage through the years, in part because of a mini-media storm linked to the club receiving an enlightened capitalism "award" from Newt Gingrich -- which was retracted once the GOP leader discovered that this was actually a "club for gentlemen," as the saying goes.

This current essay's dig at the Baptists was totally predictable and, as I said, very old news.

However, it's more than possible that the story contains another religion ghost. A tip from a Texas friend quickly confirmed this to be true.

The owners of The Lodge, you see, are prominent members of the Greek community. The life of Nick Rizos is the classic story of the immigrant who made good. He even married the daughter of a powerful local couple. You can read many of the details in this Dallas Morning News story from 2009.

The Rizos in this News report are portrayed as surprisingly normal, yet wealthy, Dallas folks who are a just a bit tainted by the family business. Their status, however, raises a question that almost anyone who has lived for a decade or two in Dallas would ask: Where do they go to church?

Well, they are Greeks.

Thus, with a few clicks of a computer mouse one can find this copy of a bulletin (click for the .pdf document) from giant Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas. There we find a list of major donors (stewards) that includes this reference -- Nick & Dawn Rizos.

Based on what I know about Dallas, this does not surprise me. I am also not sure that this fact says much -- pro or con -- about this parish. It does, however, seem like an open door to some questions that might yield insights into the Rizos family.

Maybe this story contains a religion ghost after all, one less obvious and, thus, more interesting than the predictable pot shot at Texas Baptists. As a former Texas Baptist who is now a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, I would like to see a scribe pursue this ghost, especially one at the New York Times or the Dallas Morning News.

PHOTOS: A PR shot of one venue in The Lodge. Dawn Rizos on MSNBC, with Michael Precker, the club's co-manager.

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