DALLAS — Newt Gingrich's conservative group gave — and then rescinded — a business award to a popular topless club in Texas, the proprietor said Thursday.
Dawn Rizos said she was looking forward to receiving the promised "Entrepreneur of the Year" award at a Washington, D.C., banquet from American Solutions for Winning the Future, which the former U.S. House speaker chairs.
After all, Rizos is the owner of The Lodge, which was named the Best Overall Club in America last year by ED Publications, which sponsors the gentlemen's club industry's annual convention and trade show.
But before she had a chance to dine on lobster bisque with Gingrich at the Oct. 7 awards dinner with some 50 other business leaders, the honor was yanked away. The group apparently confused Rizos' Dallas business, which is legally called DCG Inc., with one by the same name in Virginia.
"I honestly thought that Mr. Gingrich wanted to honor our company because it's very successful," Rizos said. "Really, what's two more people to dinner? How rude!"
Owner questions about-face
She wondered how such a mistake could have occurred and questioned the about-face.
"I just don't understand why this is so taboo," she added. "You can see racier things on MTV than what goes on in this club."
Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Gingrich, declined to comment. Dan Kotman, American Solutions' press secretary, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.
A fax Rizos received from American Solutions in early September explained that she was being honored for "your success in building your business and recognition of the risks you take to create jobs and stimulate the economy."
The Lodge, which has about 150 employees, mainly waitresses and kitchen staff, contracts with 570 dancers or entertainers. It awards a college scholarship annually to an entertainer.
In the letter, American Solutions promised Rizos that she'd "dine privately with Newt," and have his ear on ways to "turn this country around."
After she confirmed her reservation, she was asked to join Gingrich's Business Defense and Advisory Council and pay an annual $5,000 fee, which she did. A Sept. 16 letter signed by Gingrich thanked her for her contribution and said he looked forward to presenting her with the award.
But a phone call Tuesday from an event organizer explained that there had been a mistake, and Rizos was no longer welcome. The caller, Michael Johnston of InfoCision Management Corp., said American Solutions meant to honor a company called DCG in Virginia, said Mike Precker, The Lodge's public relations manager.
Akron, Ohio-based InfoCision, which helps nonprofit groups raise money, did not immediately return voicemail and e-mail messages.
Rizos to be be reimbursed
Of several companies in Virginia with DCG in their names, none contacted by The Associated Press said it was being honored by Gingrich's group. Ken Schrad, a spokesman for Virginia's State Corporation Commission, found a DCG Inc. operating in the 1990s, but said it had long since disappeared.
American Solutions — the political arm of Gingrich's lucrative empire as an author, pundit and consultant — plans to reimburse Rizos the $5,000 she paid along with the costs of the airfare she booked to fly to Washington.
A similar incident, according to media reports, occurred with Allison Vivas of the adult entertainment studio Visual Pink, which also was to receive an "Entrepreneur of the Year" award from American Solutions. That, too, was quickly retracted. Vivas' company did not return a call for comment.
Rizos said she had hoped to share her views with Gingrich in person — she doesn't like party politics and feels cooperation across party lines is what's needed to help the nation.
"Newt and I have a lot in common," she added. "Family values, promoting small businesses and keeping the government out of people's personal and private lives."
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