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Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page A02

Wheelchair Pageant Queen Sees Silver Lining in Disqualification

It started when Janeal Lee, who has muscular dystrophy and teaches high school math in Appleton, Wis., was asked to compete for the title of Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin by the organization's state coordinator. She won, but when a local newspaper published a photograph of Lee standing in her classroom, she was stripped of her title.

Lee, 30, explained that she can stand without assistance for 10 to 15 minutes at a time on good days, especially in her classroom, where she can hold on to something. But she cannot walk far and relies on a wheelchair. She said she explained that ahead of time to pageant officials.

Yet to the organizers of the competition, designed to showcase the achievements of people who rely on wheelchairs, Lee was not a proper representative. That's when the uproar began. When Lee lost her crown, the runner-up refused to accept it. Lee's sister resigned her Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota title, and the Minnesota organizer quit in sympathy.

National pageant officials say they did the right thing and that they want to move on. Lee sees some benefit to the controversy.

"It's been overwhelming in a positive way," Lee said. "I think what happened was an injustice, but I think this week has done more for disability awareness than a whole year of Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin could have ever done. Narrow and ignorant is exactly how I would describe being portrayed through the national board. There's a broad range of physical disabilities."

Michelle Kearney, 37, was the runner-up who refused to accept the title, saying Lee was done an injustice.

"If I took it, I would be agreeing to what they said," said Kearney, born without arms or legs. "It was discussed ahead of time that she does stand up in her classroom and walks around a little bit, and she was told it was okay. And now they're having a problem with it?"

-- Peter Slevin

XXX Feature of 'Art Night' Prompts Police Citations

When a Boise State University art student asked if he could sketch one of the dancers at Chris Teague's Erotic City nightclub -- saying he couldn't afford a $25-an-hour nude model -- Teague said no.

But the question got him thinking: While Boise city officials had banned all-nude dancing -- requiring female performers to wear at least a thong and pasties -- they had carved out an exception for displays of serious artistic merit.

Thus did "Art Night" burst upon the capital of Idaho's adult-entertainment scene. Twice a week, any patron arriving at Erotic City was offered a pencil and a sketch pad and the opportunity to see the dancers as nature made them.

Local authorities didn't buy it. Last Monday, police raided the club and gave misdemeanor citations to three dancers. Officials noted that the city's ordinance does not apply to entertainment "intended to provide sexual stimulation or gratification" -- and that the women weren't posing but gyrating.

Teague said he plans to fight the citations, calling them unconstitutional. Art is art, he told the Associated Press, noting the pencil drawings by his customers that now line the walls of the club.

"They can draw stick figures or they can draw the most exotic theme that they want to draw. As good or as bad as it can be, it's still art," he said.

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