A larger-than-life Pinocchio who cavorts with New York hookers and a Geppetto who seduces the Good Fairy are apparently not the kind of show business the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board wants for tavern audiences.

The ABC reportedly has warned five nightclubs in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area they could lose their liquor licenses if they show an X-rated puppet show called "Pinocchio's Hot Night Out."

The puppeteer behind the promiscuous Pinocchio calls the whole thing "absurd."

"They let 'Oh! Calcutta' show here and they served liquor," said Jerry Halliday. "That show makes mine look like Mary Poppins."

Halliday said that three weeks ago five local taverns suddenly canceled or "held" appearances of his show, a satirically sexual donnybrook in which a foam rubber Pinocchio goes to New York looking for adventure but finds "true love" more appealing.

He said that although the ABC denied any involvement, tavern owners later told his agent they were forced to close the show because of ABC pressure.

"We had to," said one club owner who asked not to be identified. "They (the ABC) can come in here and yank the license right off the wall."

An ABC spokesman contacted in Richmond said he could neither confirm nor deny that a warning had been issued. Proprietors could endanger their licenses by allowing Halliday to peform, he said.

State liquor laws do not permit lewd, obscene or profane conduct or language in establishment that serve liquor, he said.

"Pinocchio's Hot Night Out" has played at two local theaters in Norfolk, Halliday said. "At the Circle 6, we outdrew 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' three to one."

He said he had been putting the show together for the last three years and "sunk all my money in it." Some people might be offended by its contents, he conceded.

"It's dirty," he said. "But tastefully dirty."