The saga of a Westheimer strip club and the former mob boss who used to run it has taken another strange turn.
First, a little background: Lisa Hansegard bought the now-shuttered Baby Dolls strip club from the estate of Aris Mylonas, the father of her child, after Mylonas died in 2005, and shortly thereafter entered into an agreement with James Cabella to operate the club -- Cabella already owned a strip joint, the Penthouse Club, across the street and was apparently looking to expand his reach in the local strip-club scene. Hansegard claims in court documents that when she later started negotiating with Cabella to sell him Baby Dolls, she discovered through the strip-joint grapevine that Cabella was really Vincent Palermo, aka "Vinny Ocean," former acting boss of the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante crime family. After being indicted in the late 1990s on several federal charges, Palermo admitted to taking part in multiple murders, agreed to help the feds take down the DeCavalcante family, and, after spending two years in prison, entered the federal witness protection program (some have said that Tony Soprano was loosely based on Palermo's life in the DeCavalcante family).
The New York Post and KPRC identified Cabella as Vinny Ocean back in 2009, right around the time the Penthouse Club was suing the City of Houston over its sexually oriented business ordinance. But in 2007, it was still a fairly well-kept secret that a former mob boss was running strip clubs on Westheimer.
According to a lawsuit Hansegard filed in Harris County this week, her then attorneys Howard Steele and Charles Sturm (collectively Steele Sturm PLLC) tried to leverage that bit of information while negotiating the sale of Baby Dolls to Cabella. Unbeknownst to Hansegard, she alleges, Steele Sturm made thinly-veiled threats to publicly out Cabella as Vinny Ocean when he tried to back out of the sale in May 2007. More »