Polar Opposites

Two women who together helped bring the pole-dancing fitness craze to Orange County could be headed to court

"She got upset; her husband got upset" after the articles, says Lim. "They said that Edith could teach the classes herself. They asked me for the key to the studio. I tried to retrieve my pole and my stuff, and they called the cops saying I stole the students' credit cards," she says. "I was very upset because I trusted her."

Aboul-Hosn says she fired Lim because Lim got too attached to the studio and wasn't teaching the way Aboul-Hosn wanted. "We fired her because she did many things and made many poor decisions that were adversely affecting my business," Aboul-Hosn wrote in an e-mail to the Weekly. When she asked Lim to leave, Aboul-Hosn says, "she started taking out stuff from my studio, like forms and chairs and stuff that I brought in for the classes." She said the forms contained students' credit-card information, so she called the police and threatened to file a restraining order.

"It was ridiculous," Lim says. "Those were my Sexercise students; I had a right to have their forms." Students who were caught in the middle of the melee are reluctant to talk about what happened. A former instructor, who was there at the time and spoke on condition of anonymity, says she remembers a pole being first brought into the studio around 2005. She also says she believes Aboul-Hosn was teaching some form of exotic dance before then.

Above: Edith Aboul-Hosn. Photo by Janine P. Kahn, Below: Leda Lim. Photo by John Gilhooley
Above: Edith Aboul-Hosn. Photo by Janine P. Kahn, Below: Leda Lim. Photo by John Gilhooley

Lim returned the forms to a police officer after she made copies of her students' forms, she says. Aboul-Hosn says Lim was forced to return the forms by a police officer after Aboul-Hosn had notified the police. Aboul-Hosn e-mailed the Weekly that her lawyer may have a copy of the police report from the incident but that he will not release it since the disagreement may become a legal matter.

Aboul-Hosn says that despite her ongoing exotic dance classes, when she fired Lim, the 40 or so students they shared followed Lim. In December 2005, Aboul-Hosn sold the studio, she says, because she preferred to rent spaces for a kind of "moving studio" and not deal with the overhead of owning a full studio. She also asked Lim to return the $10,000 she had given her as an investment in a joint makeup-business venture, which both women confirm Lim returned.

Because of the confusion caused by the sudden change in name and the student forms, Lim says, she lost most of her students and had to begin again, renting a space at Avant Garde, and then moving to a studio on Bristol Street in Newport Beach, where she taught classes through 2006. Unsettled by what she felt was a breach of contract, Lim decided to get legal advice from a lawyer about filing a lawsuit.

"I thought this case had some teeth," says Pam Buckner-Davis, a lawyer in Long Beach who prepares documents and gives legal advice to clients who can't quite afford their own lawyers about whether or not they should pursue their cases. "The main thing is that she had a trademark for the concept itself," she says. (Sexercise does appear in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database.) "The core concept was hers." Buckner-Davis doesn't know if the $5 million Lim is seeking in compensation will be feasible, but she does believe there's a case here.

Aboul-Hosn says she only recently filed for the trademarking of her studio name and her dance course, Exotic Divas, as well as the DVD collection she has issued.

Lim filed the suit in Orange County in January, but the papers were never served because she was waiting to serve both Aboul-Hosn and her husband. She also wasn't sure whether to go forward with a suit after close friends and colleagues urged her to let it go and when she realized she couldn't afford a lawyer. She went away to Arizona to think about her next steps before deciding this was something she needed to do for the sake of her reputation, she says. "Deep inside my soul tells me I'm a coward if I don't do this," she says. "Before [Edith] met me, she had nothing to do with exotic dance. I started it from scratch. I taught her how to dance, taught her my curriculum," she says. "She was a 23-year-old girl."

Aboul-Hosn says she chose not to pursue legal action in an effort to spare Lim and to make her go away. "She makes up all these things in her head." Aboul-Hosn says. "She makes up all the stories. I never even learned anything from her. I never even took a class from her. She didn't even know how to dance." She says Lim was in breach of contract because after she fired her, Lim chose to continue teaching under the Sexercise name, which, Aboul-Hosn says, is prohibited under the contract's non-compete agreement.

"If Leda decides to take any legal action, we have plenty of damning e-mails, documents, logs, etc., sitting at our attorney's office just ready to be opened like Pandora's box," Aboul-Hosn wrote in an e-mail to the Weekly. "The reason why we haven't pursued this legally is because we want to move on from this negativity, and not create more."

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