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Topless Woman Causes Traffic Jam

September 9, 1999

SEATTLE (AP) _ It wasn’t your standard weekday traffic jam when drivers slowed to watch a fire-spitting woman dancing topless atop a high-voltage electrical tower beside a freeway bridge.

It wasn’t meant to be.

Ara Tripp, 38, of Olympia, told The Seattle Times she planned the stunt for weeks to protest discrimination against women and laws that allow men to take their shirts off but not women. Tripp was a man before undergoing a sex-change operation.

Tripp climbed the 180-foot tower Wednesday morning, took off her shirt and began dancing, occasionally taking swigs from a vodka bottle, spitting out the liquor and setting it aflame.

Traffic on a nearby interstate bridge over the Lake Washington Ship Canal slowed to a near-standstill during the hour or so Tripp remained on the tower.

She had made a practice climb of the tower several nights earlier. Still, it was ``an extremely dangerous, hazardous situation,″ said Larry Vogel, spokesman for Seattle City Light.

The utility cut electricity to 5,000 homes and businesses to protect Tripp from being zapped by the 120,000 volts of juice flowing through the lines the tower supports.

Tripp was arrested for investigation of criminal trespass and indecent exposure, each carrying a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, Best said. She was released after posting $690 bail and faces a Sept. 22 court date.

``I’ll plead guilty,″ she said. ``It’s pretty obvious.″

Tripp has a wife _ whom she married when she was still a man _ strongly disapproved of the plan but was out of town Wednesday.

``She’s not going to be happy,″ Tripp said. ``I’m going to be grounded.″

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