Thursday, April 2, 2015

WILD WEST WHOREHOUSES, NECESSARY OR EVIL - MARGARET TANNER

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HISTORICAL WHORE HOUSES - A NECESSARY EVIL? – MARGARET TANNER

The movie, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, was made in 1982, and featured Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. It was based on a story by Larry King and inspired by the real life Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.

The Chicken Ranch was an illegal but tolerated Texan brothel operating from 1905 until 1973. It was located in Fayette County a couple of miles out of La Grange.

The original brothel that became the Chicken Ranch opened in 1844. It was forced to close during the civil war but later re-opened.

There have numerous books published with a brothel or bordello, as some people like to call them, as a central part of the story, particularly in Westerns. For example. Who can forget Kitty, Marshal Matt Dillon’s “lady friend” in the TV series Gunsmoke? She worked in a saloon. It was never actually mentioned on the program, and I didn’t think anything untoward either as I was young and innocent in those days, but looking back, it is fairly obvious, that being a saloon gal, she would have been, well let’s say, not as pure as the driven snow.

Two of my historical novels from Books We Love have brothel scenes in them.

In Fiery Possession, there is a high class brothel known as Glory’s. In my novel Savage Possession, there is also a high class brothel called the Black Stallion. Both of these establishments figure prominently in my stories. Like the old West, in frontier Australia, there was a huge single male population but very few women. 

THE 1860's BROTHEL IN FIERY POSSESSION

They passed through the almost empty main street of town, and about half a mile further on pulled into the drive of a large house. It was a double storied place, with delicate cast iron lace work on the balcony. An impressive entrance door had a huge fan light with pictorial stained glass side panels. Surely this wasn't where Glory operated from? 

In the cobbled backyard, the man helped them down before depositing the bag on the ground.

“Thank you.”

He acknowledged this with a nod, touched his hat, and drove towards a red brick coach house.

Glory hurried over, her large breasts bulging from the low cut bodice of a bright green dress. “You’re here at last!  Come to Auntie Glory.” She scooped Mark out of Jo's arms, and left her to carry the bag inside. “I thought,” she spoke over one shoulder, “you might prefer to come in through the back entrance because it's private.”

Inside this section of the house, Jo was surprised to find it tastefully decorated. In the hallway stood a seventeenth century, long case clock with marquetry inlay and a glass 'bull’s eye' at the bottom of the trunk. Entering the sitting room, she noticed several miniatures on the walls.

“How lovely.” She tried to hide her surprise at finding such a tasteful décor.

“Surprised, are you?”  Glory might well have been a mind reader.

“It's different than what I expected.”

 “I've had a bath house built recently.” Glory sounded almost childlike in her endeavor to impress. On the back lawn, almost concealed behind tall shrubs, stood a brick building with arched windows and doorway. The central bath had water pumped through pipes from the river.

“It's the latest thing, Jo.”

Out in the daylight, the thick make up could not conceal the deep wrinkles creasing Glory's face.

“It's all very nice, but maybe a bit pretentious, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

The other woman patted her on the shoulder, laughing uproariously. “Don't quite know about pretentious, but I like it. So do the customers.”

They passed a large pond with pink water lilies floating on top. Jo averted her eyes from the centerpiece of a white marble statue of a naked woman mounted on a rearing horse.

“Whereabouts do, well, the girls, work from?” 

“Upstairs. I'll show you around inside now.”

The gaming room had mahogany tables and chairs. Another room, obviously a private bar by the numerous bottles displayed at the back of a circular counter, was upholstered in velvet. Glory did not offer to take her out to the public bar, to Jo’s relief.

In all the rooms, Jo noticed that the ceilings had white plasterwork and intricately crafted cornices. Basket-shaped chandeliers formed the lighting. No expense had been spared to cater for everyone's comfort.

The bar room consisted of a small highly polished dance floor and a large piano set on a raised platform. Frescoes of naked cherubs decorated the ceiling in this room, and one wall was crafted out of beaten copper. Classy, all right, where a local man with money might indulge himself for a few hours, or a wealthy traveler could stay for days.

Glory explained that the girls circulated round the tables, letting the men choose their drinks and a partner if they felt so inclined.

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