Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Madame Story

I mentioned earlier that I'd "received a check for a large sum of money from a madame". That piqued some people's interest. So, by popular request (it's not that good)...

In August of 1979, I was getting nervous about not having a job. I had graduated with a degree in music education in June, and spent the summer screwing around. I finally landed a job with the school district in Wallace, ID.

Wallace was an interesting town. I'd driven through on a number of occasions on my way to Washington, but I'd never stopped. It sits at the bottom of a mountain pass (oh, the mountains are MUCH steeper than you find in most of Montana!), in what's known as the Silver Valley. Why? Because more silver has been mined from this region than just about any other in the world.

But that's not the main claim to fame for Wallace. Wallace is known for prostitution, gambling and mining. In that order. Silver prices were insanely high at the time, so things were good in the Valley. People were moving in. There were 7 brothels running 24/7, and the school district had the 2nd highest pay scale in the state. My first teaching contract was for $10,715--pretty decent money (yeah, I'm old) for teachers, and far more than any of my friends were getting. But I digress.

One madame ran 3 or 4 of the brothels. Her name was Dolores. Or Dorothy. Or Doris. I don't remember. Pretty sure it was Dolores. She was a legend in town for her philanthropic deeds. She bought a new squad car for the police dept. She bought the band uniforms for the high school (before me). She closed down operations on only one day each year before Christmas to throw a big party. All the local officials would be there. The prostitution was a fact of life. Almost every boy lost his virginity with one of her girls. I even had a nurse (wife of a teacher) tell me that she'd rather have her sons go there than have them in the alleys screwing one of their schoolmates. Needless to say, this wide-eyed hick from Montana was dumb-founded.

During my last year of teaching there, we were planning a trip to the jazz festival at the U of Idaho. We did all sorts of fund-raisers so that we could go down, spend a night or two, and catch all the concerts, as well as play. About 10 days before leaving, I told the jazz band that they had come up short, and that we'd have to forget about staying down there, and we'd be driving back after one day. My lead alto sax player, who worked as a boxboy at the local grocery, asked how much more we needed. I told him roughly $1000. He said he was scheduled to deliver groceries to the brothels that afternoon, and he'd hit up Dolores. Uh-huh. Right, Brett. You go do that.

The next day, during rehearsal, in walks Dolores, and presents me with a check written for $1500 in my name. I was flabbergasted. Then, IN FRONT OF MY STUDENTS, asked me why she hadn't ever seen me. I blushed, she waved at a couple of the boys, and she left. Needless to say, the trip went off as planned.

I reminisce often about my 3 years in Wallace. That's where I met Volcano Girl. I spent a summer doing theater. But things are much different. Silver prices hit rock bottom shortly after I left. The last of the brothels closed in 1988, I believe. The biggest thing to happen recently is that "Dante's Peak" was filmed there (as were parts of "Heaven's Gate"). Oh, and the town council proclaimed that Wallace, Idaho was the "Center of the Universe". But my three years there were some of the best years of my life!

So that's my madame story.

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