Monday, April 1, 2013

Inherent Vice: Former Brothels of San Francisco

Former Brothel on 20th Ave.

Located between Stern Grove park and Stonestown Galleria, just a half mile from San Francisco State and a few hundred feet from a church, this unassuming building on 20th Ave gives no indication of its history as a high class brothel.  

Former Brothel on 20th Ave.

On February 13th, 1964, San Francisco police raided what the San Francisco Chronicle described as "a luxurious brothel catering to VIP officials, professional men and business executives."   This Parkside home had been operating for six months under the leadership of madam Jean Martin, serving customers, "by appointment only" until the time of the raid.

Even more amazing is the story behind this Victorian Mansion on Bush Street between Webster and Buchanan, raided by police on May 10, 1975.  

Bush Street Bordello

The woman working in the house identified themselves as members of the Golden Gate Foundation, and had been running thier business out of the house since October 15, 1973.  The Bush Street Bordello provided what the women called "therapeutic and sex counseling service," a distinction made semi official by the city having granted the site a business licence to operate as an "emotional therapy research foundation." 

Bush Street Bordello
The head of the site was Kitty Desmond.  29 years old, Desmond had only a month before spoken at Stanford University, lecturing a few hundred students on the topic of sex therapy.  Desmond's plans for the site included achieving a non profit status and even acquiring government grants for sexual therapy.  

One of the women arrested, Randa Newby, was senior in Psychology at San Francisco State.  "We were keeping clinical records of our clients," she reported.  "We hoped to give them to the sexuality program at the UC Medical Center."  Every man, the women reported, was filed using a methodical intake system.  Their psychological profiles were based on nine models male sexuality: opportunist, patronizer, promoter, juvenile  guardian, lover, adventurer, friend and slave. 

"I started to work there because I could get money," one of the women reported.  "But then I started to get into the whole trip of therapy.  They felt peaceful with us.  Its a way of meditating for them.  Its their release."

For two years, every client was profiled and categorized this way.  Which begs the question of what happened to those forms?  What story would they tell if they were uncovered?  What became of the house and the therapists inside, and what became of Kitty Desmond?  

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