Thoroughly Modern Madam: 2Thoroughly Modern Madam-
an interview with Rebecca Rand (part 2)
And these were just things that you could rent in any video store. They weren't specialized, but they'd take them. It used to make me so mad. Things that you could get anywhere became some kind of illegal thing when they were at my place. They're taking magazines, picking up a Playboy,. And this woman, Detective DiPirna, she's walking around with her hands on her hips. And she said to the women, "This is an illegal business. We're closing it down."
Now, she made this statement when we had never had a prostitution arrest, ever. I wondering exactly what she means by this and what her plans were. So this was in February. So this heat continued and went on all summer and on September 30th in 1990 at 6 o'clock in the morning, they kicked in my door of my house and raided the house.
Who was there?
Me, my boyfriend, it was horrible, just horrible.. My son was 10. Two college students who rented a room upstairs. And they bring us all down to the dining room table. And you know, there's a guy with a gun on you and you sit there while they tear your house apart, from the attic to the basement. They were there about three hours while we just sat around the dining room table. It's really humiliating and terrifying. I mean, you're in bed naked and some cop with a gun is pulling down the covers going "Get up." It's really horrendous. I mean our society ought justify that kind of police behavior over consensual sex. I mean maybe you need to do this to someone who murdered someone, but to do this for this purpose is so out of line. Not only did they do this at my house, but at the exact same time they went to five different managers...now they are going into people's homes while they're asleep, kicking the doors down of about five women.
There weren't any men working there. My sister in law who did nothing but clean, she was the cleaning lady. There was never any allegation of any minor in twenty years every working in my business. There was no allegation or intimation that there was drug selling. Obviously some of my employees used drugs sometime. You can not run a prostitution business and not have that happen. There was never any whisper of my involvement in it whatsoever. I just fought to keep it out, so this was totally and completely and totally the issue of stopping consensual adult sex going on behind a closed door. You gotta remember that. All the other issues that we worry about, about force, violence, childhood prostitution, drug selling and all that were not issues in this case. It's really hard to describe what it's like, and I know with the drug war that it's happening to a lot of people, but it's really, really ugly. The fourth amendment says that people should be secure in their homes, and I recognize the government's need to conduct searches, but they should not be for the most minimal reasons that they now use them for, to break into people's houses and terrorize them. In this case it was particularly silly to break in. They had a no knock night time warrant. You can get search warrants that can only be served during the day, you can also get knock warrants, where you can knock on the door and say you have a right to search. I don't think there was much excuse for a no knock night time search. What they were looking for were business records. It's not like drugs that you can flush down the toilet. There was no reason outside of intimidation and harassment.
Did you want to take them to court on that?
No. It's silly. I'm concerned with the fact that prostitution's illegal. That's what it all stems from. None of these other horrors would happen to people. Women would not get fucked by cops.
If we took them to court at every opportunity, and made it more expensive for them...
Believe me, I made this quite expensive for them. But when you make it expensive for them, it's also expensive for you. Now, this happened once. They did this three times. That was the first time. I was so completely stunned. I could not believe it. It was beyond my comprehension. This is a business that has sat there and run for almost twenty years and there are six more of them in St. Paul and twelve more of them in Minneapolis. I knew that this was illegal, but I also knew that it was minor league illegal. So you get caught in a situation where you feel like somebody changed the rules on you.
This woman who worked for me, we had been friends since before either of us had gotten involved in prostitution. She had gotten a divorce about the same time as me. She came to see me and wanted to borrow two hundred dollars. I gave it to her and I said, "if you want to pay it back real soon, there's a guy in this room that really wants to see you" and she goes, "Yeah, I'll do that." We've worked together for twenty years. When they kicked her door in, she was almost fifty years old, but she was s single mother. Her daughter was very young. She had no one to leave the child with when she went to jail and they really terrorized her about putting the child in foster care. You know women can't work as that age unless they're good. They gotta have personality. They have to have a good attitude. They have to have some care and concern for the customers.
That's not always true.
Well, in this situation, she was not a beautiful woman, but her customers, they came to see her and they never saw anyone else. They came to see her for fifteen to twenty years. They just never stopped seeing her. It was like they were married. It was weird.
Oh, that's how it is with my clients. That's how I work pretty much. I've known my clients for around ten years.
She did not want to quit. It just gave her a lot more flexibility. She didn't have to work that many hours. She was a manager. She got paid a good salary for that, but she didn't have to put hours in just sitting there because she had regulars and she know when they'd be there. It was a great job for her. She didn't want to quit, but they just terrorized her so much that she virtually hasn't spoken to me since the day it happened because she's afraid.
My employees threw this big huge party for me the night before I went to jail, which got in all the papers and stuff, which really pissed everyone off, especially Evelina because they're trying to give the image that I was so bad.(note-Evelina Giobbe, is director of Minneapolis' anti-prostitution organization, WHISPER, Women Hurt in systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt.)
So anyway, there three at my house and only one at the other people's. I went to the lawyers the next day at 9 o'clock in the morning because they had hit both my sister, and my sister in law and they had nothing to do with it except that they worked there. This was my business. Nobody else owned a part of it. Nobody was a partner. It was like, "If you want to get somebody, fine, have me. What is it you want? And I had my attorney call them ask what they want. If they want me to go out of business, I'll do it. If I have to go to jail for a while, I'll do that, too." But they gotta leave all these other people alone. This is complete insanity, what they have done to people. They are not the masterminds of this criminal organization. They are employees. One of them does nothing more that clean the showers and vacuum the floors. Next they'll be getting the postman or something. The guy who repairs the telephones. God knows who they'll be after next. They wouldn't talk to me.
They didn't talk to you because they wanted your money and they didn't want to warn you?
When they search your house, they tell you what they're looking for and it was business records, records of holdings, of stock, bonds and I'm looking at this and thinking, this has not a damn thing to do with prostitution. There would be no reason to come to my house to look for any evidence. Nothing goes on at my house. So they're looking for all these business records and bank statements and computers. So right away I recognized that this was not a normal prostitution bust, so I said to my lawyers, "Do you think they're going to try to use the state racketeering law against me? He said, No, they wouldn't do that." I mean, he thought that was really far-fetched and he's a very conservative attorney, but I was worried enough about it that I immediately emptied all my bank accounts and liquidated anything I could. I had some money in real estate and I had one farm sold to a wealthy farmer that I knew through my family, but I was still stuck with some property that I couldn't sell fast enough before they glommed on to it. I tried. But it didn't work out. They were kind of stupid. Maybe they learned that if you want to grab a person's property, you can't knock down there door at four in the morning with a search warrant that says you want to know about their bank accounts, because they're going to get a clue that that's what you're up to and they're going to hide everything. If they had never kicked my door in, I would have never liquidated anything. It would never have occurred to me that they were going to do a RICO on me.
The messiest, ugliest part, they keep making arrests and women keep going to court and they're leaning on people and I have to move several women out of state. One of them moved out of town so they couldn't find her, because normally you don't look for people except on a midsummer. You wait till they get picked up on a traffic ticket. It's not like you send someone out to look for people who don't show up for misdemeanors, but they did send them out for her. She was in jail, and she was terrified, and I thought, okay, I think we better find Texas or some place. So it was just hysterical because here's this woman. She's thirty years old. She worked there about less than a year. She worked in a factory all of her life. She happens to work in the same factory my mother did, and read about me in the paper.
Your mother worked in a factory? What kind?
A canning factory in a little town. There used to be 200 women who worked there and every year automation pushes them out, so you're down to 10 or something and this woman could see that she was going to lose her job. Anyway, she knew that mother was the mother of Rebecca Rand. So she went up to my mother and she said, "You know, I'm really sick of working in this factory. Do you think your daughter would give me a job." So the woman called me. Well, she was a great person, but really small town nice, like too nice to survive in any city because she's totally naive about people's intentions and kind of believes everything everyone says. So she's a very vulnerable person, but she loved it. I mean, she was totally into sex and she had never met men she thought were as fascinating because, after all, she worked in a factory her whole life. She never met guys who had traveled and had interesting jobs. She thought she'd died and went to heaven to end up in the sauna. And having sex all day, with guys telling you interesting stories about their life and then giving you a hundred bucks. And, basically, she left the factory because the jobs were disappearing.
It just happened that they had a wiretap on just at this period when my mom had called me and said, "There's this woman and she'd like your phone number. Would it be okay if she called? Anyway, a threat was made...well, maybe threat is the wrong word... a suggestion was made to my lawyer that there would probably be a charge brought against my mother.
There was a guy who was a private investigator. He hung around the sauna. He didn't have a girlfriend and he hung around a lot. Every week he'd spend some money and see somebody, but he'd stay three or four hours, and he was always driving everybody crazy. He was always bugging me for work. One time he came to me and he said that he could get a picture of... well, there was one certain police office on the vice squad who was notorious because he lied, and there was this allegation among different women, not who worked for me but at other saunas, that he would have sex with you, and he would not arrest you that day, but what he would do is come back on a subsequent occasion and, you know how you would faintly recognize them, you know how you would say to yourself, "yeah, that guy's okay?"
You can't totally place him but you remember him. And then he would proposition and arrest them. He would wait long enough so he would be familiar and they wouldn't be careful, and then, of course there would be no proof. The woman would say, "But I had sex with you three weeks ago." He say, "Yeah, you're crazy." So we were trying to get this guy and none of my employees thought that that had happened to them, but there were other women at other places who saw his picture and thought that he'd done this. So this private eye tells me that he can get a photograph of the cop and wants me to pay a thousand dollars for a photograph and a description. And I said, Well, I don't care...Yeah, okay, I'll do that." So he staked the guy out and got a half way decent photograph and a description, his height and weight on the back and it got put-up in the dressing room. On September 30th, when he raided the place, he found the photo. Now they go crazy.
So how did they take it?
Well, you only find stuff out later. It made them really pissed at the guy who took the picture. So they had a phone tap on my phone and they had heard me making this agreement with this private detective. He wound up getting charged with about three felonies. I don't remember what.
That's interesting. Priscilla Alexander told me that she had heard about some vice cops abused prostitutes, getting the women to have sex in exchange for not being arrested. Anyway, she called the head of vice and told him. Immediately the guys were thrown off vice, but they were promoted. Now it's those same cops who are spearheading the Mayor's program against the homeless.
They don't get rid of them. No matter what complaint you have, the most that'll happen is they'll get taken off vice. What difference does it make? The new one that they put in his place is just as likely to do the same thing because nothing bad happens to them. It's not like they get reprimanded, get a write up in their files, get three days off without pay or lose a promotion. The worst that ever happens is they get rotated off vice and the new guy that comes on, you have the same chance of him doing it. The chance is fifty-fifty, a guys gonna be like that or he's not. With a new guy you're running the same chance. So it's a waste of time, unless you can really , really get him. When you call the vice squad and tell them, they'll probably believe you but there's not enough evidence to bust them, so they just rotate them. I would rather let it slide until I can get a condom with his jiz in it. These DNA tests will really get somebody good.
But anyway, because of the photo that's back there, they get a hard on for this poor private investigator, who's just a nobody, who has no money and basically no where to live. He just sits in my lobby smoking cigarettes all the time. I did hire him. Here's how I used him. When a woman came in looking for a job, I would notice, Well, she looks okay. She talks okay. Let's go on to the next requirement. I did not want to discuss prostitution with her, so I would just tell her, "Yes, I do have a job." I would say I'm going to have you do an interview with a very regular customer here. Jim comes in here all the time. He's a nice man. He's not going to ask you to do anything. He's just going to let you do your session however you want, whatever you do up to you. It's an interview. I will pay you for the interview. The fee is sixty-five dollars an hour and I will pay you sixty-five dollars and if he thinks you would work out well here, I'll offer you a job, and if he doesn't, well, you still have the sixty-five dollars. So, then she starts going "Do I... " and I say that I don't want to discuss it." I tell her, " It's your interview and you decide how you want to spend the time. It has to be your decision.." Then the instructions to Jim were to absolutely say nothing. Just lay there. Don't do anything. Don't open your mouth. Don't say anything. Don't touch her. Just lay there. And the woman is supposed to figure out, if she wants a job, she's gotta do something. And if she doesn't figure it out, then I don't need her. She's not sharp enough on the uptake. But they know. But they know what they're coming to apply for.
Jim did this for me and it worked out because I wasn't loosing any money, because he didn't have any money. I figured, because he's a private investigator, he understands the law enough that I could trust him not to say anything. I mean some guys, you could tell them a million times, "Don't say anything. Don't touch her," but it wouldn't do any good. The last thing I wanted was for the poor guy to get arrested for solicitation. So it turns out, they send a police officer who was a woman to apply for a job, and I remember her. I never said anything to her at all. She went into the room with Jim and she said something like, are they allowed to use condoms here, and I think he said, "I don't get involved with that." And she was in the room about fifteen or twenty minutes and she didn't know what to do. She said. "I'm going to have to go home and check on my baby-sitter. I'll be right back." And she left. And she never did anything. They made a case out of that. That he was promoting the police woman's prostitution. They charged him with a couple of felonies involving that. I can't remember what they were. This man had nothing to do with my business. They said, "Well, he helped interview." I said, "If I'm running a restaurant and I put a new dish on the menu and I tell somebody to try it and tell me what they think of it, that does not make them a partner in the restaurant. I said, "He was never paid for it." I think it's stretching things to call him a partner in a criminal enterprise. But they did. The problem with the racketeering laws is that you can charge anybody, because anyone that does anything to further the business which, if you want to stretch it could mean shoveling snow on the sidewalk so that people could get in, or any newspaper you run an ad in, or anybody who fixes your toilet, or whatever. You can stretch it when you want to cover anyone. And they did that. In the most extreme case they did that with my daughter who had never, never been to the sauna anymore that to sit outside and pick me up once or twice when my car was in the shop.
Your daughter never came over that's odd. I would think she would be curious about what your business was like.
Both my kids were totally aware of what I did. But you don't know who'll say something. I mean you got twenty guys coming in and nineteen of then will be perfect gentleman, but what if one of them makes some remark to her or something. You just don't need it. And it's the same with your employees. Mostly they're gonna behave themselves, but you always have the ones who don't, who are going to be inappropriate or tease her and say, "Why don't you come into the room and watch," or something." Who needs it?
Lehrer was older, but as soon as Rye was old enough to notice, around six or so, I never had him around. With Rye, he started noticing the women too much. He'd say, mom, "Why did that man pick her? Well, one thing he said to me once, he goes, "Mom, who makes the most money here." I said, "Well I do." He goes, "But why? You're not the prettiest." Thank you very much. I know that. Thank you for reminding me. I said, "Well, I'm the smartest." He says, " But mom, guys don't care about that."
He's ten years old. Even he knows that. I can't sell him on the notion that I make the most money because I'm the smartest, because he knows what they're interested in. I explained it more thoroughly later. There comes a point when they're curious. I wasn't ashamed and they knew it. But when the kids got older, I kept them away. On the other hand, I have a very good friend whose twenty five year old son runs the place for her. He's very decent and the girls really like him. He's real businesslike but friendly. He happens to be very attractive, with enough of a love life of his own that he doesn't lean on them. Or he just doesn't.
My daughter, Lehrer, was older. She was very busy. She had just gotten married. She was twenty four and she was in her first year in law school, but she'd been at college four years before that. There wasn't any reason for the cops to go after her. My house was in the middle and my saunas were equal distance east and west of me and Lehrer lived really close to my house. There was no reason for her to go to the saunas to see me. It didn't make any sense. And I wasn't there given hours. I'd run there. I'd come back. I was back and forth all the time, so it's not like I'm working there forty hours a week, being stuck there.
It sounds like you have a good relationship with your kids. Do you have a special relationship with your daughter around the way women are oppressed? It was like that for me with my mother.
There have been points along the way when I think she was sort of angry at me about the stigma and there were some really bad things at college. She went to a small liberal arts college in St. Paul and there was a point, when she first got there... Now, she never dated in high school. I think she had about one date all through high school, so when she got to college, she started going out. Also, she got from me a really open attitude about sexuality, that it wasn't a stigmatized activity and you can just do it. And then she realized that without a lot of social condemnation, you can not do that, not because of the men but mostly because the other women talk about you, call you trash and slut and all that stuff. She and I would talk about it. I said it was the same when I grew up and I ignored it. She goes, "I resent it, but it's easier to go along with it. I can't fight it." She thinks people should just be able to have sex with whoever, men women. If she didn't live in a culture that punishes us, she would be really sexually open, but, she goes, "It's not where we live. You gotta live with other people. We have the same problem. My solution is just that it's easier not to do that."
Daughters act out responses to mother's choices. They bounce off against your solutions, so there's a generational path. All this silence and taboo and name calling keeps us from being able to empower our daughters with the truth about our lives.
It's the whole shaming of people.
If she grew up in San Francisco, she might not have felt like that. My friend, Emma, raised her daughter, Jessie, among some of us when we started working. We didn't necessarily speak explicitly about the sexuality, but she heard us examine every aspect of whore politics. Jessie grew up to be a great actress and artist. I don't think she's doing sex work. Emma never wanted her to have to do it, and Emma inherited a fair size estate. Jessie's at the Drama department at NYU.
Well, Lehrer didn't notice any problem until she got to college. There was one time when Lehrer and Jeff went to spend time with his family at their cottage. Jeff and Lehrer slept together and his mother had this big fit. And Lehrer was so embarrassed. She sat down and she was writing this letter of apology and I got mad. I said, "You don't have to apologize. It's his problem. He's the one who should have known his own mother, and if she wants to react that way, it's not your responsibility, to have predicted that. You're my daughter. I wouldn't react that way." Lehrer was just shocked. It didn't occur to her. I mean these are college students in the nineties. But, so she got into the world and realized that people had different feelings about sex that she had grown up with. She needed to accommodate herself to a certain degree to keep peace. In fact, when she first met Jeff, somebody else told him, who she is, who her mother is before she could. She thought that was really tacky. She realized that, at a certain point you tell them but not in the first ten minutes. But that's the sort of shit that went on at a liberal arts college campus.
Anyway, they told my attorney that they were trying to get me...I don't know what they wanted me to do. Because they never offered me a plea bargain. I don't know if they wanted me to roll over and play dead or what. I thought, tell me what you want. We'll talk about it. For the whole two year period, they wouldn't do it. They would never say what they wanted. Then my lawyer came to me. He said, "They told me today they're going to charge Lehrer." I go, "Charge Lehrer?! For what?" Because Lehrer's house was not raided. They had a ten day phone tap on my phone and at work and Lehrer was not on the phone tap. They are required, when they do phone taps, if it's obvious that it's a personal phone call, they have to delete it. The problem with a lot of my conversations is that they're both. By the fact that Lehrer was not on during this twenty-four hour tap, that's an indication that there was never any conversation that was even remotely related to business between her and I. There was just no reason.
The whole thing came down to that when she was a child, my attorney listed her as a corporate officer of my subchapter S corporation. This is completely conventional. A subchapter S is like a one person corporation. Nobody else owns any shares or anything. But you still need three different officers, so everybody lists their families. Usually you put your wife's name down, your kids names. That doesn't mean that they have anything to do with the business. It's legal and extremely common. We looked through stacks of legal papers trying to find out how we listed her. We didn't know. There was no chance in hell at a jury trial that she would ever be convicted, by no stretch of the imagination, but they obviously did it to put additional pressure on me to capitulate to whatever their demands were. What was insane was, I told them I would go along with what they wanted. I kept saying, tell me what you want.
The raid happened September 30, 1990. I finally went to jail in the spring of 1992. My business was open all that time. Why did they do this to my daughter. I was willing to go out of business. At that time they were threatening my sister, my mother and my daughter. Finally, the eventual agreement that was made is that I had to hand over my building to them, close my business, go to jail for four months and pay them 200,000 dollars. In the mean time, I had paid out huge amounts in legal fees. The cops had arrested I don't know how many women and terrorized them during this period of time and wasted all this money. They were stupid. Why didn't they make a deal?
Continued... Thoroughly Modern Madam (part 3)