“And who better to share a brothel’s colorful history than the madam who saw . . . and heard . . . everything.”
- Jack Sheehan
Author, Skin City: Uncovering the Las Vegas Sex Industry
Admit it. You’re curious . . .
You can’t help it. Regardless of your moral view of prostitution, you’re curious about what happens within a brothel. How much money changes hands? What are the rules? Who are the working girls and who are their customers?
Legal Tender answers those questions and many more as Laraine Russo Harper relates the fascinating story of her six years as the madam of a busy and expanding brothel outside Las Vegas. Illegal in forty-nine states, only Nevada’s frontier spirit continues to legalize houses of prostitution in rural counties.
Harper’s inviting mix of heart, humor, and business savvy is frank, often funny, and always straightforward. Through it all, Harper maintains a light touch, relishing the absurd situations and hilarious misadventures that highlighted her six-year odyssey in the world of legal prostitution.
A veteran of the casino industry, Harper had little knowledge of the legal sex trade when she was hired to run a brothel. But while she had a lot to learn, Harper became involved in brothel management at an opportune time: The owners wanted her to oversee the multimillion-dollar transformation ofa collection of dingy mobile homes into a luxury brothel resort.
Harper’s business experience helped her not only to physically transform the brothel but to create an environment dedicated to professionalism and customer service. This eye opening inside account traces her learning curve in the prostitution business as well as her efforts to create a clean, safe workplace for her “ladies” and a welcoming atmosphere for customers.
While Legal Tender is a useful primer for those looking to run a successful business of any kind, the book also documents the unique aspects of the prostitution industry. Harper humanizes the prostitutes, describing their lives inside and outside the brothel. Many prostitutes make high incomes and live lives of considerable comfort when they are not working at the brothel. Outside the safe haven of the brothel, others struggle with drug abuse and pimps who abuse them and take much of their money.
Harper argues that common perceptions about prostitutes are often wrong. Not all of them were sexually abused as children, for example, and most of them freely choose their line of work. Rather than cold-hearted pros, most prostitutes have proverbial hearts of gold, showing great empathy for children, animals, families, and their customers. Harper explains that customers who embark on “rescue missions” to save working girls from the business are almost always wasting their time.
The customers, too, are profiled, ranging from the disabled men who can only find female companionship in a brothel to the high-rollers who have no qualms about dropping thousands of dollars for an all-night party. Harper also confronts public attitudes about legal prostitution, describing her efforts to improve the industry’s reputation.