With all the news about now-former Governor Elliot Spitzer (Client-9), Ashley Dupre (“Kristen”), and their brief working relationship… I thought about my research for UNDER A COPPER MOON which deals with the “parlor houses” of the Wild West.
Now, Onalee’s girls did not get $4300 for entertaining the gentlemen. In fact, prostitutes of a hundred years ago did well to survive the beatings, drugs, alcohol, and diseases which I think is much like the women who work the lower levels of the profession today. Although Ashley Dupre is being portrayed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, most working women don’t have the luxury and “glamour” – although I can’t see much glamour in being intimate with a stranger, wealthy or not.
The main difference between now and the late 1800s, is that few opportunities existed for a woman in those times. If you weren’t married, you had to provide for yourself in a limited job market. Today, I hope that the world is open to women and that prostitution isn’t the preferred career choice – no matter if the going rate is $4300.
In the late 1800s, there were tiers of prostitutes in the mining towns and cattle towns (the place where lonely men made money). That hierarchy was something like:
- parlor houses
- dance halls / saloons
- hurdy-gurdy houses
- cribs / street walkers
Parlor houses had an air of discretion, class, and real entertainment. The men were regulars and enjoyed the company of women as much as the sex. In the novel, Inez has no job or money and is taken in by Onalee (the Madame) and the parlor house ladies. Those women become her family, but the lack of opportunity for them nags at Inez as she tries to make their lives better.
Did Ashley Dupre have no other options?
Was Elliot Spitzer looking for more than sex?
I don’t know.
But everyone from Dr. Laura (the media whore) to Dr. Phil (“How’s that working for ya?”)…And anyone else who puts a “Dr.” in front of their first name weighs in on the reasons; I just hope that things have changed for women in the past hundred years.