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Thread: The Lux Rooms

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  1. #1
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    Default The Lux Rooms

    I was looking on the internet today for some information involving Wallace, Idaho, and I found a story from the Seattle PI that really stirred some memories. If you grew up in Spokane and environs, you might remember a sort of mythical place in nearby Wallace, known simply as The Lux Rooms:
    ONCE-WILD WALLACE QUIETS DOWN-LAST RED LIGHT ON I-90 IS REMOVED
    By Bill Richards P-I Reporter
    Monday, September 16, 1991
    Section: Living, Page: D1

    For years this hard-edged little mining town deep in Idaho's Panhandle boasted two of the West's most famous red lights.

    One hung in the window of the Luxette, a local brothel. The house, along with more than a dozen sister establishments here, catered to generations of miners who trooped into town looking for pleasure, while the law looked the other way.

    Wallace's other famous red light hung over the intersection of Seventh and Bank streets - the only traffic light along the entire 3,081-mile stretch of Interstate 90 between Boston and Seattle.

    Each day, thousands of gear-grinding truckers, tourists, and other I-90 travelers throttled down to 35 mph and crept into Wallace. There they'd sit, tapping the steering wheel in exasperation, waiting for the light to change.

    No more.

    A slump in the mines and worries about AIDS hit the brothels hard. Wallace's red light district shrank through the '80s as, one by one, the houses folded. The last bordello, the ``U and I Rooms," closed last September.

    Wallace buried its other red light Saturday. The interment, complete with mock coffin and horse-drawn hearse, marked the opening of a new viaduct, a mud-colored structure that carries the freeway past the town on a cantilevered, five-story-high S-curve.

    With the snip of a ceremonial ribbon, I-90 became the country's longest uninterrupted highway last week, and Wallace, its pesky traffic light suddenly obsolete, gave up its 21-year fight to stop the interstate.

    Now, Wallace is banking on its famous red lights to save it from drowsy oblivion.

    Over the weekend the town threw a three-day ``Last Stoplight" bash. Residents sold T-shirts touting I-90's new unbroken transcontinental status, peddled pancakes and quilts to tourists and conducted a ``residential boulevard stroll" (a walk around the town's newly empty streets.)

    ``We wanted people to come and spend money and remember our stoplight," said Mayor Maurice Pellissier.

    Wallace's 57-year-old mayor, ``Moe" to his constituents, was busy over the weekend putting an optimistic spin on the town's newfound emptiness.

    ``Look at that," marveled the mayor as a single car - an elderly Plymouth - chugged through downtown. ``You can cross the street now."

    But it is Wallace's bawdy, red-light past that the town hopes will be its future economic salvation. It has slapped signs up at either end of the new I-90 bypass touting the freeway's former meandering path here as a new ``Historical Route."

    ``This used to be a pretty wild place," said the mayor. ``People ought to be interested in seeing that, don't you think?"

    Perhaps. But with the last bordello only a year gone, Wallace's historical coattails are uncomfortably short. Local madams, for example, helped buy the scoreboard for the high school football team. They also pitched in to help with youth baseball uniforms and to outfit the high school band.

    Until 1976 the Gyros, one of Wallace's leading civic clubs, held its annual Christmas banquet at a two-story downtown brothel called the Lux Rooms.

    ``There would be 30 or 40 guys up there. The madam would buy the booze and the girls would take the night off and serve dinner," said the mayor. The brothel was listed on the city tax rolls as a ``female boarding house."

    Further complicating matters is a federal grand jury looking into allegations that Wallace and surrounding Shoshone County are rife with corruption, gambling and prostitution.

    IN JUNE nearly 150 FBI agents swarmed into the county, seizing enough documents to fill a small fleet of U-Haul vans.

    Last week, while Mayor Pellissier and Gov. Cecil Andrus cut the ribbon opening the new I-90 bypass, a bevy of local businessmen and law enforcement agents trekked to Boise to answer the federal panel's questions.

    None of this appears to faze Mayor Pellissier. The mayor cheerfully acknowledges that brothels operated here into the mid-1980s without much disturbance from local authorities.

    But he dismisses those transgressions as history.

    ``WE'VE CHANGED," Pellissier said. ``We want people to come off the interstate to see where the whorehouses used to operate here - not where they're operating now."

    It is not the first time Wallace has turned to its bordellos for help.

    In 1970, when state highway engineers routing I-90 through the northern Rockies arrived at the edge of town with plans to flatten the business district, locals filed an application to put Wallace on the National Register of Historic Places as a prime example of an early Western mining town.

    ``The red light district was definitely part of that," said Merle Wells, a historian with the Idaho Historical Society who helped draw up the application.

    Wells said the federal historians were intrigued by the idea of putting a working red light district on the list of the nation's most sacred places.

    ``The National Register people said, `We haven't got much of that registered,"' Wells said. ``They thought it was priceless."
    When I was a teenager in Spokane in the late '50's, teenage boys were given to lying about their sexual conquests. I've wondered since that time if that pattern of lies about sexual prowess by young men was just a phenomenon of the era, of if it still happens today and is part of some sort of insecurity demonstrated by some boys, nervous about their manhood. It was an unfortunate fact of the late '50's that a young girl might find her reputation besmirched by lies. It never happened to me, so far as I know, which left me somewhat miffed that I apparently wasn't deemed "babiliscous" enough to be worthy of garnering some sort of notch on some pimply-faced boy's fictionalized ... well, I better leave it at that .... I can't think of a word to finish that doesn't bring up unfortunate images.

    (On the other hand, I consoled myself at the time, it might just be that my character was so obviously beyond reproach that some low-life, lying teenage jerk wouldn't dare suggest any such immoral behavior. "Yeah, that's the ticket! Who'd believe them?")

    Anyway, teenage boys in Spokane in the late '50's used to brag about membership in the "87-Mile Club," a reference to the distance between Spokane and Wallace, Idaho. You've got to know that for every 50 young men who might have claimed to earned membership in that club, there might have been one who actually did.

    Years later, the reputation of the Lux Rooms persisted. I worked in the early '80s for a large Spokane law firm, and one of the partners had grown up in Wallace and had known Delores, the Madam, personally. (I don't mean "known" in the biblical sense, only that he knew she was not some mythical figure.

    He assured the other lawyers in the firm that the Lux Rooms were, at that time, in the early '80's, still alive and well. To prove his point, one time when the lawyers were traveling by bus on I-90 en route to their annual retreat at Whitefish, he ordered the bus driver off the freeway and into Wallace, directing him to pull the bus up in front of the Lux Rooms. As the group of tall young lawyers trooped upstairs, one of the young ladies exclaimed, "Oh! Y'all are so tall! You some sort of traveling basketball team or something?"

    One Sunday soon, my sis and I are going to need to make that drive from Spokane to Wallace and spend some time in the town, including a visit to the Bordello Museum, described in this website about historic Wallace.

  2. #2
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    A schoolmate used to tell this story, swearing it was true. His older brother came home after a date and proudly told the father that he was going to marry his girlfriend (they were both 18 and HS Seniors) because they were madly in love. After some poignant questions by the father, the son stood firm in his wishes. Finally the father opened his wallet, took out a $20 bill gave it to the son and handed him the car keys with instructions to go to Wallace and seek out one of the sporting houses. He said when you return, we'll continue this conversation. Of course this ended all talk of marriage, or so the story goes.
    Birddog

    Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

  3. #3
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    Further tales from Wallace: In the early '80's, I worked for a large Spokane law firm, and one of the partners had grown up in Wallace and had known many of the local madams personally, including the famous Delores, of the Lux Rooms. (By "known" I'm not meaning the biblical sense, but the ordinary sense of a boy growing up in the town and greeting the ladies on the street.)

    He assured the other lawyers that the bordello business at that time was still alive and well in Wallace, and to prove his point, one time when a bus load of the lawyers were traveling en route to Whitefish for their annual retreat, he directed the driver to pull off I-90 and park the bus in front of the Lux Rooms. The group of tall young lawyers duly trooped off the bus and up the stairs to the reception area, where they were greeted by Delores, who said, "What do we have here? Some kind of travelling basketball team?"

    Ah, that was an adventuresome young group of lawyers at the time! What fun they were! they were there, mind you, only to window shop in wide-eyed wonder, pillars of the legal community as they were.

    there's another story I've heard tell. I'm not saying whether it's known to me to be true or not. Just sayin': Might be a complete fabrication, and if called on to testify, I'd plead the fifth and/or claim it all came to me in one of those wonderful, elaborate dreams some of us have from time to time.

    From the Seattle PI story above:
    Further complicating matters is a federal grand jury looking into allegations that Wallace and surrounding Shoshone County are rife with corruption, gambling and prostitution.

    IN JUNE nearly 150 FBI agents swarmed into the county, seizing enough documents to fill a small fleet of U-Haul vans.
    This was not the first time the Feds targeted the working girls in northern Idaho. One time, the story goes, they used the old Al-Capone strategy and sicked the IRS on them - tax evasion, they claimed. Chief focus was Delores, Madam of the Lux Rooms. Every year, despite reporting only modest income from her "boarding house," she was seen driving a new Cadillac.

    The IRS came in and tried to "net-worth" her, a pretty well-known practice at the time of attempting to trap suspected tax evaders by coming in and saying, "See here: You've got all this "stuff," including those fancy Cadillacs you've been driving, yet you're reporting little or no income. We're going to assume that the cost of your "stuff" was paid from unreported income. Prove otherwise."

    "Oh, no!" says Delores, the story goes. "Those cars were just a gift from a dear friend! I'm shocked you would think otherwise!"

    What kind of a dear friend would make such an extravagant gift? Well, the story continues, the dear friend was a local mining magnate, who was a wonderful, moral gentleman, but he was unfortunately overtaken from time to time by demon rum. Sober most times and a very astute business man most days, periodically, he would go on a bender and disappear, resurfacing days and days later, calling home painfully recovering from a killer hangoverr, in Paris or London or some other exotic location.

    the mining man's company kept a gentleman on retainer for the exclusive purpose of jumping on a plane on very short notice to fly to whatever destination our friend found himself eventually waking up in and bring him back home. He would be driven directly to his summer home on a nearby lake (Hayden? Coeur d'Alene? The detail I was told escapes me now), and Delores would dispatch a couple of the girls to the hideaway, there to minister to the sadder but temporarily wiser mining man and nurse him back to health.

    Out of gratitude for these acts of kindness, the annual gift of a new Cadillac was assured.

    A gift, no quid pro quo? Or compensation for services rendered? Each time the matter neared trial, the generous mining man would fall off the wagon and off he'd go on an extended toot. IRS finally gave it up, as I recall the story; and when Delores marched into the Spokane office of the lawyer representing her in the matter, she paid the whole tab in silver dollars. I can't even imagine what it would have been like, toting that purse around, stuffed with untraceable silver dollars.

    True? A myth? Mining man's gone, Delores is gone, lawyer's not talking ...

  4. #4
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    Reno might have visited the Lux Rooms. . .was it located at the top of a fairly long flight of stairs ?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by RenoZag View Post
    Reno might have visited the Lux Rooms. . .was it located at the top of a fairly long flight of stairs ?
    Oh! Too good to be true! Let the confessions begin!

    My impression is that you are correct. I seem to recall that one of the lawyers I worked for mentioning he had to lower his head because the ceiling was low, and all these young lawyers trooped up the stairs single file in a narrow flight of stairs.

    Not having been there myself, I can't attest to the accuracy of that.

    So how many houses of ill-repute have you visited, after all, that they start to blur together?
    Last edited by ZagNative; 08-03-2008 at 05:42 PM.

  6. #6
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    Two. Wallace, ID and Nurnburg, Germany.

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