Family Affair: The Story of the Canal Street Brothel
The 'Knocking Shop'
Running an escort service had its drawbacks. Managing a bunch of call girls and keeping up with their appointments didn't leave Jeanette much time for school. It also wasn't safe. "The girls were always getting ripped off," she says, "and the cops always wanted freebies."
In 1996, Jeanette's mom lived in a shotgun duplex on North Alexander Street, less than a block from Canal Street. In her late 50s, Tommie Taylor enjoyed drinking wine and smoking a little weed. She also had a girlfriend who supported her.
Jeanette gave up the escort service business and moved into the other half of Tommie's house. She had a dedicated group of customers and knew she could make a nice living as a freelance prostitute. To drum up a little new business she ran an ad in a local newspaper and offered what she described as "hot body rubs."
Soon, Jeanette's one-woman brothel was so successful that she needed to hire more girls. To get them, she plugged into a loose association of madams who had formed a nationwide circuit of brothels. The circuit let girls work temporary jobs in whatever city they wanted and gave clients what they really craved--variety.
Jeanette and the girls worked a lot of parties and special events. Fishing tournaments were always big.
"I got so tired of taking my clothes off and putting them back on at this one fishing rodeo," Jeanette says, "that I just made up this little sign and hung it around my neck that said NEXT."
By 1998, business was booming and Jeanette decided to upscale. "I had all these fine porn stars coming in, and we needed more room." She moved the brothel from the house on North Alexander to a large Victorian on the other side of Canal Street.
The owner had recently converted the stately, two-story white-columned mansion into an apartment house. Jeanette rented the ground floor, which had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a workout room, a kitchen, and a sitting room.
In the sitting room, Jeanette set up a small table with a wine book and a chessboard. Around the table were a couple of overstuffed chairs. While they waited, the men could relax with a glass of wine and enjoy a good cigar.
A long-time client described the interior of the new brothel. "It had wooden floors and marble tables. It was real high-end stuff, ultra chic. Jeanette has always had excellent taste."
Back on Alexander Street, things weren't going well for Jeanette's mom. Her lover had moved out and left her with no way to pay the bills. During the 1980s, Tommie had worked around the edges of the legal profession, first in the child support division of the New Orleans District Attorney's Office and later as a paralegal for a couple of local law firms. Just a year shy of her 60th birthday and having not had a job in several years, Tommie knew her employment prospects were slim.
Jeanette asked her mom if she would answer the phones at the brothel and manage the girls' appointments.
Tommie had to think about it, but not for long. It was either help her daughter at the brothel or enlist at McDonald's on the senior citizen program. She chose the brothel. "I'll do it," she told Jeanette, "but we're going to make some changes." Tommie met with some of the girls and told them the same thing. "You're going to act like ladies, and you're going to be treated like ladies."
One of the first things that had to change was what they called the place. "I hate the term whorehouse," Tommie says. She borrowed a term from the British--who know a thing or two about brothels--and dubbed the house the "Knocking Shop."
According to Tommie, after she took over managing the house, the quality of the clientele skyrocketed. "Forty percent of our clients were doctors and lawyers," she says. "We also had several of the city's biggest restaurateurs."
Tommie was a tough manager. She woke the girls up every morning at 7:00. Much of the brothel's business came during the day. "I don't know why they call them ladies of the evening," Jeanette says. "They were ladies of the afternoon. Most of the guys were on their lunch hour."
"We ran a clean house," Jeanette says. The FBI later found a typed list of rules stuck to the refrigerator door. The first one was NO DRUGS.
Rates started at $250 per hour, per girl, but Jeanette says that if she had a celebrity porn star in, the price for an hour of sack-time jumped to $600. Customers had to pay for the full hour. There were no per minute rates.
Brothel girls were also available for special parties. A couple of local businessmen rented three or four of Jeanette's girls to entertain their clients during trips to the Mississippi gulf coast in their boat, a 41-foot Sea Ray named CRIME SCENE. According to Jeanette, the price was $3,000 per girl.
Jeanette says her girls typically took home $5,000 to $10,000 in cash each week. And the work wasn't that tough. Each girl could see 10 to 15 clients per day. "You've got to remember," she says, "we didn't spend an hour with each of them. Two minutes here, three minutes there, maybe a total of three hours work a day."
Today, looking back, Jeanette is not the least bit ashamed of the business she built. "There is a need for prostitutes," she says. "We balance everything out. We let a guy live out his fantasies."
Some of the fantasies at the Canal Street Brothel got a little rough. For those who liked that kind of stuff, there were whips, chains and a lot of leather. Jeanette says that most of the clients who wanted to be dominated were Republicans. She cracks a smile, then adds, "They wanted to be spanked and tortured and wear stockings--Republicans have impeccable taste in silk stockings--and these are the people who run our country."
Jeanette is no stranger to politics. She and her girls used to party with a former Louisiana governor who is now serving a 10-year federal prison sentence in connection with charges unrelated to his penchant for prostitutes. Jeanette also had a three-year affair with an ex-mayor of Baton Rouge, the state's capital. The ex-mayor, a former LSU football star, later died in a French Quarter flophouse after binging on alcohol and cocaine.
As far as presidential aspirations, Jeanette says, "I loved Clinton. He should have visited the brothel." She laughs. "But he can still look me up the next time he's in town."
Jeanette says that her 21-year-old daughter, Monica Rene Montemayor, who turned her first trick at 16, asked to work at the brothel. "She was threatening to sell herself out on the street where I knew she would get hurt," Jeanette explains, "so I brought her into the house to protect her." She set up Monica with a couple of her older clients, men whom Jeanette knew she could trust.
From Monica's perspective, protection was only part of the reason her mom brought her into the brothel. "A fresh young girl," she told ABC news. "That's a lot of money."
One of Monica's first brothel customers was a big--some sources say the biggest--name in the New Orleans restaurant business, but after someone else got Monica pregnant, Jeanette says she took over servicing the restaurant owner.
When Monica came back to work, she got the client back but it didn't take her long to figure out there was something different about him. "He used to be so easy," she complained to her mother. "Now you've got him doing all this weird shit."
With a wicked grin, Jeanette says, "I got him into S&M, and she said I ruined him."
Another long-time customer, one who didn't turn out to be so trustworthy, was a New Orleans lung surgeon with a cocaine addiction.