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Prostitution Biography of Madam Josie Arlington

About the famous Madam Josie Arlington, biography and history of her bordello and its specialties.

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Josie Arlington

Proprietor of the most elaborate bordello in the famous Storyville red-light district of New Orleans, Josie was born Mary Deubler of German parents in New Orleans in 1864. She first went into the business in 1881 and was noted for an extremely irascible disposition, which drew her into incredibly bloody brawls. Known at various times as Josie Alton, Josie Lobrano, and Lobrano d'Arlington, this short, hot-tempered little brunet decided to cool things down and improve her manners in 1895, when she opened an establishment on Customhouse Street filled with "gracious, amiable foreign girls who would beat home only to gentlemen of taste and refinement." When Storyville opened as a segregated district of legal prostitution in 1898, Josie moved right on over.

Her House: The Arlington, at 225 North Basin Street, was a four-story frame mansion boasting numerous bay windows, a tulip-domed cupola, fireplaces in most rooms, and, according to Josie's extensive advertising, "the work of great artists from Europe and America and many articles from various expositions and curios galore." All of this--plus 10 to 20 courtesans--made the Arlington "the most decorative and costly fitted-out sporting palace ever placed before the American public."

It was a "$5 house" (a good price in a town where traveling prostitutes, who carried mattresses on their backs and worked in any dark alleyway, turned tricks for a quarter). A fire in 1905 did extensive damage, and Josie and her "nieces" moved temporarily down Basin Street to rooms above Tom Anderson's saloon (ever after known as "the Arlington Annex"). Anderson, political boss of Storyville and a two-term member of the state legislature, became one of Josie's closest friends and, upon her retirement in 1909, bought a large portion of her business. No tour of New Orleans at the turn of the century was complete without a visit to Storyville, which always began at Anderson's saloon, moved on to the plush and velvet parlors of the Arlington, and ended up in the seamier districts.

Specialties and Eccentricities: Like most high-class houses in Storyville, the Arlington catered to the kinkiest tastes, featuring "circuses" in which sex acts were publicly performed and providing "specialists" for fetishists and sadomasochists. For a price, of course. Once the polite nonsense in the parlor was over (it raised the fee), you could do what you wanted.

After the 1905 fire, Josie became very moody and introspective. She retired four years later and lived a private (if occasionally violent) life in her mansion over on Esplanada Street. She died there on Feb. 14, 1914, just three years before Storyville was closed down by W.W.I antiprostitution regulations and the Arlington sealed its door forever.

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