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Atlanta History

Date: Tue,  1 Aug 1995

I recently received this question from a fellow:

> I saw your post in and I'm curious about something.
> Are all of the asian spas providers of a full range of services beside
> massages, or is it just some of them.  Has there ever been any kind of
> police crackdown on them?  Thanks!

I thought group might be interested in my reply, which provides a brief
history of the commercial sex business in Atlanta over the past 20 years.

As you know, a person should never say "never." And I haven't been to all
the asian spas in Atlanta. But the *general rule* is that full service is
available at all of them. The only exception to that rule is if they
somehow get the idea that you are a cop. Even then, they'll make some
excuse to turn you away entirely, rather than giving you a session where
nothing happens beyond a massage. So all in all, your risk of paying the
session fee for nothing more than a massage is low.

As for a police crackdown, that's a good question. In the mid to late 70s,
downtown Atlanta had dozens of "bath houses" and "massage parlors"
clustered together along Peachtree Street from the Hyatt Regency north to
14th St. There were also adult bookstores with peep shows, dive bars and
street walkers. It was a regular combat zone.

Enter Mary Welcome. She was the city solicitor, who is the lawyer charged
with prosecuting persons charged with misdemeanor violations of city
ordinances in Fulton County State Court and Atlanta Municipal Court. "Wild
Mary" made it a personal crusade to rid the city of the bathhouses and
massage parlors. (Angling for higher office?) So she leaned on the cops to
make some cases. Since the places were operating pretty flagrantly, that
wasn't hard (no pun intended) to do. Eventually Mary Welcome shut them
down. But it didn't help Mary's political career. She dropped off the
radar screen save for a brief burst of publicity when she served on the
defense team for mass murderer Wayne Williams in 1981.

The Fulton County district attorney, who prosecutes felony violations of
state law in Fulton County Superior Court, got into the act as well. He
made some obscenity cases against the bookstores and movie houses. It took
him a little longer, but eventually he eradicated the "yellow front adult
bookstores." He is still in office today, which is the main reason why you
can't rent an adult video in Fulton County.

The City Council added its two cents worth with an ordinance that
restricted where adult-oriented businesses could locate by preventing them
from clustering near each other. (BTW, the constitutionality of that
ordinance was eventually decided by the Supreme Court of the United
States.) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, land values in Midtown
Atlanta shot up.  Developers built offices buildings, hotels and fancy
restaurants. Today, you'd never know the neighborhood used to be a
commercial sex playground.

All was quite, quite dull in Atlanta until the mid 80s, when the lingerie
modeling studios appeared. For the uninitiated, these are places where the
customer pays a fee for a girl to dance nude in front of him in a private
room. There is no physical contact between the girl and the customer. But
if he wants to, he can masturbate. In the trade, these are called "jack
shacks." So long as there is absolutely no physical contact between the
customer and the girl, jack shacks are hard to prosecute because there is
generally no law against what they do. So the cops tend to leave them
alone. They are popular in conservative southern states likes Georgia and
Texas. Anyway, the jack shacks were a huge hit and made lotsa money. They
still exist, but IMHO the girls are not anywhere near as hot as they were
10 years ago.

Then the Koreans moved in. At first, their spas were pretty far out in the
suburbs, hidden in obscure office parks and tiny strip malls. This was
good for several reasons. The rent was cheaper. The customers had to have
a car, so they didn't get a lot of cheap walk-in tire-kickers like they'd
get in an urban setting. They were sometimes outside the district
attorney's jurisdiction. And, most importantly, they were very, very
discreet, which is the secret to their success. They have discreet
locations without garish signs. They run discreet, single-column-inch ads
in the paper. And they don't rip people off. All in all, it's a formula
for success in the sex business in Atlanta. Most importantly, it's a mode
of operation that does not seem to excite any opposition among the
neighbors. So they are less likely to complain to the authorities, who are
less likely to put pressure on them.

Lately, the spas have moved into town and there are some in more urban
locations closer to downtown Atlanta. But they follow the same formula, so
neighborhood opposition has been nonexistent. Therefore, I would be
surprised if there was any police crackdown in the near future. That being
said, I must warn that you never can tell when the next Mary Welcome could
come (ouch!) along. Or the district attorney could notice these places and
crank up another jihad to clean up the city like he did 15+ years ago. But
for the moment, they operate will little police pressure.

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