Working Girls

In this month’s feature “‘She Had Brains, a Body, and the Ability to Make Men Love Her,’” associate editor Katy Vine delves into the events in Odessa that led to one of the most notorious prostitution-ring busts in Texas history. Here, she discusses getting prostitutes, madams, and police investigators to open up to her. When and how did you first learn of the events in Odessa?

Katy Vine: I read about the events in one of the bigger papers—the Dallas Morning News, I think—right after the madams were arrested. How long did you work on this assignment? Did you spend a lot of time in Odessa? How did the residents react to your presence?

KV: Beginning in August, I took a few short trips to Odessa to interview subjects and talk to local folks. Odessans were all very welcoming. I’d been to the city a few times before, and I always found the people to be frank, nonjudgmental, and incredibly friendly. The prostitution bust seems like it would be a very sore subject for the accused to talk about, as well as a sensitive one for the police. How did you get your sources to speak so candidly with you?

KV: The prostitutes and madams felt misunderstood, and they resented some of the hypocrisy of those who considered them scum. They wanted people to know that they were not bad people and that they didn’t mean to hurt anybody. We talked about that a lot. I think each woman from the Healing Touch parlor wanted to explain her role and the situation as she saw it. The police officers wanted to be sure their side was heard because they received some heat from the press. Some critics said the police department was too slow and overly selective with the list of johns. Were there any sources, such as clients or wives, you wanted to

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