The Last Madam: A Life In The New Orleans Underworld

The Last Madam: A Life In The New Orleans Underworld

Chris Wiltz

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0306810123

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1916, at age fifteen, Norma Wallace arrived in New Orleans. Sexy and shrewd, she quickly went from streetwalker to madam and by 1920 had opened what became a legendary house of prostitution. There she entertained a steady stream of governors, gangsters, and movie stars until she was arrested at last in 1962. Shortly before she died in 1974, she tape—recorded her memories-the scandalous stories of a powerful woman who had the city's politicians in her pocket and whose lovers included the twenty-five-year-old boy next door, whom she married when she was sixty-four. Combining those tapes with original research, Christine Wiltz chronicles not just Norma's rise and fall but also the social history of New Orleans, thick with the vice and corruption that flourished there—and, like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Philistines at the Hedgerow, resurrects a vanished secret world.

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New Orleans even during the Depression. The undertakers came to town. One came to the house, and the girl he went with claimed it was the easiest money she’d ever made. All she had to do was lie there—like she was dead. Norma and the other girls made sure they knew where he was from—they didn’t want to get screwed after death! When a convention of Baptists was in town, a nice-looking man came to the house. He went upstairs but was back down almost immediately, spluttering and enraged. Norma

comfortable in the underworld. Her nature was to put a positive spin on events, but her parents’ actions had set her on a life course from which there would be no return. Norma’s parents had split up by the time she was twelve; the year was 1913. Storyville was still going strong just across Basin Street from the Quarter, but a shoot-out that year between two bar owners erupted into what was called the Tenderloin War. Bars and cabarets were closed. Many musicians left for Chicago then. The

charges—prostitution, pandering, and letting the premises for prostitution. When they booked her, she lied about her age. The newspaper reported that she was forty-nine. She was sixty-one. The article about the bust was on page 12 of the front section of The Times-Picayune. It was at the bottom of the page and was four paragraphs long. Norma had called in a favor. “A good piece of work, Freddy,” Giarrusso said. He drummed his fingers on the folded newspaper. “Jail will be a bitter dose for

two days later, Sarah took on the task of disposing of them. Norma had told her that she wanted to be cremated and her ashes spread along the streets of the French Quarter. But Sarah hated the French Quarter after having worked Elmo’s clubs for so many years. She told Wayne she wouldn’t put Norma’s ashes downtown. Wayne gave Sarah no argument when she suggested that they take the ashes to Lake Pontchartrain, even though he knew Norma hated water. Sarah turned the urn over and let Norma’s ashes

Wayne and Jean got back together, and Jean went to live in the house in Bush with her two sons, Jim and Darby; that was when Wayne decided he needed to do something with the urn. Even with Norma gone, Wayne and Jean’s relationship was rocky, and Jean returned more than once to Franklinton, thinking she should end things with him. But Wayne and her older son, Jim, who had never known his father, had formed an attachment by then. “I was doing what a man my age should have been doing,” Wayne said

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