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By Eric J. Brock


Everyone has favorite topics of interest. At the top of my list are sex and history, both in theory and practice. Thus, when asked to give my first address to the Tarshar Society, a rather exclusive little intellectual and gastronomic fraternity which meets monthly in the city of Shreveport to discuss whatever topic the appointed speaker that month chooses — always discussed in black tie over a large meal and plenty of cocktails — I chose the old red light district of Shreveport, long since closed but still alive in lore and fantasy (and to a degree reality as well, just not so well organized or tidy as it was when legal).

I was a new member, just invited to join a few months earlier. Other topics ranged from Ben Franklin, founder of Philadelphia’s Junta Society, upon which and with whose assistance Shreveport’s ancient and esteemed Tarshar Society (named for a noted Indian chief of local historic fame) was patterned and established, card tricks, first ladies of the United States, the Civil War’s Red River Campaign, and so forth. All were worthy scholarly topics and topics about which the members addressing them were passionate.

Encouraged to likewise choose a topic of passion, I opted for a discussion of whores, namely those of the old “district,” St. Paul’s Bottoms — Shreveport’s own “Storyville.”

I wasn’t sure how it would fly but since sex sells and since this was an all male crowd I figured I wouldn’t offend anyone. I figured correctly. Every single member save one who was out of town attended. Never had I seen an occasion where every member attended, but here it was! Just to hear little old me talk about ladies of the evening in the fin de siecle in our fair Southern city. As one of our older members said to me (and we had many older members): “talking about it is all that some of us have left!” The talk turned out to be a roaring success. Thus came this essay to be.

Of course, as a historian I have had access to a great deal of primary source data and have unearthed even more. Much of what appeared in this address was entirely new scholarship, unknown previously and unpublished in one place until now. From time to time I have used bits and pieces in articles and other addresses but this is the only place it has all come together, so to speak, between two covers.

I would be remiss if I did not thank my old friend and colleague Goodloe R. Stuck, whose biography of Madam Annie McCune, Shreveport Madam, which was published when I was sixteen years old, sparked in me a fascination with the old red light district which has never dimmed for a moment. Quite the opposite in fact.

As a teenager Shreveport Madam, though a work of a largely academic nature with no salacious illustrations and only vague references of truly prurient interest, held all the fascination for me that, say, Penthouse Magazine did. The book was a perfect marriage of sex and history and I with a huge intellectual curiosity and raging hormones as well, found the whole concept unimaginably riveting. I wanted to go back in time to the old district and Goodloe’s book allowed me to do so, in a way.

Years later I became friends with Goodloe and when in his later years he moved from his lovely home in the historic South Highland’s neighborhood to a retirement complex apartment, he gave me copies of his notes for Shreveport Madam along with full access to the otherwise restricted collection of interviews used in the book. Goodloe encouraged me to do a book on the district as a whole, a work still in the future. This little booklet you are reading now, however, gives a taste of what that book will be like. I am still doing research on the topic. In the not too distant future the larger book will come to pass. For now, I hope each reader of this enjoys it as much as my fellow Tarsharians did.


To the girls!


Eric J. Brock

Shreveport, July, 2004



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