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DC Police Shut Down Brothel Near Weekly Standard Office

This reporter decides to do some shoe-leather reporting. Literally.

5:03 PM, Jan 14, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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The notice in the Washington Post was tiny, buried on page B2, under the headline "Sex trade crackdown": "D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles announced a crackdown Wednesday on massage parlors, health spas and social clubs that officials have found to be associated with prostitution and illegal sex-oriented activities." Note that phrase: "that officials have found to be..."

DC Police Shut Down Brothel Near Weekly Standard Office

As it happens, one of the shuttered locations is the Star Spa, 1829 M Street, just a block around the corner from this magazine's office. It is located in a mix of businesses that includes the Daily Grill, Sign of the Whale, and Chipotle. (I have also been informed by a close source that a "Gentlemen's Club" is on that same block. Who knew?) I recall seeing the sign for the Star Spa on my way back from lunches and thinking it a bit odd. So with a fellow colleague this afternoon I decided to revisit the block. The Star Spa sign has been taken down but in order to find out what had happened—indeed, what had been going on there for at least the last few months—I decided to get my shoes shined by Bernard, aka Dr. Shine, who has been working on that same street for years.

According to Dr. Shine, who claims to have a degree in shoe-ology and calls his job "a dying profession," there were three brothels on that block of M Street. "Everyone knew they were there," he says, including the cops. In fact he believes one of them is still operating—just not at 1829. (My colleague asked someone on the main floor of that building about the Star Spa and did not get a reply.) The brothels were quite active on weekends, thriving on the patronage of the gentlemen's club nearby and the bachelor parties that came through. The massage therapists were Asian and apparently offered legitimate back massages for $60. A "full" massage went for $160.

Dr. Shine described the clientele as "mostly young guys." He adds, "you'd see some guy walk down the street, stop, look up at a window, and continue on his way. You knew what he wanted." The good doctor also laments the decline of the streetwalker and reminisced of one named "Foots." Sadly he thinks she has moved on, what with age and all.

Funny to think that as we walk to Caribou Coffee (across the street) for our low-fat lattés or stand in line for hours at Chipotle, there is still this seamy underbelly, right under our noses—right here in our nation's capital, home to hard-charging politicians, former mayor Marion Barry, former president Bill Clinton...

On second thought, maybe it's not much of a surprise.

(Incidentally, Dr. Shine's glimmering shoe shine costs $6 and does take a few minutes. But the things you will learn!)

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