The Everleigh Club was a brothel settled in Chicago at the turn of the 20th Century. It was ran by sisters Ada and Minna Simms. It was in operation from 1901 to 1911, eventually being shutdown by Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. after discovering a “depraved” brochure for the club. Chicago’s Vice Commission described it as “probably the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the country.”
The two quartets begin to play; the wine takes shape in precious glasses, the champagne blew up the corks, the first guests arrive. “No house of any courtier has ever been so richly furnished, so well presented and so continually placed under the patronage of fortunate men but with light morals”, are enthusiastic journalists, invited for the occasion. What are some free passes against the insurance of a good press service?
While women do not yet have the right to vote, the opportunities to start a business and run great are rare when wearing a petticoat, and often reduce themselves to resigning to a marriage with a wealthy man. Unless, for the resistant to the forced marital purgatory, to trade the charms that nature has given them, with the hope of taking the gallon and become a “Madame”, a madam mother, sort of foreman of the priced sexuality . The evening is a great success, and a reporter exalts: “Minna and Ada Everleigh are to pleasure what Christ was to Christianity.” The apostles of the new brothel are already legion and its prophetesses are constructing an identity accordingly.
Time to plan a plan to escape their conjugal obligations, and here are the girls winning Omaha, Nebraska.
Outside of Kentucky, they can not legally be forced to return to their husbands, should they ever be found again.
Having lost qualification and even more money, hope is slim. But a revelation is always possible!
When at the end of the year the show hits the road, the two sisters have earned enough money to develop their business and fly on their own. But they know that they owe their success to the affluence generated by the event. A small city can not offer them a comfortable income, and it is out of the question to prostitute themselves for 50 cents. They will become rich and will benefit from the men, they will beg at their feet, or nothing. They need a growing capital. Chicago reaches out to them, his neighborhood of Levee is full of saloons and brothels to choke the notables and the holy water fanatics. It is decided, they will be the ladies of Chicago and will clean slate of the past!
They discovered, in the Pharaonic decor of the “streets of Cairo”, that truth is not appealing nor perfect for dreaming; the illusion makes life more attractive, and the exotic women irresistible. Because, in reality, they are not called Lester and are not married anymore.
At Everleigh Club , Ada handles payments, Minna customers. The latter comes to the door, in an assured and measured steps, striking poses between each step, when the ringing sounds, and welcomes the one who enters her den with an air of detachment: “How are you, my boy?”
Soon the place is bubbling with politicians, fashionable poets, bankers, tycoons of all kinds and other decadent aristocrats. An upscale clientele. Indeed, at the Madams sisters , only the fact of breathing is gratuitous. The products are numerous, refined and expensive. It must be said that the running costs are high. In addition to the usual expenses, it is still necessary to bribe the authorities of the city, like the councilor of the district, John Coughlin, aka “John Public Baths”, so nicknamed for having started his career as a masseur in a bathroom. In return for a generous annual donation of $ 20,000, this politician very concerned ignores the illegality of their activity and ensures their protection.
Because the enemies of the two sisters are numerous and powerful. Moralists and religious see in them the incarnation of evil, those responsible for the turpitudes that eat away at the country and corrupt its youth. Some try to force the entry of the club, which is forbidden to them, and to have investigators ascertain the depravity to which they are engaged, the degeneration of this Sodom and Gomorrah.
Minna welcomes them with good grace: each of her “butterflies” is decently paid and is perfectly master of her destiny.
Two free women are not going to alienate others!
One of these preachers kneels in front of the satin skirts of one of the girls and implores, in the name of the Almighty, to give up her shameful life, which causes the hilarity of other butterflies in a rustle of tissue. Minna intervenes, she knows that she must not offend those who can harm her: “The girls may have been vulgar, she justifies, but they have not been hypocrites.They know what kind of life they lead. ” The term “hypocrisy” in her mouth is not a word randomly chosen , she is well aware that these paragons of virtue the day constitute the bulk of her clientele at night!
The worst is avoided for that night, but the club is attracting more and more attention.
It has indeed become one of the most famous places, so that when Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of the German Emperor William II, arrives in New York for an official visit, he asks to make an excursion to Chicago to discover this place of refinement, and immediately sow panic among his guard and the services responsible for the smooth running of his stay! At the beginning of March 1902, the two sisters upgrade the place grandeur for the princely visit, planning a real bacchanal: the orchestra plays the beautiful Blue Danube, while the butterflies perform a dance in honor of Dionysus, Roman divinity of pleasures. Inebriated by music, the girls get on the tables full of food and mingle their movements to the most refined food feast . Alas, the charming slipper of one of them escapes her foot and finishes her dance … in the glasses of champagne! One of the Prince’s servants sees this as an opportunity to renew the way of drinking the heavenly beverage and gulps down the precious liquid that has filled the shoe! This decadent sophistication forces the admiration of the vestal apprentices as well as the place owners.
Un One night, a man comes to slum with one of the butterfly girls and brags about his saddlebags full of freshly stolen banknotes. His nymph, having never seen so much money in her life, can not help but chuckle heartily. A sound that does not mislead Minna, whose ear seems endowed with the gift of ubiquity. She intervenes once more and takes her apart. “We do not meet the needs of these kinds of people, he’s nervous and suspicious, tell him anything and get rid of it, I’ll give you ten minutes.” She fears a trap set by jealous competitors or politicians in search of moral notoriety and ready to bring them down. After the contents of each bag have been checked by Minna, the thief leaves the club. He was found a few days later in an alley nearby, his head shattered by a hammer. Questioned by the police about the possible identity of the murderer, Minna finds the parade: “I do not know any seller of tools among our regulars.” Once again, the new ladies from Chicago fall between the cracks.
But in February 1910, the English evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, the “messenger of God in a tent of gypsies”, decided to go on the offensive. For this man with faith pegged to the body, the virtuous purpose of existence is to try everything to make the life of his neighbor better, thanks to Christ’s love: “This old world lacks love, there is more people dying to be deprived of it than receiving too much, do not suffocate it, let it spring up. ” Alas, the butterflies do not spread love, but vice. Smith brings together some 1,200 Christians in the neighborhood. At the doorstep of Club Everleigh, he galvanized the crowd, urging the two sisters to end the era of immorality in these lowlands. Minna still shows her free and sharp style: “We thank you for taking care of our business, but I’m disappointed to see so many beautiful young men come here for the first time!” The pirouette remains inaudible to the crowd present chanting Smith’s words.
With the pressure of public opinion becoming too great, Club Everleigh, whose huge profit of $ 2 million, must close.
Just like Chicago’s six hundred brothels! Politics is also an art of illusion. The public authorities must give the impression of taking over the city. Love hotels and brothels are often the first to be targeted. We need a flagship measure that calms disaffected Conservatives. The mayor orders the closing of Club Everleigh, he wants to send a strong message, the crime has no place in Chicago.