Friday, November 16, 2012

Theresa Brown Still a Mystery | Casey's Last Word

We learned this week of the death of Theresa Brown, San Antonio’s most famous madam – at least of the second half of the 20th century.

The Red Light District that was licensed by city government for most of the first half of that century produced some celebrity madams before Fort Sam Houston generals forced its closure in the run-up to World War II.

Look up Fannie Porter and her “guests” Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Theresa Brown also had some guests of at least local celebrity.

You had to be on her list, or recommended by someone on her list, to spend your money at her unassuming suburban house.

The list included the names of local politicians, at least one statewide official and numerous business luminaries.

Much has been made about that list this week, and of the mystery of its whereabouts.

Possibly it is in Mexico according to a story in Wednesday’s Express-News.

But another mystery about Theresa Brown’s brothel has tickled my brain since the day after she was busted in 1980.

That day I received a call from a lawyer.

“I can prove that the cops have known about Theresa Brown’s house for years,” he said. “But you have to promise you won’t disclose my name.”

Not a problem, I assured him, and he told his story.

In his wilder, earlier life he had been a regular customer, he said.

One night he showed up drunk, and fell asleep after his recreation.

He woke up in the morning and went home.

“Later I realized I was missing my Rolex,” he said. “I called Theresa and told her to tell that (bleep) to give me my watch back.”

He said Brown instructed him to go do something to himself that her employees earned good money for doing.

He did something else.

“I was enough of a (bleep) that I filed a police report,” he said. “I’ll bet they have that report in their files.”

I had the address and, from the lawyer, a rough estimate of the date.

So I filed a public information request for the report.

It took a couple of weeks for it to be retrieved from the archives, but the lawyer’s recollection was absolutely accurate.

It was clear from the wording of the police report that the cops were well aware of Theresa Brown’s bustling business.

So here’s the mystery, one that endures to this day.

Both the police and some of the city’s top politicians, which is to say some of her clients, knew what she was up to for years before she was shut down.

So what provoked the bust?

If officials were turning their heads the other way for so long, what caused them to quit?

Did a quiet crusader put the heat on to shutter her operation?

No crusader came forward to take credit.

Did she somehow offend a powerful person?

Or did she fail to do what was required for the smooth operation of such an endeavor?

Did she fail to bribe someone who thought he was deserving?

I wondered that at the time, and I still wonder it today.

If anyone out there knows the answer to this enduring mystery, I would be most grateful to hear from you.

Inquiring historical minds want to know.

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