Storyville Reality

At the end of the 19th Century, New Orleans confined all houses of prostitution to a small area adjoining the French Quarter. It became known as "Storyville" or the "tenderloin" district. The U.S. War Dept. closed it in 1917 to protect servicemen.

But Storyville has continued to inspire winks and smiles in male discusssions for a century. Pamela Arceneaux's book on the district's so-called "blue book" directories could have stirred more such giddy conversation and perhaps huge sales.  But a quick glance at the coffee table-size volume reveals extremely scholarly research and a stern look at Storyville's behavior.

For starters, there's a full-page, close to the front, showing eight unflatttering police photos of arrested prostittues and madams. Reality sets in quickly. There are also numerous reproductions of "blue book" pages, each boasting of the most beautiful, cultured and entertaining ladies, which immediately begs the question: can they all be "the most"? The claims quickly lose credability in light of those police photos up front.

Arceneaux also tells us about the publishers of those blue books and the advertisers and politicians that supported them, including a few 21st Century alcohol survivors like Budweiser Beer. More reality. And a significant contribution to New Orleans history.

The Historic New Orleans Collectiion, where Mrs. Arceneaux has worked for years, sells the book for $55, which means it is unlikely to end  up on many teen shelves or under many pillows. "God's Little Acre," our mid-20th Century sensation,was a pocket-size paperback.

Note: Storyville was replaced by a public housing project which became so poverty-stricken and crime-ridden that it too had to be closed down decades later.