Middle Georgia Culture

Dinner Theatre at the Capitol
Nightly Events, Daily Calendar, Community News

Brooke Taylor
Star of HBOʼs “Cathouse”

JUNE 5 - JUNE 19, 2008 VOL 6, ISSUE 7


The Rub
This story may not have a Happy Ending

Should Macon regulate our Parlors & Spas?

Macon’s Asia Massage Parlors (AMP) with largest number of churches and schools within a one-mile radius A ** indicates the AMP has an unpaid business liscense
(according to the Bibb County website) Tokyo Health Spa 478-741-0001 2790 Riverside Dr. Macon, GA 31204-1461 Schools: 2 Churches: 2 Hong Kong Health Spa 478-784-0007 1550 Rocky Creek Rd Macon, GA 31206 Schools: 4 Churches: 12 Palm Tree Spa 478-475-5555 3096 Riverside Dr Ste B Macon, GA 31210 Schools: 2 Churches: 2 **Blue Sky Massage 478-744-0014 628 Shurling Dr Macon, GA 31211 Schools: 9 Churches: 18 China Doll Massage 478-785-0601 1091 Eisenhower Pkwy Macon, GA 31206 Schools: 11 Churches: 18 **Friendship Massage 478-474-5117 3706 Mercer University Dr Suite 32 Macon, GA 31204 Schools: 3 Churches: 13 Lee's Oriental Massage 478-745-1719 111 Orange St Macon, GA 31201 Schools: 5 Churches: 13 Rose Spa & Massage 478-476-8633 4221 Mercer University Dr Macon, GA 31204 Schools: 3 Churches: 13 Soft Hands Massage & Spa 478-743-7779 1922 Riverside Dr Macon, GA 31201 Schools: 5 Churches: 15

The Rub
ust touching the door handle feels strange. It’s almost midnight, and I’m trying to walk into the one of the few businesses in Macon that isn’t a bar or Waffle House and is still open. Or so the sign says. The door, however, won’t budge. I press the button on an adjacent electronic box. It makes a noise, and I try again. The door opens to a small lobby, like a doctor’s office—empty chairs and old magazines, the smell of disinfectant wafting in from some place. The mamasan—a short, Asian woman with curly hair—greets me, saying very little. Smiling, she waves me inside and leads me to the back, down a hallway, directing me with monosyllabic English: “here”, “go”, “this one”. At once, I am equally piqued by the rush of unveiling the lascivious unknown and somewhat bored—almost saddened—by how ordinary this actually is. There are no less than 20 of these places in Macon. Except for those with flamboyant neon signs that cry out for attention the way a toddler does when it’s ignored, they are unassuming, blending in, easy to look past on the daily commute—just another storefront in another strip mall.. The public offers snickering nicknames for them, the stuff of playground talk, like “nookie parlor”, “jack shack”, “sex spa”. But the men who frequent them call them AMP—Asian Massage Parlor. And everyone knows what that means. “I started wondering why there are billboards for something that pretty much everyone knows is illegal,” Dr. Andrew Silver, a Mercer professor who works on sex trafficking issues, says about what initially drew him in. “We don’t have billboards that advertise for heroin, or even for porn. People would be up in arms about that stuff, but they aren’t about this.” Before the Mother’s Day tornadoes altered the landscape, Silver counted 18 billboards along the 170 miles of I-75 laying south of Macon, seven coming within the few exits before Mercer University. North of the city, The 11th Hour counted another ten, a number dwarfing the three that promote city attractions. “I do have some concerns about our image,” Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Janice Marshall says. “Travelers don’t want to stay in an area with massage parlors because they don’t want to have to deal with the questions from their children.” Marshall adds, “A perception is as good as fact. I can’t afford enough ‘Song and Soul of the South’ and ‘Historic Macon’ billboards to counteract that.”

This story may not have a Happy Ending
BY CHRIS HORNE with additional reporting by Whitney Gray
Lamar Advertising sales director Terry Harvin says that when a business—any business—is caught in illegal behavior, they pull the sign. To his knowledge, Harvin says they’ve pulled every AMP that has been raided. Dr. Silver says, “Personally, I think it is foolish for them to advertise like that. It seems like an invitation for law enforcement to visit.”

What happens behind closed doors…
I tell the mamasan that I want a half-hour, and she tells me she wants $40. She asks if I want a shower, but I don’t. I’ve already had one, I tell her. “Just the massage,” I say. She smiles and, pointing at a hook on the wall, tells me I can change clothes. My girl will be there shortly. Then she shuts the door.

Bibb County is conducted by people from outside the area—Corr says that these places, as well as strip clubs and adult novelty stores, could be a boon for local coffers. “If we get tourists to come to the spas, they’re obviously going to be buying food and gas and other items,” he says. “That’s going to have a positive economic impact.” Those sentiments are echoed by Grady Odom, who has managed and/or owned area clubs like Boss Hogg’s, Café Erotica, the Neon Cowboy and the Cadillac Club. Today, he’s a consultant for Club Sinsations, a bikini bar off of Riverside Drive. “In this location, if they (City Council) would allow nudity and alcohol to be in the same place, I think we could bring in two and a half, three million a year.” Rhetorically, he asks, “What’s the sales tax on that?” Between $175,000 to $210,000 a year. That does not include, as Odom points out, the money municipalities routinely charge for adult entertainment licenses. And it doesn’t include the licenses that exotic dancers have to get, which is only $50 here, but upwards of $300 to $500 around Atlanta. The real money, he believes, is in conventions, which the city could better entice with more adult entertainment. For a city competing with Atlanta and Savannah, every edge is important. “There has to be something for adults to do,” Odom says. “They don’t want to sit at the hotels all night and watch television. This is a $70 billion industry, and we’re missing out on our piece of the pie here in Macon.” Macon city councilman Erick Erickson is dismissive. “Money is not always the best standard to use. What is acceptable to the community? Look at the conventions we are getting. Do you think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to be more likely to visit if we have more adult businesses?” Marshall agrees, “I’ve been in this business for 25 years, and I’ve never had to promote our

“First time?” She asks. I confess and lay on my stomack, trying to relax as she pulls my towel off, draping it back over my bare rear. Then all 4’ 10” of her hops up on the table and straddles me. Inexpertly rubbing my back, she asks my name, my age...
The massage table is nothing special, but it’s tidy. Someone has neatly arranged an orange beach towel over it and placed two thin white towels at the foot. I take off my shirt and then my pants. The nightstand alarm clock, on the shelf below the baby oil, hand sanitizer and paper towels, is incorrectly blinking 2:38am. Trying my best to pretend that I’m waiting on a real massage, I finish stripping and wrap a towel around me. To distract myself, I concentrate on the muted strains of Amy Winehouse outside the door. They tried to make her to go rehab but she said, no, no, no… This routine—getting laid in an AMP—is easy to learn. It’s all over the Internet, on blogs and review sites. Basically: let them know you aren’t a cop but you are interested in what they offer. Just don’t ask for anything that isn’t on the menu. In other words, don’t tell the mamasan you want sex. Wait for them to ask. That exchange is nothing more or less than an agreement between consenting adults. Or, so says David Corr, the Chairman of the Bibb County Libertarian Party, who is easily the most visible and vocal proponent of adult entertainment in middle Georgia. Not only that, prostitution can be good for the city. Citing numbers used during the most recent SPLOST hearings—that 40% of sales in adult entertainment opportunities.” Anti-sex industry activist Ned Dominick says, sarcastically, “Think of the taxes if we regulated crack cocaine. Really, does money make it good?” This “prudishness”, Corr says, is a minority opinion. “I think Macon is past that.” He says that the success of Club Sinsations and the Planning and Zoning (PNZ) approval of the XMart Adult Supercenter on Emery Highway is “proof that the citizen’s aren’t interested in archaic morals.” “I’m going to use archaic terms here,” Dominick counters, “I believe the sex industry is straight-out evil in our communities for all the wreckage of human lives it involves.”

The Rub
“First time?” She asks. I confess and lay on my stomach, trying to relax as she pulls my towel off, draping it back over my bare rear. Then all 4’10” of her hops up on the table and straddles me. Inexpertly rubbing my back, she asks my name, where I live and how old I am. For a moment, it’s like getting a haircut. Small talk and services rendered. But then she slides back, revealing in the process that she isn’t wearing panties beneath her skirt, which I feel instead of see. This is not just small talk. With every touch and question, she

16 | JUNE 5 - JUNE 18, 2008

is—and has been—testing me for signals that I’m a cop. She is also preparing me for the up-sell. This is not something a licensed massage therapist would do. Erickson is motivated him to pursue regulatory ordinances, which his predecessor, Cole Thomason, twice tried to do. During sessions with his licensed massage therapist (LMT), Thomason got an earful about the rigors of getting licensed while assumedly illegitimate businesses use the title without the same standards. “It was disturbing but it was also embarrassing,” he says. “There is more regulatory compliance required of people to cut hair.” Even psychics are required to have more than a regular business license. So, Thomason proposed council crack down on the embarrassment. He was surprised by the response he received. “I was accused of trying to be the morality police. Then they told me that there wasn’t any proof that this was even going on.” Erickson notes, “Most of the people who weren’t interested in dealing with the issue are no longer on city council.” What ultimately killed his efforts in council is that the State was in the midst of beefing up its laws to address this issue, and the city had to wait to see what that would result in. Jane Johnson, LMT, is the chair of the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy, which was established by legislation in May 2005. Like all state licensing boards, the GBMT is based in Macon. Driving to meetings, Johnson became familiar with the many massage parlor billboards. Curious, she made a call that confirmed her suspicions. Despite the experience, there wasn’t and isn’t much Johnson can do. Though the state law is broad enough to make it illegal for an establishment to publicize massage services without holding a state license, enforcement is an issue. Johnson says, “We really only have jurisdiction over licensed professionals.” The majority of these girls speak very little English. Where are these girls coming from? How did they get here?” Assistant DA Kimberly Schwartz, in the Narcotics and Vice division, says, “You have to decide if you’re going after the people who are running the massage parlors, which requires a costly, long-term investigation. If you’re just focusing on the worker bees, those charges tend to be just misdemeanors.” Most of the cases from the area are of the small potato variety. The girls get out and then tend to disappear. around an invisible shaft, Koko motions towards her mouth and asks, “In here?” “How much is that?” She raises a single finger. “A hundred?” She nods. “You want—” Koko repeats the previous gesture but motions differently, not towards anything in particular.


“It nice? You like?”
She says her name is Koko, with a “K” or so I imagine if that were her real name. Not that this requires honesty. She hops off of me, pulls the towel away and rubs my legs from the butt down. She asks if I like it. “It nice?” I tell her it is, though I’m beyond uncomfortable at this point. Looking over my shoulder, I watch her take a condom from her bra, unwrap it and place it in her mouth—all without stopping the massage. Koko sees me and grins, making a hard swallow sound when she does. If I’d come for sex, I’d have been excited. “Over,” she mumbles. The towel, my cover, is long gone. For a couple of minutes, maybe just a few seconds, she runs her fingers lightly over my legs, my stomach, my chest. She runs her hands inside my thigh and out, studying my reaction to find an opening for the sell. I had expected a moment when the cards were all laid on the table, when the sham was completely illuminated, when we would discuss the terms of any further activity. This appeared to be it. After 32 years as a police officer, Odom is understandably proud of the fact that, aside from offended sensibilities, Club Sinsations hasn’t caused any problems for the community. He abhors drug use and would never allow prostitution because, at the very least, it’d give the police a reason to shut him down. “We police ourselves because we know

he major difference between strip clubs and massage parlors in Macon is that you can’t operate a strip club but you can open a massage parlor. There are other differences, but only one makes sense of why one is permitted, even if only by negligence, while one is resolutely denied. Strip clubs operate in the open and AMPs remain cloaked. District Attorney Howard Sims, says, “Prostitution is still against the law. That isn’t the problem. It’s that you’re having to go behind closed doors to catch what’s going on.” AMPs are a different beast. Authorities can shut one down for a little while, but watch as it reopens soon afterward. Advances made to combat them are consistently circumvented. Erickson says, “What I’ve asked the city attorney to look into is: is it possible to write a clear ordinance that empowers the Macon Police to enforce the state requirement?” hree years into Georgia’s massage therapy regulations, enforcement isn’t the only issue. Most of the AMPs in Macon have already dropped “massage” from their name, choosing “spa” or “sauna” instead. As for services, many still offer massage, but the growing attraction is for body shampoos, showers and dry saunas. Mayor Robert Reichert wants to add an ordinance for law enforcement to use as a too, but he acknowledges the complication of resource allocation. “We have to have a measured response that is appropriate to the level of public risk.” City Attorney Pope Langstaff is checking into what Macon can legally do to compliment state law. But finding a way to protect the public good and limit what AMPs can get away with without damaging legitimate businesses is tricky. Langstaff admits, “Regulate one thing and they move to another.” Efforts by other cities offer insight on curbing the prevalence of these illicit businesses. Clayton and Gwinnett counties have responded to community concerns by dedicating task forces to it. Officials in Nashville hold property owners liable by requiring a consent bond. In every case, it’s a matter of the local municipality turning the heat up. That is, of course, easier said than done.

**Ultimate Massage 478-781-9644 3355 Pio Nono Ave Macon, GA 31206 Schools: 7 Churches: 10 **VIP Massage 478-781-4442 3266 Pio Nono Ave Macon, GA 31206 Schools: 7 Churches: 10 **4 Seasons Sauna 478-474-0770 3975 Arkwright Rd Macon, GA 31210 Schools: 1 Churches: 0 Emerald Spa 478-788-5100 3770 Bloomfield Village Macon, GA 31206 Schools: 3 Churches: 15 Paradise Health Spa 478-785-8282 1032 Gray Hwy Macon, GA 31211 Schools: 6 Churches: 8 **Q Spa 478-757-4700 4325 Log Cabin Dr Macon, GA 31204 Schools: 3 Churches: 10 Thailand Spa 478-788-2555 4378 Pio Nono Ave Macon, GA 31206 Schools: 7 Churches: 10 **Unique Spa 478-743-1443 554 Poppy Av Macon, GA 31204 Schools: 6 Churches: 15


Looking over my shoulder, I watch her take a condom from her bra, unwrap it and place it in her mouth—all without stopping the massage. Koko sees me and grins. If I’d come for sex...
The penalty for unlicensed practitioners is a cease and desist order and a small fine that starts at $100. Before the board can even investigate, they have to receive a complaint from the public. “It usually takes someone in the local municipality to step up.” Erickson is doing that, reviving the dialogue on council with reports that massage parlors are commonly used to traffic women as sex slaves, and that it’s likely happening here. Dr. Silver concurs because of “our location in the mid-state and on the Interstate.” His interest led him to establish the Sexual Trafficking Opposition Party (STOP) at Mercer, which has spurred student activism. Skeptical of claims about sex trafficking, Corr argues that opponents of AMPs have never even been in one. He has. “But not as a patron,” Corr says. “I’ve spoken to the girls. I’ve asked them if they are being forced to do anything.” He stresses that he is vehemently opposed to sex slavery, but remains convinced it isn’t happening here, leaning on his experience in sales to help him judge whether or not someone is being truthful. Though Grady Odom has no ethical qualms with prostitution—other than its illegality—Club Sinsations neighbors a massage parlor, and he confesses some apprehension. “I see a variety of women come in and out over there, and they live there in these little places. They have nowhere to go. I see them come in and go away, and it makes me wonder. they’re watching us for any little thing.” He calls Macon’s stringent regulations against adult entertainment “the triple standard” because they require approval from PNZ, city council and the county commissioners. It came in 1993 when John Chambers opened Café Erotica. Odom was present at the meeting between Chambers, Commissioner Joe Allen and former Georgia Assistant Attorney General Hale Almand when it was birthed. Odom says, “John knew that if he could keep adult entertainment out of Macon, everybody would have to travel south unless they went to Atlanta.” Allen remembers it more as the local government throwing its weight around. “John Chambers said, ‘Look, I won’t even try to come to your town if you make sure no one else will come to your town.’ I said, ‘That’s a deal!’ They can’t bring a strip club to this town,” Allen says, offering in the next breath, “If I had anything to do with it, they wouldn’t have any of these massage parlors here either.”

The not-so-Happy Ending
Because I assumed the negotiations would be held in a different manner—one that didn’t involve me laying naked on a table as she leans over—I thought I could simply say I’d changed my mind and walk away. Thinking quickly, thought not deftly, I tell her I only have $20. She says there is an ATM in the parking lot and slides slippers towards me. Koko blocks me from my pants and shoes. She wants me to leave in my underwear. It takes a promise to return on Friday before I can go. Koko buttoned up my shirt and handed me my shoes. I told her I was sorry, and she patted my head like I was a kid. We walked down the hallway together. She holds my hand and says, “Goodnight.” Koko and the mamasan wave at me as I leave. Getting in my truck, I can’t shake something Ned Dominick said. “The heart and soul of my problem with massage parlors is that it injures everyone involved.” In reflection, the experience already has surreal properties, the way their faces keep popping up in my mind. I recall what a blogger wrote on the specifics of AMP etiquette: “Also, remember to smile at her. She’s human.” I feel ill.

The Negotiation
Koko stops the massage, imploring me with her eyes as if I could do her a big favor. Her mouth clear of foreign objects, she sweetly asks, “Anything else?” “I don’t know. How much is it?” “What you want? Everything?” “No,” I tell her. “This is my first time.” Gesturing as if her hands were gripped | 17

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful