TBT The Story Behind The Trial That Shut Down The Naked Harem
A long time ago in a town called El Paso there was a thriving strip club, I mean, gentlemen's club scene. The Lamplighter, L&L Club, Foxy's, JB's, the Cabaret, and the Naked Harem were all clubs that welcomed gentlemen to watch dancers take their clothes off for money. All those clubs are gone now, but the most notorious of them all was the Naked Harem.
Back in 2006, my husband covered the trial of the owner of the Naked Harem, Phyllis Woodall. She was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity/promotion of prostitution and her trial had a lot of men shaking in their boots. The district attorney at the time, Jaime Esparza, went hard after Woodall in his prosecution of the Naked Harem saying sexually explicit businesses had no business in El Paso. Except that you can see that the list of clubs that were open then, and the list that remain open to this day tells a different story.
If you read the article Darren wrote, you'll see a lot of lurid details of the goings on in the building on Alameda. One man who testified against Woodall said that he racked up $10,000 in "dances" in one of the Harem's private rooms. Those private rooms got so much action that they had to install a special holding tank to deal with all the condoms that were flushed down the club's toilets.
Almost 100 men were identified through their credit card receipts that were seized from the Harem. Some of those men were forced, their words not mine, into testifying in exchange for immunity. One of the dancers who testified said that she was a "verbal dominatrix" at the club and "People with a lot of power, like district attorneys, judges, officers, priests, they go seek that type of service."
The trial drew a lot of attention not only from the media but also from the lawyers and other at the courthouse who hung out to listen in on the uncensored testimony. I even heard from attorneys I know that people were wondering who would be outed as a Naked Harem client during the trial. There were a lot of worried men out there.
In the end, Woodall was sentenced to 16 years in prison for her crimes. She served a few years and was released from prison on parole in 2009.
I had never seen the famous Naked Harem so when Darren and I were driving past it last weekend, I was shocked that the signage was still up. I can only imagine what those naked neon ladies looked like at night when they lit up Alameda. They don't look too bad considering the blistering hot El Paso sun they've endured for so many years that they've been up there frozen in time.
I wonder if the men who were terrified that they might be outed during the trial heaved a sigh of relief when the trial wrapped up. My mom always said, if you're doing something behind closed doors, chances are you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. I wonder if those men ever learned that lesson.