Excerpt: RED Lights, WHITE Slavery & BLUE Books – a Traveler’s Guide to the History of Vice in New Orleans

Let’s get this out of the way. It’s pronounced New OAR-lins, not GNAW-lins. Stop it.

The city has, to put it mildly, stories. Every hot, moist inch of the place is dense with them. They ooze and creep like alligators. Or vampires.

And if you want to talk about libertine libations, this is the place. It has a long history of both. In fact, anyone stumbling around the French Quarter will tell you the cocktail was invented there. True? Who cares?

New Orleans has also always had a, shall we say, unique relationship with the world’s oldest profession. It started as a penal colony for French penals. So, early on, it was mostly dudes. And a lot of hardened criminal dudes at that. When King Louis XV of France decided to spice things up, he did a PR blitz to try and talk some ladies into getting over to the New World to make honest men of them. But you know who didn’t want to leave France? Nice ladies from good homes. So, he appealed to the brothels and sent boatloads of ladies along with their ill reputes.

Since then, the Ol’ N.O. of L.A. has been fairly tolerant to a brisk trade in sex for sale.

As early as 1731, Prévost’s History of a Man of Quality had already immortalized that reputation. World famous courtesan Lola Montez spent a decent amount of time here, you know, “in the theater”. So much red lightin’ has gone on in this town over the last 300 or so years that people used to say on a foggy night New Orleans looked like it was on fire.