Fleshpots. Curtains. Winners. No Toads.

Well…and we’re OFF!

Let me start by telling you how much I enjoyed your comments to the Curtains post.  Especially you lunatics who suggested the curtains might be in the basement.  Freddy Krueger is in that basement, along with the toad and the snake that James Earl Jones turned into in the Conan movie.  I’m with ‘rosarita’, who risks death crouching on the basement stairs rather than going in the actual basement during a tornado.  Yep.   Hell, I can barely walk down those stairs (there’s a hole in the masonry wall and one time I wobbled on the stairs, put out a hand to steady myself…and it went into that hole!  I screamed loud enough to be heard in Nebraska!  Took 6 months for me to even approach the stairs, let along walk down them.  El O hates my guts. ).  The Basement is NOT Happening.

c'mon down, dearie...

c’mon down, dearie…

Turns out the curtains were (wait for it) in the linen closet.  Which I’d torn apart, twice.  But I was looking for a little zippered plastic case.  Not curtains rolled up in the corner.  Which is where they were, giggling up a storm.  They are now on the window.  The funny part, of course?  They give little visual protection (they are sheer-ish) at night.  But they give the illusion of protection and that’s all I needed.  The window is set back, behind an 9′ plum bush and about 100′ off the street that nobody walks on anyway.  So we’re good.

The Brothel Story:  I checked with my prima and yep! my Tia J was, in fact, a madam before she got all respectable and everything, becoming the grande dame and matriarch of our family mortuary business (her 2nd husband (and possibly her first, my great uncle) was a mortician – I really need to bone up on our family history).  Anyhoo, my mom lived just down the street from Tia J’s establishment and, longing for a more ‘average’ life  (her own mom owned a juke-joint restaurant and family legend has it that she killed  a  man with a cast-ion skillet – this was in the freewheeling 30s) she took an aversion to that lifestyle,wanting the White Picket Fence and everything.   The ‘soiled doves’ were pretty high-end doves and wore fine silks and satins and even finer French perfume.   My mom equated Chanel and Guerlain with courtesans and any overapplication of the No5 I adored were met with the withering phrase ‘you smell like a whorehouse on payday’.  She wore Coty because it was less expensive and therefore ‘respectable’.  Her bedroom smelled of L’Aimant and L’Origan and cigarettes and her nightgowns were zealously ironed cotton. NO silk.  The funniest part of this?  L’Aimant has always been waaay more animalic than No5 (the perfume it’s always compared to).  So for all her attempts to smell NOT like a ‘soiled dove’ she actually smelled skankier! Oh, mum!  Well, that’s okay – both those Coty scents are masterpieces.

But back to Tia J – nobody in my generation had the stones to ever ask her about this – it was only mentioned in passing by our parents who heard  it from their parents – but omg.  I would LOVE to know more about it.  Was it an actual ‘house’?  How did she manage it (as in actual management – I’m thinking it’s probably not much different than running, say, an accounting office, right?  I mean…you have people who are doing a job and they get paid.  Did they punch a time clock?  Taxes? ….

What did she wear?  Was she always in silk knickers and a kimono?  Or did she, as the Madam, wear a suit & court shoes.   Did she ‘entertain’  Special Clients (like Dolly Parton in BLWiT)? (don’t you just love all the quotation marks here but honestly….ALL THE QUESTIONS!

Most important:  what perfume did she wear?


Speaking of fleshpots, that tuberose is blooming its 18″ head off and the older blooms now have that sweet-skank smell associated with Fracas, Carnal Flower and Tuberose Criminelle.  Young buds smell like lemons rubbed on flesh – Susan Sarandon without the fish.  March and I wonder if florists’ cut tuberose smells different than ‘dirt’ tuberose (in-ground or potted).  Any thoughts on that?

The last of my liles have bloomed and are in a vase in my dining room.  The tubey is in the living room.  And I am in a perfume coma.  All I need is a silk nightgown and an ashtray full of cigarette butts and I’m in business!  Don’t judge me, Mom!

TiaJ & Mami

TiaJ & Mami, Pre-Respectable


Oooh!  Curtain Winners:  HeidiC, EllenM and Michele Caravalho.  Gmail the Evilauntieanita with your details – I’ll get some goodies out to you!


  • eldarwen22 says:

    That story is much better than my great grandfather doing bathtub gin with the Mob during Prohibition! He died when my mom was in college, so I didn’t get to meet him.

    • Musette says:

      oh, I dunno……..I’m thinking bathtub gin/ the Mob and your granddad makes for a pretty interesting story! My dad and his dad (whom I never met) ran bootleg out of OH/KY back in the day. As with so many other stories I wish I’d listened more closely!


  • Maya says:

    I love everything in this post, especially Tia J! As for the cast-iron skillet, maybe he deserved it. I see them not as “soiled doves” but as free spirits. It makes me smile. I think I will wear Hedonist tomorrow in honor of these ladies. 😉

  • Suzy Q says:

    If you write a book it will be a best seller. I would personally buy ten copies!

  • HemlockSillage says:

    I LOVE this! Oh, to have met Tia J and listened to the story of her life and loves. She sounds like an amazing woman. That photo is fantastic.

    Your mom’s comments about perfume crack me up. My mom wouldn’t let me pierce my ears because, “only ladies of the evening pierce their ears!” I would roll my eyes…years later she relented and even had hers done. I have a collection of what I call ear screws, that were Mom’s and Grandmother’s. Torture devices.

    Grandma Clara had a large perfume collection and she let me poach spritzes from the time I was tiny. Thanks for reminding me of her, and sharing the fun of your memories. They are wonderful. Hugs!!

    • Musette says:

      My mom was the Persack Same Way about pierced ears but hers was ‘only fast girls pierce their ears’ – and back in that day it was kind of true (the late 50s). It wasn’t until my 4 cousins were allowed to get their ears pierced (dad was a doctor, mom was a lawyer so it was OKAY) was I allowed to do so as well. Snobby Mommy! LOL!

  • mals86 says:

    This family history of yours just begs to be fictionalized in a novel. BEGS, I tell you!

    xo from another vintage-Coty lover.

    • Musette says:

      I know your lubs your Coty!!! I have thought about incorporating some of the crazy (and omg. TEH CRAYZEEE) in a novel. Maybe I will……..

  • March says:

    LOVE this entire post. And glad you found your curtains, you goof! I’m worried about the toad, though.

    • Musette says:

      Toad is fine, sweetie. He’s got plenty of bugs down there and it’s wet as a well. El O will get him out of there in awhile, though. I’m in no hurry because Bugs.


  • HeidiC says:

    You had me at “fleshpots.” This family story is Ah. May. Zing. I want to know more, too — as Tia J passed away? So there’s no way to ask her? As a poet and memoirist, I am DROOLING over this content! So jealous! Your family business includes both brothels AND mortuaries? This is my Goth dream. If you ever find out what Tia’s favorite perfume was, you have to report back. And at the end, you say you’re in a perfume coma — what perfume?

    Your basement sounds like the one below the cabin in Evil Dead! I’ll swallow your soul!

    Thanks for the draw — I’ll email you!

    • Musette says:

      She is long gone, alas – I would’ve like to ask her stuff. But she would be – I dunno – 120 now? She was my great uncle’s second wife, so is in the ‘split’ generation, older than my mom and younger than her husband.

      My perfume coma is of the natural kind right now – between the tuberose and the lilies I can barely breathe!


  • Portia says:

    Great story Musette. Love the whole lot.
    One great thing about apartments is they have no basement. Just a double garage with an instalift door. As soon as you open it and move the lights flick on, bright, zero surprises. We’ve also sprayed it so it’s a toxic wasteland where creepy crawlies last moments before they curl up and die.
    Portia xx

    • Musette says:

      considering where you live, my darling, where things exist solely to kill and eat you – basic things! (which makes it even more terrifying) – I’d spray the hell out of it, too!