AFTER 34 YEARS in the sex trade off and on, $300-an-hour madam Rose Marie Williams had become legendary if not invincible. The onetime Seattle beauty queen has been busted six times for prostitution but convicted only once since her first arrest in 1966—eight years after the 5-foot-7-inch brunette was crowned Miss Washington-USA.
To maintain her profitable happy-hooker lifestyle (she had $60,000 in $100 bills stored in a safety deposit box), the 60-year-old madam kept a vigilant lookout for cops. It was a point she drove home to each new recruit of her Eastside escort service.
"She said that if I thought they were a cop," one sex worker said, referring to Williams' dozens of male clients, "not to say anything, just leave—that if the man starts the conversation out by saying 'So I get a blow job for X amount of money,' then they would probably be a cop."
The madam did much of her own customer screening. Typically, after a grilling about marital status and work, "Williams asked me if I was a police officer," recalls one of the customers who stripped naked and paid $200 for a sexual massage at her Kenmore-area brothel off Juanita Drive. The split-level home/bordello is across the street from her own family residence in a manicured neighborhood that includes a grade school (the madam used the school's parking lot for her customers). "I told Williams that I was not [a cop]," recalled the customer. "Williams commented that 'You just never know.'"
Today Williams knows all too well who is a cop and is likely still wondering how her instincts failed her after all these years: The sex worker who was told to beware of cops was herself a cop—a King County Sheriff's undercover vice detective named Ruby who was hired by Williams' sex operation, Karen's Personal Services. Detective Ruby gave at least one massage, apparently nonsexual, in the line of duty.
And the customer who denied being a cop was, alas, one too. Mike, a King County vice detective, got fondled by Williams on his first visit to Williams' downstairs massage parlor, which was replete with sex toys and drugs. On his second visit, Mike pulled out only his badge and arrested her.
Last month, after pleading guilty and avoiding a public trial, the madam went perfunctorily to jail. She was given 10 days behind bars, 50 days of home detention, and ordered to do 240 hours of community service in return for a guilty plea to felony money laundering and promoting prostitution.
The historic Rose Period had abruptly ended, coming down with a financial thud for Williams. Her business could take in as much as $900 a "session" (one customer, according to vice records, spent that amount over three hours and required a few extras such as a feather, a mirror, candles, and a scarf for him to wear). But after admitting she ran a ring of female in-call and out-call prostitutes from her Eastside homes and a third residence near Green Lake, Williams faced losing all her assets, worth nearly $1 million, under property forfeiture laws.
As part of the plea bargain, says county prosecutor's spokesman Dan Donohoe, she will forfeit only the $60,000 cash and any profit from the forced sale of her Kenmore property used as a brothel. Still, the bottom line may exceed $200,000, likely the largest penalty ever rendered in a local prostitution case.
In court, the bobbed-hair and bespectacled Williams (her looks aided by plastic surgery, according to ex-employees) had little to say other than that she had been through a lot. The madam's attorney claimed she'd been inactive as a prostitute for years until, while working as a legitimate masseuse, she simply relapsed when someone made a too-tempting offer. A grim Williams seemed embarrassed and distraught.
But in interviews with detectives, some of her ungrateful former sex employees called her an intimidating and "mean . . . very mean" boss, accusing her of sometimes taking an unfair cut of their sex earnings and charging prostitutes $1,500 a month rent to live in her brothel home.
"She watches me, she took down the blinds before I moved in," said a 28-year-old brothel worker. Another woman, 23, said "She was very cold . . . just a time bomb."
According to the women, regular customers used codes for sex—those who asked for "XYZ" got intercourse for $300. If they asked for "ABC," they got "the basic package . . . a Jacuzzi or a shower and a deluxe nude massage and a hand job" for $200, said one.
Who were the clients? When convicted in 1971 of running a call-girl ring, the former Rose Marie Nielsen's little black book was rumored to include names of some of Seattle's leading judges, politicians, and corporate execs. But she pled guilty and the names were never released. That's what happened this time, too.
Per law, customer names were deleted from police files released to the Weekly. However, a sex worker says,"These are older gentlemen, married, most of them range from [their] late 20s all the way to 60-something . . . well-to-do clients, you know, important men. One has known her since high school. One of the gals who worked for her met an older gentleman and [is] now driving around in a Mercedes."
She added: "Rose sort of puts me down [for] being stupid [because] I'm not getting everything I can from a man. She mentioned, 'I used to be in this business when I was young like you. You know, I've got men who give me fifteen thousand dollars here, ten thousand there. I shoot for the moon.' That's her exact words to me. In her eyes . . . men are money."
Read more about the Northwest Madam
Sex Raids by Rick Anderson - April 15, 1999
Madam Washington by Rick Anderson - April 8, 1999