Rose Marie, Circa 1950s
A production crew developing a series on failed beauty queens for cable television's TruTV - the car-chase, cops-and-robbers channel formerly known as CourtTV - was filming interviews here yesterday for a segment on Rose Marie Williams, the 1958 Miss Washington-USA who went on to a nearly 35-year career in prostitution, spanning two generations of vice cops. At 68, Madam Washington still looks pretty damn good.
This segment of a planned series - Beauty Gone Bad, to be hosted by marvy trashy filmmaker (Devine, Hairspray) John Waters - was inspired by stories about Williams in Seattle Weekly. She mostly outsmarted the cops for 35 years as a sometimes-$300-an-hour madam. The legendary beauty queen (a Miss Universe semi-finalist whose hobbies included skiing, swimming and sewing) was busted six times for prostitution from 1966 through 1999, and convicted only twice, given probation the first time, but losing her Bothell brothel - her home - in a plea bargain in 2000. She kept two other properties including a home near Green Lake that had what police called a dungeon, with whips and chains.
After I arrived at CoverEdge Studio on Sixth Avenue, I found Rose Marie sitting on a couch. Trim, attractive, with her brunette and gray hair pulled straight back, she'd agreed to be interviewed for the series, she said, to set the record straight, claiming there was never any little black book with the names of her customers - rumored to be judges and politicians - as stated (and sealed) in court records. She still seemed hurt that I reported some of her brothel customers, according to police, parked at a neighborhood school. "They'd never did!"
But she was proudly an ex-madam, recalling she was asked to leave town whenever elections approached - apparently so not to be linked to her whip-me, hurt-me politican customers - and said "close friends" on the police force often tipped her off when the vice squad was about to bust her massage and escort operations.
She didn't want to be interviewed for details, she said, although a producer later noted she'd recounted some details on camera. As for life today, she's given up both drinking and the career that made her infamous, she says. She cares for her seven dogs and is a bit of a crusader for sobriety. After her 2000 plea, she said, "there was no way to continue on. Other than move to Nevada, I suppose."