Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


City’s handling of parlor raises concern about employees

Yesterday, I was going to make the Opinion page’s quote of the day, “It’s all BS.”
Reported on Feb. 7 by the Wisconsin State Journal, this quote comes from Charles
Prindiville, owner of Rising Sun Massage Parlor located on West Main Street, who was
denying allegations, and now a police investigation, that his business is a brothel. “It’s a
bathhouse,” he further said. “[Customers] get a back rub.?”

In the space beneath Prindiville’s statement,
I simply planned to type, “Riiiiight.”

But the more I thought about the story, the more I realized that whether or not your
massage has a happy ending is not the real issue the the city should be worried about.
Their recent actions show that it is more interested in marking a tally on the side
of “morality” than protecting those who most need it – Rising Sun’s employees.


Although not formally recognized as a house of ill repute, Rising Sun seems to be
associated with prostitution in the minds of most Madisonians. “I think everybody
realizes [it’s] kind of [a] brothel in a way,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said in a 2008
Badger Herald interview
. “It doesn’t seem to have any impact on the quality of life of my
This is where Verveer is most wrong. What if the workers behind the doors of the
bathhouse are his constituents? The point is: No one is trying to find out anything about
those working there unless it’s to convict the owners on prostitution.

And how they’ve tried. Madison Police Department has gone to great lengths to garner evidence against
the proprietors. The State Journal has reported that this includes a June
2010 sting operation that involved a Madison Police detective wearing a wire and
propositioning an employee. The state administratively dissolved another one of the
Prindiville’s holdings, Butterfly Tub and Sauna, in 2008 and then again in 2011. It conducted a raid of the building in October 2010 and
August 2011
. During the second raid, it confiscated the owner’s car from a storage
facility in Middleton. And that’s not all. According to Assistant Madison City Attorney
Jennifer Zilavy
, who represents the city in the case, “several search warrants” have been executed.

I deeply question whether or not this money was well spent. In the 2008 Herald
, South District officer Susan Krause and former Sergeant Charles Weiss “noted that local police don’t have the resources to investigate
prostitution behind closed doors, and Krause said such enforcement
doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction.” Four years later and with a new set of officials, the city has decided to make it their business.

Unlike highway busts or West Badger Road vice operations, trying to convict
Rising Sun owners of prostitution is a legal quagmire. And obviously it hasn’t
been done yet: The business has been around nearly 40 years, much to the
chagrin of the city.

The money and time spent prosecuting the owners would be of much better
use making sure the establishment was safe. As reported by the Herald, from
2007-2008 56 different calls had been placed to police from the Rising Sun, and
only one was related to prostitution. If 56 calls were placed from my apartment
in one year, you can be sure there’d be a police car parked across the street
every weekend night.

Furthermore, the money spent criminalizing the acts that take place at 117
W. Main St. could be used to offer social services to the employees there, such as
rehabilitation if they suffer from drug addiction, child care or incentives to go
back to school. Even if the city did not want to directly fund such activities for
fear of seeming soft on crime, it could donate the money to programs like
the Madison non-profit Project Respect.

The saddest part of this story is that the city of Madison so badly wants the
business shut down that it doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of those
inside. Just because these employees are behind closed doors rather than
walking the street doesn’t mean it’s any less of a pressing issue that they be
protected and productive Madisonians.

Taylor Nye ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in evolutionary biology, archaeology and Latin American studies.

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