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Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

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Best Little Whorehouse in … La Cañada?

Mike Lawler is the former  president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at
lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

Yes it’s true. Allegedly there was a house of, well, if not ill repute, then at least of questionable repute in La Cañada sometime around the 1960s.

My story comes from a local gentleman who had visited the place back then. I’ll keep him anonymous. Because of his fascination with electronics, I’ll call him “Sparky.”

Our story starts in 1929, when a fabulous home was built in the San Rafael Hills of Flintridge on Wendover Road above the Flintridge Hilton Hotel. “Las Casitas Del Paso” was a massive reproduction of a Pyrenees monastery. Faux crumbling walls, romantic balconies, cloisters and secret passageways gave the place an authentic air, as though it had been transported through time. But a secret bar that lowered from the ceiling placed it firmly in the Prohibition era. It sat on 42 beautifully landscaped acres perched on the highest hill above Flintridge, with incomparable views to the sea.

In 1941, it was purchased by a wealthy hotel broker who had probably fallen in love with the estate when he brokered the sale of the Flintridge Hilton to the Catholic Church (today Sacred Heart Academy). After he died, his wife Lucille continued to live in the splendor of Las Casitas with her prize-winning Arabian stallion “Roagzah,” a massive Doberman named Derbemar von Ulbricht, and a large flock of expensive peacocks imported from India. The neighbors had issues with the peacocks, which filled the quiet night with their loud calls. In the 1950s, we find several articles in the L.A. Times about her neighborhood conflicts over the birds, even to the point of Lucille finding the severed head of one of her birds dropped in front of her gate. After several years of neighbor complaints, punctuated with much courtroom drama, a Pasadena judge ordered her to sell or destroy her valued birds.

Perhaps it was this run-in with her neighbors and the legal system, or perhaps she was talked into it by some of the local men. Maybe she just fell on hard times and needed the money. But for whatever reason, local lore says that in the 1960s she opened her home up for “parties” for gentlemen with lovely ladies that she provided. We can’t be sure today if this was her cover for a prostitution business, but I think we might make some assumptions.

This is where Sparky enters our story. Sparky was a HAM and shortwave radio enthusiast. According to Sparky, he was up in the San Rafaels looking for likely high points and peaks to broadcast from when another local radio enthusiast who knew about the establishment invited him up to meet Lucille. For the two young men the place was a paradise. Beautiful scantily clad girls were everywhere. The bar that lowered from the ceiling was still functional, there were gambling tables, and young women lounged in what was perhaps the first hot tub in the area. Also, the peacocks were back, perhaps due to Lucille’s influential connections. Sparky said that parties of men would call in a reservation, tell Lucille what they wanted for dinner, and how many girls to have on hand. After the group had dinner, the rest of the evening was theirs to spend how they wished in any of the many ornate rooms of the estate.

Sparky really hit it off with Lucille as she was a radio enthusiast herself and had a wonderful shortwave setup. She also had set up her mountaintop estate for extra income as a huge ground antenna via several large “weathervanes” in order to transmit commercially without permits. Sparky garnered some special favors from Lucille, and still has photos he took of Lucille’s girls posing nude around his radio equipment.

According to Sparky the operation didn’t last too long. Lucille finished out her life alone on her mountaintop, and when she died the whole estate was bulldozed, and several mansions were built on the subdivided land.

There’s a lot of supposition and innuendo to this tale, and it’s up to you readers to draw your own conclusions. It seems every neighborhood has its “dirty laundry.”

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