|Home today to
The Lynne, a character-free apartment building, 1144 Pine Street was once
the jewel in the crown of brothels run by San Francisco's favorite madam,
Stanford. In her 1966 autobiography, The Lady of the House, Stanford
writes, "I decided to move to another house in just as deluxe a district
and set up camp where the neighbors had more to do than to peep through
their draperies and put a stopwatch on the visits of my guests. Besides,
the roof had begun to leak [on the Russian Hill property] and there were
complaints during the rainy season from those who didn't appreciate the
sensuous delight of a trickle of water on a bare bottom. So it was in 1941
that I bought the house at 1144 Pine Street. That was a wonderful place,
and there I was to remain until November of 1949, when I left the business
and became a legitimate square." Sassy Sally, whose birth name was Mabel
Janice Busby, took the name Stanford because she liked the university football
team. That was Sally, she liked the name and so she took it. The Stanford
monicker, which also belonged to the noted California governor Leland Stanford
and his family, seemed appropriate for a woman whose clientele included
the cream of San Francisco society. Eventually, Sally herself was an honored
figure on the City's social register. ("Sally" came from a song, "I Wonder
What's Become of Sally?")
According to historical archives, Stanford was busted at least twice in San Francisco, and possibly as many as 17 times depending on which of her many aliases she used. The first arrest Sally acknowledged later was in the early 1930s when she was charged with operating a bordello in a small hotel she owned in the Tenderloin. She was represented by noted San Francisco attorney Jake Ehrlich and was acquited. Later, Sally set up shop at 610 Leavenworth Street. She wrote, "610 Leavenworth became a home away from home to many a lonesome character as time went by, and we prospered. I learned a lot about men from my customers at 610 Leavenworth. I learned to get the money first."
In November 1949, a young woman was picked up by police for "bag swinging" on Eddy Street and claimed she worked for Sally. Stanford was arrested and acquitted again, but by now she was through with the business. Sally opened The Valhalla restaurant in Sausalito, the town north of here where she went on to publish a weekly newspaper and serve as vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and later mayor. Yes, mayor.
Throughout her post madam life, Stanford was a popular figure on the social register and continued to remain in the news. In the spring of 1965, her mansion at 2324 Pacific Avenue was burglarized by two off duty police officers and a trio of safe crackers while Sally was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. The house was lavishly decorated with the likes of Louis Quinze antiques, Walter Keene paintings, and a $25,000 Chinese rug, but officers Patrick Buckman and Salvatore Polani were after a load of cash they believed was kept in Stanford's safe. However, the safe contained only silverware. The rogue officers and co-conspirators were arrested at the scene.
Actress Dyan Cannon portrayed Stanford, who died in 1982 at the age of 83, in a 1978 made for TV movie.
Copyright 2001-2003 Hank Donat