Vice Squad
Sunday, January 16, 2005
What's In a Name?

The Mustang Ranch brothel by any other name would....oh, whatever. Turns out that two brothel owners in Nevada think that there is quite a bit in the name Mustang. The original Mustang Ranch, Nevada's first legal brothel, was shut down by the feds a few years ago. Then one of its buildings was purchased (on e-bay) and moved next to another brothel owned by the purchaser. He intends to re-open the relocated (and soon to be renovated) building under the name "Mustang Ranch," of course. But in the meantime, another brothel owner re-named his brothel the Mustang Ranch. He sued, and now the fellow with the re-located Mustang has been told by a judge that he can't use the name Mustang. Whatever the merits of the decision, it is nice to ponder that thanks to the legality of the brothels, this dispute will be settled by courts, and not by guns. Can't say the same for street-corner drug market disputes.

On the subject of names and Shakespeare and prostitution, I saw Shakespeare's Measure For Measure at Chicago's Navy Pier on Thursday night. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater occasionally replaces some archaic Shakespeare language with what I suppose they think is a more understandable version. Right near the end of the play, when Lucio is forced by the duke to marry the prostitute with whom he had a child, he complains "Marrying a punk, my lord, is pressing to death,/Whipping, and hanging." Punk means prostitute, but Chicago Shakespeare changed it to "slut". And what they did to another Vice Squad-favorite Lucio line, the one about how lechery "is well allied; but it is impossible to extirp it quite, friar, till eating and drinking be put down" -- well, they seemed to think that "extirp" doesn't measure up these days.

Incidentally, for vice policy buffs, Measure For Measure is pretty much the perfect play. Risking reductionism, let me just say that it presents the introduction of a zero tolerance policy, with all the usual trade-offs illuminated. That Shakespeare fellow, he's getting to be a pretty good playwright. (OK, I am reminded of another complaint I had about the Chicago Shakespeare Theater's version. In some "stage business" at the beginning, there's a mugging, accomplished with a knife and with the connivance of corrupt cops. The problem with such business is that (a) there's no mention of it in the play and (b) by presenting a crime with an actual victim (as opposed to the victimless vice crime of fornication), it pushes the viewer into supporting the ensuing crackdown. (Whether such a crackdown would likely lead to more or less violence is another matter.) There was also a gratuitous gunshot later in the Chicago version.)

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