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The San Francisco Madam: An Adventure Story Starring Mayor Sally Stanford

Marsha “Sally” Janice Goodan owned the top bordello in the San Francisco area

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On May 5, 1903, Mabel Janice Busby was born in a mining community on the edge of Death Valley, California. The rugged north-central section of San Bernardino County that surrounds the current town of Baker has a mining history that stretches backwards into antiquity; turquoise, silver, gold and important trace elements are found in and around the nearby Old Dad Mountains. In 1903, when young Mabel was born, this area supported a series of gold and silver mines and the necessary camp-town services that miners craved.

San Francisco Madam: The Childhood Years of Mabel Janice Busby

When the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad reached the Old Dad Mountain desert mining communities in 1908, the town of Baker, California was named after the T&T Railroad President: R.C. Baker, located along the main paths that linked the busier sections of So. California with the outpost mining communities that were located in the Mojave Desert. In 1947, the roads servicing the Baker area became known as Interstate 15; however, in 1908, when Mabel Janice Busby was living in the Baker area, dirt paths connected towns.

On a date unknown, before Mabel Janice Busby reached her tenth birthday, her father died in the Baker area, and Mabel was expected to help her mother support three brothers and a sister. Records were not kept on the family addresses or occupations; however, in later life, Mabel Janice Busby claimed that she spent her childhood making extra money as a caddy on a golf course in Oregon. The town of Baker, California enjoys Death Valley heat and icy wintertime weather; the original miners did not build a golf course.

At age 16, in 1919, Mabel Janice Busby ran away from home to get married to a colorful man named: Dan Goodan. Mr. Goodan had assured young Mabel Janice Busby that he was the grandson of a former Colorado mayor. After the wedding in Denver, Colorado, Mabel Janice (Busby) Goodan was arrested for using a check stolen by Dan Goodan, from a Medford, Oregon lumber mill. Mabel Janice (Busby) Goodan spent the next two years of her life inside the prison warden’s luxury home near the heart of Salem, Oregon.

San Francisco Madam: The Young Adult Years of Mabel Janice Goodan

The prison warden in Salem, Oregon took pity on young Mabel Janice Goodan. Instead of locking her away with hardened criminals, Mabel Janice was allowed to serve her two-year prison sentence as a member of the warden’s private household. The warden and his wife treated Mabel Janice with kindnesses and as a visitor to their home. When Mabel Janice Goodan was arrested for being in possession of the stolen check, she was simply trying to purchase the latest fad; an electric clothing iron to use on her honeymoon trip.

“Sally” (Mabel) Janice Goodan emerged from her formal captivity at the warden’s home as a polished young woman and ready to enter her adult years. At age 19, Mabel changed her name to Sally; perhaps in honor of the current hit Broadway musical “Sally” that was entertaining audiences with the exciting adventures of a beautiful chorus girl. Two years later, “Sally” now age 21 was calling herself Marsha Janice Goodan in San Francisco. 1924 San Francisco offered a fun underground alternative to strict prohibition laws.

The citizens of San Francisco had voted an overwhelming ‘no’ to prohibition. Experts suggest that it is possible that more alcohol was consumed in the San Francisco Bay area than in other locations across the country. San Francisco became the playground for fun loving people during the years of the American alcohol prohibition bans. In 1924 there were many clubs, dancehalls and business fronts that hid the booming local alcohol trade. Sausalito was a prime prohibition alcohol drop-off location along the San Francisco Bay.

Before the end of the 1920s, Marsha “Sally” Janice Goodan owned the top bordello in the San Francisco area, located at: 1144 Pine Street. Marsha’s girls were beautiful women who were always dressed in high-class finery outside of their bedrooms. While it is a well-known fact that the San Francisco prohibition alcohol trade existed through bribed authorities, Goodan stood firm on her claims that bribes were not a part of her business strategies. During the late 1920s, Sally married her attorney to become: Marsha Spagnoli.

San Francisco Madam: Marsha Spagnoli Changes Her Name (Again!)

After three years, Marsha Spagnoli became Marcia Janice Goodan when her marriage to attorney Ernest Spagnoli ended in annulment after Ms. Goodan forgot that she was still married to Dan Goodan from her earlier years. After the annulment was completed, Marcia Goodan became Marcia “Sally” Rapp when she married Louis Rapp during the early 1930s. The marriage to Louis Rapp lasted for over 12-years while Marcia continued her reign on Pine Street as the most famous of all San Francisco Bay area madams.

Before retiring as a madam in the late 1940s, Marcia “Sally” Rapp was arrested 17 times, with a different name given for each incident. Out of all adult arrests, Sally was only convicted twice. In 1938, the madam was ordered to pay a steep $500.00 fine for running a cathouse in San Francisco and in 1948 Sally was fined $1500.00 and served 30 days in jail for overcharging on rents during the World War II federally ordered price freezes. Marcia “Sally” Rapp decided upon a divorce from Louis Rapp after the bordello closed.

In 1951, Sally and Robert Livingston Gump had a whirlwind romance and eloped to Reno, Nevada to get married. Robert Livingston Gump was grandson to the famed Solomon Gump who created the San Francisco Gump Department Store. Sally Gump changed her name again nine months later when the Gump marriage ended in divorce. In 1954, Sally married Robert Kenna, the manager of a Fresno trucking company. Sally’s name changed again in 1956 when the Kenna marriage also ended in a divorce.

Sally adopted two small children to raise, and chose to use the name that the children were born with. Sally Owen and her children John D. Owen and Hara “Sharon” Melinda Owen lived in Sausalito, California, across the Bay from her old San Francisco friends. Marsha Owen lived on Pacific Avenue in the Pacific Heights section of the City of Sausalito, and kept a 50-acre ranch in Sonoma County for vacations. In 1971, a final name change was registered; Sally Stanford had named herself after a football team.

San Francisco Madam: The Sausalito Election Days

During Victorian times, the finest restaurant in Sausalito was called: Walhalla Biergarten. This establishment was elegant in nature and survived as a Bayside favorite until the late 1940s. At that time, Sally Stanford took over the management of this Sausalito landmark that was located on the boardwalk at 201 Bridgeway Street. The Sally Stanford Valhalla Restaurant went to war with the City of Sausalito in the late 1950s over sign regulations and liquor license issues. Sally Stanford decided to run for political office in Sausalito.

It took Sally Stanford six failures at running for Sausalito political positions before she won a seat on the Sausalito City Council in 1972. Sally Stanford’s vision for Sausalito was to return the town to the friendly small place that it was during the late 1940s, but to add a controlled growth. In 1976, Sally Stanford was reelected to the Sausalito City Council for a second term with an overwhelming number of votes. Her official title was that of the Sausalito Mayor. The one-time San Francisco madam was now in her 70s.

While acting as Mayor Stanford, Sally was also acting as Reverend Stanford through a mail-order ordination by the Universal Life Church in Modesto, California. On occasion, Sally performed weddings, addressed seminars, donated funds to people in need and took an active interest in the Sausalito senior citizen issues. Sally Stanford died on February 1, 1982; Sausalito flags were flown at half staff in honor of this special San Francisco madam with over two dozen names. Today, it is possible to rent a 1978 television movie about the life and times of Mabel Janice Busby, called: The Lady of the House.

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Photos copyright by Jay Graham Photographer