Notorious Utah brothel owner’s interview eludes historians

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Scholars at a Utah university are trying to unlock a mystery after discovering a nearly 70-year-old transcript of an interview with a notorious brothel owner that is written in a shorthand style that few people can read today.

The interview was with madam Rossette Duccinni Davie, who ran the Rose Rooms brothel in Ogden with her husband in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, the location is home to the nightclub Alleged, the Standard-Examiner reported.

The interview with former Standard-Examiner reporter Bert Strand was hidden inside a box of 1970s photos from the newspaper, said Sarah Langsdon, head of the Weber State University’s special collections.

The pages could be a treasure trove of material for historians in Ogden, a city of about 88,000 located 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.

But there’s a problem: The 1951 transcription is written in a decades-old shorthand style that few people use today. “It’s definitely a lost art,” Langsdon said.

Davie was considered Ogden’s most notorious madame — with the possible exception of Belle London, who was active from 1890 to 1914, Langsdon said.

“Anyone we’ve ever interviewed who was alive remembers her,” Langsdon said of Davie. “She’s definitely a well-known figure in the history of Ogden.”

It’s widely believed that city police and county sheriffs turned a blind eye to the brothel run by Davie and her husband, Bill Davie. Historian Val Holley has said they were likely police informants. Another theory holds that they paid a sheriff to look the other way, Langsdon said.

Rose Davie, as she was known, pulled down $30,000 a month in her prime and withstood several prostitution charges before she was ultimately done in by a federal tax evasion charge, Langsdon said.

Now, Weber State is hoping to find someone who can make sense of the lost interview notes. Anyone who is interested in helping can call 801-626-6540.

“It’s probably been decades since anyone has used (shorthand),” Langsdon said. “But if we could find someone who can decipher these notes, it could be pretty fascinating.”