LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A Hot Springs, Ark., madam who entertained a generation of the state's wealthiest men has unleashed a kiss-and-tell autobiography that relives the Spa City's wide-open gambling days.
'I'm not ashamed. I'm proud of it,' said Maxine Jones, 66. 'Life's a wide open book and I don't have any skeletons in my closet.'
Mrs. Jones' eyes sparkle when she talks of her reign as the bordello queen of Arkansas' rambunctious tourist resort, 45 miles southwest of Little Rock, before a bitter struggle against organized crime landed her in prison in 1963.
Signing autographs in a book store Friday, she spoke freely of her lust for riches growing up on a southern Arkansas farm and her fond memories of the two tough Texas hit men she married -- both of them later murdered. She promised three years ago to write the book to 'even the score' and said the book succeeds, although most of the names are fictitious.
'When I take that money to the bank, honey, that makes me feel real good,' she laughed.
'I always had champagne tastes. When I was a little girl, I dreamed about fancy clothes and having diamonds and beautiful clothes. When I found out a square life wasn't for me, I got into prostitution.'
After a five-year apprenticeship in Texarkana, she moved to Hot Springs, where mineral baths, gambling casinos and Oaklawn race track drew people from all over the country who were looking for a good time.
In 1950, Mrs. Jones bought her first bordello and became a 'landlady,' permanently retiring as a prostitute herself.
'I had the prettiest girls in the country, high-class girls,' she said. 'Some were showgirls but others were school teachers and'college students who wanted to earn extra money in the summer.'
Mrs. Jones paid a $500 'entertainment tax' to the police each month and poured money into charities and churches.
'Church ladies didn't mind coming up my steps and asking for money for needy children,' she said. 'I bought policemen's children books and clothes for school.'
Those golden years ended in 1963 when a group she calls 'the syndicate' moved into town and demanded more bribes from her. When she refused, they convinced a judge to send her to prison for a year.
'Aw, honey, back when I went to prison, that was the awfulest place. I been a strong woman all my life, but when they slammed that door on me, it turned something in me. I'd been so good to everybody. I was a political prisoner. My heart turned to stone and it's been stone ever since.'
She notes with satisfaction that many of the people involved 'died terrible deaths, and I'm still alive.'