Dammit – DC Madam Hangs Herself

Elizabeth Nowicki —  1 May 2008

The DC Madam killed herself today, about a week after being found guilty by a jury on prostitution-related charges of money-laundering (among other things).

Among her alleged clients are Louisiana Senator David Vitter, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias, and Harlan K. Ullman, a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who developed the “shock and awe” doctrine.

I titled this post with a “Dammit,” something I am not inclined to do normally in this academic setting, because I am just disgusted and disheartened at how this has played out.  Anyone who has paid attention to how women versus men have been treated in the context of prostitution could have seen this train coming down the tracks. Women who are exposed as having been involved in prostitution scandals often kill themselves.  Men tend to waltz away, unscathed in the long term.  I realize these are gross generalizations for which I have no empirical substantiation, but I am thinking about Brandy Somethingorother, from about a year ago.  Without going back and looking the story up, I think Brandy was a professor (or used to be) who was also a prostitute.  When she was publicly revealed as a prostitute, and when it seemed that she was going to be in huge legal trouble, she killed herself.  I do not recall that any of her male clients, nor any of the DC Madam’s male clients, killed themselves.  Just the DC Madam and this Brandy Somethingorother killed themselves.  Why is it that the women are scorned and shamed and kill themselves but the same thing does not happen on the male side?

I am one of three daughters, raised in an all-girl household (save my long-suffering father).  All three of us Nowicki girls have graduate degrees.  We were raised completely unaware of the notion that being a girl ever mattered in the bigger-picture sense.  (It mattered in terms of whether I needed to lift the toilet seat and whether I was likely to grow to a size to be able to compete on the football field with any chance of success, but it did not matter – or so I thought – in terms of justice and fairness in life.)  We were raised with the belief that everyone – women, men – are judged equally on the basis of their achievements and missteps, and gender is irrelevant.

But, yet, the DC Madam was left dangling by her neck in some shed in Florida, while Vitter, Tobias, and Ullman are out there, happily employed, likely soon to put their affiliation with the blissfully deceased (likely their view) DC Madam far, far behind them.  *That* is what prompts me to title this post “Dammit.”  We all could have seen this coming.  *That* is why this post is titled “Dammit.”

It strikes me as ironic that I just learned today that corporate and securities law professor Jill Fisch was hired by UPenn, such that there is now one fewer top top law school with basically no women among the corporate/securities law faculty.  Score one for the women.  Congratulations Professor Fisch.  Tough to juxtapose that, however, with “RIP Deborah Jean Palfrey.”  I guess today is a wash in terms of equality for women.  Dammit.

My condolences to Ms. Palfrey’s mother.  Regardless of the legality or illegality of Palfrey’s actions, it should not have ended this way.

27 responses to Dammit – DC Madam Hangs Herself




    Ms Nowicki,

    I want to send a note of gratitude for writing on this tragedy. As a political activist, writer, and professional dominatrix, I usually only read such supportive sentiments from women within the sex industry. I am relieved to know that other strong, intelligent women may have sympathy for the shame that is loaded onto sex workers that is psychologically crippling and life destroying. I understand that while you may not support the legality of the profession, your call for equality is a great one, still an important one; for though we’ve come a long way, we are not there yet.

    Thank you,
    Sex Worker and Feminist

    Jim Harnage, Minister 8 May 2008 at 5:38 am

    Though a minister, my family, too, has shared many of the trials of making life decisions.
    It can be heart rending for parents to let go their child and trust they will come back home.
    But if we want them to come back at all we must leave on a light of love.
    We have had the undaunting task of choosing to hold onto loved ones who did not share our values and beliefs by loving them in spite of their life choices. We’ve learned true love and reaped the invaluable and priceless rewards of our family’s love long after the trial was over.
    My counsel to anyone who finds themselves in this position is…love…perfect love. Love them. Fathers love your daughters no matter the choices they make. Mothers love your sons no matter their orientation. If you choose to avoid them and enforce your “rathers” you will lose them and they will never come back to you.
    The “church” has miserably failed in our so-called quest for souls. We are too busy staining our glass windows to see the stains outside. We’re too busy padding our pews and offering plates and repairing broken parking lots to pad hearts with love and repair broken hearts and communities.
    I have no web site but in this spirit I offer an email address through which I offer prayer, encouragement , and support at jharnage7@aol.com.
    Jim Harnage, Silent Ministries

    Jim Harnage, Minister 8 May 2008 at 5:27 am

    I would encourage anyone to examine Diane Dimond’s blog at http://www.DianeDimond.net.

    Jim Harnage, Minister 8 May 2008 at 5:24 am

    The charge has been made that Deborah Jeane Palfrey committed suicide…because she didn’t believe in heaven or hell and was material. I took issue with that statement…was invited onto CNN’s Nancy Grace to explain…and offered an email reply from Deborah Palfrey to my attempt to encourage her from a minister’s as well as a loving father’s position.
    Her reply contained too many Biblical expressions to allow me to accept that she did not have an awareness of the next world.
    After examination of the suicide notes and pertinent info I find it difficult to accept her death as asuicide.
    Albeit, I am strongly concerned that the “bad-boys-will-be-boys and “bad-girls-are-hos” mentality that glaringly pervades this society in everything from politics to justice to religion played the strongest part in this unfortunate drama.
    I wish no one ill and rejoice at no one’s unfortunate position but if we are truly concerned about the crime why aren’t all parties including “johns” forced into the equation of accountability?
    We are as much responsible to preserve dignity in death as we are to preserve the sanctity of life.
    My heart and prayers go out to her mother and sister.

    BusterKeaton 3 May 2008 at 11:49 am

    You conspiracy nuts miss the point: The post is absolutlely right. Why in God’s name should the person who supplied prostitutes to a United States Senator be facing 4 to 6 years in jail while the Senator remains untouched? Shame on this once great nation. We are toast.


    Are these comments intended as farce or is that just the way they seem?

    Jason Dennis 2 May 2008 at 8:58 am

    I dont think anyone reading about this will believe it is suicide, but the real question is, what can be done? Even if we know it isnt suicide, what power do we have to do anything about it? If we thought it would do any good, many of us would probably fly to DC and scream from a rooftop that we know this is false, but would anyone listen?

    Bettie Handley 2 May 2008 at 8:30 am

    I agree, not a suicide – best bet is someone had to take her out before she disclosed her list of clients. Nothing to it – just another in a long list of cover-ups! The Morals in America? Shame on those involved.

    Bettie Handley 2 May 2008 at 8:26 am

    I do not believe she committed suicide – really, this is another cover-up, cover-up! Is there another brave investigator who is willing to find the truth for her mother’s sake? Let’s guess, shall we, how many of the Congressmen and Senators were clients, past and present? Tell us, was ABC bought off? By whom? Morals in America, Amen!!


    During several recent appearances on The Alex Jones Show, Palfrey also said that she was at risk of being killed and that authorities would make it look like suicide. She made it clear that she was not suicidal and if she was found dead it would be murder.

    Carlos Vidal 2 May 2008 at 8:09 am

    Ms. Palfrey’s conviction for prostitution was the latest death rattle released by Lady Liberty, thanks to the mindless actions of the United Sheep of America. The brilliant and most noble experiment in self-governance, wrought by our free-thinking Founding Fathers, draws nearer to its end.

    While debate rages on as to whether Ms. Palfrey’s death by hanging was a voluntary act, none should doubt Lady Liberty was lynched by the mob of somnambulant fools following the dictates of their fear-driven faith.


    The whole thing is a real shame. A life lost over what? Moralistic laws and a moralist political culture.

    The fact that may of us believe that she was killed, or even that there is a good possibility that she was killed, tells us something about ourselves and what we are willing to tolerate in government for the sake of not disrupting our daily routine.

    If she killed herself (also very unfortunately a possibility), first it is an exceedingly sad thing, but it is a choice she made as the result of the public exposure and/or legal consequences of another choice she made. But we really cannot blame unequal or disparate treatment of men versus women for her suicide. That was a very personal choice on her part, if in fact that is what happened.

    The real shame is the law itself. Too bad the political culture of Nevada is not the reality for our nation as a whole. Changing that without revolution will take a long time (many generations), if it can be achieved at all. Speak your mind, and teach your children and grandchildren to speak theirs.


    Its unbelievable to me that corperate news such as CNN would go to such lengths as to lie about the Dc madam. Thier source for saying she would kill herself (Dan Moldea) was discredited before on Sirhan Sirhan’s statment that he wished to shoot RFK in the head but missed. It just shows any free thinking person that mainstream news is not news at all! To call this a conspiracy theory is likened to call green blue. Wake up people and see who benifits by her death and you will see what is happening to your freedom!


    I feel sorry for this woman. As a woman, it boils my blood to know there are men walking free who were her clients.

    What an unjust world. WOMEN have still not made progress no matter what people say!!

    George Vreeland Hill 2 May 2008 at 1:02 am

    The U.S. Government has done a lot worse than her.
    “We the people”, are about to change things!
    I am,

    George Vreeland Hill


    The cards are stacked against women. No matter what they do they will lose out to men because men are willing to protect each other and throw a woman under the bus if necessary to do so. Women mean nothing to most men except sex and other forms of physical comfort. They seek out women to give them pleasure then despise women for giving it. I truly believe most men hate women.


    Can’t believe that she got convicted, while none of her clients were held accountable. What a double standard! Well, women have only had the right to vote for less than 100 years. . . and Russia gaver their women the right to vote 14 years BEFORE the U.S. I guess it’s always the woman’s fault. . . as my ex used to say, “I wouldn’t have done it, if you hadn’t made me!” OINK, OINK! A nice, neat little suicide. . . hmmmm.

    Gwendolyn Marx 1 May 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I find it incredibly interesting that all major coverage of the story has defined it in terms of being an ABSOLUTE suicide. The “allegedly” and “purportedly” that they use for the most mundane of criminal reports is out the window.

    I have yet to see one “reputable” news outlet even entertain the idea that it might have not been a suicide.

    What’s especially frightening is that this mindset seems to come straight from the top, the top being the police who seem to have walked into the shed, declared it a suicide, and left in time to beat traffic.




    2012? – I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG



    I don’t believe for a minute that this was suicide. This is another case of someone knowing too much about too many of the powerful elite who run this country.

    What a monstrous place the USA has become.

    Computer Geek 1 May 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I am appalled by the puritanical right in another case of a victimless crime that ends up with the innocent becoming the victim. When are we going to start demanding that the government and the police pursue real threats against real people and children instead of the false moral highground of going after people who’s only crime was to allow someone else to experience pleasure. What goes on between two consenting adults does no harm to anyone else simply because it occurs, whether there is money involved or not. Marriages for money are commonplace in this country but I don’t see police knocking down doors to arrest people for their participation in a ‘marriage’. Just because it has a piece of paper associated with it doesn’t make it any more moral. But yet we’ll have 50 more murders tonight and the moral indignation of these same people will be non-existent.


    We just killed a woman in a manner not much different than that of underdeveloped countries, where unscrupulous men seek and pay for the affections of a woman, only to then sentence her to be stoned to death. The same men that brought about her horrible sentence then relish in participating in stoning her until one lucky stone draws her last breath.

    We live in a hypocritical society. Tell me, would her crime have been different if the services sought by the upper class had been conducted in Nevada? The same people that sought her services (or the services of her employees – assuming that indeed they were providing those services) are the same people that criminalize prostitution.

    It is a shame that our congressmen, law makers, and influential people, be it politicians or ministers of some faith, can practice such destructive conduct, yet have the gonads to later face the public and speak about morality.

    Back in the ‘70s, at a time of elections when various bumper stickers promoted the drivers’ political beliefs, I remember seeing one that stated “Teddy for Lifeguard.” Well, that one was tongue in cheek. Maybe we ought to list the clients of this Madam, and promote these clients, each individually, for the lessons he can to teach us on morality.

    Baton Rouge 1 May 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Sylvia Landry, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Madam hanged “herself” in jail in the 1995. Brandy Britton, a professional employee of Debroah Palfrey’s agency suicided before she was set to testify in January. Deborah Palfrey hangs “herself” now? How many other (handgun-owning) prostitutes have chosen hanging as a method of suicide?! Hanging is one of the least common methods of suicide for women — yet there seems to be a flurry of hangings associated with prostitutes involved with high-ranking government officials.


    She said she would be murdered on Alex Jones radio show. She said she was not going to commit suicide:

    you can listen to it here:


    “No I’m not planning to commit suicide,” Palfrey told The Alex Jones Show on her last appearance, “I’m planning on going into court and defending myself vigorously and exposing the government,” she said

    moon fairie 1 May 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I totally agree.
    The government does a lot of sneaky crap and they must cover it up so it doesn’t get out in the public eye.
    This is one of those situations. She had substantial information and would’ve released it all to press if she were convicted. They don’t want their dirty little secrets aired because then maybe all the naive people out there who trust so much in the crap we’re fed daily would wake up and realize that they’re a bunch of thieves and liars.
    Conspiracy or not – it’s called truth. Do some research.

    Joe Conspiro 1 May 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Oh please, she hanged herself… She was murdered and it was set up to look like a suicide. She knew way too much and she had vowed to bring people down with her if she were convicted.

    Funny how none of the people involved had to take the stand and defend THEIR collusion with her, isn’t it?

    Go ahead, laugh and snigger all you want and call me a conspiracy theorist. Conspiracies DO happen all the time, and people have been killed for a whole lot less than having their hypocritical Republican moralizing bastard names drug through the mud.