It Was a Long Goodbye, But Help, Rio’s Sex Temple, Is Closed

Help night club in Rio Help, the notorious night club in Copacabana, in the South side of Rio, that became legendary for catering to foreign tastes offering music, easy booze and plenty of women ready for sex for a price, tried a last delaying tactic to keep its doors open at least till Carnaval, in mid February, but this time it didn’t work.

Rio’s governor Sergio Cabral gave an ultimatum determining that the place should be empty by Saturday. The location will be used to build the new Museum of Image and Sound (MIS). Construction should last three years starting in 2010. Wednesday night ended up being the last time the place was open for business after an afternoon auction to sell Help’s belongings.

The process to close the night club started in January 2008. In November, an agreement between the Windsor Group, owner of the club and the state of Rio extended till the end of 2009 the deadline to close the place.

A banner hung on the facade of the club “begged” the governor to let the place keep its doors open for a few more months. Through a note, the state government informed that “the owners may end their activities in the period they deem appropriate, provided that they remove all the equipment and release the site until January 9.

Till the last day, the main attractions of the club were there as if nothing was happening: on one side the foreign tourists looking for sex, on the other, prostitutes looking for money.

Maître Amilton Silva de Oliveira, who started working for Help 27 years ago when he was 18 and who speaks English was there to witness the last moments of the Rio institution.

He talked to daily newspaper Extra about his pride of working there, telling the time he served former boxer Mike Tyson. “I am feeling very sad,” he said. “It was a whole life here. I don’t know what I’m going to do. All my colleagues feel the same. I will fight to see if I can do something, but after you get in your 40s, it’s difficult.”

Security guard Sandro dos Santos, 13 years at the club, was trying to work normally but couldn’t hide the concern that he will have to look for a new job now. He sees his work as more than maintaining order:

“Many tourists who come here already know me. We don’t work only as security, we also help those who do not know Rio well. If a tourist needs information, I give it to him, and if someone drinks a little over the limit, I’ll put him in a taxi.” 

The paper also interviewed Cátia (not her real name), a call girl, who like the others seemed worried with the future. With the closing of Help she is even thinking about leaving the sex trade confessing she does not want to get clients on the streets. She felt protected inside the night club:

“They would not allow  a man laying hands on you. They would throw them out.”

Italy’s Daniele Ponti who was visiting Help for the first time knew about the place’s fame. He told Extra: “To visit Rio and not going to Help is like going to Italy and not seeing the Colosseum.

Furniture and objects of the club were auctioned inside the place. There were in all 117 lots available, among them. German businessman Mark Hutny, 35, took  home a “souvenir”: a safe sold for 230 reais (US$ 133).

He expressed his disappointment at the news that Help was closing: “I come here several times a week, I will miss this very much. Help is a city’s institution, like the Christ.”

According to the coordinator of marketing of the auction company RC Leilões, Bruno Cruz, all the material used during the operation of club was put up for sale.

“The 117 lots put up for auction include appliances, furniture, electronic equipment used in the lighting of the hall and around 2,000 vinyl records, used by DJs in the house. The assessed value is approximately 300,000 reais (US$ 173,000). We hope to raise around that amount,” said Cruz.

Maria Emília Malhio de Faria, a cashier, wasn’t happy and complained aloud: “We wait the whole year to get to the months of December, January and February. It is the best time for tourism professionals,” she stated. She was part of the committee representing about 200 Help employees who wanted to keep the doors of the Avenida Atlântica institution open a little longer.

Opened in 1984, Discoteca Help was geared initially toward Rio’s upper middle class as a place to dance, but at the end of the 1980s it found its new vocation as a space for sex tourism turned mainly to foreign tourists.

The MIS project should cost 65 million reais to build. A spokesperson for the museum says the cornerstone for the building should be laid before the end of the month.

Some of the auctioned items:

About 2,000 vinyl records with House and Dance Music from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Sold for 9,500 reais (US$  5,491). It was the most disputed lot. In the end, the old collection was purchased by Kurt Maier, a partner in a nightclub in Liechtenstein.

Rectangular mirror, granite countertops, Formica door, toilet and cabinet. 354 reais (US$ 205).

Zinc and canvas panel with words Varanda Help (Help Balcony). Went for 160 reais (US$ 92).

Four large varnished colonial windows. 500 reais (US$ 289).

28 emergency lamps and 10 aluminum handrails. 440 reais (US$ 254).

Set of four wooden tables and 24 wooden chairs. 400 reais (US$ 231).


  • Show Comments (20)

  • Adrian P.

    HELP Closed For Good
    It is a shame that the famous HELP Discoteca had to be closed. It was a living piece of Rio’s culture, very popular in Brazil. Luckily, there are some solid alternatives to this. Some interesting links for all the guys wanting to prepare themselves for the fun:

    a. – a place to read more about the closure of HELP disco

    b. – a place where you can rent apartments near Balcony bar

  • sirmarjalot

    This is very sad news indeed, iv been meaning to visit Rio for a few years now and the main spot was going to be club help and to mingle with all those ladies. Im really dissapointed this place has gone, I should have got my ass over there before. But im sure I will still find what im looking for if i go. Its looking likely

  • Per Nakkim

    Det er åpent for siste gang i kveld, og jeg skal være siste som går ut døren 8), verdens beste disco.. ugh ugh…

  • DANI

    thank you adriana,glusia,rubi,elaine for good times..
    help was the best place i ever been in my life.those nights in the motels around copa..the sex..the love we did all night long.sometimes you fall in love with those girls,and sometimes they faile in love with you..if lucky like i was…then you wont pay..just have a goodtime together..the touch of the skinn ,the smell,the smile,the taste of the lips..ill never forget you adriana..

  • Jp

    I forgot…thanks for all the nice things many wrotte up here!We are going to miss Help, Avelino, the girls, the 6 am front kiosk a cross the street, the motels, the hotels, the music, help stairs, the upstairs …the stage….thanks Help for everything you gave me.

  • Jp

    I worked at Help in 92 to 93. I was a garota de programa there
    I started working there in the good days. Where there was money everywhere, people would come from every corner of the world. Young guys, business people, celebrities etc…

    To me was great experience in my life. That place took me to places that I would never would be able to see.It was like a airport …You had to choose the place you want to go in life and find somebody from there and just hang out. Specially when I did not charged for “my program” the guy would just falling in love instantly. Or he would buy me clothes, shoes, take me around town or travel with him.

    when I started working there, I stopped school, I was studying at a Public university. However I had so much problems with money and family that I gave up everything and starded to enjoy my life. I was just 19 years old. I had the perfect body, perfect long brown hair, olive skin. On top of that Rio just make the skin glow and women are just more beautiful in that weather.
    I had customers every night, most of the times, people would buy me for a week day and night. Yes 100 $ in 92 was a lot of money for me.
    Staying in a nice 5 star hotel, with that wonderful breakfest,and different view was like being a cinderella.

    Then the guys were cute, luckly I could choose the hot ones( with money of course)…I can say that to me was like the perfect date.
    Well sometimes they would take me shopping as well at Rio Sul.Well with that move, the guy would make me fall for him.

    But let talk about Help…it was the place, everybody new each other, the girls, the guys, some guys would come back so often that we all knew them. Some would buy a bottle, and let me tell you whoever girl sitting in the table would feel just more glamorous.
    Those were the big spenders!!! I had many of those.
    I meet people from almost every country in the world. Arabics were the best ones in espending money, second were the italians, third germans, Forth american. But hey that my opinion, it may differe for any girl.

    In 92 I remember the music, th DJ he was so great…He would play red rot chilli peppers, ( give it away) and people would go nuts, and all the end of 80’s music and 90’s ….by the end of the night classic Roling Stones…( miss YOu) and around 3 am some ballads…
    where guys would ask a girl to dance and agree on the price for the night. Also that time was depressing if you had not found the one.
    Let me explain this better, to me was not just going there for sex or money. It was also to find love. That other half, the Richard Gere like in “Preatty Woman” the movie.
    It had something so was the dream for the poor girls, to get out of her life and be a princess for the night.
    Of course not all the man was like that…but Most of them were. Most of the men I meet were gentlemans. They would make love for real. They would kiss me from head to toe. Most of them wore condoms too.

    Help was great to me. It helped me to get out of Brazil. I meet a lot of interesting people. I met my soulmate there as well. I did not have to work that much, just one year, then I was out for good. I am married , have 2 kids, I am a RN, and I am very loyal to my hubby.

  • Filthy Rich

    I’ve gone to Help with my Lawyer (we’re both American) I have seen him turned down by girls…myself on the other hand being younger and better looking..have not seen that… some…. not all are picky…
    kinda like I would be if I was a chic… If I could go some place and
    take my pick of thousands of chics that would buy me drinks…and if I liked one..theyd pay me…thats a good deal….I should mention I have on many of occasions taken girls home from Help without offering money…..they alway ask for Taxi money in the morning…and want to hang out the next day…..I do however drink champagne and go to the best restaurants. I met one chic that was engaged to a guy in California…she asked for nada…infact I stayed at her house. I also met a girl there that was a school teacher originally from Rio but living in Pittsburg at the time…after messin with her in Rio I flew her from Pittsburg to New York to hang…she just liked sex…Today she’s a pornstar in Cali. So as my lawyer says…Help had different levels of whoredom….lol anyone knows about a new spot let me know

  • Pedro

    you actually translated the Jornal do Brasil article word for word, impressive lack of journalistic integrity.

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    Richard says:
    [quote]I actually was not implying that you had liaisons with prostitutes but admitting that I have. I am neither proud or embarrassed by that fact. [/quote]

    Nor should you be, but point taken. I’m sensitive to the accusation because when I tell people I research this stuff, I get all kinds of “nudge, nudge, know what I mean?” comments.

    [quote] Because of this I feel I have more insight to the feelings and sentiments of the working girls there then you do. [/quote]

    You may have a lot of annecdotal experience, that’s true, but little of it is objective, analytical, or systematic. What you have is a different register of truth and experience – what’s called common sense or quotidian experience. That’s very valuable and useful. What it isn’t is scientific. I’m trying to approach this whole thing from a social scientific viewpoint.

    They are more apt to expressing their true feelings to someone like me then a University Professor who is questioning them.

    You really believe that? Look, i haven’t always been a university professor, you know. As someone who’s done sex work in the past and has had many friends who have done it, I can tell you right off that prostitutes genersally do not open their hearts to clients [i]or[/i] researchers. But I`m not trying to research people’s “true feelings” anyway: what I’m trying to do is observe what they do and say, which is an entirely different thing.

    What someone “really feels” is a subjective experience, non-observable and thus completely impenetrable to science. I couldn’t tell you, for example, if a GdP really loves someone or not. What I CAN tell you, with some degree of certainty, is that GdPs generally swear that their love relationships are true and sincere while “all the rest of these piranhas are simply trying to screw that poor guy out of money”.

    You see the difference?

    [quote]I can tell you with confidence that they are not happy about what they are doing even though Brazilian attitudes towards sex are much more liberated then they are here in the states.[/quote]

    First of all, Brazilian attitudes towards sex are not measureably more liberal than American attitudes, according to what comparative research has been done out there. Secondly, who said anything at all about these women being happy or not? Prostitution is a shitty job. So is, generally speaking, being a check out counter girl. The difference between the two isn’t “happyness”, but money.

    (BtW, Richard are you “happy” at your job? If you are, you are very rare indeed.)

    [quote]I know that if they could get a decent job they would not be doing what they are and it would not have to be R2000 a month, even if that is cleaning houses, working in a restaurant or being a nanny.[/quote]

    Sorry, I have to disagree with you there. It is not difficult to get these sorts of jobs in Rio, especially if you are young and good-looking, and every Copacabana GdP I have ever talked to has had a work history involving other jobs which they quit before becoming a pro. Now, you might have a point if you were talking about some half-rate knocking shop far off in the north zone or in a favela, but that’s not the case on Copa. Hell, even the women working Vila Mimosa typically have access to other jobs, Richard.

    And here’s where your subjective relationship with these women might make trouble for your analysis. As every student of prostitution has pointed out, it is quite common for prostitutes to claim they were “forced” into prostituion by factors beyond their control in order to push the stigma of prostitution away from them. They PARTICULARLY do this to clients, because it often results in more money or even in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship which – in many ways – can be more lucrative than prostitution.

    But I have followed many prostitute’s careers as they move in and out of the sex trade. I have followed them to work and seen them quit those jobs because said “opportunities” don’t pay nearly as much as tricking. I`m not relying here on what these women say, but also on what I’ve seen them do, time and again.

    So I feel quite, quite safe in saying that very few Copa GdPs working the gringo market are going to quit prostitution to work as a maid or a baby sitter, Richard. The very idea, in fact, draws hails of laughter and heaps of scorn at the national reunions of the Brazilian Prostitutes’ Network.

    [quote]I did not state that most of them are from the Favelas but a lot of them are.[/quote]

    I would say, at best, a significant minority.

    [quote]It would be a pleasure to meet you and maybe enlighten you a little more to the realities of the situation and give you a different prospective for your research. [/quote]

    Sounds good, Richard.

    A final question: how much time have you actually spent living in rio de Janeiro as opposed to just visiting here?

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    João comments:
    [quote]Ana must be related to me, Doc. Just check it out with her. da Silva family is very smart, with a few exceptions[/quote]

    I married into power. What can I say?

  • Richard

    Thad, I’m sorry if I offended you by putting “interviewed” in quotation
    marks. I actually was not implying that you had liaisons with prostitutes but admitting that I have. I am neither proud or embarrassed by that fact. My mother was born in Brazil so I feel a kinship to the people there, in my heart I am a Carioca. I have had many relationships with these girls there and was even engaged to be married to one of them when she was tragically killed in a car crash. I have also had relationships with many non-pros there. Because of this I feel I have more insight to the feelings and sentiments of the working girls there then you do. They are more apt to expressing their true feelings to someone like me then a University Professor who is questioning them. I can tell you with confidence that they are not happy about what they are doing even though Brazilian attitudes towards sex are much more liberated then they are here in the states. Most of them have the dream of meeting a rich Gringo or European who will take them out of the life. I know that if they could get a decent job they would not be doing what they are and it would not have to be R2000 a month, even if that is cleaning houses, working in a restaurant or being a nanny. They just want enough to live a normal like and support their children. That is why most of them only last a very short time in the business and burn out very fast. They like any woman in the world do not like being treated like a piece of meat. Unfortunately they are not treated much better by Brazilian men, which is another reason they are selling sex.
    I did not state that most of them are from the Favelas but a lot of them are. They also come from every state in Brazil. They come to Rio to make the money that is not available to them. I can assure you that very few of them are coming from a good family that has money and are just doing it to rebel.
    Brazil has come a long way in the last 10 years and I think there will be more jobs available in the near future. Education, compassion, understanding and guidance can help most of these girls to lead a better life. Saying that there are not enough jobs or opportunities for them is narrow minded. I hope and pray that these opportunities will become more available to them in the future.
    I will be moving permanently to Rio in March and if you would like to discuss this further you are free to contact me at It would be a pleasure to meet you and maybe enlighten you a little more to the realities of the situation and give you a different prospective for your research.

  • João da Silva

    [quote]Det er åpent for siste gang i kveld, og jeg skal være siste som går ut døren smilies/cool.gif, verdens beste disco.. ugh ugh…[/quote]

    Your are very fluent in Swahili. Now, could u please translate your comments into Portuguese, English or Spanish?

  • João da Silva

    Thaddeus Blanchette
    [quote]Together with my wife, Dr. Ana Paula da Silva,[/quote]

    Ana must be related to me, Doc. Just check it out with her. da Silva family is very smart, with a few exceptions;-)

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    Richard, let me make one thing perfectly plain: I am an urban anthropologist and professor at UFRJ. I have lived in Brazil for more than 20 years, non-stop, and in Rio for 10. Together with my wife, Dr. Ana Paula da Silva, I have been conducting ethnographic research on Copa for about 6 years now. If by placing “interview” in quotes you mean to imply that I am having sex with my informants, that is not the case. I mean honest-to-god social scientific unstructured and structured interviews with garotas de programa, backed up by long-term observer-participation on Copa and documentary research.

    So let’s get that out of the way first. This isn’t me screwing these women on my vacation and then talking to them: it’s systematic social scientific investigation – undertaken with my wife, I might add.

    The first thing I can definitely say is that no, the majority of the women working the gringo scene in Copa DO NOT come from the favelas. That is a myth. The majority of them are working class or lower middle class women from Rio’s northern and eastern suburbs. During the high season, yes, the Copa orla fills up with plenty of young women who come in from all over Brazil. Most of these women are similar in class to the cariocas, however. These women are not recruited, as a rule, from the poorest strata of Brazilian society.

    [quote]Funny, but I don’t remember meeting any college professors…[/quote]

    You’ll notice that the only mention I made of college professors was when I said the following: “Many of these women make more money than I do as a university professor”. This is quite true.

    However, I have indeed met a large number of secretaries, office workers, interns, college students and etc. turning tricks on Copa. You are correct to say that these women by and large have little education and have to raise out of wedlock children or help support their families, but Richard, that describes a significant portion of the Brazilian working and lower middle classes, does it not? That profile is hardly exclusive to faveladas.

    [quote]my experience has been that most of these girls are not happy about what they are doing and would give up that life if they had other opportunities.[/quote]

    No doubt, as long as by “opportunities” you mean work that will give them a salary roughly equivalent or slightly less than what they make off of prostitution.

    A beginning professor with a doctorate at my old university, for example, can count on a 2000 R$ a month salary. That’s anywhere from 5-10 programas at Copacabana prices, Richard. These women are not going to quit prostitution to be check out girls, factory workers, or maids. They LEFT those sorts of “opportunities” to work in the sex trade.

    Every single prostitute we have interviewed so far confirms this: not a single one began working the sex trade because they couldn’t find any other work. That is a myth. What they couldn’t find was work that paid a decent wage.

    So what you’re effectively saying, Richard, is that we need to bring the average working class woman’s salary up to AT LEAST somewhere around 3-4 Brazlian minimum wages if we’re going to really make “opportunities” that can compete with prostitution.

    Now, do you really think that’s liable to happen any time soon? Can you see any conceivable way in which it can be done?

    If someone with a PhD gets a working wage of 2-5000 reais a month, which is comparable to what many of these women make, then I submit to you that “education” is hardly a complete solution (though, of course, it can’t hurt).

  • dnbaiacu

    was an extension of everyday dating for a lot of those women. It’s easy to understand them looking at it as not prostitution. Anything more than what a guy is going to end up paying anyway in some form or another to his “girlfriend”.
    Those women could go to Help and depending on how beautiful they are be very “selective” about a prospective client. It is easy to see it being a “side hustle” along with a legitimate job. She may luck out and get treated like a “lady” and get some bucks on top of it. Most of those johns have the “captain save a hoe” mentality anyway. So yes, the women were pretty safe there. Meia Pataca is a different enviroment. And many “Help” girls won’t go there.
    Some similar establishment will open up someplace else. And will be worth women traveling from distant cities and states to work awhile.. I have seen this. So it just ends up as Rio cleaning house. If that’s what they think they are doing.;-)

  • Richard

    Thad, I have been visiting Rio for over 25 years and have also lived there on and off. I have also “interviewed” many of these girls. My experience has been that most of them come from the Favelas and also from all over Brazil. They are there because they are young, pretty and uneducated and have to support their families and their children that they have had out of wedlock.Funny, but I don’t remember meeting any college professors.The problem is much more deep rooted in the society, and I think Brazil has taken steps recently to educate young people.I’m not suggesting that it is possilble to find them all jobs, but my experience has been that most of these girls are not happy about what they are doing and would give up that life if they had other opportunities. Of course there is a percentage of them that are happy with the money they make lying on their backs, but most of them don’t stay very long and burn out quickly.This is not a knock on Brazil, afterall prostitution IS the oldest profession…. everywhere in the world.

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    Help’s still open as of Thursday night.
    So I guess you were a bit ahead of the mark, JW.

    There are two rumors floating about: 1) the state made a mistake in the paperwork and the house will stay open for several more months at least; 2) The house will finally close this weekend.

    Given that they are supposed to officially vacate the premises on Saturday, I guess by Sunday we’ll know.

    Stay tuned, people…

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    Richard, I’ve been interviewing prostitutes on Copacabana for years now and practically every one of them GAVE UP a regular job to work in the sex industry. Why? Because with a little luck they can make a Brazilian monthly minimum wage in one night.

    Many of these women make more money than I do as a university professor. Even the one’s who don’t make far more than a check out counter girl or a maid. Last tuesday, in fact, I interviewed a secretary who makes R$1500.00 a month at her straight job and who STILL uses Help to turn an occasional trick.

    Given all of this, what kind of job are you suggesting that we find these women? They’re not going to stop selling sex at 400 R$ a pop in order to wash your and my dishes and underwear for a monthly minimum wage of 500 R$.

  • Richard

    How Sad
    How sad it is to hear that Help has finally closed.This will not solve the prostitution problem in Copacabana.The girls will just go somewhere else. Meia Pataca is still open, so is The Balcony and Mabs.Help will probably open in a different location eventually. The last few times I was in Rio I noticed a lot more prostitutes and transvestites on Ave. Atlantica closer to Leme. Now there will be many more. Someone should try to help these poor young girls find jobs so they don’t have to sell their bodies to tourists. Closing Help will not solve the problem, just exasperate it. I’l miss Help, a clean, safe, and enjoyable enviornment. HOW SAD!!!!

  • asp

    finaly, some important relavent news reported by brazzil . com
    im without words…..

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