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Brazil’s Most Notorious Prostitution House Becomes a Museum

Rio's Help Disco Brazil's most famous temple to lust and prostitution may soon become a fond memory for some and a glad-it's-gone for many others. Rio de Janeiro governor, Sérgio Cabral, has expropriated and declared state property the building and land that house the Help night-club, in Rio.

The place's address is 4 Djalma Ulrich street, corner of Atlântica avenue, in the heart of Copacabana, in the south side of Rio.  Help, which is located in a 17,200 square feet lot, has been, for about two decades now, a sanctuary for prostitutes and her clients, most of them Brazilian and foreign tourists.

The governor's decree bearing number 41,151 was published this Tuesday, January 29, by Rio de Janeiro state's Daily Gazette. Cabral's intention is to use the place for Rio's Museum of Image and Sound (MIS), which is now housed downtown.

The state government's press office says the idea is to transform the location in an ample house of culture and leisure considerably broadening the MIS's reach and scope. The museum has a big collection of movies, radio clips and samba and bossa nova material.

Curiously Help isn't known as "boate" as Brazilians call a night-club or any other racier name like chicken ranch but as a family-oriented "discoteca."

Help was born in 1984 as a disco for the affluent Cariocas (Rio residents). Before that decade had ended, however, the place became Rio's largest prostitution playground. In a time when the old discothèques are being called lounges, Discoteca or Disco Help kept the innocent aura of decades past. 

Besides Help, there are two restaurants doing business in the same location to be expropriated: Terraço Atlântico and Sobre as Ondas (Over the Waves).

Commenting on the end of Help, a Copacabana resident rejoiced: "That is a big victory for Copacabana, an important step to fight prostitution in the neighborhood, because this night-club has got only whores and gringos. The Museum of Image and Sound will be much welcome, despite the fact that the initial idea of setting up a Soccer Museum would make more sense because the MIS already has its place downtown and in the Lapa district. They might as well include the Havanna Club bar in this cleaning-up project since this is another spot that caters to prostitutes and johns."

"With the end of Help the tendency is for the night bosses to strengthen their control," said anthropologist Thaddeus Blanchette in an interview to daily Folha de S. Paulo. "There might be a professionalization in a bad way."

Blanchette is co-author of the study: "Our Lady of Help: Sex, Tourism and Transnational Displacement in Copacabana." The scientist believes that over 1,000 ladies of the night sell their wares at Help during summer time, which is right now.

They all work as free-lancers paying a small fee to get in: 22 Brazilian reais (US$ 12.4) before midnight and 32 reais (US$ 18) after that. The same price everybody else, man or woman, has to pay to enter the night-club.

The ladies may recoup the investment 20 times over with a john alone for a short session lasting less than one hour. Prices may vary quite a bit, however, starting a low US$ 25. The place stays open until 5:30 am every day.

Hip hop and techno are the main musical food offered. There's plenty of alcohol, with a beer going for about US$ 4 and a small bottle of champagne for around US$ 12. Vodka and whiskey are also available setting you down about US$ 10 a shot.

The expropriation of the Help building might take some time. The state will only take control of the place a couple of months after a judicial process in which the owners of the real estate will have their say on how much they will accept as compensation for the place.

All those leasing space in the building seemed surprised at the government's decision, despite the years-long pressure from the neighborhood against the whorehouse front.

Adriana Rattes, Rio's secretary of culture, is hopeful that as early as March she will be able to start planning for the new space and new museum, which she believes will count on the help of the private sector.

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  • Show Comments (32)

  • Tony Starks

    help is still opened lol

  • Rick M

    Brazil’s Most Notorious Prostitution House Becomes A Musum
    Morgana, your views are very amusing. You conveniently ignore the fact that it’s Brazilian men and not “stupid American tourists” who force Brazilian women into prostitution in the first place, by getting them pregnant at an early age and then turning their back on them. What’s really wrong with Brazil is ignorant politicians who come up with stupid ideas like turning Help into a museum, and equally ignorant contstituents, like yourself, who think that’s all it takes to solve the problem. Until Brazilians start coming up with more realistic solutions to solve their problems, that utopian idea of yours about Brazil being the best country in the world, will remain nothing more than a fatasy.

  • morgana

    Brazil’s Most Notorious Prostitution House Becomes a Museum
    Only stupid american tourists pay for this kind of services, so this is a great idea that the Governor of Rio had to end protistution in Rio. Turning this placeinto a museum is the least the government of Brazil could do. Actually this unriliable governement that does not do anyhting for this beautiful country but rober!!!! If Brazil had a good, honest governement this Country would be the best country in the whole world!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Joe

    Closing Help Disco
    I am sad to hear it’s closed. It had its shortcomings -repetitive music, staff who never smile, lack of cleanliness- but it was a great place to have fun in a safe environment. Most other places in Copa are very seedy.

  • Juan

    Help is still opened
    I was in Rio late September thru October 7, 2009 and Help is still open. It was practically empty Monday – Wednesday (literally 10 people including the DJ), but it picked up a little on Thursday, then Friday and Saturday were good nights. Sunday night was decent. I actually went to Help on Monday, Friday and Sunday nights. I got feedback about the other nights from other tourists and garotas. At best Friday night was comparable to a Monday night from a few years ago. Just wasn’t the same. It appears that Help has seen its best days. Also they’ve raised their cover to 40 Real after midnight. Also, Meia Pataca was dead every day of the week, no matter the time of day. Perhaps it was just the time of the year…Spring. Summertime is always better in Copa anyway. Either way, we still had a great time this past trip. So whether Help is open or not wont stop my gringo ass from flying 10 hours to Brazil. Can you say.. TERMAS!!! TERMAS!!! TERMAS!!!

  • Nick

    Club Help closing date
    The word is out that the world famous Club Help is officialy closing on September 30, 2009. This is sad news for many. As a frequent traveler to Copacabana I will miss this place very much. I am an american and I have many American and European friends who spend large amounts of money at Help and other local businesses in Copacabana. Will there be a replacement for Club Help? Will an exsisting night club take over for Help? Where will the Club Help girls hang out now? It all remains to be seen. You can call them prostitutes or whatever but I have met girls who attend colleges in S. America who spend their summers in Rio to make some money. The local Brazilians against prostitution should realize it will go on no matter if you close Help. The local girls need the money and our tourist dollars are helping your economy. Maybe the author of this article should focus on the real issues there like poverty and coruption. To single out the young woman who are doing what they have to do to survive is lame. If anyone hears about a new replacement for Club Help then please post it.

  • FletchNY

    The latest word
    It seems like the keep trying to close it, but it hasn;t happened yet.

    http://thegringotimes.com/news/rio-business/fate-of-club-help-sealed/

  • oliver

    help is still open this mounth! but do you know it will be open on august or september???

  • Brooklyn Born

    Mixed Feelings
    Yes is still open but just temporarily because they finally got the order this month that the owners must vacate the premises within 60 days. Baring some small miracle HELP will be closed in May of 2009. I’m quite sure the owners will have another spot lined up. I have mixed feelings about Help. The women that work there, the majority are not bad women just they are placed in a bad situation. I love Brazil and I do consider moving there some day but there are some serious social problems. Which force these women to sell their bodies to survive and put them at risk every night. Some of these women have loving siblings and parents but just do not have any means to survive. Some of these women have kind hearts and hate the fact that they have to do what they do. Alot of them do not enjoy it at all. But when they see their children starving and their government won’t help them or their husband or boyfriend is not helping what do you do. I do not judge anyone because it is not my place and I am not GOD. Secondly you have many Brazilians that graduate from a University can not find or job or if they do find a job the job pays about $900 to $1,000 a month. And that amount folks are considered to middle class material. The average brazilian income is about $400 US a month seriously I am from New York that would barely cover my grocery bill each month. I know Brazilians have some ill will towards foreigners and blame them for their situation but until the Brazilian government clean up the GREED, CORRUPTION, AND SCANDAL within the Government, Police Force and their Justice System, Brazil will never reach the potential to be one of the top 5 countries in the world. I have many Brazilian friends and I have a Brazilian girlfriend and I just want to say to Morgana and other Brazilians that think the way she does you should always look to better yourself and never blame someone else for your problems.

  • night3232

    Help is stil open
    and i’m going back tonight…

  • henrik glenstrup

    help
    I be in Help 3/12 2008 is open. 😉

  • mike

    CLUB HELP
    Is clube help close now oct29, I will be the dec24—27

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    What’s wrong with normality?
    Steve, I’m as much in favor of normality as the next guy, but making prostitution illegal actually creates or intensifies most of the problems anti-prostitution advocates say they want to prevent.

    In the case of Help, the anti-prostitution drive is closing the one big venue where women are NOT controlled by pimps or threatned with violence. In short, a safe, hygenic and responsible venue is being closed in the name of “protecting women” while the really bad venues aren’t even touched.

    When “normality” is a synonym for “blind prejudice” and said prejudice ends up hurting or killing people, then it is indeed time to turn the “normal upside down”.

  • Steve1

    What is wrong with prostitution?
    Everything normal is being turned upside down.

  • Derek

    Help
    Help was a hell of a nightclub. It catered to all foriegners, men a women, from all over the world not simply america. As a matter of fact Americans are always out numbered by fun loving Euro’s.

    Who cares what square conservatives think. They tend to hate life because theirs is so boring. Same with ugly chicks who tend to dislike anything involving sexy women.

  • Rich

    I used to go to Rio, before there was a Help Disco. Didn’t go inside of Help, until ’99; Why? I always said why pay to get something, I can get on the street for free. The ONLY way, you are going to stop prostitution, is when all men dissapear from earth. But I got news for you. The women left, will be buying each other. Sez is natural, as drinking water, and when are we going to admit ie? If we stopped being ashamed of sex,?

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    War against prostitution
    [quote] Its nice and wonderfully comforting to know that with the closing of Help there will no longer be a prostitution presence in Copacabana-ha ha [/quote]

    Isn’t it though?

    What burns me is that you can do whatever you want to prostitutes and no one gives a flying fuck. I mean, if there were even an OUTSIDE chance of this improving these women’s lives or significantly reducing prostitution, then one could at least make the moralist argument that it’s a blow in the war against prostitution. I, personally, wouldn’t make that argument, but at least it could be made.

    But this… This is going to close what’s currently the safest, most women-controlled sex work venue in Rio and replace it with… what, exactly?

    It’s not going to produce jobs for these women, so they’ll have to continue to do what they’re doing elsewhere. In fact, it’ll eliminate 180 waitress, cook and cleaning jobs and we can presume that at least a portion of those people will look for work in the sex trade, if only temporarily.

    Will it get rid of prostitution? No. Prostitution will continue in Copa because it’s legal and because people – both Brazilian and foreign – are willing to pay for the service.

    Will is “clean up” Copa? No. Right now, the pros in Help are inside. When Help goes, many of them will take to the streets. More will disperse to the other bars and restraunts along the orla. The current measure will, in fact, disperse what’s now a highly concentrated scene and make it MORE intrusive on peoples’ families.

    So what the purpose of this act is other than political grandstanding is beyond me.

    Worse, we’re paying for it with our taxes and paying big time.

  • Joao Monger

    prostitution ended
    Its nice and wonderfully comforting to know that with the closing of Help there will no longer be a prostitution presence in Copacabana-ha ha

  • Jonathan

    If anything they want to clean up, they should start with the [b]Favela[/b] and prostituion in [b]VILA MIMOSA [/b]if they want to crack down on prostitution.

  • grandealemao

    Where will Help II re-open?
    Lot’s of interesting comments….. Esspecially for those who know what’s going on there.
    My suggestions for Help II:
    1) Install smaller chairs and tables for the Italien corner that they can sit more relaxed.
    2) Serve better Caipirinha that I don’t sound anymore like Amanda Lear next day.
    3) Make sure that you also have a balcony outside as it is like about 2 years.
    4) Install condom slot machines.
    5) Go back to more rock/pop music and stop playing just noisy bum bum bum….. Bum bum we do in our rooms whole night….
    6) Keep the strict age control at the entrance! No one older than 80 shall get through…
    7) Keep it open as it is. No “dark corners” or private rooms….
    8) Keep the Webcams out. I had huge problems with my wife…..
    9) No TV or video screens!!!
    10) By successful… All the best!!!

  • SirMarjAlot

    When will it close
    Shit man!
    This is one place iv always wanted to visit.
    This is what Rio is famous for – the help disco – people in backstreet pubs in the UK have heard about it.

    How long have I got, to get my ass there before its gone ???

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    Finally….
    Calling Help a “whorehouse” on a public forum like this, published under your name as a news piece, is a clear cut case of slander under Brazilian law. I will be in contact with Brazzil.com’s host regarding it and the next time I see any of the owner’s, I’ll let them know, too.

    I suggest you retract your rather unfortunate choice of words, Elma.

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    By the way…
    Wanna see why this will not hurt prostitution in the slightest? Look to your right: see that Rosetta Stone “Date Brazilian women” add? That’s the new face of prostitution and sexual tourism in Brazil, friend.

    All Help’s closing will do, potentially, is hurt the women who are currently using it as a safe place to meet potential johns.

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    Clearing up some misconceptions.
    1) Prostitution in Brazil is LEGAL, as long as it is self-prostitution and the prostitute is over 18.

    2) After close to 5 years of research at Help, I and my research partner and co-author, Dra. Ana Paula da Silva can categorically affirm that the vast majority of tricks turned at the place do not involve third parties and MOST CERTAINLY INVOLE ADULTS. We have never seen an obvious minor at Help.

    3) Given the above, the allegations that Help caters to pedophiles are simple slander and – worse – concretely aid REAL pedophiles in hiding their activities. after all, if you’re all so worried about Help, you’re certainly not paying attention to what’s really going on in this country in terms of the sexual exploitation of children. Right now, of the 1500 cases of sexual exploitation registerd by Brazil’s federal disque-denuncia hotline, 18 involve foreign tourists and some 70 involve priests, pastors or pai de santos. you are thu statistically almost four times as likely to find a pedophile at the head of your local church as you are picking up pros in Copacabana.

    3) The owners of Help employ no prostitutes on the premises. They simply run a discotec where prostitutes and clients meet. Period.

    4) In Copa – and throughout Rio – there are many, many bars and boites which do indeed violate Brazilian sex work laws by tolerating pimps. None of these is scheduled for closure or expropriation.

    5) In any gringo bar in Ipanema, you’ll find far many more minors who are sexually active with tourists than you will on Copa. However, these kids are white, middle class and south zone for the most part and aren’t turning tricks, so I guess that “minors having sex with foreigners” isn’t really the State government’s main concern, is it?

    6) Why doesn’t Help call itself a boite? Because it isn’t. It is what it says it is: a disco. It does nothing to attract women to it. It charges them the same as the men to get it. It has no “stable” of hired performers-cum-waitresses-cum-bargirls-cum-prostitutes on its payroll. It offers no live sex shows, striptease, or private rooms for sex. Ergo, it is not a boite. QED.

    7) Finally, Morgana, you are INCREDIBLY naive if you think this initiative is going to end – or even stem – prostitution in Rio. Help’s owners already have another place all lined up and ready to go and, if they didn’t, someone else would. What this is is political grandstanding: the state government using your and my tax dollars to buy a property which is inappropriate for MIS (the sea air would quickly destroy its collections unless huge sums were spent to climatize the building). If the givernment’s plan actually worked (which it probably won’t), they would be eliminating the one venue on Copa where prostitution more or less works according to Brazilian law. as the Folha reported me saying, this would drive most of the women more securely into the boites and the hands of pimps and the underworld.

    But you wouldn’t careas long as you don’t have to SEE the prostitutes, would you? that’s what’s really at stake here. Let’s not kid ourselves.

  • Greg J

    Morgan How ignorant are you really?
    Morgan, I think brazil is beautiful place like you do, but get real. Americans did not cause the problems there in brazil, nor any other country. Besides be happy that you get others down there, other wise where would your money come from if we stop coming there, Now that is something real for you.

  • Grande Alemao

    Comment from Germany
    It is so stupid….. There is the chance to have the biggest whorehouse (of the world?) under full control and in one place, and they throw it away. What will happen now?…. They just will move somewhere else in many different places, resulting in much more crime, etc….. The person who stops prostituion by opening museums should be awarded with the nobel price of fairy tales….
    I come from Hamburg where we have the Reeperbahn. Everybody knows what is going on there, even the police and goverment (as they are very welcome guests). So they keep it there to avoid spreading it all over the city!!! Think about!

  • Derk

    The stupid comment by Morgana
    I can’t believe you have the nerve to actually make such a dumb commit like you did. American’s are only a small fraction of men that come from all over the world to have sex with your women. When I travel to the Brothels, 90% of the men are from other countrys. You can believe what ever crap you want to make yourself feel good. Truth of the matter is your women love money from any man!!! Where it comes from has nothing to do with it. Who cares if you close Help. I’ll just go to the beaches and the restuarants in the area. There are more than enough women that are willing to pleasure my needs!! 🙂

  • Another Gringo

    Brazilians blame all their countries problems on government corruption and Gringos. I have heard Brazilians blame George Busch for their political corruption. One man told me that Gringos are to blame for Dange fever. Prostitution……..I know many married Brazilian men who have 15 and16 year old girlfriends. The street walking prostitutes in crummy neighborhoods are not being picked up by tourists. If the Brazilian people really want to improve their country they should start by picking up their garbage

  • JAY GLENN

    AMERICA VS BRAZIL No CONTEST
    In America we put people having sex with children in Jail. Except Catholic Priests.
    No state government tolerates pedophilia.

  • PA

    Brazil’s Most Notorious Prostitution House Becomes a Museum
    “written by morgana, 2008-02-01 22:44:57
    Only stupid american tourists pay for this kind of services”

    -Well it’s better than knocking down the puritans doors-

    “Actually this unriliable governement that does not do anyhting for this beautiful country but rober!!!! If Brazil had a good, honest governement this Country would be the best country in the whole world!!!!!!!!!!!! “

    -we already have the best country in the world, the GOOD OLE U.S.A., because we trust in god, not false prophets, now there is something for you to think about. Pay back is a bitch-.

  • ch.c.

    further…to the idiot Morgana……
    Where have you read…that Rio will close their brothels…..,and end prositution ?????
    They closed ONE…..within the thousands in existence.
    And not counting yet, the tens and tens of thousands of street prostitutes…in Rio alone !!!!

    Read again : “over 1,000 ladies of the night sell their wares at Help during summer time,”
    Over 1000 prostitutes…IN ONE PLACE ONLY !!!!

    Yessss Morgana….you just proved how stupid YOU ARE !!!

  • ch.c.

    “Only stupid american tourists pay for this kind of services”
    Dead wrong……liar and idiot.
    Brazilians love to get a quicky but paying only a few Reals.
    Brazil is full of brothels where NOT a single foreigner would even enter.
    I just remind you, for your own education, that 20 % of the 5500 Brazilians municipalities….OPENLY offer
    sex with children. This also means that in whatever municipality of these 20 %…there is MORE than one brothel
    with children abuses.
    This number is from Brazilian Government Source….NOT foreign source.

    Lets face it….even your politicians loves prostitutes. Never read the stories of Palocci, just to name one person ?
    Never read of your politicians having sex with children….but got IMPUNITY……as usual ?????

    It is funny how you consistently act like…AN OSTRICH !!!!!

    And you always want to show the tip of the iceberg (10 %) and hide the hidden part of the iceberg (90 %….to my knowledge)
    But coming from Brazilian junkies like you, it is quite normal.
    This just show your good faith : NIL !

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