Saipan— In the early and pre-boom days of the Commonwealth of the NMI, Marianas Variety reported that there were “at least five women on Saipan engaged in prostitution, all of whom have a lucrative business operation.”
One of them was a statesider, Cherry, “who looks nearer 27 than 21.”
“After one rapid drink and some price negotiations,” MV reported, Cherry and a client “were headed toward her [hotel] room. A short time later, she returned to the bar $100 richer.” According to DollarTimes, $100 in 1978 had the same buying power as $396.98 in 2018.
In an interview, Cherry said she made about $300 (worth $1,190.94 today) on a good night.
“Cherry’s business is successful probably due to the fact that there is no law prohibiting prostitution in the Northern Marianas. She says her only concern is irate wives who may try to rid the island of her.”
Cherry looked forward to the legalization of casino gaming on Saipan. “Casinos are where the money is,” she said. “I’d even apply for a job in one to see who is winning the money.” (Casino legislation was enacted by the first CNMI Legislature over the governor’s veto, but it was repealed by voters in Nov. 1979.)
Cherry said her customers “run the full spectrum of men on Saipan. From local laborers — who must save their money to use her services — to businessmen and political leaders. But ‘businessmen and politicians have the money,’ she explains.”
Picking up men at bars, however, was not the way Cherry operated. “Usually her customers — ‘steaks’ for locals, ‘champagne’ for Japanese — arrange their meetings through one of 12 people she has soliciting for her.”
Cherry said “steaks” usually paid about $100 per session while “champagne” paid anywhere from $150 to $200, plus tip. Again, remember that these are in 1978 dollars.
Cherry “has no pimp on Saipan so she says she must rely on her ‘common sense’ and her pistol for protection against potential attackers and the disgruntled wives.” She had only been on island for three months, but she said she had been the victim of one rape/robbery and numerous threatening phone calls.
“Three weeks ago, she says, three men forced their way into her room, held a gun to her head and attacked her. Cherry says she never reported the attack to the police because she believed she could avenge the attack on her own. She says she did.” She did not say how.
It was a dangerous profession, but Cherry said “I’m in it for the money. Although I twinge on occasion, I never feel guilty about taking a client’s money. I have to think about myself.” She added, “I don’t like what I’m doing and I plan to quit someday; but I like the money. I’m comfortable, but I’m not wealthy — yet.”
A week later, “Cherry left Saipan without notice, leaving behind an unpaid $500 room bill at the Royal Taga Hotel [in the Civic Center area].
The manager of the hotel said he notified police of her disappearance but police say she is on Guam and they cannot bring charges against her.” (According to an old-timer, in the early 1970s, Royal Taga Hotel had an elevator which was a tourist attraction. “People would come from miles around just to get a chance to ride up and down on the elevator.”)
The following month, a bill was introduced in the CNMI Legislature “to put an end to…activities by some prostitutes on Saipan….”
Such legislation, of course, is as effective as measures against alcohol, illegal drugs or even littering.
Zaldy Dandan is the editor of Marianas Variety on Saipan.