The decades of the 1980s and early 1990s were that of decline and neglect in the center then known to locals as the Viking Way Triangle. And maybe that neglect fostered some less than legal activity in the area.
Take the now-accepted brothel story. The Carson or Cal Health Spa was in the building that faces Carson St. at the far west part of Viking Way. In the 1980s, it wasn’t unusual to see mini-skirted girls who worked in the spa on the streets. Locals long suspected and utility workers who had access to the building confirmed that this was a Mustang Ranch-style brothel.
Now, it’s a high quality suite of offices, with a 1400 square feet office area for rent, but back in the friskier days, “upstairs is where you’d go to pick up who you wanted,” noted Benjamin Efraim, on-site manager of Parkview Village.
Apparently, male customers would visit the spa, which had several hot tubs on the first floor, then somehow give a password or express their need to the satisfaction of management and would then be directed to climb an interior staircase to the second floor. From there, the customer would then climb a second iron staircase to a loft that overlooked the second floor waiting room for a bird’s eye view of the female employees. That’s where and how they would select an available girl.
A local resident recalls these skimpily-dressed working girls walking from the spa, loads of sheets and other laundry in oversized carts, to the convenient Laundromat at the corner of Village Rd. and Montair St.
Currently, the only excitement at the location is the running of credit checks next door. But the loft and the metal staircase are still in place as is the fine lookout view of Heartwell Park, directly across Carson St.
Richard Brown of Jack’s Shoe Repair recalls the strange story of the Villager Café on Village Rd. In about 1981, “Bob and Sue opened a restaurant. The line was out the front door. We used to eat lunch late because it was so crowded. Then a guy from Palm Springs came and made an offer and took it. Then it was sold this “Mike” who began running it. Pretty soon the service and quality and went down the tubes. He was living in there and the sheriff came had him evicted. He was pushing a little dope or things like that and living in there.” According to Efraim, not only was that his residence, with blacked-out windows, it apparently also served as crash pad for bikers until sometime into the 1990s.
After the eviction, the storefront became a short-lived hemp store, which began taking on the look of a head shop before the proprietor gave up the property. It’s now used as the second room for Once Read Books. The worrisome less-than-legal activities have now been cleaned up and cleaned out. But the structures remain, their secrets slowly eking out.