This article was last modified on February 8, 2020.

Alice’s Lobby and Kathi’s Sauna, Madison (1972)

Madison’s prostitution boom really took off in 1974-1975 under the guidance of Sam Cerro and William Garrott. But at least one business beat them to the punch, and were not nearly so innocent. Not surprisingly, this case was loosely linked to the others that followed through a common player. But before we get to our focus – Kathi’s Sauna – we start with Alice’s Lobby.

December 10, 1935: Danilo Zabala Artez is born.

June 3, 1970: Alice’s Lobby tavern (518 East Wilson) loses its liquor license, in part because it had 44 police calls in the past year – second only to the 400 Bar. Through attorney Donald Eisenberg, they appealed to have their application reviewed.

July 24, 1970: Alice Biwer, owner of Alice’s Lobby, was unable to get her license back, so instead switched to topless dancers and served only soft drinks and coffee. Biwer said her tavern was the target of a “vendetta.” (The newspapers alternately spelled her name “Biwer” and “Biewer.” The shorter one is more common, so I’m using that until I find out which is correct.)

September 30, 1970: An undercover officer brought a bottle of booze into Alice’s Lobby and was given a glass of 7-Up to mix it with. Biwer was the arrested for having alcohol on the premises without a license. Attorney Eisenberg told the press, “This is the louisiest piece of police work I’ve ever seen, and it’s typical of (attorney general) Robert W. Warren. It offends me; it absolutely offends me!” Despite Eisenberg’s protests, Biwer was convicted, fined $250 and the conviction was upheld on appeal.

February 10, 1971: Biwer arranged for a bar patron to meet with Kathleen Ghinter, a prostitute in Monona.

March 23, 1971: Alice Biwer was issued a summons for violating the theater ordinance. In Madison, any “entertinament” that had an “entry fee” required a theater permit. Because Biwer’s nude dancers had a cover charge, this was said to be in violation. Biwer said the move was politically motivated, because the city knew about her dancers nine months ago – but the (potential) re-election of Mayor William Dyke was now only weeks away. Biwer pleaded not guilty on April 1, with attorney Eisenberg saying the charge was “continued harassment of our mayor, Mayor Dyke.”

April 1971: Monona police begin looking into Kathi’s Sauna (4505 Monona Drive), which they believe to be a front for prostitution.

June 1971: Monona police alert the state attorney general’s office about their investigation when it becomes apparent it is bigger than a one-city operation.

August 23, 1971: Vennie Rainey is brought from Minneapolis to Madison by Alfred Jackson under the promise of being a dancer. Upon arrival, she was introduced to Danilo Z. “Chico” Artez, who put her up in his home and gave her a job at his sauna. She was soon to find out she was expected to be a prostitute.

September 23, 1971: Alice Biwer sends a client from the Lobby tavern to see Ruth Reebe at Kathi’s Sauna for prostitution.

October 1971: The FBI begins investigating the sauna once it is determined that interstate crimes are taking place (specifically White Slave Traffic Act violations).

November 1971: Vennie Rainey escaped Chico Artez and made her way back to Minneapolis. She told authorities there about her plight, and they urged Wisconsin law enforcement to take action.

January 17, 1972: Four men and two women were indicted for a sex trafficking scheme in Monona under the name of Kathi’s Sauna. Allegedly, at least 20 teenage girls were kidnapped, tortured and forced into prostitution. One of the men, Richard G. “Tex” Simpson, was accused of tying a girl to a bed, beating her for four hours and burning her with a soldering iron at a house on Lake Kegonsa in Pleasant Springs. Also arrested were Kathleen Ghinter, Chico Artez, Marvin Smith, Ruth Reebe and Alfred Jackson. At the time of arrest, Artez was in Milwaukee where he was planning to open Kathi’s II. Ghinter and Smith were arrested in Minneapolis, allegedly the city where they acquired many of their girls. Ghinter was originally from Little Falls, Minnesota.

January 21, 1972: Judge Richard W. Bardwell was appointed to oversee the “white slave” trials.

By the end of January, Ruth Reebe was already trying to get the sauna reopened. Ronald Bredeson, who owned the property, was fighting her on this, but she claimed to have a lease agreement.

February 24, 1972: Kathleen Ghinter pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, soliciting and battery in Dane County court. She also pleaded not guilty to seven counts in federal court. Her bond was set at $5,000, but Ghinter said she had no interest in leaving the county jail. This same day, Alfred Jackson pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse with a minor. The girl in question was 17, just shy of her 18th birthday. Judge Bardwell gave Jackson three years of probation. Marvin Smith pleaded not guilty to the six charges he faced. Attorney John Fritschler was able to get Chico Artez’s trial delayed by filing a motion asking to see if the grand jury evidence was sufficient to hand down the indictment it did.

March 21, 1972: After spending time in jail, Chico Artez was able to raise the $20,000 needed to post bond.

March 23, 1972: Free on bond, Artez assaults his co-defendant Ruth Reebe and is re-arrested. The exact nature of the battery is not mentioned in the newspaper, but it was bad enough to get Reebe’s case postponed.

April 7, 1972: Kathleen Ghinter agrees to plead guilty to two counts in state court (battery and prostitution) and two counts in federal court (both white slavery) if the other charges are dropped. She was also put in protective custody with the expectation that she would be a state witness. Addressing Judge Bardwell, Ghinter said the battery was a situation of “either me or her… I pulled her hair and slapped her. I did not hit her with my fist.” Ghinter was released from jail following the court appearance for the first time since her arrest.

Also April 7: Alice Biwer was indicted on four counts of pandering over a 10-month period. Along with referring men to Kathleen Ghinter and Ruth Reebe, she was named as a “pimp” for Vennie Rainey. Roman J. Enders, owner of the Brass Monkey (1617 North Stoughton), was charged with three counts of pandering.

April 8, 1972: Lavern Hahn was arrested on charges of soliciting and illegal gambling. When arrested, police searched his car and found additional evidence of gambling. Within a year or two, Hahn would become a major player in the Cerro-Garrott massage parlor business, featured in another article.

April 13, 1972: Previously facing felony counts of prostitution, Reebe agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge of pandering. She was put on two years of probation by Judge W. L. Jackman and encouraged to “go home” to Minnesota.

April 28, 1972: Artez had another charge filed against him – perjury. At a bond hearing, he had said he did not leave the state while (briefly) free on bond and had been staying at the Waukesha apartment of Mrs. Mark Hollingsworth. However, Hollingsworth signed a statement saying this was false – Artez had actually been in Minneapolis.

June 6, 1972: Sherry Miller Kinkade testified at Artez’s trial. She said she was held prisoner at the sauna and was tortured because she “disrespected my man and disrespected the family.” When asked why she called Artez “my man,” she explained, “It more or less meant that he owned me.” Kinkade said she agreed to go from Minneapolis to Madison in October, under the promise of being a masseuse. Instead, Artez kept her at his Lake Kegonsa home. Once when she was beaten, Artez said she was “lucky” because he wanted her killed. Cheryl Dugas told a similar story, though she was able to escape the house and took a bus back to Minnesota.

Linda Schemenhorn, a hairdresser at a nearby salon, said the sauna had an atmosphere of “fear,” and Artez once told her, “I’m married to many women.” Sheila Duffy said she was brought from Minneapolis to Madison by Marvin Smith, and was forced to have sex with Artez every night for several weeks or risk getting beaten. On one occasion, Artez was going to hand Kinkade over to Tex Simpson for punishment and Duffy tried to intervene. Artez stopped her, and told Simpson of Kinkade, “she’s yours, make a Christian out of her.”

June 7, 1972: Ruth Reebe testified at Artez’s trial. She told how the sauna kept a list of “tricks” (customers) so they could keep track of who was alright. Prostitution would sometimes happen at the sauna, sometimes at an aprtment at 518 West Main Street, or occasionally a place of the customer’s choosing. Reebe said she personally “had relations with” approximately 36 clients, and the cost would vary widely from $25 up to $90. Reebe said she was not allowed to keep any of the money and was taken care of by Artez, whom she lived with at his house on Lake Kegonsa. Reebe recalled customers named Walt Hoffman and “Rudy,” and said some customers were referred to the sauna by Lavern Hahn, who they called “Mr. L.” One of Reebe’s clients, Monona businessman John Leske, talked openly on the stand about “relations” with Reebe he had on multiple occasions (he paid $25) and about relations he had with other employees of the sauna.

Vennie Rainey said she was forced to dance topless for a group of bankers in September at the Hoffman House West. The party was arranged by Artez and “Coz” Hoffman, who was a regular at Kathi’s Sauna. “Chico showed me the outfit I was to wear,” she testified. “When I protested that I had never performed as a go-go dancer before, he said, ‘Well, just fake it. You’ll get by.'” She was paid $65, which she had to turn over to Artez.

June 8, 1972: Kathleen Ghinter testified that when she first met Chico Artez in Minneapolis he was a “perfect gentleman” and they even attended church together. Then things took a dark turn. “He degraded me,” she said. “I had to dress and undress him… light his cigarettes. If I didn’t do it the way he wanted, he would hit me on the head or burn me with the cigarettes.” After a while she was “unable to think for myself.” Artez allegedly sent scandalous photos of Ghinter to her parents so they would disown her and made her call her grandparents and tell them she was living with a black man, something they disapproved of. When the sauna opened, it was at first legitimate, but then Artez introduced Ghinter to Alice Biwer at the Lobby Bar on Wilson Street. Biwer had developed a series of code words to refer men to the sauna for sexual services. If they were to meet the men elsewhere, the girls would be driven by “Tex” Simpson, who Ghinter described as “the muscle man or enforcer who was supposed to keep the girls in line.” On one occasion, Artez “sold” Simpson one of the girls, Sherri Miller, and Simpson beat her for being disrespectful. Another girl, Sheila Duffy, was given a party at Hoffman House East when she turned 18 that was attended by “Coz” Hoffman and Alderman Michael Shivers.

June 9, 1972: The trial shifted to the defense portion. Tex Simpson (wearing a cowboy hat and leather vest) testified that Kathleen Ghinter called the shots at the sauna, not Artez. He claimed that Ghinter purchased a “torture book” for him that contained tactics used by the Japanese and Germans on their prisoners. Simpson said he had actually met Ghinter in Minneapolis before ever meeting Artez, and it was Ghinter who introduced the two men. She was also a part-owner of “Nite Life Enterprises” newspaper, rather than any kind of victim. Simpson further said that Artez never ordered him to beat any of the women. The prosecutor showed Simpson a signed statement where he originally said Artez was in charge, but Simpson said he had no recollection of making such a statement.

Another witness that day was Rachel Lamoureaux, a cosmetics distributor from Eau Claire. She said she had visited the sauna 25 times and all she saw there was “much love.” She said she had nothing but respect for Artez, and they were attempting to launch a line of cosmetics for black women. While at the sauna, Lamoureaux allegedly received a massage from Vennie Rainey and they “laughed and joked” together.

June 12, 1972: Artez took the stand in his own defense. He denied being aware of any prostitution, either at the sauna or at an apartment rented in his name at 518 West Main in Madison. He said “you suspect these things” based on the prices men were paying, but had no first-hand knowledge. Regarding the charge of sexual relations with a minor (Sheila Duffy), Artez claimed he did not have relations with her until after the birthday party (when she turned 18), and furthermore that he thought this was her 21st birthday party. Artez admitted that he had been convicted of crimes in the past, but was a fundamentally good person and the son of a Pentecostal pastor in Virginia. He denied ordering any beatings, saying one girl complained of pains but he assumed it was cramps. The only beating he ever saw was one time when he returned to his Lake Kegonsa home and found Tex Simpson beating a tied up Vennie Rainey in the garage; Artez told Simpson to stop and untied Rainey.

June 13, 1972: During closing arguments, prosecutor John Daley called Artez a “big honcho” and “sadist.” He said, “I believe this animal is capable of anything.” Defense attorney John Fritschler said Artez was merely a “businessman who was discriminated against because of his color.” He was being “sacrificed” by “squabbling Minneapolis whores.” Fritschler also pointed out that under the law a “place of prostitution” had to be a building where prostitutes actually resided, and there was no evidence the sauna was a residence.

The jury left to deliberate at 3pm, took a two-hour lunch from 5-7pm, and wrapped up their decision around 10pm: Artez was guilty on 11 of 13 counts. He was found guilty of battery and prostitution charges, but acquitted for kidnapping and “sexual perversion” (the newspapers did not specify the details).

June 22, 1972: The prosecutor recommended the maximum sentence for Artez – 35 years in prison. The defense counter-offered one year in jail. Judge Richard Bardwell instead went for ten years in prison and a $3,000 fine. Parole would be possible after three years, though the newspapers noted this was unlikely given Artez’s prior convictions.

July 1972: Robert Enders pleads guilty to one charge of sending men to the Ramada Inn to meet prostitutes in exchange for other charges being dropped. His punishment: a whopping $200 fine.

September 15, 1972: Alice Biwer pleads guilty to one charge of sending men to Kathi’s Sauna in exchange for other charges being dropped. Her punishment: that same $200 fine.

November 29, 1972: Kathleen Ghinter received three years of probation for her role in the Kathi’s Sauna case. Judge Bardwell indicated she deserved more, but had a “lot of good” in her and she had been a strong witness against Artez. Ghinter had also already spent 70 days in the county jail.

April 1973: Chico Artez was sentenced to six months in jail for his battery of Ruth Reebe while out on bail. The sentence was to run concurrently with his other sentences, so it essentially amounted to nothing. Attorney John Gibson, appearing for Artez, said that within the past year Artez had already received “trusty” statu at the prison, was editing the prison newspaper and had written three novels that have been received with interest by publishers.

December 13, 1975: Artez, imprisoned at Fox Lake, married an Appleton woman named Kessler in the prison on this day. Among those invited was Judge Bardwell, though I highly doubt he attended.

Exactly when Artez was released is unclear. His maximum sentence would have ended June 1982, but in fact we know he was back in Minneapolis by 1977… and running the exact same criminal enterprise!

On January 12, 1979, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Danilo Zabala Artez, George Clark, Marquetta Hays, Paul Boyd, and Wilbert Farrell Ratliff (Jimmy Taylor). The indictment charged the defendants had violated the Mann Act, Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering and Conspiracy.

On March 21, 1979, defendant George Clark entered a guilty plea to one of three counts against him.

Mid-March 1979: Artez was on trial for running a five-state prostitution ring where his women treated him like a king. 19-year old Lynn Feyen told authorities that women “taught me to run his bath water, put baby oil in the water, dry him off, lay out his clothes and light his cigarettes.” Artez hired women through a fake booking agency (Nite Life Enterprises) for dancers and then coerced them into prostitution by using violence. He kept a photo album of himself with all of “his” women nude, and in the photos he was labeled as “dad.” At least 20 women worked for Artez in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

On March 30, 1979, after two and one-half days of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict. Artez was convicted on eight of twelve counts; Marquetta Hays was convicted on all four counts with which she was charged; Paul Boyd was convicted on one of the four counts against him; and Jimmy Taylor was acquitted of the crime of conspiracy, the only charge against him. On May 30, 1979, Artez was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment and Boyd to four years imprisonment.

At this time, I’m not fleshing out the 1979 trial because it is not Madison-centric. However, because it does have a Wisconsin element, I may return to it in the future.

Artez was in the Green Bay, Wisconsin jail in 2005. He looked like this at the time:

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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