The world’s finest brothel, and its hostess Sally Stanford

After years of privation and wartime horrors, delegates from fifty nations came to San Francisco in the spring of 1945 to form what would become the United Nations. The official ceremonies and deliberations took place at the War Memorial Opera House and next door at the Veterans’ Building. Nearby, at the top of Nob Hill, in the Fairmont Hotel’s penthouse suite, U.S. Secretary of State and chief envoy Edward Stettinius hosted delicate and often heated round-the-clock negotiations.

Just around the block from the Fairmont, Sally Stanford helped relieve the stress, by hosting delegates at what she would call the world’s best brothel. “Every night, the place was jammed with UN delegates, tackling the subject with great vigor and getting down to the business at hand. You know, details. I would have to say that 1144 Pine was the true seat of the United Nations—all those rich Arabs, all that French champagne—I could cry when I think about it.”

When the negotiations were complete, and it was time to sign the final declaration, a messenger was sent to Sally’s place, the world’s best brothel, to retrieve the last stragglers for the official signing ceremonies. Or, so the story goes.

The stories Sally Stanford told were delightful, colorful, heart-warming, and fun—and they almost always contained a kernel of truth.

Sally herself was the source of the oft-told story about the UN Organizing Committee and the “finest and most distinguished pleasure house in the world.” (Lady of the House, p.115) San Francisco Chronicle columnist repeated this version (11/3/1968, p.107). Variations on the theme are included in many other publications.

Who would confirm the story? Who would refute it? Except for Sally, none of the participants would bear witness. So, the story lives on.

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