From brothel to museum
Discoteca Help on Avenida Atlântica is the most famous brothel in Rio, open seven nights a week for over 20 years. It is better known as a discotheque in colloquial usage, but Brazilians and foreign sex-seekers know what it’s really for. The yellow legs printed on a blue placard that announces the club name looks dusty and garish in the daytime, like an abandoned indoor circus. Tacky Christmas colors light it up at night. Sex tourists from all over the world seek Help. At Amir, a Lebanese restaurant in Copacabana, we took note of 16 all-male Tunisian tourists (one of whom actually wore a fez hat) asking the Lebanese restaurant owner where ‘Helb-y’ was. In January, the mayor of Rio expropriated the club–it has been state property for four months–and announced that it will be the site of the Museum of Image and Sound (currently located in downtown Lapa). A staff member at the museum told me that the relocation would not be complete until 2010. She couldn’t say what would happen to the old club-brothel.