Anyone still have their dad’s old copies of the Travis McGee novels lying around? If so, you should take down “Nightmare in Pink” and give it another read. There’s a long passage about two-thirds in, where Travis tries to penetrate a rich man’s perimeter by booking a prostitute from the same high-end service the man uses. There’s an explanation of how the service works, how the customers are protected and the girls shielded from the police that I think a certain former U.S. governor would recognize. It masquerades as a showbiz talent agency, of course. Travis asks about the rates, and the madam/booker tells him:
“Most are at two hundred and two-fifty. We have several at three hundred, a few at four hundred, and two at five hundred. But it varies, according to the size and quality of our list at any given time. There have been some at a thousand, but not recently.”
“What makes it worth five hundred, Mrs. Smith?”
Her expression told me she thought it a vulgar question. “Those are girls who are very well-known due to television work usually. Some accounts prefer to be seen with girls who will be recognized in public. Generally they don’t stay on our list long.” Her smile was quite suddenly and surprisingly vicious. “They either go up, or they go down.”
Keep in mind this book was written in 1964. Factor in inflation, and I’d say we’re talking Spitzer’s girls. Later, Travis meets the one he chose, Rossa, in a cocktail lounge. She’s beautiful, smart, perfectly groomed:
She had no whore look or whore manner that I could detect. But there was a curious inadequacy about our easy conversation. We both knew there was an envelope of money in one of my pockets, and it would end up in her purse. This was a situation I had never been in before. It took me a long time to analyze it. Finally I realized that we could generate no particular tension between us because the result was preordained. She was a stately and beautiful girl, fashionable and bright, with shining eyes and a good mouth. But there was no spice of pursuit. A doe which runs up and stares down the gun barrel is not a sporting venture.
…At one point I glanced up quickly and surprised a different expression in her eyes — an absolute coldness, a bleak and total indifference which was gone the instant I saw it. And that, I thought, was the whore’s look and the whore’s secret, that monumental unconcern which insulated her.
I grow a little weary of the latter-day feminist upgrade from prostitute to “sex worker.” I guess, if you were the kind of girl raised in a house where your mom’s boyfriend ran his grubby hands all over you and you figure out a way to make it work for you, that’s a lemonade-from-lemons deal, but let’s not dress it up too much in women’s-studies b.s., OK? Ashley Alexandra “I am not a monster” Dupré may not be the most odious player in this whole affair, but she’s hardly an innocent, either.
I found this kind of pathetic:
Her MySpace biography says she started singing professionally after a musician she was living with heard her singing the Aretha Franklin hit “Respect” in the shower and burst into the bathroom with his lead guitarist.
And then what? They signed her with Interscope, or they had a three-way? She should have insisted on getting her propers when he got home, instead.
Every so often I open a newspaper and read a long, searching, new journalism-wannabe profile of a sex worker, usually a stripper. (They’re easier to find than actual prostitutes.) It’s almost always complimentary and respectful, and always liberally illustrated, because if there’s one place you don’t have to ask a photographer to do a thorough job, it’s a strip club. When I was a very young reporter, a photog approached me with the pictures he’d been taking at a down-at-the-heels club on High Street called the Garden Burlesque. He wanted me to write the story, and talked about the gems he’d found there — this girl was in college, and this one was an entrepreneur, and they were all wonderful, wonderful people who were happy to tell their stories. So I agreed to go with him one day and meet everyone.
The college student was a slack-jawed moron who said she was thinking about maybe enrolling at a local secretarial school. Most of the rest were just garden-variety skanks lucky to have reached 25 with a full set of teeth. I forget what the entrepreneur was planning, but the standout of the group was a girl who was six months pregnant, and royally pissed that she’d recently been banned from the stage and assigned to ticket-taking instead. “I caint make no tips now,” she whined. (“What was she dancing to?” our witty columnist asked when I told him about it, “the ‘Baby Elephant Walk’?”) It was as grubby a bunch as you’d expect to find in that era, the last years before the new-style high-end clubs started to open, the ones where you’d find the Ashley Alexandra Duprés and their gym-toned sisters. Well, everybody was moving up in the world, then. It was the ’80s.
I feel worse for Ashley than I do for Spitzer. The whore always gets the worst of it, and I suspect this will be no different. She’s headed down the trail blazed by Jessica Hahn and Donna Rice, and if we still know her name in three weeks it’ll be because Howard Stern made her a co-host and Hugh Hefner wrote her a big check. But like Travis McGee’s date, she has “that monumental unconcern” at heart. It’s the whore’s look, and monster or not, it’s hers, just the same.