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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Membership has its privileges

I was in NYC with a friend from overseas who, once upon a time, lived in NYC. Let's call him Michael. He is presently within striking distance of being a billionaire. We had established a good connection over the years: probably similar forms of moral decay.

Michael told me about a service he used in NYC that he found acceptable, run by a mysterious man named Kevin. It sounded like a classic brothel arrangement, and I was prepared to be unimpressed. The power of the Internet allows women to be independent businesswomen with an ability to efficiently advertise, so statistics would seem favor higher quality among such independents than a discreet service limited by word of mouth.

Boy was I wrong.

Kevin had a Wall Street location in a building that he owns. Your car drops you off in front of an office building entrance, but in the lobby there is a side door. The path from the front door to the unmarked side door is not covered by the otherwise ubiquitous lobby security camera. You do through a short corridor with a large metal door at the end. That opens into a narrow hall with a camera and an elevator. Because of the drop off location, even your driver need not know where you are going. Or your driver can drop you off at Goldman Sachs and you can walk the block or two to Kevin's place.

The elevator is operated by a young long-haired lackey. You must have an appointment. You are taken up several floors where the elevator opens in the middle of an amazing condo. It is built as an open loft with several satellite rooms, an open kitchen and several closed living rooms, and is, by my rough guess, over 6000 square feet.

We are escorted into a living room in tasteful modern. It has a few comfortable chairs and a couch and a wall-sized entertainment system with a large flat screen and surround sound upon which light jazz is playing. The other walls are hung with original art, and tasteful bronzes decorate the tables. There are air fresheners and an extensive collection of cigars. It is a very nice place, and I am mentally calculating the monthly cost of all this.

Kevin sends girls into the living room in pairs (there are two of us), and gives them about five minutes to get acquainted with the customers. They are dressed sexy but not sluttish, showing off their best assets, and seem to be very friendly, genuine, and very attractive. I saw what I believe to be the finest looking African American girl I have ever met. Kevin says she is a recognizable international model (she is from London), and I believe it. There is a world mix, including several highly educated women: a PhD, a JD/MBA from Columbia, and a second-year medical student. All in all there are twelve women, out of a total group of thirty that occupy this loft in six hour shifts.

Life isn't shabby for them, either. They enjoy a spa, a weight and exercise room, a kitchen, a small library, and several private corners to study or watch movies (but there is no cable or satellite.) Their lifestyle is unhurried and friendly. They could make more money elsewhere or as independents. But they'd also have less camaraderie, support, and a lower-end clientele. One gal was mentioning that she used to be a high-end independent in London, and she liked Kevin's setup because although she had wealthy clients before, those clients weren't "classy".

Everything is relaxed. You can take your time deciding, have a few drinks, smoke cigars, talk, or kick back for a while. If you want to go out, Kevin has a limo and driver who can discreetly take you out the back way to wherever your heart desires, including a golf outing (at least two of his girls are near-scratch golf players). It's a very club-like atmosphere.

We spend a few hours at Kevin's.

Afterwards, Kevin smokes some cigars with us, talking about the business, the girls, some old girls that my friend remembers, and his new business ideas. He is an interesting entrepreneur. He has a very matter-of-fact view on his business and the girls in it, an attitude that the girls seem to appreciate. He says, "If a girl wants to bullshit herself into thinking she isn't a prostitute just because I've got her meeting rich folks like you, then she isn't going to work out. She has to be honest with herself, and enjoy what she's doing." He has a number of other maxims that he has developed in his 25 years in the business.

He has some other interesting business ideas. He solicits some advice, which he notes meticulously. I was predisposed not to like him, but I do like him. Kevin takes a few minutes with my friend on the side; then he comes back and offers me a membership.

To become a member you must have a strong referral, a face to face with Kevin, and an okay from your first girl. After that you are given a code, a password, a card bearing the name of a construction form with a phone number and a misspelling, and a series of questions and answers. You are also asked to describe something you know. Out of this data Kevin builds his security system:

1. If a spouse finds the card and is suspicious, and copies down the number, he can use the misspelling to determine if she has the real card in hand.

2. If the person is claiming to be the member, he uses the descriptions to verify that you are the same person.

3. Any two of the series of questions and answers can be used to verify a reference for a friend.

Perhaps most interesting, Kevin never knows your real name or other data, and doesn't want to know it.

For your modest membership deposit, you can use a living room in his apartment to relax, have a cigar, listen to music or watch a movie, or take a chauffeured trip to an event or restaurant, all optionally in the company of beautiful women. You can have him bring women over to your place, or arrange an event with catering.

I am torn: will I really use a membership like this? Probably not, but it is interesting imagining all the people who do. Clearly, membership has its privileges.

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