The job of a phone girl in a brothel is basically a sort of sub-madam.
Clients, either established or new, would call. Once they arrived, I would let them in, pour them a drink, and seat them in main lounge, where they could chat for a few minutes before deciding who they would like to have a session with.
We called them “parties.”
I also had to keep the place stocked with alcohol, make sure all the laundry was picked up and delivered daily, collect weekly doctor’s notices from the girls, make sure the supply closet was stocked with tissues, baby oil, condoms, etc.
The clients, were normal, run-of-the-mill men. They weren’t unsanitary freaks incapable of attracting women. They were pleasant. Some were extremely handsome.
They were men who did not wish to ask their wives or girlfriends to fulfill some of their kinky fantasies.
It’s complicated to go home to the wife in Scarsdale and say, “honey, tonight I’d like you to pee on me. Afterwards, please dress me up in a giant diaper and spank me.”
I did find some of their predilections unnerving at first. We had a couple of dominatrixes on the premises, and I could never fathom the male masochistic inclination.
I occasionally got ensnared into a party. Strictly as a voyeur, and reluctantly. If it was an “emergency” and everyone else was occupied.
“He wants you to watch while I stick my stiletto heel up his ass. PLEASE! He’ll pay you $50. There’s no one else available.”
The first few times, I was completely freaked out.
Then, it just seemed absurd.
Once, one of the dominatrix’s was running late. Her client had already arrived, and he was getting antsy. She insisted I “get him started.”
Even on the phone, she scared the snot out of me.
I looked in the closet where she kept her sadistic accoutrement. And shut it, quickly.
I ended up making him crawl around the room with a garbage pail on his head.
That was the best I could come up with.
I knew what I was doing was illegal. It appealed to my sense of non-conformity.
At least, it was an honest admission of being dishonest, as opposed to more covertly dishonest professions. Like being a car salesman.
Having grown up in a house with all brothers, I also enjoyed the sense of female solidarity. I gradually bonded with the girls, and became close with four of them.
Nikki was Queen Bee of 51st Street. She was in her mid 40’s. Strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes; a kind of luminous sensuality.
Men of all ages desired her. I never quite understood why guys in their 20’s wanted a woman in her 40’s.
Now that I’m her age, I…kind of understand.
She was married to Joe, who accepted her profession. Some husbands were like that.
They had a gorgeous apartment on the Upper East Side, where I spent a lot of time.
Their favorite hobby was doing massive amounts of cocaine all night while playing bizarre porno movies in the background.
Our all-time favorite was “I Spit On Your Grave.” One of the characters wore glasses, and when he was pounding away at women, closeups of his face showed there was no glass in the glasses.
This seemed hilarious at 5 am on an 8-ball of cocaine.
“No expense was spared in the making of this movie.”
Kathy was a big, voluptuous, 25-year old brunette. She lived on Long Island, and was working her way through college.
Gail was very tall but model-thin; fair skinned, auburn hair with a pretty, girl-next-door look. She was my age, and lived near me in the East Village. She was also working her way through graphic design school. We frequently went out together after work.
And then there was Debby.
Barbie doll body, unbelievably full, pouty lips, huge brown eyes and artfully tousled blonde locks.
Debby was a reigning queen of the East Village punk scene. She’d run away from home at 13, and had been on the scene since the late 70’s.
She knew EVERYBODY.
She was a musician. A painter. A writer. A vagabond. A free spirit. Brilliant, talented, tormented, fragile, tough…
At first, she was aloof and scornful. She’d mock how I was dressed when I was heading out with Gail.
Little by little, she let me into her world.
I realize now, she saw in me her younger self. Before she’d become so damaged and lost her innocence.
And was somehow trying to regain it through me, by osmosis.
Instead, the reverse happened.
Yes, I was impressed with the fact that she knew and hung out with all the punk icons I worshipped. What can I say? I was a kid.
She’d had a tumultuous on and off again romance with Johnny Thunders, and although he was now married, she completely lost it when he died.
I loved her particular habit of referring to rock musicians by their real names. It spoke of a true familiarity with them that I envied and craved.
She’d see Richard Hell – whose album Blank Generation I worshipped – at a downtown bar and command him, “Meyers – get me a drink!”
Much later, when she finally introduced me to them, I picked up the habit.
It wasn’t the only habit of hers I picked up.
Debby was a world-class junkie. I was so naive, I thought she was just frequently stoned on weed, like other girls at work.
I saved all my money and acquired a nice apartment on 2nd Avenue. East of where I lived was known as “Alphabet City” – it still is.
Debby was living in a “squat” – an abandoned building on Avenue B.
I didn’t connect that she was earning money at the brothel, but still couldn’t afford an apartment.
Alphabet City was a seedy place in the early 90’s.
Our friendship began with her sharing my taxi home from work. I always paid.
She’d critique my look. Make a few adjustments in the cab.
“Here – belt this.”
“You can’t draw a good cat eye with pencil- you need liquid liner.”
“Is that…glitter on your face? Where are you going, a fucking Bowie concert?”
Then, she began inviting me to go out with her after work.
The minute she entered the room – a bar, a club – she OWNED it.
I had a boyfriend at the time.
I was feeling things for Debby that I had never felt before, but I didn’t identify what they were.
I wanted to crawl up inside her and live IN her. I was besotted.
It wasn’t that she knew everyone.
It was the way she smelled. The way her lips looked when she was making an exasperated face at me.
Her walk. The sexy way she flowed through a room.
I could never imitate it. I tried for years.
Fridays were always busy on 51st street. People get paid on Fridays, which creates an illusion of abundance.
We all made a lot of money on Fridays.
Debby and I usually started our night at a popular bar, like the semi-subterranean Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Mark’s.
This time, she told me she had to make a stop first.
We drove to a sketchy part of the East Village.
In the early 90’s, Avenue D was run down and filthy. A barren urban wasteland of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings.
I said nothing as we got out of the cab. Debby had taken me to some squalid places before, and I learned to just keep my mouth shut.
The streets were littered with junkies and freaks.
Men, mostly Hispanic, wearing carpenters aprons, were walking around, announcing their brands.
“Pac-Man!” “Nynex!” “Fire!”
Two men were herding people in lines, and bringing them over to a burnt out laundromat.
It was my first visit to an “open air” heroin market.
We crunched across the lot in our heels, across broken bricks and trash and weeds. When she found the man calling out, “Terminator,” she made her purchase.
By now, I knew she was buying heroin. I tried to act as nonchalant as possible, but I was taken aback. And worried.
And extremely curious.
We made our way back through this perverse street bazaar to Avenue A, which was more civilized.
Debby wanted to go to the Park Inn Tavern for a drink. It was one of her favorite dive bars; pitch black walls and skinheads loitering outside.
It was a locals only place that would never attract the “Bridge and Tunnel” crowd – people from New Jersey, or the boroughs.
We walked in, and she nodded hello to the bartender.
She said, “You wanna wait here? Or come with me?”
“Where are we going?”
She laughed and ordered two shots, two beers. Took my hand and we went into the filthy bathroom.
Junkies shoot up wherever they can, as soon as they can.
I wanted to try it.
She insisted I go first.
“If I go first, I’m gonna be too high. I’ll fuck it up.”
Debby pulled all sorts of paraphernalia out of her bag.
She tore open a package and took out a syringe. She mixed the heroin with water, and put it in a spoon. Added heat from her lighter. She took a tic-tac sized ball of cotton from a Q-tip to filter it. She dipped the needle into the cotton and sucked-up the heroin mixture.
She sterilized my arm with an alcohol wipe. Tied a black band around my upper arm.
She tapped hard on my upper bicep.
“Your veins are so tiny,” she crooned at me.
And then- she found what she was looking for.
I felt an almost imperceptible prick.
There was a buzzing sound,.
For about 30 seconds, my brain felt like it was orgasming.
I got a metallic taste in my mouth that drove down my throat.
The sound of my own breath became echo-y, like I was under water.
And then I got violently ill. I RETCHED. For what seemed like an eternity.
When I finally finished, I looked up. Debby was leaning against the wall, stoned.
She looked at me and said,
“You look so beautiful with vomit on your face.”
She went to the bar and got paper towels and cleaned up my face. Handed me gum.
We sat at the bar for hours.
Or maybe not. I have no clue.
My entire life felt like it was in a bath, at the perfect temperature.
We ended up back at my apartment.
That night, I found out who puts what where in lesbian sex.
She took her time with me, and that, coupled with the heroin, made the experience euphoric.
She knew exactly how fast and slow to move, exactly where on my body to focus more of her attention; knew what was going to curl my toes and just make my entire body tremble.
When we finished the first time, she just laid next to me and ran her fingers through my hair until my heart rate came back to normal.
The next day, she pushed her shopping cart over from the squat on Avenue B and moved in with me.
I didn’t know what I was getting into.
Next week: Part Three! The Conclusion.
Have you ever gotten involved with someone you shouldn’t have?
Or had a job you knew was a terrible idea?
Talk to me. I’m listening.