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A BRITISHER’S VIEW – Is Eliot’s hooker doomed to self-destruction?

By Shavana Abruzzo

The life of a high-priced call girl is not for faint-hearted roommates. I know this because I lived with one during my first year in New York City – unknowingly, at first. Eliot Spitzer’s sordid saga has brought to mind the advertisement I answered in the early 1980s in a crumpled Village Voice I found in a Gray’s Papaya about a “free spirit” being sought to share a flat in Greenwich Village with a woman I will call “Lisa.” The rent was as attractive as the occupant of the delightful duplex. She was beautiful. She was charming. She was kind. She told me she was an actress, model, playwright, singer, songwriter and sometimes a real estate agent. She was entirely believable. She didn’t seem to mind that I was a chubby, shabby teen with a plastic grocery bag for a suitcase. Within minutes, she said the apartment was half mine if I wanted it. “This is your side of the closet,” Lisa informed me on the day I moved in with my worldly possessions: Five white t-shirts, two pairs of jeans and a small bag of undergarments. They made a sorry statement next to her sequins, leathers, furs, brocades and silks, neatly arranged on expensive hangars like an army at attention. With five jobs to negotiate, I was a roommate in absentia for much of the time. At first, I didn’t twig to the fact that whenever I saw her, Lisa would be waiting by the telephone, dressed to the hilt. Now in her early 30s, she was such a stunner that man, woman, child and beast would linger in their tracks to gaze at her. One winter day, a terrible snowstorm struck the Big Apple. Commuters were stranded. Motorists abandoned their cars on jammed streets. Stores shut down early. The city came to a standstill. I returned home early from one of my jobs as an evening waitress in a nearby café to find Lisa all dressed up with somewhere to go. Boggled, I inquired where she was going at two o’clock in the morning when the city was knee-deep in snow and all modes of transportation had come to a halt. “There are some Texans in town and I have to model for them; don’t worry about me, just go to bed,” she reassured me before closing the door softly behind her. In the coming weeks, I became familiar with Lisa’s pattern of unconventional behavior. She would shower upon leaving the apartment and then again upon returning. Sometimes, two, three, four, five times a day. She was a neat-nik, who meticulously alphabeticized the items in her kitchen and bathroom cupboards, and remade my bed. She didn’t seem to work, yet was never short of cash. The telephone rang off the hook, yet we never received a phone bill. One day, after I answered a succession of calls for someone named “Blair,” Lisa sat me down and told me that she was a call girl. “Oh, do you work for the phone company? Is that why we never receive a bill?” I trilled in oblivion. “I’m a high-priced escort, a professional dater,” she explained, trying to break my bubble, gently. Like a torrent, she drowned me with more information than my tender years and ears could absorb. For the next hour, the preacher’s daughter from the south told me what she did for a living and how she started in the world’s oldest profession as a lowly street hooker before escalating to become a much sought-after, $1,000-an-hour escort with some of the priciest agencies in town, whose elite clients she then stole to pocket the commission. Apparently, at age 19, Lisa had faced charges of narcotic and prostitution trafficking, plea bargained them down to a misdemeanor and received a wrist-slap as punishment from a smitten judge. She bragged that she had shared the defendant’s row with a group of hardened thugs, who were accused of petty crimes while she, “a pretty young thing in a frilly white dress” stood accused of “the real sh..” Then, came tale after disturbing tale of a debauched life in an hedonistic jungle where big money – corporate powerbrokers, mobsters, celebrities – made merry with rented cheesecake in penthouses, boardrooms and aboard yachts during drug-fueled orgies where indulgence ran the gamut from group sex and fetishes to pedophilia and bestiality. With a yawn, Lisa added that at one party, a black, pre-teenaged boy was being “passed around” for the pleasure of the guests, one of whom – a councilman who, years later, would become a several-term mayor of his city – took him into a back room for a not-so-secret rendezvous. Baffled, I asked her why she needed a roommate when she could make the entire rent by herself in just a couple of days. “I need something ordinary in my life,” she replied without a hint of sacrcasm. When we parted ways, a few months later, I learned that Lisa had drank upwards of a magnum of wine a day, popped Quaaludes like candy and chain-smoked crack-cocaine – all practically under my eyes, and unbeknownst to me. By the late 1980s, she had become a caricature of excessive living. At my last sighting of her on Bleecker Street, she was toting a raccoon on a leash, climbing atop cars, furiously scratching at the scabs scarring her once lovely face and screaming on the top of her lungs about returning to Florida to kill her parents. E-mail“A Britisher’s View” at BritView@courierlife.net. All letters become the property of Courier-Life Publications and are subject to publication unless otherwise specified; please include your name, address and daytime telephone number for verification.

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