Prostitution: Inside The Palace
By Stephen Peacock
Despite the fact that New York City is the undisputed AIDS capital of the United States, the prostitution trade has continued to flourish. Take a stroll through any of the hotel districts in Manhattan after dark and you will see that hookers are readily available. Don't be discouraged if you can't find them hustling out in the open, because all you have to do is turn on channel 35 (courtesy of Manhattan Cable) and scan through dozens of advertisements for "escort services." Have your credit card ready, make your request and wait for a whore to be delivered to your door; operators are standing by.
White and Black, Latino and Asian, male and female, straight and gay, transvestite and even transsexual hustlers are at your disposal in the Big Apple. People from all over the world, in every shape, size and color, come to New York to buy and to sell various means of sexual gratification. Take your pick and bring them back to the hotel. (Or at least try to.)
The availability of sex-for-hire didn't become evident to me as a result of my own sexual encounters or desires, nor did it come to me in a blinding flash of enlightenment either. For five years I worked as a plainclothes House Security Supervisor for the Helmsley Palace Hotel, observing, and attempting to curtail, a nightly parade of prostitutes and the johns who patronized them.
The Palace is a fifty-five story/one-thousand room hotel on Manhattan's East Side, catering to a clientele that spends anywhere from $225 per night for a single room and as much as $2500 per night for a three level suite; a veritable magnet for criminal activity, to say the least. Most hookers were drawn to these potentially cash-rich customers simply as a matter of economics, but many were nothing less than opportunists who would rob their victims after, or in pretense of, having sex.
Although they all serve the same basic function, it is important to keep in mind that there are two generally distinctive types of prostitutes: call-girls and street-level whores.
The call girls always showed up in a cab or were chauffeured to the hotel in a private car. Although some of them were absolutely gorgeous, most of them were usually decent looking or even marginally attractive. They worked for agencies that dispatched them all over the metropolitan area for a $250 hourly minimum; some, if they were incredibly beautiful or had outrageous bodies, would charge $500 per hour or more.
Call-girls rarely, if ever, ripped off their customers, but considering that they take home up to a 40% cut of the going rate, it's no wonder that they didn't. I'm sure that thievery was further discouraged by the fact that the agencies they worked for were notoriously mob-connected; It's not a matter of coincidence that the dismembered bodies found stuffed in suitcases and the corpses found floating in the East River are frequently identified as known prostitutes. Skimming profits and scaring away repeat customers often resulted in a brutal ending for these girls.
The typical routine for hookers of the street-level variety was to venture over from Lexington Avenue, which is the heart of the East Side hooker district, while others came, or should I say "arrived," in their personal cars, which, for some reason or another, almost always had New Jersey plates. Regardless of how they got there they would either circle the hotel like vultures in flight or go straight to Harry's Bar in the hotel lobby, waiting to get picked up by some drunk who didn't mind crawling bet ween the legs of a cross-eyed and toothless whore.
It didn't take long to find out how brazen the "streetwalkers" in the area were, having been accosted by an aggressive hooker that wouldn't take no for an answer the first night I was scheduled to work at the Palace. While crossing the intersection at East Fifty-First Street and Madison Avenue, in the shadow of St.Patrick's Cathedral, a tall, gorgeous blonde wearing a fur coat walked towards me, making eye contact while seductively smiling.
She brushed up against me, asking, "Do you need a date tonight?"
"No, not tonight," I responded with a hint of naivete, oblivious to her intentions.
She touched my shoulder gently with one hand and simultaneously grabbed my dick with the other hand, asking, "Are you sure?"
I later explained to my new co-workers what had just happened, expecting them to be as shocked as I was; they merely looked at each other and grinned.
One of the guys, a retired cop from the Bronx, inquired, "Was it a tall, blonde bimbo wearing a mink?"
Hesitating for a moment, wondering how he knew this, I responded, "As a matter of fact it was. How the hell did you know?"
"That's Bambi. She's been peddling her ass from here to the Waldorf for years. It won't be the last time you'll see her."
"Doesn't she ever get locked up?"
"Sometimes. I've had her arrested so many times that I can't be bothered anymore. I just throw her out."
"So what should I do if I see her in the hotel?"
"Bring her in here and have the bitch arrested."
"But I thought you just said it's a waste of time?"
"It is, but since you're new here and you already know what one of the regulars look like, you might as well take advantage of the situation. If the Security Chief sees that you're making apprehensions so soon, he'll stay off your back for a while. He' ll give the paperwork to the General Manager to show that the boys on the midnight shift aren't sleeping all night; the G.M. stops bothering our boss, and our boss stops bothering us. It's all a game. You can't be gung-ho about busting hookers. It's like shoveling s--- against the tide, if you know what I mean."
To limit the access hookers had to the hotel, especially during the first few hours of the midnight shift when guests tended to be more intoxicated and therefore more vulnerable, we set up a sign by the elevator that read, "Please Show Your Key Before Entering Elevator." (The keys, which were actually thin pieces of paper and foil about three inches wide and five inches long, helped us to distinguish who was a registered guest and who wasn't.) This sign also covered our ass just in case a legitimate gu est got insulted or felt discriminated against if we stopped them.
This system of checking keys was not without its faults, however.
One particular woman had walked towards the elevators, and although she had a key in her hand, she seemed a bit uncomfortable. Upon questioning her it was revealed that the guest she was visiting had given her a duplicate key outside the hotel and told her to meet him at the floor his room was on. Unfortunately for her, she didn't know his name or his room number and as result we couldn't verify if he was expecting her. She was not only arrested for trespassing, but since s he couldn't prove to us why she had a hotel key, she was charged with possession of a burglars tool as well.
Since we didn't check the keys of every single person that walked past us, I was initially confused as to who I should choose to stop. When I asked one of the more experienced House Officers how to use discretion more appropriately, he summed it up lik e this: "Most normal women," he said, "come into the hotel at this time of the night with a male acquaintance or a group of family members. Only a sick bitch or a f---ing whore would be roaming the city by herself at this hour. When you see a woman headin g towards the elevator alone, carrying a shoulder bag the size of a small fish-tank, ask yourself the question, `Would my mother or my sister be doing this?'"
I eventually developed a "sixth sense" in determining whether or not I should approach somebody. Sometimes it took no more than a glance to determine which woman (and even which men) were hustlers. By trying too hard to fit in they seemed to send out v ibes, telling me they weren't as comfortable as they wanted to be.
Most of the hookers that I had seen at the Palace weren't the stereotypical dirtbags that you see in the movies. It was rare that a tall-haired, gum-chewing hoe in a ultra-mini skirt would walk through the door. On the contrary, a number of them would come to the hotel looking like what I call "The Farmer's Daughter;" these woman would be wearing full-length, conservative dresses and their shirts would be buttoned all the way up to the neck. They reminded me of the limited-edition collectible dolls tha t you see advertised in magazines like Good Housekeeping or Life. The way they dressed threw me off at first, but by the looks on their faces and the giant shoulder bags that they carried, I could always pick them out.
If someone tried to get on the elevator without showing their key, I would politely ask to see it. If they didn't have a key but knew the room number and the last name of the person they wanted to visit, I would call up the guest and ask if they were e xpecting a visitor, always with a tone of voice that hinted at suspicion. Most guests would respond in the affirmative, knowing there wasn't much I could do if they said yes.
When the "visitor" didn't know the last name of the guest, however, I could lawfully apprehend them, although I usually opted to let them call their agency and find out the full name of the customer. If they copped an attitude with me I would sometimes make them use the pay phone at the corner of Fiftieth and Madison, just to make their job a little more difficult. Walking to the corner, especially after midnight in the middle of winter, is a major pain in the ass, not just because the wind is whipping up their skirts and freezing their private parts, but because they'll be a few minutes late for the rest of their appointments that evening. It may seem like a minor inconvenience, but time is money, especially for call-girls.
The suspicious tone that I put into my inquiry was extremely effective when the john wasn't from the U.S.; unaware that security in the hotel isn't the same as the Security Police in the oppressive countries many of them came from, they tended to panic and would deny they were expecting anyone.
"Hello, Mr.Abdul? This is house security. There's a woman here in the lobby that says her name is Mary and that you're expecting her. Is that true?
Usually there would be silence for a moment, then outright denial. "I don't know what you're talking about. I do not know a woman named Mary. Do not let her in."
"Thank you Mr.Abdul."
At this point I had every right to detain the hooker and at least give her a formal warning for trespassing if she hadn't received one previously; if she had, then I'd call the cops and have her arrested.
According to the Criminal Code of the State of New York, an individual is trespassing when they "enter premises with no lawful right to do so." When "Mr.Abdul" denied that he knew the woman, it gave me probable cause to apprehend her, and since she had unlawfully entered this establishment she had no recourse. What could she do, go to court with an invoice showing that "Mr.Abdul" called 1-800-BLOW-JOB that night? It just doesn't work that way.
Encouraging the hookers to find out the name of the guest did back-fire on us once, however.
After this one whore had serviced a guest, she went down to Le Trianon, the hotel's main restaurant, and identified herself as the guest's wife, Mrs.Noguchi. Since the name matched the room number on the list, the manager had no reason to doubt her ide ntity.
She proceeded to devour an entree, an appetizer and a dish of caviar, while washing it down with two bottles of wine. She would have gotten away with it, since the five-hundred dollar tab would have been billed to her "husband's" room, but she fell asl eep at the table and the waiter was unable to wake her. The manager called Mr.Noguchi in his room and asked him to retrieve his wife from the restaurant.
"My wife," he responded, "is in Tokyo! What are you talking about?"
When they explained the situation to him, he rushed downstairs to see what was going on.
Sprawled out among the dirty dishes was the hooker he had banged not an hour before.
She was then arrested for theft of services, among other charges, and it's highly unlikely that the hotel would ever recoup their loss.
The easiest way for a hooker to circumvent the key check system was simply to walk in with the guest that was patronizing her (or him, or it). If this individual had not been previously warned to stay out and they were accompanied by a registered guest , I usually let them pass without saying a word. There was, however, a much easier way to take action.
I would non-chalantly get on the elevator with them, wait until they pressed the button for the floor they were going to, then I would then press the button of a higher floor so they wouldn't think I was following them. When we arrived at their floor I would stay in the compartment for a moment, wait until they walked away from the elevator bank, then quietly entered the floor, waiting until the room door was opened (the elevators were not visible from most of the rooms). As soon as I heard the click o f the door I'd peek my head around the corner and note which room they entered.
This effort was made in order to keep track of the various people a particular hooker had visited over a period of time. An entry would be made in the security log book to the effect of: "12:30am; escorted guest and visitor to room #1426." The hooker w ould usually leave exactly one hour later and a second log entry would then be made: "1:30am; visitor to room #1426 exited hotel."
Over a course of weeks or months the hooker would repeatedly return with an assortment of men. I could then check the log and verify that the hooker, say her name is "Charlotte," had visited Mr.Smith for an hour on April 12th, Mr.Johnson for an hour on May 29th and Mr.Salaam for an hour on June 1st.
However, when Charlotte came back a third or fourth time no log entry would be made; I would let her go upstairs, wait until she came back to the lobby and then ask her if she was a guest. After replying "no" she would then be asked who she was visitin g. Chances are that Charlotte would have forgotten either the room number or the guest's name and then I could apprehend her for trespassing without encountering any resistance from her.
The other scenario might be that Charlotte remembers the guest and his room number and then becomes belligerent with me, thinking she's in the right. I would then recite the list of who she's been visiting, including the date and time, and the game wou ld be over. I'd bring her to the security office, take her picture and warn her not to return. If she came back after that, I'd apprehend her and call the police.
It wasn't just the hookers that gave us a hard time; often it was the guests themselves that made the biggest commotion.
I had a woman under surveillance that was table-hopping in Harry's Bar. It didn't take long before she caught the attention of some guy and eventually went up to a room with him. Since I wasn't 100% sure that she was a hooker I didn't even bother follo wing them; I had to acknowledge the possibility that maybe she was just a horny guest looking to get laid.
She came back to the bar a little while later and did the same exact thing; she bounced around from table to table and went upstairs with another guy.
Believe it or not, she actually came down to the bar one more time and found a third prospect. I stopped them before they got on the elevator.
"I'm sorry, sir. This woman isn't allowed in the hotel."
He responded in a drunken fury, "I'll bring whoever I damn well please to my room!"
He got so riled up that I thought he would hit me.
"I'm paying three-hundred and fifty dollars a night for this room and I'll be damned if I listen to you!"
"Sir, she's not going upstairs."
He screamed, "Get me someone who knows what the hell they're talking about. I want your supervisor."
When the boss arrived I attempted to explain what was going on while the guest continued to yell over our conversation.
"What kind of bulls---...!"
My boss turned around and replied, "Okay, sir, you can take her upstairs now if you want."
The guest sneered at me, and was about to take the woman by the hand and head towards the elevator, until the boss made one more statement.
"You can take her upstairs, no problem. Apparently you don't mind that you're the fourth guy that she's gone up with this evening, and I don't mind that either. But when she puts a couple of knockout drops in your drink and you wake up two days later and realize that all of your belongings have been stolen, you'll realize why this man was trying to stop you."
Surprisingly, he changed his tune. "Get rid of her," was all he said before stumbling to the elevator.
She was then let go with just a verbal warning.
The frequency of such incidents was so great that I developed a standard speech for dealing with people that would not cooperate, whether it be a guest or a prostitute. More often than not I would encounter a situation where a hooker would try to walk right past me and get on the elevator. "The Speech," as I called it, always began with a request to see their room key, which I knew they didn't have, and the resistance would proceed as follows:
"I don't have a key. I'm visiting a friend."
"Well, what's your friend's name?"
"I don't know."
"What room is he staying in?"
"But you don't know his name?"
"No, I don't. Why don't you stop busting my chops and just let me visit my friend. I ain't bothering anybody."
"Let me tell you something. You just tried to get on the elevator and you can't even tell me who you're supposedly visiting. Technically, you're trespassing. Now, keep in my mind that I can have you arrested if I choose to do so, but I'm in a good mood tonight and I'm gonna give you a choice. Now we can do this easy way or the hard way, the easy way being my way, which is you come to the security office, I take your picture, you give me your name and address and then you go your merry way, no police in volved. Now if you don't want to cooperate, I'll bring you to the office anyway and then you'll go to jail. So, what's it gonna be, the hard way or the easy way?"
"Alright, alright. I'll cooperate. Just hurry up, I've got other appointments to make."
It was sweet. They never resisted after hearing this barrage of subtle threats and I never once had to get physical with any of them. And although I gave them the impression that I would drag them to the office if they didn't cooperate, I never had any intention of laying a hand on them, at least not on a first warning; it just wasn't worth the aggravation.
Many of the hookers and johns apparently became wise to our key-check system and would take great pains to evade it.
While keeping an eye on Harry's Bar I watched a hooker come in through the Fifty-First Street entrance with five drunken men that appeared to be in their twenties. They went through the bar, came out the other side and then got on an elevator adjacent to the bar; since this particular set of elevators only went to floors one through five (non-guest floors), I had a hunch that they were going to try and slip onto the elevators that did go to the guest floors; these were accessible from the mezzanine.
Sure enough, as I ran up the stairs they were getting on the other set of elevators, looking around suspiciously as they did so. After approaching them one of the males produced his key and obnoxiously said "good night."
I continued with my inquiry and asked, "What about you, Miss. Are you registered here?" "She's a friend of ours," one of the others answered, "and she's coming upstairs."
She won't be the only one coming upstairs, I thought to myself with a degree of amusement.
I knew that this woman was a hooker, but I couldn't place where I had seen her before. By the time I made up my mind the doors were closing and I didn't feel like forcing them open. Anyhow, these young guys looked they were itching to pull a train on this hot-looking blonde, and I didn't have the energy to dissuade them.
I went back to the main lobby wondering where I had seen the blonde before and then it hit me; it was Bambi, the hooker that grabbed my crotch the first night I worked here.
I was furious with myself for letting such an easy apprehension slip through my hands, and swore that I would wait for her to come down and have her arrested.
Later in the evening, while patrolling the Fiftieth Street side of the lobby, I watched Bambi as she strolled out the door of the Fifty-First Street entrance.
Instead of becoming more angry I actually laughed out loud at how I got myself all worked up in the first place, recalling how one of the old-timers in my department warned me not to be gung-ho in busting hookers. Like he said, it was like shoveling s- -- against the tide; it just keeps on coming back at you.
The reason I made such an effort to restrict the flow of hooker traffic wasn't out of a sense of moral obligation; by no means was this a personal crusade to eliminate prostitution. Besides doing my job to the best of my ability I was merely looking out for the best interests of the guests. It was aggravating to see so many of these low-class wenches ripping people off and getting away with it, so I did what I could to deter it. This is not to say, however, that all hookers are bad people.
As I said earlier, most hookers were "legitimate," so to speak, and didn't intentionally hurt anyone. I got the impression that at least some of them did it as a matter of survival, while others probably felt that it's less degrading than working for paltry wages under the scrutiny of an oppressive boss.
I tried to keep this all in perspective when dealing with these "working" ladies. A lot of them knew the routine and would immediately give me the name of the guest without trying to slip past me undetected. Many would wait patiently for me to verify t he information and politely thanked me for not giving them a hard time.
There were actually a few girls I had seen around so often that I wouldn't even bother to ask where they were going. They did their job without causing me any grief so in return I made believe I didn't see them. This unwritten policy continued until on e hooker compromised my trust, putting knockout drops in a guest's drink and nearly killing him in the process.
She was quite a large woman, this hooker I'll call "Suzie." She stood about 6'0 and weighed at least a couple of hundred pounds, but she had a cute face and gigantic breasts, undoubtedly the only things that kept her in business. All the bartenders in Harry's knew her and, more importantly, liked her, and this was the reason I let my guard down; they were the only other employees besides security that frequently dealt with hookers, and therefore I tended to trust their judgement.
I saw Suzie go up to a room on a Saturday night with a tiny, foreign looking man; he was nearly half her size and looked quite eager to have a pair of droopy double E cups wrapped around his head.
She left the hotel less than an hour later with a big smile on her fat face.
Two days later, on Monday, the guest had finally woken up from a scopalamine-induced near-coma, minus a $25,000 Rolex watch. If it was documented that I had allowed them to go up together, I would have surely lost my job.
Incidents like that made life difficult for everyone, not so much for the guy that lost his diamond and ruby-studded Rolex (if he could afford to buy something that expensive, he could surely afford to buy another one), but even moreso for the midnight security staff since every manager from the top on down despised us for "allowing" this to hap pen.
Although it was nearly impossible to prevent this crime from occurring, the end result is that hookers and call-girls alike wind up paying the price. As they say, "s--- rolls downhill"; the G.M. flips out on the Security Director, he then takes it out on me, and as a result, I take it out on every whore that comes into the hotel, with the unrealistic hope that word will get out that it is not "business as usual" at the Palace.
Scopolamine (pronounced Sco-PAH-LAH-meen) is an animal tranquilizer that prostitutes occasionally use to incapacitate their customers in order to rob them. According to information provided to my department by the Hotel Crimes Squad of the N.Y.P.D., on e or two drops of this drug is enough to knock out an average-size man, two or three drops puts some people in a coma-like state for more than a twenty-four hour period, and three or four drops (sometimes less) will more than likely cause death.
Spending hundreds of dollars to have sex with a marginally attractive hooker is one thing, but to bring one to a classy hotel and buy her drinks is completely different issue. It takes an extremely lonely or an incredibly naive individual to put themse lves in such a precarious situation. It's dangerous enough to allow a total stranger to enter your room, but to leave your drink unattended with that stranger? This is completely insane to me.
Not only have I wondered what these johns are thinking when they provide such opportunities to prostitutes, I've also tried to imagine, step by step, the sequence of events that lead to getting dosed.
Picture this: a man flies to New York on a business trip and goes straight to the bar when he gets to the hotel. He's might be single or even married, and he's hundreds, or quite conceivably, thousands of miles away from home. While sitting at the bar he polishes off a few drinks and is feeling lonely in addition to being completely uninhibited. A sly whore who's been scoping out the bar sees the lonely man and takes the seat next to him. She strikes up a conversation with him, or if she's really slick , waits for him to speak first.
The next step is one of two possible scenarios, one being more devious than the other.
The first possibility is that she drops her hand into his lap in order to arouse him, making no bones about the fact she's a hooker, advising him that she'll suck his dick for a certain amount of money.
The other possibility is that a woman approaches the lonely drunk and acts cute and sexy, thereby arousing him without making contact. She doesn't act overly aggressive in the physical sense, and as a result, he becomes flattered and not intimidated. T he man is middle-aged, possibly elderly, and is slightly insecure about his appearance; nonetheless, the woman tells him how nice he is and how good-looking he is and he absorbs her flattery quicker than a pimply-faced teenager ever could. A couple of com pliments and cognacs later and then she whispers in his ear: f--- me. Like a dog in heat he seizes the opportunity to prove to himself that he's not a four-chinned, beer-bellied has-been after all. On the way to the room he tries to decide between a blow- job or a lay. His defenses are down and his pecker is up, depending on how inebriated he is.
A couple of drinks are then ordered from room service and the whore apparently waits for the chance to pull out her bottle of scopalamine. Perhaps she puts a few drops in his drink while he relieves himself in the bathroom, or maybe she puts it in as h e wobbles around the room incoherently.
How she puts it in is unimportant; the fact of the matter is that he eventually sips on a drink containing a substance that is normally used only to subdue large animals.
She may take his Rolex and nothing else, or, as I had seen on one occasion, she may take as much as she can possibly hold, including his luggage and even the towels from the bathroom.
I would imagine that some of these woman have the mentality that enables them to consciously put in a dosage large enough to bring their victim to the brink of death; by doing so, it gives them more than enough time to flee the scene of the crime and d ispose of the stolen property, long before the crime is reported, if it is reported at all. This is the reason they rarely ever get caught.
Even if by some chance the perpetrator is apprehended, it's unlikely that they'll serve a significant time in jail. Besides the fact that most victims are understandably embarrassed and are unwilling to testify in court, the crime that their assailant is usually charged with isn't as serious as one might expect. Technically, no physical force was used when the woman unlawfully took possession of the guest's valuables, so instead of being charged with robbery, she's charged with theft and assault. A sus pect is charged with robbery or attempted murder only when the victim ingests enough scopalamine that they nearly die. And like I said, the victim isn't always willing to testify, so even if the hooker is slapped with a more serious charge, it's likely th at a plea bargain will be made and the whore does little, if any, time behind bars.
I know this to be true, because that is exactly what happened to the one and only hooker that ever got caught for such an act in my five years at the Palace.
The victim was fairly typical of the profile I had used in the hypothetical situation described earlier. He was a businessman, I believe he was from Denmark or Sweden, middle-aged, married, doing business thousands of miles away from home (much more bu siness than his wife or his employer was aware of, I suspect).
When he woke from his deep sleep he discovered that many of his belongings were missing, including, not surprisingly, a Rolex watch. He called security and the House Officer that responded attempted to get a description of the woman he had been with as well as an approximate time of occurrence. Although he thoroughly remembered what she looked like, he was completely off the mark when it came to the time and date. He said that he met the woman yesterday, meaning Monday, but he had no idea that it was n ow Wednesday. He was taken immediately to the hospital, treated and released.
Upon his return to the hotel the police asked him if he would recognize the perp if he saw her. Since he had picked her up on East Fiftieth Street near the Waldorf-Astoria, an area notorious for it's concentration of prostitutes, he agreed to take a ri de to see if she was stupid enough to return there. Sure enough, she was on the same corner he had originally picked her up from.
Although she was arrested and charged with robbery and attempted murder, the Manhattan D.A.'s Office would later allow her to cop a plea; since the Nordic John wasn't about to return to New York to testify, and ultimately reveal to the world that he pa tronizes hookers, the whore in question got a slap on the wrist and undoubtedly continued hustling.
It seems to me that alcoholism, or perhaps drunkenness at the very least, is a major contributor to the existence of prostitution and the crimes that are committed in conjunction with it. It was a rare thing to see a sober man going to his room with a hooker. More often than not, a john doesn't possess the faculties he might otherwise have when deciding to pay for sex with some freak he's never seen before. This is not to say that sober people never patronize hookers, it's just that most street-level w hores are so sleazy that they're nothing less than repulsive. Without the lack of inhibition associated with intoxication, such unattractive women could not possibly make a living in such a "profession."
The following is an example of how only an inebriated person would want to get intimate with prostitutes of the lowest variety.
A guest from the hotel was wandering around mid-town one evening searching for a hooker. He picked one out and attempted to bring the individual back to his room. When they arrived at his floor the hooker threatened him with a pair of scissors, demandi ng his wallet and jewelry. Although he resisted he somehow escaped injury; the hooker then panicked and ran down the fire stairwell with the guest in pursuit. By opening the ground level stairwell door the hooker tripped the alarm, which is more like an e ar-piercing siren, causing two House Officers on the other side of the lobby to automatically respond. They gave chase and finally apprehended the suspect almost a block away, on the steps of St.Patrick's Cathedral. The hooker had put up a fierce struggle , wildly swinging the scissors and nearly catching one of my co-workers in the throat. The ensuing scuffle resulted in a severe beating of the hooker, whose clothing was unintentionally torn during the battle to get the handcuffs on.
One thing had become obvious at this point. The hooker wasn't even a woman; it was man, a transvestite. Although I wasn't present during this fiasco, I had a chance to review the incident report, which included a picture of the suspect; I instantly rec ognized who, or should I say what, it was.
This transvestite, whom I had observed venturing around the vicinity of the hotel on numerous occasions in the past, was not just a man who preferred to dress like a woman. It was fairly obvious that he was diseased both physically and mentally. Sores upon his face, hands and legs were a pretty good indication that he was either suffering from AIDS, shooting dope, or both. One might think that such ghastly physical features, in addition to the haunting, far-away look in his eyes, would be enough to det er any normal human being from even engaging in conversation with him, but this apparently wasn't enough to scare away the drunken fool that got robbed by him.
Out of literally hundreds of prostitutes that came to the hotel over the years there was one in particular that gave us the most trouble. This hooker, I'll call her Cindy, was such a successful thief that she apparently retired from sucking cock for a living and simply lived off of what she could pilfer. With a little assistance from current and former employees of the Palace she would usually slip into the hotel undetected, and more often than not she would burglarize rooms without getting caught.
First I'll provide a little background information on Cindy to give everyone an idea of how an ordinary prostitute often steps beyond the limits of "victimless crime" when faced with tremendous opportunity and temptation.
Previous to my employment at the Palace she operated the same way most other hookers did in this area of Manhattan, which is, her customers would come and she would go. One of the reasons she was never apprehended for trespassing, or so I've been told, is that half of the security staff would accept sexual favors from her in return for not busting her. This shady bunch of characters happened to include one guy who would later become a New York City Police Officer (and was ironically assigned to cover this area of the city) as well as another loser who eventually became her lover in addition to her partner in crime.
Since she was allowed to roam so freely throughout the hotel, she probably became more familiar with the layout of the building than the architect who designed the damn thing. It was inevitable that such unrestricted access would lead to the commission of other crimes. This access, combined with her lover's increasing debt to the mob loan-shark that helped finance his gambling addiction, was the recipe that led to their downfall.
All of the security personnel that were friendly with Cindy eventually left on their own accord or were weeded out by time I started working there. The House Officers that remained, the ones that said they didn't take favors from Cindy but had been sil ent about their co-workers' exploits, and perhaps their own, swore that they wanted to bust her but did little or nothing to accomplish that goal. I guess it was easier to hear the boss rant and rave about an occasional burglary than it was to remain vigi lant on a nightly basis and deprive themselves of food and rest.
One night Cindy found an occupied room with an unlocked door, went in, and despite the fact that the lights were out and the guest was sleeping, she managed to find his wallet and some jewelry, conveniently located on top of the dresser.
It wasn't until the next morning that the guest reported the incident, and he reluctantly admitted waking up during the burglary; unfortunately for all of us, he was much too drunk to respond and simply fell asleep after watching Cindy exit the room. T he only reason we knew it was her was due to a distinguishing characteristic that a few of her victims, including this one, had happened to notice; one of her ankles, which apparently had healed incorrectly after an accident, forced her to walk with a not iceable limp. We may not have seen her coming or going that night, but with an unmistakable feature such as that it was safe to assume she was the perpetrator.
Up until this point I had never actually seen Cindy in person. It wasn't until one of my co-workers pointed her out to me as she non-chalantly passed by the Fifty-First Street entrance, scoping out the lobby as she did so. We stepped outside just to send a message that we were aware of her presence; surely she wouldn't try to hit the hotel kn owing we had spotted her.
We went back into the lobby. After walking no more than twenty feet I happened to turn around; Lucy was walking in the door practically right behind us, stealthily attempting to sneak into the building on the back of our heels. She quickly turned aroun d and disappeared before we could get her inside the building.
Dragging her back into the hotel was a potential option, but we decided to play it safe and wait for another opportunity.
Everyone figured that Lucy wouldn't come back for a while since we were so close to grabbing her. She couldn't be that stupid, or so we thought, and it was business as usual for this slumbering Security Department.
The following morning another guest had reported that someone had rifled through their belongings during the night, and a considerable sum of cash had been removed.
Months had passed by and the number of burglaries increased. All of the guests involved had been victimized while they slept. Not one of them had seen who had done it, but once or twice a housekeeper or a room service waiter did recall seeing a strange woman limping through the hallway around the approximate time of occurrence.
She continued to elude us, but it was only a matter of time before she would screw up.
One night I had spotted her peaking through the Fifty-First Street doors, just like the time she had attempted to walk in right behind us. We once again tried to track her down, but this time we did it with the intention of giving her a beating.
It may not seem fair that a couple of grown men would hit a woman, but when it comes to low-lifes like Cindy there's no room for fairness and gallantry; she had been causing us so much grief that we were all too eager to punch her in the mouth and drag her back to the hotel against her will. We would have simply lied in the incident report, describing how she attacked us while being apprehended.
Fortunately for her (as well as for us, depending on how you look at it) someone was waiting for her in a car down the street from the hotel. By the look on my partners face I could tell that he recognized the driver.
"Who the hell was that?," I asked.
"That f---ing scumbag!"
His jaw hung open in amazement. He turned around and dejectedly walked back towards the hotel, shaking his head in disbelief. "It was Jerry Johnson. He used to be in security. He was one of us."
Now it made sense how she managed to get into so many occupied rooms. It was common knowledge within security that a certain number of rooms will be found with their doors ajar during any nighttime floor patrol; Jerry apparently informed her of this fr equent oversight by inebriated guests. The odds were in her favor that she could gain access to a room that was occupied by someone who could afford to be there, someone who could also afford to drink themselves to sleep with some of the world's most expe nsive brandies and cognacs. With suckers like these laying around in so vulnerable a position, it's no wonder that Cindy kept coming back for more.
We couldn't seem to keep her out of the building; likewise, when she did get in, we were unable to catch her on the way out. Upper management was on the verge of firing the entire security staff because we couldn't guarantee that Cindy wouldn't strike again.
The only thing we could guarantee is that another Palace guest would leave their door open and Cindy would find it. Ironically, it was in this sense of futility that an idea was developed that would lead us to this whore.
Once again, Cindy wandered the floors of the hotel searching for a potential victim, and once again, a door was found unlocked and occupied. With the confidence of a wild animal stalking its prey before the attack, she silently pushed open the door of the darkened room and was about to stealthily enter, undoubtedly with the expectation of leaving with more than she came in with. The one thing she didn't expect, however, was that a House Officer had been patiently waiting, hoping, that his assigned room would be her target. Exiting the room before being grabbed, she fled down the hallway and attempted to get away.
The other thing she didn't expect was the fist that came out of nowhere, landing on her chin and sending her to the floor. Another House Officer, I'll call him Benny, responded from the floor above and took out nearly a years' worth of frustration on t his wench. Benny, a wild-eyed ex-Marine known for his explosive temper, continued to relentlessly smack her around in retribution for the embarrassment she had caused to our department; his backup arrived and eventually pulled him off of her.
Cindy was finally arrested and charged with attempted burglary, criminal trespass and assault, the assault being for her unprovoked attack of Benny when he apprehended her (that's what I read in the incident report, so it must be true. Really.)
Her partner, Jerry, was never apprehended, and even if he was, he would never have been convicted of anything since Cindy did all the dirty-work. Believe it or not, the last thing I had heard about Jerry is that he was actually doing security at some u nsuspecting s----hole of a hotel in Times Square. If his boss only knew.
The wave of burglaries finally stopped at the Helmsley Palace, but the tidal-wave of hookers and their horny customers proceeded as usual. Guests continued to get ripped off from time to time, but not nearly often as they once were.
With this decrease in criminal activity by hookers came a passive monitoring of their presence by my department.
Maintaining a state of vigilance would help to prevent a reoccurrence of incidents by losers such as Cindy, but since a worst-case scenario such as that was an exception and not the norm, worrying about it would only make everyone miserable. I was told right from the beginning, but failed to heed the call, that this cat-and-mouse game of "Catch-the-Hooker" was simply that; just a game. It was time to take this s--- less seriously.
I came to terms with the fact that my employer, the management of the Helmsley Palace Hotel, didn't really give a damn if someone's personal belongings were taken from them by some hooker. They were only worried about the potential bad publicity that c ould arise from these incidents, nothing more. Although it is absolutely necessary to have professional security in a setting such as this, it is more often used as window-dressing to merely give an illusion of security. Few people seemed to care.
This state of apathy, combined with the hypocrisy of certain individuals that I knew of that patronized prostitutes, ironically transformed what was once a feeling of disillusion into a state of amusement.
While passing the time in Harry's Bar, sipping on a soda and bulls---ting with the bartenders, I couldn't help but notice a hooker that was sitting at the bar. She eventually found a willing participant and I witnessed him giving her cash. While they m ade the transaction he looked up at me and we made eye contact. He whispered something to her and they quickly exited the hotel, walking to the corner of Park Avenue and East Fifty-First Street to hail a cab.
Upon returning to the bar I decided to check and see if the man was guest at the hotel. When I saw that his tab had been charged to room #3212 I realized that he was trying to pull a fast one on me.
Minutes later, their cab pulled up to Fiftieth Street, on the opposite side of the hotel. When they re-entered the lobby and tried to get on the elevator I told the guest to step off to the side and get a refund from his "friend."
"Are you implying that something funny is going on around here?," he inquired.
I looked him right in the eye and said, "Pathetic would be a better description."
He marched towards the front-office and demanded to see a manager. The night Lobby Manager listened to this belligerent individual for no more than a few seconds before he told him it was alright to take the woman upstairs if he wished to do so.
I exploded. "What the hell do you mean he can take her upstairs?
The guest smiled at me as he headed towards the elevator with the hooker in tow.
I told the woman "I'll be waiting for you when you come down."
Turning my attention back to the manager that overrode my decision I demanded an explanation. "Did it occur to you that maybe I had a reason for stopping her?"
His response: "I really don't give a s---. If you want to play super-hero, that's your problem. I can't be bothered."
An hour later the guest returned to the lobby with the hooker, but by then I had no intention of pursuing the matter any further. They held hands as he escorted her to a cab outside.
While pacing the lobby I began to ponder whether or not I was wasting my time trying to keep hookers out of the hotel. If these guests are so intent on screwing around with whores, shouldn't I just look the other way when they come in?
The cab pulled away and the guest walked back to the elevator. He glanced over at me with a sarcastic smile, eagerly displaying the foolish pride he must have felt from "winning" the confrontation.
From that time on, I continued to keep track of what room the hookers went to and who they were visiting, but made little effort to keep them out of the hotel. Occasional log entries of their activity would be made, but only to provide an illusion of s ecurity for hotel management. I admit that I succumbed to the forces of apathy, but this helped to shield me from the futility of my job and the wrath of my unpredictable boss.
Although the Director of Security made a lot of noise about the number of prostitutes that came into the hotel, he would not implement a written policy on how to deal with them. Ironically, he intentionally refused to establish a structured procedure s o that he could cover his ass whenever something went wrong, mistakenly believing that it would be more difficult to accuse him, for example, of causing an individual House Officer to wrongfully detain a legitimate guest for trespassing or prostitution. He was still responsible for the actions of his subordinates, of course, but by not putt ing anything significant in writing, he could decrease the odds of being a scapegoat if such a blunder resulted in litigation.
One might think that the "higher ups" in management would make sure there was a policy on prostitution, but since the Director frequently reprimanded the security staff in front of them, they more than likely assumed that one already existed, his publi c tirades being an expression of such a non-existent policy.
Only once did he waver from his usual ranting about hookers.
The Assistant Director had relayed to me a message from the boss, a message that really drove home the fact that I was wasting time worrying about guests and the whores they sought.
"There's a group of wealthy Saudi Arabians staying in rooms #4312 and #4314," he informed me, "and the Director wants you to avoid any confrontations with the hookers that have been going up there all night."
He continued to explain how during his shift, the 4x12 tour, at least a half-dozen call-girls had gone upstairs to the Saudis over the course of a few hours. More girls were on their way.
I tried not to give a s--- one way or the other, but I felt that the hypocrisy of the instructions I had just received needed to be addressed.
"Why should they get preferential treatment?," I asked. "We try to make it difficult for everyone else. Why is it different for these guys?"
"Don't go starting any God-damn trouble, Peacock. Just do what the boss says and don't make waves, alright?"
"Fine. Whatever you say."
I decided to comply with their wishes. If these Oil-Barons aren't to be disturbed, then I won't disturb them. They can f--- as many whores as they want. So can all the other guests. If they get turned on by the risk involved when dealing with these wom an, so be it. I'll fill out the incident report when the knock-out drops wear off. No problem.
Most of my co-workers had been ignoring the flow of prostitutes long before I had been thoroughly discouraged. After discussing this one night with a House Officer I'll call "Tim," it was decided that we would take our "lunch break" outside of the hote l. We encountered little difficulty in justifying to ourselves that it was okay to leave the building to get a few beers; after all, there were two other people from security that could keep an eye on things while we’re gone. If we didn't leave the buildi ng we would've been sleeping anyway.
At approximately 1:00am we walked to the nearest deli, which happened to be on Lexington Avenue, and picked up a couple of quarts of beer. While wandering the neighborhood we passed by about a dozen hookers that were hustling by a row of hotels from Ea st Forty-Sixth to East Fiftieth Street; as far as we could tell, from the Doral to the Marriott, past the Waldorf and to the Loews, business was booming for these hotel-bound whores.
The girls would flirt with any guy that came by, whether it be a young man or even an elderly one, but when they saw Tim and I walking in their general direction they either scattered or boldly glared at us with suspicion. Apparently the way we were dr essed (both of us were wearing conservative sport coats and grey pants), in addition to our size (Tim is about 6'4, 260, I'm 6'0, 225), caused them to believe that we were undercover cops.
One of the girls eventually inquired as to who we were.
A young, tough-looking hooker standing across the street from the Waldorf came right out and asked, "What are you guys, cops?"
"Naw, we're not cops," Tim replied.
"You sure the hell look like cops," she retorted.
Tim then proceeded to tell her that we were from security at the Palace. My eyes widened, signaling my disapproval of this revelation. The hooker noticed my reaction.
"Don't worry, I won't tell on you," she added sarcastically.
Tim then blurted out, "How much is a blow-job going for these days?"
She stated a price, but I don't recall what it was. I think she told him forty-five bucks.
"Do I get a hotel employee discount?," he asked.
The hooker and I both laughed, unaware that he was dead serious about a bargain blow-job. Tim stared at her, waiting for a reply.
While the two of them spoke I proceeded to check her out. After taking a closer look I realized that she wasn't a bad looking woman; a tad bit sleazy for my taste, but hardly unattractive. I stood there wondering what had led a decent looking girl like this to a life of hustling.
Unaware of what they had been discussing, I stood silent for a moment as she asked, "Well, what about you? Are you looking to have some fun also?"
After glancing at Tim and then back to her, I asked her, with a touch of annoyance in my voice, "How the f--- did you end up out here? Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bust you're chops, but please tell me, how the hell did you get into this s---? "
Without hesitation she replied, "My mother was a Madame and my aunt was a hooker." She had said this without a hint of shame, like a third grader who gets up in front of the class and declares, "My Mommy is a nurse and my Daddy is a fireman." I couldn' t believe how non-chalant she was in answering my question.
I had to find out more, just out of curiosity.
"Aren't you worried about getting killed by some psycho?"
"I don't worry about it." She paused for a moment, apparently deep in thought. "Look at it this way. You could get killed walking across the street. It doesn't mean that you give up walking. That's the chance you take."
Tim and I glanced at each other, both of us amazed by her distorted reasoning.
"You must take some precautions, don't you?"
"Oh, sure. I don't get into anyone's car with them. If they have a car, I tell them to park it and then we take a cab. Before I go to an apartment or a hotel, I call my pimp and let him know where I'm going."
"What happens when you meet somebody you like? How can you possibly get a boyfriend when you're a hooker?"
"My pimp is my boyfriend."
Suddenly it became quiet. Neither of us had anything to say in response to this.
Uncomfortable by the silence, she began to justify why she entered the world of prostitution. "I've got a house in New Jersey, two brand new cars and about a hundred and forty thousand dollars stashed away. I'm very happy."
Somehow I found this hard to believe. Maybe she did own a house and a nice car, but she didn't seem too convinced of her declaration of happiness.
She then asked us to leave, reminding us that we looked like cops and were probably scaring away potential customers.
As we walked away Tim told her, "Maybe I'll come visit you sometime."
She cracked a phony smile before walking in the opposite direction.
The following night during my meal break, which was actually a three hour nap in an unoccupied room, the phone had rang, waking me. Mistakenly believing that it was time to go back to the lobby, I picked up the phone and mumbled, "I'll be down in few m inutes."
"You'll be up in a few minutes if you want to," the voice on the other end of the line excitedly informed me.
Having been woken from a deep sleep, I paused for a moment, pondering if I was dreaming or not.
"Steve, wake up! It's Tim, I'm in room #1018 with Felicia."
I happened to be in room #1019, right next door to them.
"Who the hell is Felicia? And why did you wake me up already? It's only three o'clock."
"Felicia is the hooker we were talking to last night on Lexington. The answer to your second question is, you've got to see her tits! They are huge! I just banged her. You should see these tits flop around when she rides you. Unbelievable."
"What's unbelievable, Tim, is that you've got a f---ing whore in bed with you at your place of employment.
Are you out of your mind?"
Ignoring my question, he said, "You'd be out of your mind if you don't let me send her over to you. She's got double D's, man! Double D's! Here, I'll put her on the phone. Maybe she can talk some sense into you."
"No! Tim! I do not want to talk to..."
Suddenly a velvety smooth voice cut me off in mid-sentence. It was Felicia. "Hi handsome. You want me to come suck you off?"
"Please put Tim back on the phone."
"I'll only charge you thirty dollars. House special. Just promise that you won't bust me if you see me in the hotel again, alright?"
"I'm not promising you s---. Give the f---ing telephone to Tim, alright?"
Tim returned to the phone. "So what are you gonna do?"
"I'm goin’ back to sleep, Tim. That's what I'm gonna do."
"Okay. Your loss."
What bothered me wasn't the fact that Tim brought this hooker into the hotel when our job is to keep them out; that really didn't matter to me. The thing that irked me was that this prostitute now had something on us. If we ever got into a situation in the future that required us to apprehend her for whatever reason, we realistically couldn't do so.
Not only did Tim give her a free pass, so to speak, to enter the hotel at will, he undoubtedly caused her to spread the word that there was lax security at the Palace. Hookers, just like any other "professionals," have a network in which they pass alon g information that makes their job easier and more profitable.
It wasn't a coincidence that an inordinate number of prostitutes flocked to the hotel after Tim's encounter with Felicia. What really surprised me, however, is that this flood of hookers didn't result in additional thefts and other related offenses. As always, they did occur, yet the frustration that had always accompanied these problems was noticeably absent; as a matter of fact, the last few incidents that I can recall resulted in enlightenment instead of turmoil.
While relieving the guys from the four to twelve shift one night, they informed us that a group of men in two adjacent rooms had been having a whore-a-thon for several hours. At least a dozen call-girls had gone up to these rooms over a period of time and it was anticipated that this trend would continue for a little while longer.
Almost as soon as we started to patrol the lobby we had come across a couple of girls that were going to rooms #1725 and #1726. More often than not they would come back down less than five minutes later, some shaking their heads in apparent disbelief a s they walked out the door.
Although this trend continued for quite some time, the traffic en route to those rooms had ceased after one particular hooker went upstairs. She had been up there more than an hour, which was very unusual, and I was surprised when I received a phone ca ll in response to this. It was a woman from the "agency" that had been supplying the hookers.
She said, in a comically pretentious manner, "I am quite concerned for the safety of one of my girls. It is indeed possible that she is being held against her will."
"So what the hell do you want me to do about it?," I responded.
"Well, if you do not assist me in determining the status of this girl, then I am afraid that I will have to call the authorities."
It really annoyed me that some whorehouse Madame could pompously threaten me as though she was involved in nothing more than catering a party. In her eyes, I guess she was catering a party.
"Then call the cops if you feel so compelled to do so," I responded, imitating her phony air of sophistication. "Do you really think I give a s---? Go ahead. Call 911. I'll wait at the door for them."
She paused for a moment, then apologized for her tone. "I'm just concerned for her safety," she explained. "I've been told that these men are a bit strange, and now no one's answering the phone in their room. Please, is there any way you can assist me? I don't want any problems."
"Alright, I'll tell what I'm gonna do," I reluctantly told her. "I'll walk past the room and I'll see if she's screaming for help or whatever. If she is, then I'll call the cops myself. If not, then it's up to you to decide what the next step is gonna be. Either way, I'm not knocking on the door. Call me back in five minutes."
I went up to the seventeenth floor and silently passed by the rooms in question. After pacing back and forth, listening intently, all that could be heard was the sound of men talking and a woman giggling; obviously she wasn't being held against her wil l.
The Madame called me back and I told her that everything seemed to be okay. Right after we had hung up, the "missing" hooker left the hotel, replaced by a steady stream of other whores.
One of them, a beautiful, Italian-looking girl, came right back down, just like many of the other girls had done throughout the night. She used the pay-phone in the lobby, then sat down on the couch, looking slightly irritated. Despite the pissed-off l ook on her face, one of my co-workers and I decided to approach her, not to apprehend her, but just to find out why she came down so soon.
"That was quick," I said to her, attempting to elicit a response.
She then smiled as she rapidly chewed a piece of gum. "Who are you's?," she asked, revealing a thick Brooklyn accent.
"We're from House Security. Don't worry, we're not gonna give you a hard time." She gave a curious stare while noisily chomping away; we likewise returned a stare, gazing upon this beautiful, yet sleazy, call-girl.
She was wearing a skin-tight, black-leather mini-skirt and a stylishly tattered, dually-layered blouse. She didn't have much of a body, but her sexy demeanor as well as that pretty face certainly made up for it.
"What's the story with those clowns upstairs?," I asked. "Half of the girls that went up came right back down."
She proceeded to tell us how they verbally abused her as soon as she walked in the door. "They were disgustin'," she added. "You wouldn't believe the things they were askin' me to do, or should I say, the things they wanted to do to me."
"Like what?," Phil asked.
"I don't want to repeat it, it's so disgustin'."
"C'mon, you can tell us."
She thought about it for a few seconds, unsure if she wanted to reveal her secret to a couple of strangers.
Suddenly she explained, "One of them wanted to screw me while the other stuck it in my, you know..."
I finished the sentence for her. "In your ass?"
She shook her head in acknowledgment, asking, "Can you believe that s---?"
Phil and I looked at each other and laughed; it was all too easy to believe. The only thing that surprised us was the fact that she turned down their offer. I thought that hookers would do anything for money.
After expressing my surprise she responded, "I may be a hooker, but I'm not a freak. I only do this part-time, ya know what I mean?"
"What do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I'm a waitress. I work at a diner in Brooklyn."
"You must make a lot of money as a call-girl. Why waste your time waiting on tables?"
"Because if I didn't have a real job, my boyfriend would wonder where I got the money."
Once again, Phil and I looked at each other in disbelief.
"You have a boyfriend?
"Actually, he's my fiance."
"And he doesn't know you're a hooker?"
"Are you kiddin'? He'd kill me if he found out."
I reinforced her fear by telling her, "I'd kill you too, if you were my fiance. How the hell could you possibly hide it from him?"
"He's clueless," she explained. "He thinks I'm at a nightclub with my sister."
"What if he bumps into your sister on a night you're supposedly out with her?"
"It'll never happen."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because we work for the same agency."
"She's a hooker too?"
She smiled while sarcastically responding, "Wow. You're pretty swift." She then went on to tell us how her sister turned her on to hooking.
"I couldn't believe how much money she was makin', so I figured I'd give it a try."
After eyeing me up and down, she said, "You're a pretty big guy. I bet I could get you a job at my agency."
"I don't think I'd make a good prostitute," I replied, unsure of what she was getting at. This caused her to laugh hysterically.
After calming down she said, "No, silly. I meant that you'd make a good bodyguard, not a prostitute. You'd make about two-hundred bucks a night. I could help you get in, if you want."
I can't deny how much this caught my attention. The hotel was paying me fairly well at $15.60 per hour, an extremely decent rate of pay for my position, but the prospect of making a couple of thousand extra dollars per month, tax-free, was very enticin g. This offer came at a point in my life where I was starting to wonder if I was a sucker for trying to make an "honest" living. It was completely out of character for me to even consider such an offer, but I must admit that the temptation was enormous. P>
Somehow I came to my senses and dismissed the possibility of accepting her proposal. Besides, it was common knowledge that prostitutes, particularly high-priced call-girls, were controlled by organized crime syndicates, whether it be the Mafia or the A sian and Latin American gangs that had sprung up in recent years.
I would imagine that it's much easier to join them than it is to leave them. What reminded me of this was the cardboard television box that was found on Park Avenue less than a week earlier; when a maintenance man attempted to move the box, he accident ally dropped it, spilling the dismembered limbs of a murdered prostitute, wrapped in sheets from a hotel on the West Side, onto the sidewalk.
I have no idea why she had been killed, but it certainly reinforced the image I already had of the people that ran these agencies. No way was I going to get involved.
After thanking the hooker/waitress for the job offer, her driver had arrived to pick her up. Before she left I asked if her fiance thought it was strange that she went to a nightclub, yet came home without smelling like liquor and cigarette smoke.
"That's easy," she responded. "I just wham down a bottle of brandy before I get home. I'll be so f---ed up, he won't even think about it."
"Aren't you worried about developing a drinking problem?"
"Nah, I'm not worried about it."
She then got into the back of a Lincoln Town Car, waving good-bye as they disappeared across East Fiftieth Street. What a waste.
Conversations with call-girls like her and hustlers like Felicia made me aware of a central motivating factor in becoming a prostitute: greed. I've already acknowledged the fact that many of these girls are hookers as a matter of survival, but most of them seem to get involved because they won't settle for mediocre income.
The only thing that keeps me from completely condemning them is that, in my opinion, these whores are no worse than any crooked politician, stock-broker, police- officer or even garage mechanic that will "whore" themself, so to speak, in order to attai n wealth.
All crooks are whores, in a sense, but all whores aren't necessarily crooks. But since the power structure doesn't look at it this way, my tax dollars will continue to be wasted in the pursuit of individuals violating public morals instead of pursuing corporations that compromise public trust.
I realize that by writing this article I haven't exactly depicted hookers in a favorable light; nonetheless, I will offer no apology, since there is certainly a dark side to prostitution.
What I would like to add, however, is that it wasn't my intention to reinforce a Criminal Justice system that pretends to wage war on "crime" such as prostitution, drug dealing, etc., a system that blatantly tolerates criminal acts committed on an exec utive level, criminal acts that are a thousand times more destructive than any number of hookers could ever commit.
What opened my eyes to the hypocrisy surrounding this system was an incident involving a high-ranking law enforcement official, his associate, and two hookers they had picked up on Lexington Avenue.
"Security! Call the guest in room #2714 immediately!," bellowed the service operator's voice from my portable radio.
I grabbed the nearest lobby phone; the guest answered by the first ring.
"This is house security. Is there a problem?"
The man excitedly responded, "Two woman should be coming off the elevator any second now! Stop them!"
"Why, what did they do?"
"They stole my money! Do you see them?"
I looked around the lobby and saw two women walking out the door.
"Are they wearing fur coats?"
"Yes! That's them!"
I rushed after them, but before I reached the door they got in a cab and drove away; I wrote down the plate number and ran back to the phone.
"I missed them, but I got the plate number. I'm gonna call 911. I'll call you right back."
"No! Don't you dare!," he screamed.
"Sir, you just got robbed," I calmly stated. "I'm calling the police."
He fumbled for words as he begged me not to make the call.
I interrupted him, saying, "Please listen to me, sir. If my boss finds out that I didn't call the cops, I'm fired."
"No, you don't understand. This cannot be documented."
"Why? Do you know these women?"
He hesitated for a moment before revealing that he and his friend picked them up near the Waldorf.
"Oh, they were hookers!," I exclaimed. "How much did they take from you?"
"About five-hundred bucks," he sheepishly admitted.
It was obvious that this man was withholding a key element as to why he didn't want to pursue the matter; I continued to push the issue.
"I still don't understand why you don't want the police involved."
"Alright, alright. I'll be straight with you. I just attended a banquet at the Waldorf. The Governor was there, the Mayor was there,..."
I cut him off in mid-sentence. "What are you trying to say? I thought you were gonna be straight with me?"
He paused before telling me the rank of his position as well as where he was from.
My jaw dropped open in astonishment. He was one of the highest ranking law enforcement officials from the State of Pennsylvania.
He then said, "I guess I should know better, huh?"
I practically yelled, "I guess you should!." My sarcasm created a void of silence. He eventually asked, "So you're not going to call the police?"
"Nah, I'm not gonna call."
"I'd appreciate it."
We hung up and I went directly to the security office to call the Assistant Director of Security at home.
After explaining what had just transpired, he told me, "Don't call the cops, but make sure you write up an incident report." He then asked, "Did they have drinks with the girls?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Okay. Get a copy of the room service bill and put it in with the file. We've got to cover our ass just in case the girls put knock-out drops in their drinks. I'll have the boss call you in the morning."
Before writing up the incident report I decided to check with the front-office manager to see if this guy was really who he claimed to be. Sure enough, the listing next to his room number was a good indication that he was telling the truth; in block le tters it read: STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA.
The following morning I received a call from my boss. At first I thought he would tell me to make believe that nothing happened. Being a retired cop himself, I figured he would give me one of his "don't make waves" speeches in order to protect one his fellow law officers; instead, he told me, "F--- him. He got what he deserves. If we don't file a report, he'll turn around and falsely accuse one of the maids of stealing his money."
I have since left the Helmsley Palace and the hotel is under new management as well. The faces of the workers have changed and their positions within the hierarchy have been filled by other persons willing to do the job.
The same is true within the world of prostitution; as soon as a slot opens up there will be many individuals willing to fill that vacancy. Little else changes, as evident by the number of hookers that still roam the surrounding streets of most Manhatta n hotels today. Supply and demand applies to sex-for-hire no differently than any other business. Likewise, the number of hookers found inside the Palace were merely a reflection of what was available city-wide, quite possibly nationwide. This was not a p henomenon limited to one hotel or one city; depicting the Palace as a modern-day Tower of Bable in the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah was not my intention.
My advice to anyone that gets involved in prostitution, whether they plan on becoming a hooker or just patronizing one, is this: don't say I didn't warn you.
People that become hookers usually plan on taking home an above-average income with minimal difficulty. What they don't anticipate is that frequently, they don't return home at all. The box of mangled body-parts that I spoke of earlier is testimony to this fact.
Out-of-town johns that feel it's okay to get a quickie from a whore after a business meeting should also be forewarned; instead of bringing home postcards of the Empire State Building and miniature figurines of the Statue Of Liberty, you just might fin d that the only thing you're bringing homeis an empty wallet for your kids and a communicable disease for your w ife.