But politics and sex have always gone together like, um, nylons and garters.
The most recent buzz in Michigan, of course, involves Kwame Kilpatrick, the married mayor of Detroit, who wishes it would all go away. Hell be forever remembered by his text message to his chief of staff: Ive been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for three days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love.
George Weeks, a veteran political writer, says that in most cases, it isnt the sex that gets these guys in trouble as much as lying about it. And Kilpatrick is no exception.
BUMPING & MOANING
What about prostitution in northwest Michigan? No one talks about it much, and you never see news of prostitution arrests.
But it doesnt mean nothing is going on. I learned that soon after moving to Traverse City.
My husband, Doug, had rented a tiny writing office soon after we married in 1990. Next to his office was a so-called massage therapist. She was young, pretty and seemed perpetually strapped for cash.
Doug worked occasionally late at night, and shed be working too. He soon surmised from the bumping and moaning on the other side of the thin office wall just how she was making her money. She soon became the talk of the hallway. And then suddenly she was gone.
Doug heard she had been arrested at a downtown bar for soliciting a man. In fact the man happened to be an off-duty police officer, said Traverse City Police Chief Mike Warren.
She didnt go to jail for that. She just moved, said the office building owner, who didnt want his name used. I booted her out of here when I found out what was going on from the oil boys (across the hall). I was just happy to get rid of her. She went downstate somewhere. There was an M.D. from up north trying to track her down.
He said he liked the way she gave him massagesI dont know if that was
the real reason; it was none of my business. But he came back in the early 1990s and told me she was living in the Detroit area.
Chief Warren said an Oriental massage parlor on South Airport Road was shut down in the late 1980s, but the 1990 arrest was the last of its kind in Traverse City.
Other police chiefs in northern towns echoed that prostitution is rare here.
A prostitute hasnt been arrested in Petoskey in 34 years, said Mike Vargo, director of Petoskeys Public Safety Department.
And Benzie County isnt rife with sex for pay crimes either.
Im not saying we dont have it, Im saying we dont see it, said Benzie County Undersheriff Rory Heckman.
But as it turns out, there is sex in our fair cities. Just take a look at the two Internet ads for escorts in Traverse City that the Express found last week (see sidebar).
And Rick Coates, a Northern Express journalist, gave me this account of his own investigation:
In February of 2002 I was research-ing a feature story on the African-American resort town of Idlewild for the Express, and I stopped at the Red Rooster, a popular bar in town, to speak with locals about the history. I was the only white guy in the joint, when in walked a very tall, very attractive, slender blonde and a black man I wrongly assumed was her boyfriend.
Eventually the man approached me and asked if I was looking for some action. I said no. He asked if I was from the area and I told him Traverse City. He explained that he and his girl were, too, and that he had hoped to shop her around to some of his friends in Idlewild.
She came over and joined us, and I said I was a journalist and I was interested in writing a story about escorts in Northern Michigan. She also said that she cut hair during the daytime in her Traverse City home. It turns out that she lived just two doors down from another prostitute, but is no longer there.
I gave her my card and my cell phone number. A couple of weeks later, Melissa, who went by the name of Star, phoned me, and I met her at a local watering hole where she was going to meet up with a client. She spoke to me for about an hour, filling me in on the details of how she got started selling her body for a living. This woman was very pretty and in her mid 30s. She was definitely attractivea nine out of 10. In general, she didnt have to hit on menthey hit on her.
After her client arrived, I went up to the bartender who I knew, and he told me she was a regular who often worked the crowd.
A week later I joined her and another client. They were meeting over drinks, and he originally thought I was her pimp. After I identified myself as a journalist, he became frightened and left very angry, fearing I would reveal his identity. I never had that intention, but just wanted to talk to him and explore the mindset of a guy whod pay for sex.
TONY THE PIMP
Later, I interviewed Star while she cut my hair at her home. Her pimp Tony was present, the same guy I met in Idlewild, Coates continued. He had spent 25 years in Jackson Prison on a murder rap, and was living up here after attending a treatment program.
Star told me of her struggles as a single momher son was living out West with her mother at the time of the interview. She had started drinking at the age of 12 and was, at that time, battling an addiction to drugs. She had been molested by her father and dropped out of school. She taught herself to cut hair by practicing on her boyfriend, and it was her boyfriend who talked her into becoming a prostitute.
Star disclosed to me that her boyfriend had AIDS and was dying from it, which I found really scary. He was about 30 and heavy into drugs, but she said she was clean.
She told me there were two other prostitutes in Traverse City, but they werent connected in business in any way.
Shed bring her customers to her duplex, which was on the alley side of the house. She cut hair in the front of her house and used the back of the house for her sex clients. Her bedroom was clean, and she kept it nice. She had a couple of younger guys shed take care of for $100. She offered me the opportunity to witness it from her closet, but that was just too weird. It was stretching it too far.
She definitely had some emotional issues about the whole thing. She was dealing with the psychological trauma of it all. She felt terrible about it. Her boyfriend (not the pimp) was okay with it, and I think that was hard on her emotionally too. He separated it as, Its a job, you take care of business, its just a physical act, youre putting on a show.
She desperately wanted to quit; her mom was living in Alaska, and so she moved there to live with her mom. I heard, since that time, her boyfriend did die of AIDS.
WHY PAY TO PLAY?
The description of Star sounds eerily like Kristen, the 22-year-old woman who serviced former Governor Spitzer and was catapulted last week to fame or infamy, however you want to look at it. Kristen, whose real name is Ashley Alexandra Dupré, wrote this on MySpace:
When I was 17, I left home. It was my decision and Ive never looked back. Left my hometown. Left a broken family. Left abuse. Left an older brother who had already split. Left and learned what it was like to have everything, and lose it, again and again. Learned what it was like to wake up one day and have the people you care about most gone. I have been alone. I have abused drugs. I have been broke and homeless. But, I survived, on my own.
Why do men seek out prostitutes?
Some blame the wife who doesnt take care of her man, but thats not the issue, said Barbara Jones Smith, a Traverse City therapist.
I think for some men, they think its non-intimate. Most of the time, its very limited and over and done with. No strings. At least it looks like there are no strings. You dont get all tied up into the emotionality of caring about this person or her caring for you. Or it can be your fantasy. The feeling of having a sex slave. I dont think theres any one reason why people seek out prostitutes.
But whats even more puzzling is this: What could a guy like Eliot Spitzer, who had it all, possibly have been thinking?
What really puzzles me is why the wives stand by their men in confession after public confession. Now it comes out that former Governor Spitzer wanted to have sex with prostitutes without a condom. He was endangering his own wife. She gets that, right?
SEX FOR SALE
This is what Northern Express found after about a minute of googling for female escorts in Traverse City. Escort services are legal if they dont offer sex for paybut they often do. The ads are excerpted below.
BEAUTIFUL BLONDE IN TRAVERSE CITY, EROTIC, SENSUAL MASSEUSE/ESCORT
Are you looking for company? Im just a call away. Im avaliable from 9am to 2am 7 days a week. I give an excellent erotic sensual massage. you can come to me or I can come to you, Im tall with a slender athletic build. 36 25 37 no kidding and men find me beautiful and very accomadating
Donation: 150.00 one hour
Available Activities: Bondage, Full Service, GFE, Girl-Girl, Manual
Release (HJ), Masturbation, Multiple Partners, Role Play, Sensual
Ill Be Your Sweet Date/Companion
Hi, Im a very sweet woman,with grace and sensual stanama,Im 5 foot 3 inches and 125 pound; I have LONG brunette hair and BIG blue eyes.I love to laugh and smile.I have a great personality and sense of humor amongst alot of OTHER GREAT QUALITIES. Iam atrracted to RICH, GENEROUS, GENTLE MEN.... My favorite movie is Pretty Woman, amongst OTHER MOVIES...... I love all kinds of food and music, bubblebaths, Satin and lace, leathers, And PERFUME.... Do you need a date, or, maybe just some company??....I would LOVE to acomadate you..... Please get in touch with me for further info.... THANK YOU....
Donations: $350 hr, +tip, and,or gift cards
Available Activities: BBBJ, CBJ, Full Service, GFE, Manual Release (HJ), Masturbation, Multiple Pops, Role Play, Sensual Domination, Sensual Massage, Toys