By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
For 15 years, David Silverburg couldn't shake loose his secret identity. Eventually, it just took over.
"I was so fuckin' normal," he says after stubbing out a cigarette in a crowded ashtray, clearly relieved not to be hawking home insurance, as he did for nearly two decades. With a business degree from an upstate New York community college and a calm, dedicated demeanor, Silverburg did well enough to buy a nice Boca Raton townhouse where he, his wife, and their three sons could live in comfort. But somehow, it wasn't enough. Through a friend, he got connected to Xcitement magazine, the glossy sex mag that pops up once a month in neat stacks in the foyers of South Florida's numerous adult video stores, massage parlors, and strip clubs. He started selling ads for them and, like a good ad salesman, spending more and more time at his clients' establishments. Soon, he found himself getting more personally involved, becoming photographer for the near-nude young women who appeared in the ads he negotiated. From there, it was a small lateral hop into the big-money business of pimping.
Now, his profession is a source of pride for him, because it allows him unfettered access to one of his obsessions and brings him a nice living. He's living his dream.
"I got hooked," says Silverburg (not his real name), eyes unblinking through his wire-rims, with an expression betraying neither shame, surprise, nor anything more than a simple statement of fact. "I never in a million years thought I'd be doing this." His graying hair is neatly waved, his watch nice but not too nice (a couple of steps below a Rolex). In acid-washed jeans and a polo shirt, he could be your dentist or your dad's golf buddy. Stepping tentatively into the rapids of the world's oldest profession, Silverburg became manager at three Palm Beach County massage parlors, or, as they're widely known, "whack shacks."
The small storefronts contain two or three small rooms equipped with love seats and beds, where women (prohibited by law from advertising massages, since most aren't licensed) instead promise "hot tub sessions" or "one-on-one modeling." Men coming in sign "agreements" pledging no sexual activity, then go in the back. "And whatever transpires there is their business," Silverburg shrugs.
With his eye for maximizing profits, though, the trim, tailored 60-year-old at last jumped full-bore into South Florida's lucrative escort business. Silverburg started encouraging the women working at the parlor to subcontract their services to men after hours, and he provided them with what he calls "nonstop clientele." It turned out to be a perfect symbiosis. "Plenty of girls do their own thing," he notes, "but they feel more comfortable having -- well, I call myself an entertainment manager rather than a pimp. To be a pimp is to be someone who takes all the money from the girls, demeaning her, beating her, threatening and cheating her -- I've never been that way. I just want to make them money, get a piece of the action, and be more of a manager. I'm not a pimp. I'm a nice Jewish guy from Brooklyn."
Euphemisms aside, Silverburg quickly grew fond of the steady income the whack shacks delivered, especially as his operation grew to include a half-dozen scattered throughout the county's industrial and commercial corridors. But to play the game correctly, he actually scaled back his appearance to deflect attention. As an insurance salesman, he owned a Mitsubishi 3000 and a Corvette. Nowadays, he tools around in a 1998 Voyager; "no pimpmobile," he concedes. Since he is essentially a small-time player, he considers the downgrade a smart move. In his line of business, conspicuous consumption does not pay, he explains. "You're just looking for trouble."
Silverburg's unlikely mutation isn't out of place in an industry that now depends on customers more familiar with high-speed servers and Flash animation than full-length furs and leather-interiored Cadillacs. Bit by bit, South Florida's prostitution underworld has edged away from the shadows of the side streets off Young Circle into a cyberspace sanctuary, an on-line community offering new levels of privacy and anonymity. No wonder business degrees, web-building skills, and the ability to blend in are critical to the success of today's escort agency owner.
In a sense, the rise of the Internet's role in the national $8-billion-a-year sex trade has freed many women from the oppressive system of old. It acts as an insulating blanket protecting them from the dangers of the street while allowing them smart new methods to screen potential clients for safety. It has liberated whores from their pimps, who, more often than not, have morphed into dot-com entrepreneurs. It's the same old game, rejiggered for the laptop age.
Silverburg knocks back another small glass of Tia Maria in the dark corner behind a velvet rope in the Boynton Beach strip club where he's co-manager. Never, he says, has he made less than $100,000 a year as an "entertainment manager."
In 1999, Silverburg picked out "the four hottest women" he had working at his whack shacks. "Only the good-looking girls," he explains. "I couldn't send anybody who wasn't good-looking. No dogs." He began setting them up on dates, or, as he calls them, "deals." Most of the women were older, slightly down on their luck, and unwilling to go it alone in the market, which requires a certain amount of business smarts. "They have to be responsible," he says, "and as a rule, they're not."
Many of Silverburg's deals went down in area hotel rooms. Sometimes, if a client passed the screening, Silverburg would send a girl over to the john's house. "I never had a hassle, never a problem," he insists, "especially the way I ran my agency."
Silverburg himself handled the phone. He'd ask for the caller's last name as well as his home address and telephone number to see if he was listed in the online White Pages. Not only did this weed out weirdos and undercover cops, Silverburg says, but it made it easier to keep track of repeat customers. His pitch: "'The reason I need your last name and address is so the girls feel comfortable coming to you. If you're not willing to give me your last name, then I'm not willing to send you one of my girls. And if I check you out and you're a real person, then I'll call you back in five minutes and complete the deal.' If they want to proceed, we do it. If they don't want to give me that information, I just wait for the next call to come in."
He ran ads in Xcitement or placed small classifieds in the Palm Beach Post, the Sun-Sentinel, even New Times. The ads were short and simple. "Justine. New in town. Private modeling," read one, with a phone number and nothing else. "C'mon," he says. "What does that mean? The guy looking for it's going to find it within ten minutes."
Likewise, it didn't take long for Silverburg to discover that the Internet was capable of spreading escort ads far beyond the scope of local newspapers. Websites like Cityvibe.com, Independentgirls.com, and Eros.com offered unprecedented local and national exposure, and he ran ads with them all, along with photographs of his girls and phone numbers. He paid the sites a small commission. "I remember putting an ad on Eros a week in advance," he says excitedly. "'Hot 25-year-old blonde bombshell visiting for the week of Nov 1 through Nov 5. Call now to make reservations.' And they did! They started making reservations." His charge booked five clients a day in four days, charging $300 an hour. "She netted out $4,000," he calculates, subtracting the cost of the hotel room. Silverburg's cut was 30 percent, and the blond bombshell was one of ten girls he had on his crew during his busiest season. His clients? "Doctors, lawyers," he says with a serious frown. "Who else do you think can afford $200 or $300 an hour? It has to be someone making a good living."
Eighteen months ago, Silverburg's wife lost a protracted battle with multiple sclerosis. Her death left him distraught, but also with, for the first time, the freedom to openly mix his business and pleasure. At first, he made it a point not to sleep with the women he hired. "No. No," he says hitting an open palm with his fist. "Never. I'm not saying guys don't, but that was not my incentive. My incentive was money. Plus, if you get involved with the girls, the other girls get jealous."
But Silverburg, a chronic appreciator of the feminine form, can't hide the appetite driving him.
Some of the dancers at the strip club, he believes, might want to do more than twirl around a brass pole all night. "I know what they're thinking," he says. "That maybe I'll give 'em a couple of deals after work."
Alexandra, a tall, dark Brazilian with missile-cone fake mammaries, approaches the rope and leans over Silverburg's table, using her fanned fingers to keep herself from spilling out of her one-piece lace teddy. "I wanted you to meet the hottest girl in the whole club," he says to a visitor, still with only the thinnest hint of a smile.
"Thank you," she giggles, leaning forward even more, her cavernous cleavage blocking the club's dim lighting. Tonight, she explains, she's brought a few pals with her. "One is my sister, one is my niece, and the other is my friend," she says in daintily accented English. "I brought them all here."
A few minutes later, Alexandra strolls across the stage as part of the nightly flesh parade that features a woman who could be her blonder, less dangerously pneumatic twin. "God almighty!" Silverburg shouts above the thumping Marilyn Manson music, flashing a sardonic grin that instantly shaves 20 years off his mug. "God, she's good-looking!"
Silverburg broke his own rule last year, when he began a relationship with a young woman in his employ. "The other girls always thought I was giving her more deals than I was giving them, and then she was upset she thought I was involved with other girls," he says with a hint of a Larry David whine. "It was just the headache of all headaches." He recognizes the fleeting nature of this arrangement. "She tells me she loves me, but I know deep down if she found a guy to take her out of the business, she'd do it."
This summer, he took a break for a few weeks after five years of running his "entertainment" empire began taking its toll. "You want to blow your brains out," he moans. "These girls will drive you crazy! No matter how smart they are, they need someone to talk to, someone to cry to, someone who'll listen to them and know their business. And that's me."
In fact, though, Silverburg finds the drama addictive, and the sabbatical was short-lived. "I didn't want to do it again, but you can't quit," he says. "I'm gonna do it till I die." To get going again, he called three of his old escorts and had them stay at his Boca townhouse. "Then I let the people who know me know I have these girls," he says. "They say, 'Send 'em over in ten minutes,' and, boom, I'm back in business."
By now, Silverburg tends to see the world as a big anthill driven by "deals." "It never stops," he says. "Never. As we're speaking, there's guys going to see escorts. In the last five minutes, there's probably been 25 deals made in Broward, Palm Beach, and Dade counties. I know the two girls at my house are probably going out on calls now." That pair, he says, bring in as much as $3,000 a week each. "I have a 21- and a 41-year-old," he says. "The 41-year-old will probably give you a better time than the 21-year-old, who's only been in the business six months."
Older women tend to be more professional, he observes. "Most [prostitutes] are idiots with boyfriends who they give all their money to, or they take all their money and spend it on drugs. That's why most of my girls are 25 and older -- they can handle a little more responsibility."
One recent weekend, the 41-year-old in his stable received a call from a client who wanted to book her for two hours. "He ended up keeping her for another five hours and paid her $1,600," Silverburg says. "And then the next Saturday, another $1,600 visit. That's not sex for five hours," he clarifies. "You may have sex for an hour or two, but the rest of the time, you're just sitting around talking to a beautiful girl 'cause you're lonely."
Silverburg's escorts still use a hotel room or visit the client's home, though he admits, "If it's an emergency, I'll let 'em do a call in the living room. I don't care."
One of Silverburg's sons now helps run the business, or at least acts as chauffeur to the girls. "He hates them," Silverburg sighs. "He does it because he makes money; otherwise, he has no use for them." Life at home sounds like an adventure. A few years ago, Silverburg ended up meeting the principals of Hallandale Beach-based Pleasure Studios, where he was cast as an extra in Paige Shagwell PI: Undercover Lap Dancer. It was essentially a nonsexual role -- he kept his clothes on when he played a husband surprising his in flagrantewife -- but his pride is still obvious.
South Florida's surplus of escorts has driven prices down; Silverburg concedes that savvy locals now don't want to pay more than $150 for a session. "But you can still sell girls for $300 on the Net," he says, adding that the websites make it easy for tourists and business travelers to find a SoFla hookup. "It attracts a higher class of customer."
"The Internet has been a boon to the escort industry," Silverburg continues, describing the business as "so big and so quiet at the same time." He's glad law enforcement generally opts to let escort agencies operate in peace, as long as they're low-key. "They're stupid for not making it legal and taxing it," he says. "Let it be a respectable business, and go catch the terrorists."
Kristi Kannin (not her real name) says she was born to work in the sex-for-cash industry. "There's a lot worse ways to spend your days," she says, a mischievous smile on her tanned, freckled, 43-year-old face. After reading a New Times article about her former pimp ("Gingerbread Man," March 2004), the single Fort Lauderdale mom e-mailed a reporter and stated, "I worked for him from July 1999 to December 2001, made a ton of money, and had a great time."
In those days, Arthur Vanmoor was Broward's most notorious pimp -- a Mensa member, patent-happy inventor, and millionaire who was charged with racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy, and various prostitution-related charges before the system finally brought him down last year. He may be one of the last sex moguls who didn't use the Internet as his main storefront, and the resultant visibility turned out to be his downfall. The Dutch-born escort service owner virtually monopolized listings in the Yellow Pages and employed hundreds of girls during his high-life years, and Kannin gladly went along for the ride. Eager to tell all, she takes her old Toyota Corolla down to the paper's downtown office. Inside a meeting room, she breaks it down in simple terms.
"I needed money, and I needed sex," she says. "But I didn't really want a boyfriend." Escorting neatly solved both issues. "The first weekend, I made $1,500. In the first six months, I made $40,000 cash," she says. "I loved the job. In my mind, it's a business." But two and a half years was enough. "It got boring, like going to the same matinee over and over," she says, running a small hand and barn-red nails through curly, peroxided locks. Now, she says, she'd consider a return to the biz. "Age is getting to be a factor, but I still have a killer figure, I'm a lot of fun, and I'm really open-minded."
Today, she's wearing a yellow floral-print sundress, and ten more shiny red nails peek from her open-toed sandals. It's the same outfit she'd wear when she was escorting. "Two shoes and a dress was all I'd ever have," she recalls, "and I could be in and out of that stuff fast."
With her intense, pale-gray eyes, standing almost six feet tall with heels on, Kannin didn't look like a vulnerable victim when she showed up on "dates." She says she was rarely treated with disrespect. In case her height intimidated a short client, Kannin employed an easy trick to disarm those who complained she was too tall. To demonstrate, she stands up, quickly kicks off her pumps, and kneels down, nose to nose. "Then I'd go, 'Now I'm not,'" she says with a salacious, lip-licking smirk, her saline-buoyed bosom bouncing softly with laughter.
Kannin worked days, occasionally weekends, and she says she was one of the most requested women in the Vanmoor talent pool. "About a third of the calls were for sex," she explains with breathless excitement. It could be an out-of-town businessman with time on his hands or maybe a guy who'd just found out that his wife had cheated on him.
"Well, let's show her, huh?" she'd tell them. "Then you're even."
"Party calls," she says, are when several guys call a hooker just to come hang out and drink or do drugs with them. "Whatever they were doing, I'd take a taste of." Her favorite days were Sundays, especially during football season. "Blow 'n' go calls," she giggles, getting back into character. "I'd show up and go, 'Hey, what's the score?' They'd say, 'Hey, want a beer?' and then it was just..." She sticks her tongue into her cheek to pantomime fellatio. "The most relaxing day," she muses. "I rarely stayed at one house more than 20 minutes and went on to the next."
Yet nearly three years after her sex career allegedly ended, Kannin continues to complain about occupational hazards. Back at home, recovering from wrist surgery, she downs painkillers and beer while gingerly rubbing a tanned forearm encased in a medical brace. "Too many handjobs," she explains, without any indication that she's kidding. "I used to see a crack addict every week, and all he ever wanted me to do was jerk him off while he kept peeking out through his blinds."
Escorting "was never bad for me," she concludes. "I always felt safe." But she quit during Yuletide 2001 after her boss fined her for not working December 24 and 25 -- traditionally two of the busiest days of the year. Since then, she has lived off disability payments (she was injured in a car accident in November 1999) and food stamps, though she still contemplates a return to the trade. "Maybe a little part-time work," she muses. "Or weekends."
Months after this initial meeting, however, Kannin shows few signs of locating either ambition or a job. Afternoons spent finishing off 12-packs of Miller Lite in the small, dark, quiet kitchen of her Fort Lauderdale duplex appears more her speed. She brags endlessly about her two business degrees, her captain's license, and a previous incarnation teaching Sunday school. But without a husband, boyfriend, savings, or future, all Kannin has are her stories. She loves to ramble on about her looks, her brains, and her take-no-shit attitude. But her mind seems to operate like an Etch-a-Sketch: Any sudden distraction and the conversation suddenly goes blank, or she lashes out at real or imaginary foes.
"Why do you think I was so good at this job?" she suddenly asks, apropos of nothing. "Bottom line is, pussy gets the last word!"
One recent Friday, she had promised to scan the Sunday classifieds and schedule a few interviews. On Monday, though, she acknowledges that no progress has been made. "I was too hungover to even open the paper," she sheepishly admits. Putting together an Internet-based ad seems well beyond her scope at the moment, and she isn't willing to use her apartment -- which she shares with two roommates -- as her base of operation.
Kannin's tale jibes with that of other escorts who, after being seduced by the money and the thrill of the risk, find it tough to reintegrate into the civilian work force. Returning to a 40-hour-a-week grind is tough after all that fun and freedom. Forming intimate relationships after being a hooker isn't easy either. And the mendacity (and stress) of concealing a double life from family and friends must be balanced with the boredom that comes with living a 9-to-5 existence. Then there's an additional pitfall: Women who opt to use the Internet and advertise themselves with lurid photographs run the risk, should they ever go straight, that someone will discover their past.
Luana, who advertises on Eros.com's Miami site, bills herself as a 25-year-old 34B-24-36 Brazilian model who charges $200 an hour for outcalls only in the Boca Raton area. Her face is obscured in her ad, protecting her identity. "If I ever stop..." she explains. "It's a lot safer, and a lot easier to be in the business than before," she adds, after realizing the caller isn't interested in purchasing her services. "It's not stressful or anything like that, much better than the old days."
Leslie entertains clients in her Pembroke Pines home. She pays more than $100 a month to post her full-page ad on Eros.com but says the cash she makes easily offsets the cost. "I make good money," she says. "I'm busty and unique, and I do a lot better than most other girls out there. And I like my job and intend to keep doing it. I'm 40-something. I'm not one of these young, dumb, drugged-up girls who do four or five calls a day until they can't do it anymore." She's completely independent, laughing when she's asked why anyone would choose to give 30 percent of their takings to an agency. "Why do you think? 'Cause they're lazy!" And why would any escort advertise on-line using her own photographs? "They just don't know any better," says Leslie, whose ads show her physical charms but not her face.
With the Internet as a screening device and with increasingly savvy business practices and due caution at work, the industry is, as far as law enforcement is concerned, more slippery than ever. In 2002, a Florida State's Attorney investigation called "Operation Flea Collar" went after the principals of Bigdoggie.net in an effort to shut down the Tampa-based escort-ad clearinghouse. But the sting operation -- with vice detectives infiltrating the site, setting up fake ads, and then collaring would-be johns in an effort to bring down the top tier of the organization -- failed. The prosecutors' efforts to keep secret the identity of confidential informants fell apart, resulting in a prominent Tampa city council candidate dropping out in disgrace, and the case lost traction. The well-publicized snag headlined a host of other hurdles, and in December 2002, a judge dismissed most of the charges against Bigdoggie's alleged owners, Tampa resident Charles Kelly and Boca Raton-based Steve Lipson. Yet the bust was international news, and the process exposed Web-based prostitution commerce in a public way. The subculture had been outed.
Luke Lirot, a renegade Tampa attorney who has built a reputation defending the rights of strip clubs, escort agencies, and head shops, calls the state's prosecution of escort agencies "a shortsighted cultural phenomenon. The arguments they give about why this should be illegal don't hold water in this day and age. We're a long way from Florida being progressive enough to realize these restrictions do more harm than good."
Lirot, who represented Kelly in the Bigdoggie case, understands why people like Silverburg are under such pressure to remain anonymous. "The minute you take a public stance on this, you're immediately targeted by law enforcement," he says, frustration in his voice. "If someone wanted to become visible on this issue, they would be targeted so quickly."
Thus, a massive and silent industry continues earning and investing money with little interference from police -- unless they become as big as Arthur Vanmoor. "When we said he grossed $6 million a year, that was probably a conservative estimate," says Sgt. Gary Daughenbaugh of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department's vice unit that helped bring the Dutchman down. "That was only what we could document."
Vanmoor was deported to Holland on October 13, following his conviction on RICO charges in May 2004. Fort Lauderdale's authorities' successful prosecution came on their third try. The first two times, he weaseled out with nothing more than a small fine and a plea bargain, but the final time, Daughenbaugh says, "things finally went the right way.
"Owners are difficult to [prosecute]," he adds. "They insulate themselves so well, and you have to prove that they had actually knowledge of the girl committing the act, having sex. That's their defense; you have to get over that hump. It's very difficult."
Last year, Daughenbaugh says, "we arrested at least three [escort agency owners] or they left town." But the escorts themselves and the "independent girls" like Leslie are tough to prosecute.
"It is hard," Daughenbaugh says. "We either set up a sting operation in a hotel, after we've made pre-arrangements on the phone or Internet." And as court documents from both the Bigdoggie.net case and the Vanmoor arrests plainly show, the hotel-room stings are, because of restrictions on what officers posing as johns can do in negotiating with a prostitute, highly problematic. In the Bigdoggie case, cops actually ended up paying confidential informants to receive oral sex from escorts -- a big no-no, as it turned out.
That leaves South Florida morality squads expending most of their energy on the easiest targets -- streetwalking prostitutes, those who are the most unregulated, drug-addicted, and likely to carry sexually transmitted diseases. Police in Hollywood, Dania Beach, and Fort Lauderdale have easy pickings along Federal Highway threading through their towns, where most hookers congregate.
"Among the street-level girls, we made 162 [arrests in 2003], and 31 of those were felonies," Daughenbaugh says, explaining that a new Florida statute says that "if you're convicted twice for prostitution, the third time, you're charged with felony." At the same time, he adds, Fort Lauderdale cops arrested 87 johns during reverse sting operations. Policing curbside prostitution is easier and presumably offers a legitimate public service. On the other hand, calling every escort with an on-line advertisement, Daughenbaugh concedes, isn't worth the time.
"From time to time, we do go out and arrest those girls," he says, "but it's not a priority for us. It's something we do as one of the responsibilities of vice squad." For a unit that must monitor child pornography, check out adult nightclubs, enforce liquor violations, investigate extortion and murder for hire, as well as play a role in the joint terrorism task force, prostitution tends to get pushed down on the list of priorities.
Still, cops like Daughenbaugh are well-aware that the Internet has supplanted traditional tactics of the flesh-marketing trade, especially localized ones. "It's amazing to me how many girls are out there prostituting themselves," he says.
Websites that review, discuss, and advertise the escort services usually do so with a disclaimer: "Money exchanged is intended for companionship only and modeling services. Anything else that may or may not occur is a matter of personal choice between two consenting adults of legal age and is not contracted for, nor is it requested to be contracted for in any manner. This is not an offer of prostitution."
Despite the professions of innocence, the effect of such sites on the prostitution business have been revolutionary. In a relatively short time, the Internet has helped take prostitutes off the streets and placed them in the digital maze of cyberspace, revolutionizing and protecting the industry. Many site operators and webmasters, authorities say, are educated opportunists turned computer geeks, eager to peddle women on-line with their newfound HTML or Dreamweaver skills.
While newbie escorts can post small classifieds for as little as $20 a month on the web, national sites like Cityvibe.com and Bigdoggie.net (yes, it's still operating) contain local subdirectories for cities coast to coast that cater to the upscale. Banner ads for multigirl agencies with 954 area codes abound on Eros' Miami link, featuring photos of women with eye-popping physiques and descriptions of hair color, height, weight, measurements, and more.
Skipping through the hundreds of color photos of women on these sites, it's as easy to highlight a service provider whom a web surfer might be interested in as it is to add an item to an Amazon shopping cart. But an understanding of the blunt jargon of these inner-circle acronyms is key to knowing exactly what you're getting. When "Caroline" says, "Because of my fascination with men, and the fact that I love to please, I'm sure you will consider me a total GFE -- and then some," you know she's promising you a girlfriend experience, which probably means she's going to try some method acting on you. A GFE would, of course, be preferable to a "clockwatcher," a provider who rushes and does not enjoy her work. Some Cuban girls will list special rates for TLN -- toda la noche.
Are you looking for an incall (going to her place) or an outcall (yours)? Does she offer a BBBJ ("bareback blow job," without use of a condom)? Or BBBJTCWS ("...to completion with swallowing")? If you're paying for it -- and willing to expose yourself to AIDS -- it pays to know this stuff.
Some customers look for a "spinner." According to one escort glossary, that means "a very petite provider." Etymology: From the 1970s toy Sit 'n' Spin. If you happen to like 'em skinny, don't call and order a BBW ("big beautiful woman"). A "white knight" is used to describe the easily-suckered older dude who becomes caught up in trying to protect the honor and dignity of beleaguered escorts. The acronyms and code words could fill a dictionary.
SoFlaCompanions -- whose contact, Steve Berger, declined to be interviewed by New Times -- and its more vibrant competitor, Independentgirls.com, focus on Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. SFC runs an "ad gallery" as well as reviews of local independent escorts, spas, studios, massage parlors, strip clubs, and escort agencies. Independentgirls.com runs ads from some of the area's biggest escort agencies too, each boasting dozens of hotties awaiting your phone call.
Neither site lists advertising rates, and according to some advertisers, women are allowed to place photographs and blurbs for free. Independentgirls offers men "VIP" and "High Roller" memberships for $400 a year, promising customers discounted dates and other perks, like airlines offering frequent-flier miles.
But reviews, if they are to be believed, leave no doubt what happens on "dates." Outlander52 had this to say about a wonderful summer's evening spent with an escort named Candy: "Extraordinary oral skills. Lovely skin to run my fingers over, amazing nipples to savor. To say the finish was astounding is putting it mildly. Drained, emptied, unloaded, and evacuated only begin to describe how satisfying the ending was."
Most revealing of all is the buzzing IndiBoard linked to Independentgirls.com. This on-line discussion forum seems to confirm Silverburg's notion of South Florida as a vast, nonstop yeast culture of deals and rendezvous. A recent, late-afternoon peak showed 107 users logging on in a 15-minute period. There's no better place to exchange news, gossip, and information about the escort world in the tricounty area. Euphemisms again abound: Those selling favors are "providers"; those parting with their cash are "hobbyists."
Most of the posts are given to political grandstanding, boring solipsism, or interminably unfunny in-jokes. Occasionally through the sewer-screen will flow revealing pearls of insight, posts that manage to capture, distill, and define the demand for a prostitute's services. To this end, a recent IndiBoard visitor with the screen name "Dirty Sanchez" has sparked the board's activity with his brutally honest postings. The unflinchingly misogynist Sanchez explains why his "girlfriend" is "the best in the world."
"She changes looks every week," he boasts. "She doesn't have my phone number. I don't have to worry about giving her an orgasm. I don't have to worry about meeting her mother. When I'm finished with her I can go home and sleep. I don't even care if she likes me or not. God bless those whores. Why buy a car if you only drive once a week for an hour? Just rent one!"
Concurs Silverburg, interjecting a pitch of his own: "Sometimes you're better off paying for it. If you have a wife or a girlfriend, you end up paying for it anyway. It's a great business for me and a great business for the girls. We've never been busted. The clientele are endless, and it's never, ever going to stop."