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."