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Laptop Pimpin'

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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."

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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