By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
A knock at the door.
Tiffany is one of 31 escorts -- including five males -- who work for Lemonis, whose employees call him "Mack Daddy."
Tiffany drives a Jeep Wrangler with a bumper sticker reading "Naughty Girl." She's returning from a call and wears a low cut, red floral dress and fashionable glasses. She's here to pick up paychecks from client credit card purchases, which Lemonis processes at the office.
During the summer, Lemonis charges an up-front $75 fee to each client (it increases to $100-$150 in September) and claims to average 300 calls per month. The client is also charged whatever the escort costs per hour. Lemonis hands Tiffany her checks, but she insists on matching them to her records. Cole Taylor left Essence Entertainment in a dispute over credit card charges.
"Look at Tiffany, now look at these girls in The Beat," Lemonis says. "With me, you're not going to get ripped off. If you go down to Van Buren, you'll get mugged and probably catch a disease -- although we don't condone prostitution."
He opens The Beat, an adult-oriented local paper, to a random page and points to an ad. An attractive woman on all fours beckons. The caption reads: "College girl needs a Greek tutor."
"Look, that's not her! It's probably a Victoria's Secret model in the photo. They'll tell you on the phone that it's her, then you'll get a fucking biker.
"We call it cash 'n' dash. They're in the business to rip you off. Girl goes in there and, instead of the $99 that they told him over the phone, she immediately demands $500. And if he resists, she pepper-sprays him, the driver comes in and beats him up and robs him."
He shakes his head.
"Arizona has the worst reputation in the nation for escort services. [Essence Entertainment] has nothing in common with them. They can't shine my motherfucking shoes!"
Lemonis is agitated now, aghast at all these other companies who dare call themselves escort services. Dare compete with him for business and give his escorts a bad name.
"You know what we have?" he says, unable to resist one more boast. "We even have something called a Mile-High Club. That's where you take a plane, and a pretty girl and . . ."
He catches himself.
"But . . . I don't know what that term means."
Tiffany tries to help.
"I assume it means to have sex high up in a plane," she offers.
Lemonis glares at her.
"But as the owner of this company," he says steadily, "I have no clue what 'Mile-High Club' means."
He turns back.
"You are going to put in the story that I don't condone prostitution, right?"
"You fucking jealous cocksucker!" Cole Taylor yells into her cell phone, her usual soft and cautious voice replaced by full rage. "You know I'm an escort, that's what I do. So by acting like this, you're saying you're an idiot."
From the Nissan's passenger seat, Taylor's friend and sometimes co-worker, Skylor, gives her a silent high five.
"No, no!" Taylor says. "You don't trust me!"
Taylor and Skylor (real name: Cinda Hey) are en route to a Scottsdale resort to engage in some direct marketing. Taylor's fiancé has been repeatedly calling, arguing, then hanging up.
"Boyfriends have it the worst," Skylor explains, and she may be right. Escorts possess a maddening combination of beauty, sexual confidence and lack of ownership. Boyfriends must accept the fact that a man, just about any man with $500 and decent manners, can steal their girlfriend for an hour.
Taylor jams her cell phone into her purse. "Damn it," she says. "He hung up again. He was so good for such a long time, but lately . . ."
"He'll call back," Skylor says. "He depends on you for money. They get used to the money and are like, 'I want this and this and this.' Well, where do you think the money comes from?"
Skylor's business card is crimson. It reads, "The Professional." Once, at an Indian casino poker table, a man asked, "A professional what?"
"If you need to ask," Skylor said, "you're too young to be sitting at this table."
Bigdoggie.com, a popular escort-review service, has ranked Skylor the 43rd and Taylor the 17th best escorts in the country. Men fly in from all over the country to enjoy their services. But both escorts want out of the business, and look to the Internet as their escape route.
It's not that they loathe escorting. They have grown weary of escorting, have developed an aversion to it, to be sure. But people who loathe escorting cannot do it at all.
The truth is more complex. Direct marketing with Taylor and Skylor is not a somber, desperate activity for next month's rent. It's Saturday night club-hopping, only distorted -- suddenly every man becomes an ATM machine with a hard-on.
Out on the town, wealthy men will lavish drinks and compliments on them. And the escorts are not immune to their dizzying attention. Skylor brags that she charges for an hour, but can turn any man in 15 minutes. It's an addictive way to make money.