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Though their city is statistically popular with escort agencies, Scottsdale Police Department doesn't have a vice squad, per se. At the Phoenix Vice Enforcement Unit, Lieutenant Larry Jacobs puts Scottsdale's capabilities in a harsh light:
"Scottsdale and Tempe don't have Vice Enforcement Units doing [stings], they have to rely on patrol officers only," he says. "We're the only real Vice Enforcement Unit operating in the Valley. Every one of those cities usually call me to help them out."
Both Scottsdale and Phoenix do require escort licensing -- complete with background checks for prior prostitution charges, fingerprinting and photographs -- to help ensure escorts conform to city laws. It is illegal, for example, to advertise as an escort without including a license number in the ad. (New Times does not accept ads for escorts.)
In a typical police sting, an undercover officer in a hotel room calls an escort who is advertising without a license. Once inside the hotel room, the escort can be cited for violating at least one statute -- advertising without a license. Busting her for prostitution is an additional charge.
Licensing escorts is only effective if there's adequate enforcement. To legally accept a call in Scottsdale, an escort must be licensed. According to Scottsdale's licensing office, there are only 20 escorts licensed with the city -- a figure that doesn't even cover Lemonis' staff, let alone the hundreds of other escorts working there. Obviously, taking calls in Scottsdale without a license is not very difficult.
Taylor and Skylor are unlicensed, and say publicity is the one sure way of getting cited in Scottsdale. Speaking for this story is their way of burning the escort bridge.
"Once the vice squad decides to go after you, they'll keep calling until you fuck up," Skylor says. "They may bust you on something small, but they will find something."
"And it's a shame," Taylor interjects. "Cops make the kinkiest clients."
"Heeello boys," she says, fumbling with the headset, "do you have audio?"
Skylor's Internet video studio is in a four-room cinder-block office in central Phoenix. In one corner, there's a bare mattress. In another, Taylor sits on a ratty couch next to a blow-up doll named Molly Mouth. The camera and computer monitor stare at her while she attempts to entice online viewers with verbal, typewritten and visual acts of seduction.
For the moment, Taylor wears a white G-string and similarly stringy tank top. The clothes will be removed once Taylor goes from "free chat" -- the complementary bait -- to "pay chat" -- where viewers can watch Taylor, Skylor and friends masturbate or have sex with each other.
"Hi, how are you doing today Charlie?," she says to alias "Charlie Z." "We have body paint and Mr. Purple here. So, Charlie, are you interested in going into pay chat?"
Charlie Z types: "You're hot."
Taylor gets closer to the camera to show Charlie some cleavage.
"Do you like this better?" Taylor asks. "Do you, Charlie?"
Charlie Z: "Show nipple."
Skylor invested $30,000 of her escort earnings into this Internet venture, called Skybox Cabaret. It doesn't offer the high-class digs to which Scottsdale escorts have become accustomed, but the potential for enormous earnings combined with keeping clients at modem's length make online sex an intriguing proposition.
Skybox Cabaret girls work four-hour blocks. They can set their own schedule and take home half of the $.99-per-minute pay-chat charge. If there are, say, 30 viewers, an hour's work could, in theory, gross $1,800. Again, in theory.
In practice, employees at Skybox Cabaret are learning the frustrating realities of an Internet start-up business. Taylor has been online for two hours and has, thus far, been unable to get a single viewer to purchase credits for pay chat. There have been problems with the network, audio and video stuttering . . . the whole e-commerce rigmarole.
Sexual performances for one-handed typists doesn't quite meet her Martha Stewart-of-the-sex-industry goal, but Taylor says this is an ideal way to bring her Cole Taylor entirely into the Internet ether.
Taylor pours lubricant on the dildo.
"If we go into pay chat," she says, tugging at her G-string, "I can take these off and use Mr. Purple on myself."
Charlie Z: "Pant."
Suddenly, Skylor runs out of the monitoring room.
"Hey, everybody," she says. "A guy just bought credits!"
Skylor and a tech geek rush to a monitor and watch the credit card activity. One, no, two -- wait -- three men have purchased $14.99 credit packs. That's three clients ready to go into pay chat with Taylor.
Respecting her request for privacy, Taylor's co-workers leave her alone in the studio, then gather around a computer monitor to view her masturbation performance online.
Taylor gradually relaxes.
The viewers' brief, typed comments are positive.
Skybox Cabaret will soon be 24-hours-a-day, Skylor says. Nine Valley escorts and exotic dancers are currently on the schedule, with more added every week.
They see this as a moneymaking opportunity. They see this as an escape route from the Valley sex industry.
This, the world's newest profession.
Contact James Hibberd at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org