Wednesday, April 30, 2008

City Life

Discreetly, And Lavishly Working His Way Through College
By Brian Batista

It is another mild spring morning in the city that never sleeps. Just before 9 a.m., the rush hour crunch is at its peak, and the island of Manhattan is in full swing. As you walk down the major streets of New York City, it is literally impossible to predict the life of the people walking along side you the minute you step out into the crowded streets. It is what makes living in New York a special environment, when their concerns, are not your concerns.

Of these millions of people, one man, named “Alex”, whose real name is not used to protect his identity, is a 21-year-old aspiring fashion designer, attending Parsons School of Design. Like most college students, Alex works to make ends meet. However, he didn’t just go to the Gap and ask for a job application. He knew he needed a significant income to be able to pay rent, save money to start his own fashion line, and pay for other half of school that federal aid does not cover. Alex works as an on-call escort, and woke up one recent morning in the lavish hotel room of one of his regular clients.

“Sometimes, I look at what I do, and need to laugh," he said. "I never thought that I would move to New York and be involved in this field of work. But let’s face it, a retail job is not going to help me pay the rent, pay for some of my school, and keep up with my lifestyle. It was almost a no-brainer to fall into this kind of work. I chose to do it,” he added.

Alex, a native of Miami, landed in New York at 17, after being thrown out of the home of his highly religious family when he came out to them. He came to New York because his best friend had just moved here, and knew he could rely on him.

“He’s six years older than me, and at the time he had just moved into the place we share now, and needed help with the rent,” Alex said. He landed a position as a fast food worker just to make enough for the rent, but as he recalls “it was enough to help with rent and eat occasionally, everything here is so expensive”.

Shortly after arriving, Alex enrolled at a high school to complete his senior year, and that’s where he met the person who introduced him to the underground game of male escorting in New York City. It is a world filled with drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and disposable income to throw around. Upon graduation that summer, his mentor supplied him with fake identification, an online profile, and advice.

“He told me never to have sex without a condom, to never accept any drink or food from a client if offered, and to never give out my real name and address,” Alex said.

Alex would use his fake ID to attend the biggest parties where escorts would roam the dance floor for potential clients. He would also use his online profile to communicate with clients wanting services.

“When I started escorting at 18, I was not making any money at all," he said. "I wasn’t exactly sure what to do and how to go about it, and my (mentor) taught me techniques that would bring me a lot of money, and it did."

Alex described his mating strategy. "I always went for the well-dressed, clean-looking and sometimes older clients. They are usually the ones with the most money. I always went for the highest hourly, or daily, rate.”

The online escort game is an industry that pulls in between $10 million to $20 million annually, depending on the methods used, national locations and escorts, according to industry reports.

Alex has posted himself on a website where potential clients can contact and chat with him directly. In order to keep himself on the site, he must pay $50 a month so he can remain on the market. He has the liberty to post his own pictures and information for any client to see. After a client contacts him and they determine a time and a place to meet, Alex keeps all of his earnings.

The many risks Alex faces in doing this kind of work include sexually transmitted diseases, being ambushed by police and psychical abuse. Since Alex is independently posted, and hired out of a website, he has no means of protection by another person. He is putting his life into his own hands every time he meets with a client.

His clients usually hire him off the Internet because it is discreet and short. The Internet works as a springboard for those looking for no strings attached entertainment, often using fake names, renting out hotel rooms and never transmitting their photographs. Rates and services are posted next to the profiles of each escort, and the potential client chooses from there.

“The clients are scared they will get caught by the police, or that I will “out” them to their wives," he said. "Most of the clients I serve are married men with children, millionaire moguls, traveling business men and city workers. We will meet at a hotel or the home that a married client shares with his wife, during the day when no one is home. Some wish to experiment with drugs or drink before the act. But I never do it because it’s a rule of thumb in the lifestyle--never take candy from strangers.”

Alex said he has heard of some narrow escapes. “Another escort friend of mine almost died last night in the hands of a client who tried to rape him, steal his money, and stab him to death. It is a scary thought to know that could happen to me, and at times it makes me want to stop altogether. To turn to the police is a risk, because its either you will be charged and jailed for prostitution, or your luck will be that the cop you run to for help is an old client.”

Alex left his client at the Gansevoort Hotel that morning, heading for his shared apartment in Chelsea, before going to Parsons to debut one of his final collections for his advanced design class. He will graduate Parsons this semester with a 3.2 GPA and an internship with a major American designer.

“I feel like things are starting to fall into place," he said. "It will only be a matter of time before I land a secure position and I can leave this industry behind me. After having nine steady clients since the age of 19, I have made over $150,000. So much of that money went into school, and buying fabrics to make my own collection. I still live off the money, and am making more of it now. With the exception of my best friend and four other friends in the industry, no one knows what I do. Being discreet is part of the job, and I will soon leave the industry, and stop lying about how I make my money.”

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