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Friday, July 10, 2015

THE BEGINNING OF THE END - ALEX

I got a phone call one day from a woman who told me her name was “Alex”. Her popular nickname down the road became the “Beverly Hills Madam” but her real name was “Elizabeth Adams”. (Comedian Tracey Ullman does a wonderful impersonation of her by the way!) Evidently she found me through an ad I ran to solicit my own business. Back then we didn't have the internet so to get clients we had to advertise. We didn't have cell phones either but had to work with just land lines, answering services that didn't mind taking calls at 2:00 in the morning from drunken horny clients, and beepers that we used to make up codes to communicate with each other through.


If one didn't want to be a streetwalker, or a stripper, but instead run a “call girl” type of operation – one advertised or bought a “black book” from a retiring madam. Ads were run in anything - newspapers, magazines, the yellow pages, etc. One of the more popular newspapers back then was the Hollywood Xpress. But there were many others like Screw, Swingers, Chic, and also the glossy mens' magazines like Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse who all took ads.


Of course you couldn't say “hooker” or “sex” but you could run ads where customers got the drift with headlines like “topless maid service” or “entertainers to your door” and that sort of thing. Where one advertised depended upon your budget as well as what type of client one wanted. Yes one would get a different type of client in a Hustler vs. a Playboy magazine but the price and “lead time” was a consideration. Playboy ads for example had to run about three months in advance while those in the Hollywood Xpress or the LA Reader would run every week. The yellow pages ads would be good for over a year. This was why phone numbers were so precious in those days. One might have $1,000's of dollars invested in a phone number with ads running for months on end that were the income lifeline for any escort or madam.


Alex said she had some business to discuss with me but we had to do in person. Since she was bedridden – she invited me up to this house she had in the canyons off Mulholland. Definitely not a cheap place to live back then or now for that matter. She told me she was a Romanian gypsy which I believed because she had jet black hair and dark eyes. When I got there, an older man she said was her husband walked me back to her bedroom to talk privately. A chair was pulled up next to her bed where her phone, rolodex, notepads, everything the well-equipped madam needed to run her business was within arm's reach. One couldn't help feeling a bit of “sacredness” in a way coming to meet the woman like that.

 

Not being a small talk kind of person, I refused the coffee she offered and told her I wanted to know what this was all about. Alex then explained her clientele were wealthy executives, politicians, celebrities, etc. who traveled a lot. Because of this they would come to Los Angeles to stay in five star hotels such as the Beverly Hilton, the Bonaventure, or any posh hotel near the airport, the film studios, or where conventions were being held.


Normally at a five star hotel back then if a businessman wanted to be connected to a nice escort he would simply ask the bartender, the porter, or even the concierge. They always had a woman or two they liked to use that they knew would not “roll” their clients for their $10,000 gold watches while they slept, or give them some disease to take home they couldn't explain to their wives, or wouldn't come up pregnant and slap them with a paternity suit. Such a woman was portrayed nicely by Martin Scorsese in “Casino” with the Sharon Stone character.


The problem with this however is when a client wanted an extra layer of “discretion”. These bartenders, porters, and concierges had also been known to tip off the press – leaking stories in the old days to people like Walter Winchell or Hedda Hopper to go even further back in history. Wives wanting a juicy divorce settlement would even use these escorts in combination with a private detective to get photos of their husbands committing adultery in the days before “no fault divorce” came into existence. This meant to get a divorce, and half of hubbie's money, the wife had to get photos of him actually in bed with another woman. Not hard to do if one bribed one of these hotel pimps generously enough.


For this reason, there were men who wanted an extra layer of protection by calling Alex for what they needed. The problem Alex was having however was finding a woman who could bypass the hotel security in these high end establishments. Because there were no cell phones, and because one usually had to call to arrange to see an escort from the hotel (pay phones were a pain at the airport), the security would always be able to red flag a room when the guest kept making repeated late night calls through their switchboard to different phone numbers.


This would have security then eaves dropping on the calls without even the guest being aware of it. If they realized they were ordering a prostitute – security would then wait until a woman of that description would enter the hotel lobby by herself. Then they would wait until she was just about to knock on the man's door – and wham! She's being carted off to the basement security office where she's photographed, fingerprinted, and then issued a “trespass” warning. This meant if they saw her on the property again they'd call the police and have her arrested for trespassing because they now had proof they'd ordered her off the property never to return. If she was a pimp – she'd just say he was her “driver”.


After she'd be escorted off the property empty-handed, the hotel would then have the concierge, or even security, approach the guest asking if they might be able to offer him a “replacement”. This way they also got a cut of the action – but most felt they were doing this to protect their guests and themselves from some bad publicity. No five star hotel in areas like Bel Air, Beverly Hills, etc. wanted to see headlines about some senator being caught with a prostitute in their hotel on the news. Especially when their stock in trade was wealthy traveling lonely businessmen who also didn't want to see their names winding up in the press either.


I was in my early 20's then, blond, weighed 118 pounds, and people told me I looked a lot of Valerie Bertinelli when she was younger. Not a face that people would associate with a prostitute when I'd walk into the hotel lobby with a power suit on carrying a briefcase. Which was another requirement in those days. To take a customer's black American Express, or other business expense card where the visit would be charged off as hiring a “translator” or a “tour guide” or even for “secretarial services” - one had to slide the credit card into a machine back then. Then a carbon slip would be put over the card, a metal slide would run back and forth over it to make an imprint, and then the client had to physically sign the charge slip. Merchant accounts used to not honor any charge over $250 that didn't have an imprint, along with a physical signature, and a copy of the drivers' license number also written on the slip. So if one wanted to get paid – one had to get all this paperwork done.


The going rate for most escorts back then was about $100 an hour. To compare, street prostitutes were charging about $20 an hour or “shot”. Alex would charge her clients $350 an hour, with a two hour minimum just to show up. The deal was to split that and then any tips one got after the first charge were kept by the escort. So I'd get $350 just to show up and then whatever else I could talk the client into once I got to the hotel.


Which was also why I used to carry some “surprises” in my briefcase right along with my merchant machine. I would stock my briefcase with adult toys, lingerie, whips, collars, lubes, handcuffs, and whatever else I could talk the client into extra money to have some fun with. These were not items their wives would pack in their travel bags for them on these trips – so I used to come completely stocked. My girl scout training of “always being prepared” never went to waste in my job back then.


Cocaine had been taking root everywhere. It was almost impossible to find an escort back then who wasn't using the drug daily in the 1980's. Which also didn't make for someone who could walk quietly and discretely past hotel security that was actually looking out for a prostitute to come through their doors. Which I kind of thought was fun at first – to see how many times I could walk right past security standing by the lobby or elevator doors just looking for a woman they thought appeared to be the stereotypical looking prostitute – only to have me waltz right past them unnoticed. I used to even wear flat shoes that I'd swap out for my high heels before knocking on the hotel room doors of the client – further confusing security looking for a woman they thought would be sash shaying in with stiletto heels. I'd even put on some nerdy glasses that I'd take off in the elevator as I was putting on my high heels. The whole thing made me feel a lot like a female version of “Superman” and “Clark Kent” actually.


Alex didn't get these types of calls often – but when she would get one to send someone into a very high end hotel who also wanted to put the “date” on his expense account then I'd get the referral. She also complained to me about that being a problem. With most of the escorts on drugs then, they wanted cash on the spot so they could go cop on the way home. With a credit card slip the bank wouldn't pay until that next Friday – so sometimes it would be over a week before they would pay on the slip meaning I'd get paid. I didn't mind. Let the others chase around all over Los Angeles for $100 an hour – I'd gladly take these calls for three times more money, and better tips, where all I had to do was wait for a few days to pick up my check from Alex. Banks didn't have direct deposit then either. Meaning to get my pay from the call I'd have to go pick up my check from Alex, then deposit it, wait for it to clear, etc. So actually the time I'd get my cash it would usually take about two weeks. A lifetime if I had been a drug addict back then.


Now clearly I'm taking a lot of credit cards by this time. I wasn't even taking cash anymore in my own business. I preferred to take business checks or credit cards because I wouldn't get burned for one thing. For another, it kept out the lunatics and the undercover cops handing me marked cash as evidence. No cop was going to give me his credit card and ID either with a company name on it matching his business card and phone listings. I just felt safer dealing with paper and plastic back then over cash. Some of these men had multiple cards also – one for their personal expenses, one for the marital, then there would be the business accounts, the expense accounts, etc.


Some of the men started even writing us into their company or production budgets. Take a movie for example being filmed on location. Remember, most of these clients are sex addicts. No different than any junkie who isn't going to travel without having a good stash on him – the sex addicts also try and keep their supply within arm's reach also. Even if they did have to go shoot a movie in the middle of the Mojave desert. What escort is going to travel all the way up to Death Valley? There's no street walkers in that hot desert either. So what they'd do would be hire some of us as “extras”. This way after the filming ended – the partying would begin back at the hotel. If you ever saw a movie where you'd see some of these extras and wonder “who did she screw to get that part?” you're probably right.


This was when I first met Heidi. I remember walking in to drop off one of my charge slips and seeing this tiny, skinny, pale, plain sort of a gal sitting on that now infamous chair that would be by Alex's bed. I started to leave and Alex told me “no” it was “okay” and she introduced us. This is when she told me that Heidi had been studying under her so that she could help with the phones when things got busy – or even take over if she had to go into the hospital or something with her health being so touchy.


I remember going “ah that makes sense” because there was no way Heidi have been able to cut it as an escort with that ironing board figure. Again, realize this was before plastic surgery to do things like breast enhancement was as cheap and easy as it is today. There just wasn't much demand for flat-chested escorts back then with dark hair. So I could see that she was tutoring Heidi – but couldn't help but feel nervous that someone else knew what her and I were doing together that clearly was not working as a prostitute in the business.


This is why I told her I didn't want Heidi, nor anyone, to know about the business we were doing together. Especially after Alex came to me with a business proposition after a few months of doing hotel calls without any hitch. When I came to pick up my check one afternoon she told me to start asking the clients if they wanted to “sell” their credit cards. I ask her what she meant by that. Back then, if a card holder reported his card stolen it would take at least 24 hours to get that card blocked. The law also allowed them to not be responsible for charges they didn't make.


Meaning the scam worked like this. If the card had a $10,000 limit – Alex would pay them $1,000 for the card. She'd pay me $1,000 for bringing her the card. Then $10,000 would be charged on his card before he'd then report it stolen. By then, we'd have bought all kinds of stuff on the card with the $8000 left and be long gone. The signatures of course wouldn't match his and he'd walk off scott free having pocketed $1,000 cash “off the books” that no one knew he even had to play with. The clients would then use this for drug or gambling money.


She kept assuring me that since the card had to be reported stolen by the card holder, who would know what was going on and be in on the scam – that with the cards having insurance on them she assured me that “no one would be hurt”. I didn't understand how finance worked back then, and it was the same logic that my father had raised me with growing up – so I moved forward just focusing on the money and the excitement of the con. Not realizing that someone pays for this kind of thing in the end.


I'd get sometimes 10 cards together in a few days work – and then take them to Alex who'd peel off $1,000 for each $10,000 card to me and another $1,000 to the customer”. Then she told me she turned them over to “shoppers” who would go and buy high end electronics, jewelry, designer clothing, jeans, etc. - things easy to re-sell at swap meets, garage sales, for cash.


Always being hungry for more money and excitement as I was back then – I told her I wanted to try my hand at the “shopping” part of the job. She warned me it wasn't easy to go into a store with a man's credit card, without him there next to me, and convince the company to let me walk out of there with a $5,000 big screen TV that I didn't want delivered because I didn't want them to have an address where I lived. I assured her I knew exactly where to shop and how to dress for the job. I would then put on my spandex pants, Candie's heels, tease out my hair, and then put on a tube top. Of course making a point to lean over the counter in a calculated manner to practically have my boobs popping out as I signed the charge slip – trust me no one asked me why there was a man's name on the card..


This let me get a bigger cut too. Soon I had a house full of electronics ranging from the six foot big screen TV, to the beta video recorder, high fidelity stereo, CB and ham radios – even car stereos in each automobile. The closet was brimming with designer clothes, furs, as well as the jewelry box was over flowing also. Did the store owners care? Back then if someone signed the slip they got paid no matter what and the card company ate those charges. Pretty soon whole stores were even setting up just for us to process these types of charges. What that would mean is I'd sign for things like a big screen TV – and they'd hand me an empty box and some cash while they'd keep the TV to sell for cash and charge the bank for this transaction. That way they made double the money by working with us.


One night I had about 25 cards on me to take back to Alex for sale. I'd already stocked up on everything I wanted and had just decided to pocket straight cash for them. Like our routine, I called her from a payphone to say I had some “product” to sell. She told me to come on up – but this night she told me she'd just moved. When I asked why she told me she was “tired of not being able to get down the stairs” in the canyon house and had moved to a ground floor apartment. Made sense to me and with her not acting or sounding unusual in any way I headed off to sell her some cards.


When I knocked on the door however, her husband didn't answer like usual. Instead I suddenly had a 9mm gun pointed right between my eyes. When I looked up to see who was pointing the gun at me – I saw a man's eyes that looked like he was either raging on speed or he was naturally “high” on adrenaline because his pupils were severely dilated. His skin looked sweaty like again he was on some kind of speed, or a natural rush. Just like in the movies, he grabbed me by the throat with his other hand and shoved me right up into the wall with the gun never leaving contact right between my eyebrows. He told me he was a cop and I could tell he was so amped up that if I even blinked wrong at this guy he'd blow me away.


He told me that Alex had been arrested earlier that evening for pimping and that my call just “happened” to come in as they were carting her off so they decided to make it “two for one”. Supposedly the cops had told Alex to tell me to “come on down” with the cards so they could charge me for the credit card fraud in the process. Alex was in her nightgown and the next thing I know they're handcuffing us and walking us down into a plain car in the driveway. Asking why I was not in a black and white car – they said it was a plain because they “didn't want the neighbors to know what was going on”.


It was a cold windy night and I remembered Alex just had a thin nightgown on. Worried about her health I asked the cop if he'd please allow Alex to put my fur coat I was wearing around her to protect her from catching cold in that weather. Back then I didn't go anywhere without this black mink jacket I'd gotten very attached to. I liked it because I had a 22 gun concealed in an inside pocket that I had specially made for the coat. I say that because I really was worried about Alex catching cold but I was also worried about the gun being found on me.


Alex knew I carried this gun in a concealed pocket but she didn't let on about having it when the cop took it off me to put on her. We got put into the back seat and then taken to the Beverly Hills jail where we each got put into a cell. I'd already had a prearranged cover with the card holders about what to say if I was caught. That I was their girlfriend, that these were just gifts, and yes they had given me permission to go shopping on their cards.


Which is what saved my butt on the stolen credit card charges. The DA had to see if they had a case against me so they called each one of the card holders who held up their end of the bargain. No law against have 25 boyfriends letting me charge up their credit cards at the same time – so they let me go.


When I left – Alex was still sitting in the cell but she was wearing my fur coat. I thought that was strange – I mean what criminal is allowed to wear a fur coat back in the holding cell? Especially one that hadn't of been searched or they would have found the gun? This made no sense to me and when I realized she was a “snitch” that had set me up for this arrest.


I went home and waited a few days for the dust to settle before calling her to get my coat back and find out what was going on. Of course I demanded to know why she didn't warn me or give me some kind of sign that I was walking into a trap. She just insisted she was so caught off guard herself she didn't know how to. But as I pushed to know how they got into her house in the first place to make the arrest – none of her answers were making any sense to me. I got my coat and left her home swearing I wouldn't be back again. Whatever her reasons were – she had a street code obligation to me to have given me some kind of warning not to walk into that trap. Another reason how I knew she was a “snitch” for the cops.


Which is why I set about calling all of the women I knew back then and warned them “Alex was hot”. Including Heidi. Heidi didn't want to hear that Alex had set me up because she looked at her more like a mother figure than just a madam mentor. I had no idea if Heidi was in school, or worked at some kind of job, or if there was anything other than madaming that Heidi could do – but I did suggest to her maybe she should find an alternative before trusting Alex further after what I'd just gone through.


I later learned that Alex was an FBI informant in fact. Also that arresting informants at the same time the other “criminals” are being arrested is routinely done so that you don't realize this person was the “snitch” in the first place – the reason why they'd put them in a cell with you even was usually done to pump you for even more information they could use against you for the case. Knowing she was a snitch, but didn't rat me out for the gun in my coat, made me think that maybe she didn't have a choice when it came to me. I took into consideration how sick she was, that she had no health insurance, and that she was just doing what she had to do to get by. Maybe they told her she had to arrest someone and choose me because she knew I was at least able to not go into withdraw being put into a jail cell overnight like some of the other girls would, and could afford an attorney. Certainly I'd be able to beat the case as I did.


Did anyone believe my accusations that Alex was an “informant”? Nope. This arrest was in 1983. I wasn't arrested in my high-profiled arrest until 1984. I then didn't officially “retire” until January of 1985. Heidi Fleiss went on being mentored under Alex until her arrest in 1988. Then Heidi took over the business (or so she thought anyway) to go “independent” from Alex until the June 1993 arrest that splashed her all over the media as the “Hollywood Madam”. So no, no one believed my accusations that I had stopped all associations with Alex because I believed she was a “rat”. Alex was the person who had set Heidi up for that now famous 1993 arrest.


Do the math. That means that Alex was an informant for at least TEN YEARS before Heidi got arrested that no one believed me when I said she was a “informant” and “not to be trusted”. As for me, this was the last time I had anything to do with another madam. With madaming being a felony charge – it was just something too tempting for one to want to get out of their charges by throwing you to the wolves if they got arrested like had happened with me, with Heidi, and who knows how many other people Alex had thrown under the bus to save herself.

Now that Alex is gone - who has replaced her?  Think about this - she was an informant for TEN YEARS AT LEAST before the news hit the press with Heidi's arrest that Alex was responsible.  Don't tell me she wasn't replaced with someone else.  If we go by what story in the film "The Departed" with Jack Nickelson - Whitey was an informant for years also.  It sure explains how someone can do what they do for so long and not go to jail doesn't it?  It also explains why sometimes people who claim they're "your friend" in the industry aren't really your friend - but instead looking for information to sell. 

Which is why we don't mix "current" with "ex" sex workers in our meetings.  Also why we say "we don't care who you worked for, how much money you made, or what you did.  Only in what your problem is today and how we can help."  We make sure our meetings are a safe place - not that something you said is going to wind up on a warrant somewhere. 

End (copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved - J. Williams)





























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