The sleazy grey world of the call girl

High-priced prostitutes have been surrounded with false glamour by a recent wave of radio, television and newspaper publicity. Now SIDNEY KATZ explores

April 11 1959

The sleazy grey world of the call girl

High-priced prostitutes have been surrounded with false glamour by a recent wave of radio, television and newspaper publicity. Now SIDNEY KATZ explores

April 11 1959

The sleazy grey world of the call girl


High-priced prostitutes have been surrounded with false glamour by a recent wave of radio, television and newspaper publicity. Now SIDNEY KATZ explores

The “call girl,” a high-priced prostitute whose customers seek appointments with her by telephone, used to be a shadowy creature, seldom discussed openly. Lately the silence has been broken and she has been brought into public view. Radio and TV commentators have examined her “profession” before audiences of millions. Sociologists and psychiatrists have published detailed accounts of her motivation and attitudes. Congressional committeemen, editorial writers and police officials have commented on her activities and suggested ways of suppressing them.

Her current notoriety seems to refute a conviction police and most social scientists had long held, that prostitution was declining. It also confirms an observation by Dr. A. C. Kinsey in his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, that "the percentage of males in each social level frequenting prostitutes is almost the same as it was in former years.”

There is even evidence that the call girl has been hired by business concerns to help them sell goods to reluctant buyers. A recent continued on page 78

continued from page 15

“The call girl

looks on herself as the

aristocrat of her trade”

broadcast about this development in the U. S.. by Edward R. Murrow on the CBS network, startled radio listeners and made newspaper headlines. It also prompted the question: What is the situation in Canada?

While nobody knows exactly how many call girls are plying their trade in Canada. the number must be substantial. I had no difficulty in meeting a dozen of them in Toronto. Judging from their conversation, scores of others are active in

the same city. Montreal has an estimated five hundred call girls. They have increased since the police cracked down on brothels. A court official in Vancouver described the call-girl racket as “extensive and lucrative" with fifty full-time

practitioners and an indeterminate number of part-timers. In Edmonton, call girls can be hired without difficulty if one has contacts. Calgary has an estimated two dozen call girls, “about the same number as other places of comparable size,” says Police Chief Larry Partridge. In Winnipeg, police have arrested call girls living in the upper-crust River Heights residential section. Call girls are also operating in Halifax, but as in the case of all smaller communities, they exercise the greatest discretion.

The call girl looks on herself as the aristocrat of her trade and is insulted if you confuse her with the more common type of prostitute. “Walking the streets is about as low as you can get,” one of them told me. The average Toronto call girl charges a minimum of $20 and her fee may go as high as $200. Her annual income is $10,000 or more. She usually lives in a modern apartment. Her clothes are stylish but not too stylish: she uses jewelry and perfume sparingly; she drinks like a lady in public, and she converses in a controlled voice. She strives to be the kind of woman who would attract admiration but not undue attention.

This I learned when I was gathering material for this article about the call girl, her mode of living, and how she came to adopt it, her personality, her customers, her moods, her fears and her attitudes toward men, sex and society. To get this information, I have spent a good deal of the last few weeks in the company of call girls or “business girls," as they refer to themselves. I got to know six of them well. They spoke frankly about themselves, once they were satisfied that I had no affiliation with the police.

The six girls were: Dorothy, twentytwo, pretty and demure looking, with brown hair and grey eyes, who was saving $150 a week to open up a children's clothing store in California some day.

Liz, twenty-three, with golden hair and a peaches-and-cream complexion which required no make-up. Her cultivated speech reflected her private-school education. She complained about unreasonable customers who wanted her to be romantic “when, after all, it’s not my feelings they're paying for.”

Norah, twenty-six, a platinum blonde with a pixie-like face, who sobbed as she reminisced how her late father used to play games with her and take her on picnics.

Betty, twenty-five, a voluptuous girl with long black hair and warm brown eyes, who was embittered by the cruelty of two husbands and two lovers. “The way I feel now I want to hurt men,” she confided.

Kathy, thirty-three, a statuesque blonde who was comfortably supporting her two children and was sorry she hadn't become a “business girl” earlier in her life.

Jane, twenty-five, with dark-brown hair and finely chiseled features, who had once worked for a doctor and now wanted to get out of the business. "When you stay in too long your face gets hard, you put on weight and you begin to drink to forget the loneliness,” she told me.

The call girl of fable and myth is a sexy, alluring goddess who leads an enchanted life full of excitement and glamour. She dines at the finest restaurants, dances at the best night clubs and is frequently whisked away by wealthy escorts for gay weekends in luxurious hotels. She is showered with expensive furs, jewelry, perfumes, and — if she makes herself appealing enough — white convertibles. Money is no problem, so the fiction goes, because her fabulous earnings make it possible to amass a bank account well into five or even six figures.

My own research revealed that the real situation is much less attractive. I discovered that the call girl lives in an oppressive atmosphere compounded of fear, worry, shame, personal conflict and a deep foreboding about the future. I met no happy call girls.

Fear is the constant companion of the call girl because she is always in danger of arrest. “You’re always afraid,” Betty told me. “My doctor said he never knew anyone so young who was so nervous.” They’re worried by fear of exposure. “If I'm caught, the shock would kill my mother and they'd take away my children,” Kathy said. Call girls arc lonely because their trade isolates them from normal society. They’re forced to live in the “grey world”—a society made up of individuals u'ho are halfway between being law-abiding citizens and outright criminals. These include bootleggers, pimps, gamblers and promoters of phony stocks—people who find it difficult to form permanent or satisfactory personal attachments. Because of loneliness, Liz had once had an alliance with a young man who belonged to this circle. “He said he loved me but in a month he was taking all my money,” she said. “When I got sick and couldn't work, he split my lip and blackened my eye." Most of the girls had had similar experiences.

I found that many of the girls were racked by painful emotional conflicts. Ironically, the majority of girls confessed that they had no predilection for sexual relations under any circumstances. Norah told me. “It’s never important to me. Who needs sex anyway?” Liz explained that sex is something she could never enjoy. “Why are men willing to pay for it?” she asked with a puzzled look. Betty said flatly, “All men repel me.”

Sex role is confused

Psychoanalysts explain this aversion by stating that nearly all prostitutes are frigid. The normal woman, brought up in a loving home, learns what it's like to be a woman and a wife by observing her parents. Later she is able to form a durable relationship with one man. Prostitutes, on the other hand, have usually been rejected in childhood by one or both parents. Their emotional development has been frozen and they grow up confused about their sex role. They often have homosexual tendencies. To deny them, they may rush headlong into intimacies with numerous men.

But perhaps the call girl experiences her gloomiest moments when she contemplates the future. The worst time is late at night when she returns to her empty apartment. Jane told me, “I lie in bed thinking, ‘Where is this all going to end?' I know what’s happened to a lot of the other girls when they’ve lost their looks. Business falls off and they get scared. They take to booze or drugs. Pretty soon they have to hustle on the Mreet to grab enough money to pay for the stuff. When I get thinking this way, 1 phone the bootlegger for a bottle of rye and sit up drinking it until it gets light out. The more I drink, the more I get scared. It hits me like a ton of bricks that I'm in a rut and that I'm not getting anywhere and that I’ve got to get out of the business—but how? I can't get a job paying big money and besides too many people know me. I've thought of suicide. Then I ask myself. ‘What if I botch it?’ They’ll take my daughter away from me and put me in a jail or a nut house for a long stretch." A New York psychiatrist, who studied several dozen call girls reported that attempted suicide was not uncommon.

But the call girl's daily routine seldom

leaves time for such gloomy introversion. Her day usually starts at two or three in the afternoon when she’s awakened by the ringing of the telephone. The telephone is her most indispensable possession, since it is her sole contact with her customers. When she receives a phone call, the call girl makes sure it’s from an old friend or from somebody who has been recommended by an old friend. “Sometimes the police get hold of our number and try to trap us.” Jane explained. After tidying up her apartment, going shopping and visiting the beauty

parlor, she is ready for her first appointment at six or seven o’clock. By the end of the working day—which may be at two or three in the morning—the call girl may have visited a dozen customers. Many of the girls limit the number of their engagements. “My limit is four customers a day," says Liz. “I don't want to knock myself out.”

Betty told me that she only works four nights a week “because I'm lazy."

The most frequent assignment is to call on an out-of-town businessman in his hotel room. The call girl may stay with

him anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, for which she charges $20. If she stays several hours, the fee is $50; an allnight session may run as high as $200. The girls prefer several short visits. “I like to get the sex part over with as quickly as possible," says Liz. Norah is impatient with men who get romantic and start calling her darling. How stupid can these men get?”

Not all the engagements take place in hotel rooms. Every call girl has five or six “regulars" who come to see her in her own apartment. More male callers might

attract undue attention. Kathy occasionally accompanies a well-to-do businessman to his home in north Toronto when his wife is away. About one night a month she visits a bank manager in his downtown office. “I’m always afraid the police are going to see shadows through the blind and start shooting.” she says. At times, Kathy accompanies businessmen on out-of-town trips. “We register at the hotel as man and wife,” she says. “I'll only take a job like that if the fellow’s good company.”

Some customers seek the call girl’s

company rather than her sex. I spoke to Liz just after she had spent the evening dining and drinking with a fifty-year-old merchant. Besides a $75 fee. he gave her a gold cigarette lighter, explaining, “You remind me of a girl 1 used to be in love with.”

Sometimes the call girl is employed to promote commercial interests. A sales manager has engaged Jane three or four times to entertain the presidents of small firms. Dorothy’s best customers include garment and fur establishments. “I get paid for going out with important out-of-

town buyers and putting them in a good mood,” she says.

Like other enterprises, the call-girl business is subject to seasonal fluctuations. Summer is good because many wives are away at the cottage; trade is brisk for two or three weeks before Christmas because, as Betty explains, “it’s a friendly time of the year and people are in a drinking and spending mood.” A recession sets in at Christmas and lasts until the end of January, probably because most people are both broke and tired. With the beginning of the conven-

tion season in February, the call girl’s economic prospects brighten.

The girls like conventions held by service-club organizations but have mixed feelings about sales conventions. “You bump into too many salesmen who are used to haggling over price,” says Betty. The call girls are lukewarm about doctors, teachers and undertakers and are completely unenthusiastic about any convention having to do with agriculture. “Farmers are tightfisted,” says Jane. “Their idea of big spending is to buy a bottle and tell you that you can have all you want to drink. I don’t go near them.” A Grey Cup weekend in Toronto is by far the most lucrative time, with some of the girls making $300 or $400 a day.

Who are the men whose $20 and $50 fees keep the call girl in business? About half of them, or more, are out-of-town visitors — highly regarded citizens in their own community who occasionally like to shuck their respectability. Nearly all the men are married and most of them are over forty. A small proportion of the clientele are young, single men in their twenties, a class of clientele the call girl usually doesn’t encourage. “They’re too rough.” says Betty, “and anyway, I’m suspicious of them. Why should a guy that age have to pay?” She also wonders why some of her customers are wellknown figures in entertainment. “You’d think they'd meet enough pretty girls in their own line.”

According to the call girls, most married men come to them in search of variety or because their wives reject them. One of Jane's regular customers is a handsome chap of thirty-six with a pretty wife and two children. “His wife is so afraid of what another pregnancy might do to her figure that she doesn't encourage any friendliness,” says Jane. Another man has a wife who bosses him around like an army sergeant. “He tells me he feels masterful when he’s with me.”

Lonely, unhappily married men who become regular customers sometimes are a threat to the call girl. “You have to show an interest in them — that’s good business,” says Jane. “But not too much interest. Before you know it, they're telling you that they love you and want to marry you and you can't get rid of them." When this happens, Jane has one of her boy friends phone the customer and say that he is Jane’s husband and that if he doesn’t keep away from her he’ll knock his block off. “It always works,” she says.

Overly attentive customers, however, are only a minor worry to the call girl. Of much deeper concern to her is the question of her health. I found that most of the girls, haunted by fear of disease or pregnancy, visit a doctor at leist once a month. "Where would the money come from if an accident or a germ put me out of commission for several months?" Kathy asked me. At the time 1 spoke to her, Jane was seriously concerned about her weight and complexion. “This business is bad for you,” she explained. “You put on pounds because you're always sitting around and you don't get any exercise. Your complexion is ruined by too little fresh air and too much drinking.”

All the girls I spoke to had had abortions. Kathy told me. “Most of the girls get caught once or tv/ice a year: I myself have' been pregnant seven times. At first it was through ignorance, later through laziness.” The abortions, usually performed by a renegade doctor or a former nurse, are expensive and unpleasant.

The call girl’s life, outside her working hours, does little to bolster health, either physically or mentally. When she’s finish-

eel work at one or two in the morning, she meets other "business girls" for coffee at one of the better restaurants. They sit around discussing the events of the night, using the jargon of their trade. A "square John" is a man who does honest work for a living; a “rounder" is one w'ho doesn't. A customer is a “John," a "trick,” a “mark” or a “job." A boy friend or pimp is an “old man,” while a girl who is bestowing her favors, gratis, on a male other than her old man is a "chippy” w'ho is “chippying around.” This is frowned on by the girls, whose relation to the world around them is governed by a rigid code. The call girl, for example, will never recognize a customer unless he makes the first overture. She never identifies a customer by name. She never steals from a John nor does she let him overpay her just because he’s too drunk to know the difference. Call girls are not supposed to steal Johns from each other. If one girl sends a John to another girl because she’s busy, it is expected that the favor will be returned.

After coffee and shop talk some of the girls are tired enough to go home and go to bed. Others are too wrought up and edgy. One night Betty was disturbed because a customer told her that she was too fat. Norah was agitated because a customer called her a tramp when she demanded her money. “I kept quiet because I won't open my mouth to anybody,” she explained to me. "But deep inside I’m hurt—very hurt.” The girls who are too restless to go home often drop in on a bootlegger and spend the rest of the night drinking and talking. Sometimes when Jane desperately feels the need for company after cofiee she invites one of the musicians who frequent the restaurant to come back to her apartment for a drink.

Some become slaves

An obvious solution to the call girl’s deep-rooted hunger for the affection and companionship of another human being would be for her to form an alliance with a man. It is here that the call girl faces a dilemma. Because she is outside the pale, she must find her mate among the denizens of the grey world. But she knows from her own experience, and that of others like her. that such attachments end unhappily with the female being callously exploited by the male.

Like most of the other girls. Betty once had a boy friend. Their relationship followed the familiar pattern. When she met him he w'as driving a cab for sixty dollars a week, augmented his income by bootlegging. He professed to love her and urged her to give up the business and move in with him. “I was crazy for the guy so I did just that," said Betty.

A few weeks later, he suddenly announced. “We can’t go on living this way; we need more money. I think you better go back into the business.”

Betty refused. “I told him that a fellow who loves a girl doesn't want her in bed with anybody else.” During the next week they had heated arguments and one of them ended with Betty receiving a severe beating. "I packed and walked out on him,” she says. “1 hat s the second time this happened to me. I don't want any more boy friends. I don't intend to get hurt again."

If the girl follows her boy friend’s advice. she finds herself working harder and harder for him, until ultimately, she is his complete slave. "One of my friends,” says Betty, “was so in love with her old man that she worked for him seven days a week. He'd send her out to work every day with exactly three dollars

and six cigarettes in her purse. When she came home, he would take away all her money. If she complained, he would give her a fat lip." Sometimes a pimp will acquire a second girl and divide his time between them.

Why do prostitutes submit to this treatment? One popular explanation is that the pimp wields his power because he is a highly accomplished lover who has succeeded where other men have failed. This is not so. At any rate, since the average prostitute possesses a very modest sexual appetite, it wouldn’t be an impor-

tant factor. The girls themselves have various explanations for this master-slave relationship. "There’s an old saying." says Liz. “that a girl keeps a pimp because she likes to wake up in the morning and sec somebody lower than herself." Norah told me, "They (call girls) are so darned lonely they'll do anything to hang on to somebody." A more scientific explanation is that the prostitute is so convinced of her own worthlessness that she feels herself worthy only of punishment. Added to that is the belief that the only way she can command the affection or atten-

tion of another human being is by paying for it. cash on the line.

Looking at the life histories of the six call girls whom I got to know well, there can be little doubt that the lack of self-esteem or self-love they suffered resulted from an unsatisfactory childhood. With some notable exceptions their lives seem to have been cast in an identical mold. Most of them had been brought up in small towns or on farms. They were in conflict with their fathers, their mothers, or both. They were rebellious and promiscuous by the time

they reached adolescence. Unable to get along at home or with any of the social groups in the community, they fled to the city. They gravitated to night clubs, bars and lounges. Being pretty and promiscuous, they were popular with men. Sooner or later, each met a call girl who posed the provocative question, “Why give it away, honey?” Once started in business, she at last felt that she was part of a group where she fitted in comfortably.

I.iz, for example, was brought up on a farm in Southern Ontario. She con-

stantly fought with her stepfather. “He was too strict with me and l refused to put up with it,” she sttys. At seventeen she ran away to a city. In one of the night spots she met a man who claimed to be deeply in love with her. After having an affair with her, he persuaded her to become a prostitute.

Jane’s childhood was spent on a farm in eastern Ontario. When she was twelve, she was shocked to learn that the man who had been living with her mother since her birth was not her real father. To make matters even worse in her mind,

the couple were not married. She was constantly quarreling with her mother. “I still hate her,” she told me. At fourteen, she became pregnant. At seventeen she married a young man from Toronto in order to move away from her mother. The marriage didn't last. At a hotel bar she became friendly with a call girl who was soon supplying her with customers.

it was not until a year or so later that Jane realized the momentous step she had taken. “I began to worry about w'hat I was doing to myself.” she said. “Most girls in the business have a guilty

conscience and, deep down, they're ashamed of what they're doing.” I asked several other call girls if they felt this way. Of all the questions I had asked, this, apparently, was the most difficult for them to answer. Some refused to reply or quickly changed the subject. Others rationalized their conduct by saying that they were no worse than anybody else. Kathy claimed that she feels less guilt now than she did when she worked as a hotel waitress and was “giving it away.” She said: “You'd meet the same fellows the next day and they'd try to avoid you. I would feel lower than a worm. This way, it’s a straight, honest business arrangement. The men are usually nice to you every time you see them.” Yet she also told me that she broke out in a cold sweat whenever she considered the possibility of her parents or child discovering her real occupation.

Norah argued that “there are all kinds of ‘respectable’ married women who arc worse than I am. As soon as their husbands go away on a business trip they're out chippying with a boy friend. They're phonies—and I don’t like phonies. I’m not ashamed of doing business but I would be ashamed of chippying.” Later in the evening she sobbed when she considered what her dead father might think of how she earned her livelihood. “I still think about him a lot. I once went out with a doctor and he told me I had a father complex.”

Regardless of their inner feelings about being in the business, all the girls expressed some concern about their future. Many of them spoke bravely about going into “something legit, perhaps next year." Liz said she planned to be a psychologist. (She didn't have the college entrance requirements nor was she working toward them.) Dorothy planned to open a children’s clothing store. (She's had no experience in handling money, keeping books or in retailing.) Kathy hoped to buy a large house and rent out apartments and rooms. (She had no part of a down payment.) As a matter of fact, Dorothy was the only girl in the group I got to know well who had a respectable bank balance. The rest of the girls spent their money almost as fast as they earned it.

The more realistic course of switching to a job that didn't require years of preparation or a large amount of capital held little attraction for the girls. Norah asked, ‘'When you have a $150-a-month apartment. four rooms full of furniture and a nice standard of living, what are you supposed to do — start selling stockings for $35 a week?”

The economic obstacle is not the only one. Jane says that she would enjoy going back to her former job in a doctor's office. "But what if the doctor suddenly discovers about my past? Or what if some of his patients recognized me?” she asks. “I know too many people.”

The chances of marrying a Square John (i.e. a respectable man) were regarded as remote. Liz said. “He'd have to be a very broad-minded man because I’d insist on telling him the truth. But how would that work out? The first argument we have and he'd be throwing up my past in my face.” Norah felt that such a marriage would have other hazards as well. “A fellow like that would always be trying to improve you,” she says. ‘‘Even if he's doing it for my own good, I don't want anyone telling me what to do.”

Dorothy was the only girl who foresawthe possibility of a conventional ending to her life. ‘‘A miracle might happen." she said. “I might meet an honest man. A man who would trust me and whom I could trust. He doesn't have to be a rich man. He doesn't have to be a handsome man. Just an honest man.” ★