Celebrity

THE HAPPENING HOOKER

How a former tap-dancer from Montreal became Manhattan’s No. 1 prostitute

JONATHON GATEHOUSE August 1 2005
Celebrity

THE HAPPENING HOOKER

How a former tap-dancer from Montreal became Manhattan’s No. 1 prostitute

JONATHON GATEHOUSE August 1 2005

THE HAPPENING HOOKER

Celebrity

How a former tap-dancer from Montreal became Manhattan’s No. 1 prostitute

JONATHON GATEHOUSE

AS A STRUGGLING actress trying to make it in New York City, “Natalia” has the usual assortment of off-off-off Broadway roles on her resumé. She played Ceres—a four-line part—in The Tempest. She was Ingrid Superstar in an experimental play about Andy Warhol. One reviewer found her to be “comically sexy” as the neglectful wife in a Chekhov-style farce. Truth be told, until recently the highlight of her career might have been the time the former Canadian tap dancing champion shared the stage with Gregory Hines at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

In the age of runaway brides, reality television and Paris Hilton, celebrity comes in many guises, however. And Natalia has found sudden fame for a very different type of talent. The 25-year-old from Montreal’s Westmount neighbourhood is telling all about her stint as New York’s number 1 escort—a hooker who commanded up to US$2,000 an hour, and received 10-out-of-10 ratings from the politicos, captains of industry and pro athletes who used her services. “They were coming to me looking for a vacation, a little break from their lives,” she told Maclean’s. “I think I made them happy.”

In mid-July, Natalia (a nom de guerre) appeared on the cover of New York magazine, wearing nothing but a fur coat. The issue featured a lengthy article about her exploits and the rise and fall of Jason Itzler, the born hustler who used his considerable sales skills to make her the town’s reigning paid companion. Itzler, Natalia’s former boyfriend, is currendy in Rikers Island prison, awaiting trial on charges of money laundering and promoting prostitution. His escort agency, NYC Confidential-which at its peak grossed $25,000 a night—was busted in January. Natalia, who walked away from him and his business a couple of months before the end, escaped arrest. But she’s making the most of the notoriety. In the wake of the New York piece, she’s appeared on CNBC and CNN. She’s narrating a four-part documentary series, Inside NYC Confidential, that was

shot at the agency’s height, and will air this fall. She has a lead role in an independent film that will soon hit the festival circuit. And two big-name theatrical agents have expressed interest in taking her on as a client.

For the moment, Natalia is trying to save her family embarrassment by keeping her real name under wraps. But she says her mother, who’s still in Montreal, knows about her hooker past and is supportive, if not exactly thrilled. Her brother is less understanding, but is the exception in her immediate circle. “The people who know me are impressed and happy that I’m turning this

‘THEY were coming to me looking for a vacation, a little break from their lives. I think I made them happy.’

into something bigger and better,” she says.

Natalia first met Itzler, who was already running the agency, at the beginning of 2004, when he tried to recruit her. She had never considered hooking before, but was looking for a way out of an abusive relationship, and desperate for money. “I was raised in a good family, with good morals, but I was stuck in a bad position and had to find a way to take care of myself,” she says. NYC Confidential offered a relatively safe working environment and had a “high-class” clientele. And to her surprise, Natalia found that she enjoyed the job. “The guys were really nice, they treated me well. We’d talk a lot about their lives.” Drawing on her training as an actress, she immersed herself in the new role. “I was always there and present. I didn’t separate or detach myself.” The clients responded with the best reviews of her career. At one point, she had 17 straight 10/10, “once in a lifetime” ratings on a popular escort-ranking website. Itzler hyped her attributes relentlessly, driving her asking price from $800 to $1,200, and then to the top of the ladder. She was in almost constant demand. And oddly, the allure seemed to be based more on her personality than her looks. “She’s pretty,” says Mark Jacobson, who wrote the New York article, “but is she one of those girls who walks down the street and you say, ‘I’m going to jab a knife in my heart unless I sleep with her?’ No.” There’s something more subtle about Natalia, he says. “She has this ability to focus on you and make you feel really important. Maybe it’s her training as an actress, but she’s really good at it.”

Natalia proffers a more nationalistic explanation for her success. She was more human, “less uptight,” than her American counterparts—a natural competitive advantage she hopes to continue using now that she’s returned to her legitimate career. “I have no regrets,” she says. “I’m pretty happy with all the choices I made.” Maybe she’ll prove that famous New York song right. If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. ITU