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What does a client get for $1,000 an hour?

JOEL STEIN

March 14, 2008|JOEL STEIN

Unlike Eliot Spitzer, I've never been to a hooker. That's because, like everything else in my life, sex is all about my ego. If I were to pay someone, every time I got that I can't believe she was willing to do that rush, it would be ruined by Oh, right, that's because I paid her $1,000. Spitzer is clearly more self-assured than I am.

I'm not going to chastise him, though, because maybe I'll change my mind. And if I've learned one thing from this scandal, it's that people love attacking hypocrisy. So for the record, I also have no problem with speeding, music piracy, plagiarism or high treason.

So while "expert panels" of finger-waggers gathered on cable TV this week to discuss fidelity and risk-seeking, I was far more interested in what exactly a guy gets for $1,000 or more an hour from an outfit like Emperors' Club VIP, where Spitzer reportedly spent $80,000. To find out, I called a high-end escort in Las Vegas who charges $500 an hour -- but gives, according to her website, a discount to educators and political activists. The escort , it turns out, is a huge fan of Spitzer, particularly his prosecution of Wall Street crimes when he was New York's attorney general. "I liked him. And I don't like many politicians. I have nothing but respect for him," she said. "It's a shame politicians can't have sex like everyone else."

The roughly $1,000 an hour that Spitzer paid for time with "Kristen," she told me, was not, as I assumed, to guarantee secrecy. Given his experience busting prostitution rings, he should have known he'd be better off with an independent escort. "It's more dangerous to use a very upscale service. Because that's who they go after. Like Heidi Fleiss," she said.

And the exorbitant rate wasn't a premium for weird or talented sex.

Most of this escort's clients are Republican married men, 45 to 60, who want "vanilla sex" -- though after talking with her awhile, I realized she uses that phrase differently than 45- to 60-year-old Republican wives. She knows they're Republicans because she often talks politics with clients. If that's what men are paying $500 an hour for, they could probably save money and hire two Tucker Carlsons.

And the seven-diamond scale used to rate Emperors' Club women? That type of thing has become standard since the Internet completely changed the industry. Clients call themselves "hobbyists" and post "fictional" reviews on websites. "It's like Epinions for escorts," my source said. "They rate us from 1 to 10 on looks and performance, and write about the experience. I couldn't believe it at first. It's hard to make me blush -- and I blushed the entire time. Very, very intimate details. I really felt violated at first."

What Spitzer was really buying, she said, was status. I found this hard to believe, because it's not like he could walk into the statehouse and brag about how much cash he was dropping on hookers. But apparently the appeal of Emperors' Club VIP is that the company makes you feel very emperor-y.

"It's like a five-star hotel," she said. "If you call someone from the Yellow Pages, it's very businesslike. It's not a 'girlfriend experience.' "

Men, she explained, don't just want sex. They want a girlfriend experience. Or at least the part of the girlfriend experience in which she pretends to be fascinated while you talk about yourself. So more like a first-date experience.

But many clients, she told me, talk a lot about how much they love their wives. "A lot of these guys wouldn't have an affair. It's not as much like cheating. If I were a wife, I would definitely prefer my husband cheated with a professional than a civvy. There's no chance of her stealing him away, and the sex is safer."

The escort -- despite how nice, smart and honest she sounded -- didn't make me want to run out and go Spitzering for a night, but she did make me wonder if the psychology behind making use of her services was so weird.

In fact, I'm not sure why going to a brothel is illegal but visiting a spa is considered classy. Because, really, a spa is just all the parts of sex that women like: candles, soft music, scented oils, questions about how you feel. How can it be psychologically healthy in a marriage for either partner paying to be touched in pleasurable ways? As a husband, I know I can't compete with a $100-an-hour shiatsu guy with an iPod full of flute music.

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jstein@latimescolumnists.com

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