When I worked for the mayflower madam she wasn’t the mayflower madam. It was an elite escort service, and it was run by Sheila and Linda. The mayflower madam was Sheila. I had to interview with both of them. I wore a white knit dress with a white wide belt that had a purple flower motif sewn in the middle near the belly. I wore purple Pierre Michel pumps. The interview was in the basement apartment of a townhouse apartment on the upper west side near Central Park. A studio apartment. I was so nervous. Was I pretty enough, was I too fat. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t like having sex with men for money. I didn’t mind getting paid, but I didn’t like being in a subservient role. Frankly, I wasn’t good at it. I was too young. I was about 21. I had just returned from California and my awful experience there. I had done some work for a madam name Alex who lived in Malibu who I learned later was an early competitor for Heidi Fleiss.
I met Alex when because of Sheila, the Mayflower Madam. I was 19 or 20, the years blur, and I needed more money. I needed more money because I was spending it all on partying every night. I had a good job. I was a secretary in the Fashion District and making decent money because when I wasn’t partying I was smart, fast, hardworking, cheerful, thrifty, ….. When she was good she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid.
Fran, a girl down the hall in another office, said, very matter of factly, “why don’t you work for an escort service, they make a lot of money.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I’d never heard of anything like that. Hookers stood on the comer, right? She said to buy the Village Voice, and look in the back. “Just call one of the phone numbers there and tell them you want to work for them”. So I did.
That is how I met Sheila. We met for coffee at a diner. Sheila told me I wasn’t what she was looking for. She suggested I go to a big department store and get ideas on how to wear my make-up. She suggested I don’t wear blue eye shadow. She suggested I lose a few pounds. I wanted to run and hide. Thank God all I ordered my fat self was coffee. Sheila was so waspy looking and polished. I looked like a flea. I told Sheila I was thinking of going to California with my friend in the next six months. She gave me Alex’s name and phone number.
The brownstone interview was better. I wasn’t as fat. I had a better day job. This time I wasn’t’ partying all night – as much. This time, I wanted money for me. I wanted to save up money to nice things for myself. This time was I wasn’t walking into a buzz saw. I knew who I was meeting and what she wanted. I couldn’t be that bad, or she would not have agreed to see me.
When I went into the studio basement apartment it was clean, carpeted, white, well-lit and nearly empty of furniture. Sheila and Linda talked with me about what they expected and what I should expect. How much money they would take from my fee. How to handle security in a hotel. There were many guidelines. So many that Sheila and Linda laid them out in a typed guide that was at least twenty pages long and stapled together.
For instance, if Sheila or Linda, depending on who was working the phone that night, had pre-authorized the client to pay by phone, the guide laid out how to make an imprint of the client’s credit card. We had credit card slips and we’d put the card in between and use a lipstick case to rub over the paper to get it to make an imprint.
Linda and Sheila said, most of all, always dress as though you were going to have lunch with your grandfather at ’21’. Everything was to be very upscale. “Now”, one of them said “comes the part that makes us just as uncomfortable as you. Please go in the bathroom and take off all your clothes and come back out so we can see if you have any scars, or marks.” It made sense. I was impressed with how well these ladies were running this. I felt safe. I felt like I could make some real money. I was excited. I was nervous. I was scared. I went in the bathroom, came out naked. Sheila and Linda looked at me and asked me to turn around in a circle. “Okay, thanks. You can put your clothes on. You look fine.” I was sincerely afraid they were going to tell me I was too fat.
And then the phone calls and jobs started. Oh the men. The men were quite nice. They all – all- had quirks. I guess that’s why they wanted an escort. Sheila (her working name – her real name is Sydney Biddle Barrows – hence “the Mayflower Madam” since the Biddles and the Barrows arrived on the Mayflower) or her associate would call me at home in Flushing when it was my night to be “on call”. “On call” meant that if a client called asking for someone of my description, I would be sent. Sheila/Linda would send a car service to pick me up and take me to the location. Always in Manhattan – a brownstone, The Helmsley Palace, The Hyatt, The Hilton….dressed the part, I was never stopped by security because I knew what floor I was going to. The men were complete gentlemen and I found it interesting that they were so grateful, gracious and gentle – but they had their quirks. The Frenchman who wanted his dick twisted round and round while semi-flaccid – twist it as much as I could into a knot. Whateveer floats your boat. The Englishman who carried alligator clamps in little vials with alcohol to keep them sterile, which he wanted me to clamp on to his nipples. The clamps had screws on them to twist the clamps tighter; during sex he wanted me to keep squeezing the clamp tighter and tighter. I found that too enjoyable and clamped until his nipples were blue – perhaps he later changed his mind about his fetish. The American with a penchant for giving oral sex and no interest in intercourse until I was raw. At one point I tried to get him to take a break and just have sex but he said “no, give me my toy – meaning my cooch.” The money was phenomenal. The visit was one hour but there was never, ever, ever kissing and only one session of intercourse was allowed no matter how fast you finished – if the client was done in the first ten minutes, well then we could have a glass of wine together or I could leave but essentially we were done. The men were all in the 50’s – 60s and all clearly established businessmen. They always tipped on top of the fee. The typical tip was $300. This was the 1981/1982? – this was great money for one hour! The worst part was if I got a second call the same night. I hated that part. And – this was the ‘80’s – so I used birth control but the men did not use condoms! And no – today, by the grace of God I do not have one single disease and have never had any STD’s whatsoever.
Unfortunately, I did NOT save any of this money. I spent it. I spent it on more partying. Go the club, dance, buy everyone in the bar rounds of shots. Happy, happy, happy. What a waste.