Hookers and Dealers
We mentioned some parts of the underground economy in Las Vegas in our last blog. Other parts of the underground Las Vegas economy employed people who received no formal paychecks. Prostitution is banned in only two counties in Nevada; Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno). There is not stature in any of the other Nevada counties that addresses prostitution. Hence, the image is that its legal when in fact, it is winked at. Because of the clandestine nature of the business and payment, one would think there are no rules, but in point of fact, there are rules that are followed to the letter or “working girls” will find their business dry up.
Not all prostitutes are created equal. The lowest rung on the ladder is occupied by streetwalkers. They often have pimps but occasionally are freelancers who come to town during large conventions or occasionally might be housewives who have gambled the rent money and need a quick financial fix.
The next step up are the working girls who do not have pimps per se, but whose contact information is in the possession of valets, maitre d’s bellmen, taxi drivers, bartenders, etc. Since those professions are most likely to come in contact with men looking “for a little company” a quick call to an available working girl will do the trick, as it were. The working girl transacts the business and collects the fee, then kicks back 40% to the person who arranged the date.
The highest paid and top level of hooker is referred to as a call girl or escort. They work on referral only and their contact information is given only to the hotel employees who come in contact with high rollers. The “commission” however, is still the standard 40%.
With no pun intended, plenty of people look to get a piece of the prostitute, especially the top level girls. The higher the price for the services, the better the merchandise must be. Clothing and jewelry for the escort or call girl must be expensive and top-of-the line. Ditto makeup and hairstyle. Since the stakes are so high and so much money changes hands, there must be as little evidence as possible of her existence. That means an apartment rented, usually under an assumed name, and paid for in cash. No car or traceable property ownership so she must travel by taxi or hotel limo. Everybody in the business knows who the doctors are who will provide prescriptions and cosmetic surgery as needed, all transactions done in cash of course. It is a fascinating underground culture.
During my tenure as a taxi driver I met many working girls and call girls. Nearly everyone had the same goal – make a big score, save a bunch of money, then return to Hoboken or Poughkeepsie or Peoria or from whence they came, and live the rest of their lives as a respectable housewife or professional woman. In nearly every instance, however, they never seemed to achieve their goal. They would either succumb to the fast life or the drugs, or the good times. I only saw one example of a person that was able to stay true to her plans. She had a Master’s degree from Columbia in English Literature and wrote poetry. I first picked her up on a radio call when she was headed for a client. We talked on the way to the hotel and I told her I was a schoolteacher and Psychology major who also wrote poetry. Thereafter whenever she called the taxi company she requested my number (these are called “personal calls” and are common in the taxi business).
We exchanged poetry and edited one another’s writings. She was very focused on her goal and had a designated amount of time to fulfill her plans as well as a financial goal. She saved her money and kept the cash in a safety deposit box of a private security company. Once she met the threshold she desired, she disappeared and presumably returned home to complete her career in higher education. I never heard from her after she left and I did not know her real name or where she lived before and after her time in Vegas.
I only had one event with the vice cops. They got into my cab and asked if I could set them up with a hooker. I asked them if they had ever been to Vegas before and they said no. I knew exactly who they were so I said, "Sure!" and they said "Let's go." I turned onto Sahara and after a few minutes one of them said, "Where are we going?" I said, "To Pahrump - a place called the Chicken Ranch. Prostitution is legal there." Oh were they pissed. They made me stop and got out of the cab on the spot. Apparently an unmarked car was following us and they got into it. But I made them pay the fare first - no tip and I had to give them a receipt.