Hooker list revealed! 

The night the big story broke last March, I was home, cutting pictures of Linda Tripp out of the newspaper with plastic scissors and taping them up to frighten the roaches. I remember the moment the phone rang; it was one of the few times since I stopped placing personal ads that a call began with roaring laughter.

"They’ve busted a ring of hookers in Huntington Woods," said the voice, which belonged to a newspaper editor. "Do you want to confess?" she added, voice crackling with mirth. My blood ran cold. Despite numerous readers who are convinced I live in Ferndale, a mental asylum or David Duke’s basement, I actually do live in Huntington Woods, a sleepy set of older houses under the Detroit Zoo’s water tower.

Nearly everyone in the "Woods," as locals call it with a certain amount of pretension, seems to be everything I wish I were: well-to-do, mostly elderly Jewish professionals. The city is, alas, too small (6,400 souls) to have much political clout, especially since residents insist on writing in "Adlai Stevenson" for most offices.

Not, to be sure, newspaperdom’s image of iniquity; the average age in the Woods, even including my year-old godson, Nick Rhein, is something like 74.

Unfortunately, city-subsidized prostitution has long been HW’s best-kept secret, and easily the best reason to live in what calls itself "the city of homes."

Now all that seemed threatened. The next day, I was immensely relieved to open my paper and read that the police, in fact, had busted a hard-faced young redhead named Marci Devernay and two of the scariest-looking prostitutes I had ever seen.

They were not, I knew instantly, the real Huntington Woods Hookers, who work out of the city recreation center, use the names "Esther" or "Sadie," and bring you chicken soup, which you eat while they service you and nag you about visiting your mother. This service, available only to Woods homeowners, promotes civic virtue, is paid for by the city, and is hidden under sidewalk repair costs.

Madam Marci, however, didn’t work at all in what the wicked began shortening to the "City of Ho’s." She merely lived in a house on Lincoln; the playmates were dispatched from an office elsewhere to some of the finest strip motels in the metropolitan area. Nothing lasts forever, and some irritated wife evidently blew the whistle.

HW’s crack law enforcement team, mostly personally trained by Barney Fife, swung into action. After one officer received (and taxpayers paid for) several blow jobs, it was decided this might be a prostitution ring. Accordingly, Marci was shut down, this newspaper lost a few PS ads, and civic virtue was restored.

Earlier this month, she was let off with a fine.

Yet one little matter remained: her computerized client list. In ancient times, it was not customary for clients to give hookers their names (other than "John.") Jerry Springer, once mayor of Cincinnati, was laughed out of politics after he paid one with a check. Nowadays, however, everybody seems to give them résumés.

Anyway, though the Devernay download is said to have 20,000 names, the cops have so far released only 7,000 (available on CD!). Rumors ran wild. The Detroit Free Press, unwilling to pay to cover, say, state government in a responsible fashion, promptly sued to get the hooker list, and made noises about publishing it.

Was Geoffrey Fieger on it? Ken Starr? Ronna Romney? Since I routinely used the names "Big Bertha" or "B. Patterson" I was not much worried, personally.

But I was appalled that even these wretched papers would suggest they might publish the unauthenticated scribblings of a ring of whores. (Naturally, if the prosecutors who agreed Marci need not go to jail were on it, that would be something else.)

But, alas, Christine Keeler’s list it wasn’t. The biggest names visible were a few middle-level lawyers and second-class sports figures, all of whom said this was an evil hoax and they had never even met a prostitute, ever, not one time.

The most interesting thing is the occasional note by client names: "must be sold a fantasy!" which I took to mean the customers were Republicans.

What interested me far more was how the media managed — once again, folks! — to miss the real story: the amazing market for paid-for sex. Devernay quickly ran up a list of 20,000 customers willing to pay $200 or more a pop to, ah, pop. That’s in Detroit, not Los Angeles, and Marciland is only the tip of the local prostitution world; there are dozens of so-called escort agencies, doing millions of dollars in business. They are occasionally busted, and those white-collar johns arrested risk losing far more than the hookers.

Yet still they call, and still they come, even in the age of AIDS. Knowing this, the papers uttered a feeble bleat or two about the soul-destroying inhumanity of prostitution. Which is like Adam railing away at the persistence of reptiles in Eden.

Cash-and-carry sex is with us, bigtime. Always has been. We could regulate it, tax it, involve the health department, as do the civilized countries of Europe. Or we can continue to endanger the public in the same cynically puritanical way.

Gee, I can’t imagine which we’ll choose. Naturally, there is something to be said for keeping bought sex scary, dirty and dangerous. That way, it may be nearly as bad for your health as tobacco.

More by Jack Lessenberry

Best Things to Do In Detroit

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2017 Detroit Metro Times

Website powered by Foundation