Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Rabbi's Girls: On Call

At a bus stop in Miami during winter break of 1979, my sister and I – an aspiring singer and writer hailing from Queens, NY - decided to become high-ticket hookers.
We were on our way to Fort Lauderdale, where the college scene was legendary. Even in staid Miami, the cute English lifeguards at the Fontainbleu tried to pick us up poolside when we snuck onto the premises from the efficiency we were renting. Considering ourselves “fat” at the time, we marveled at the low standards men set for their sexual partners, realizing that most males will jump into bed with anything female.

With this observation newly minted, we talked about trading our bodies for cash, capitalizing on our unique marketing angle: our dad was a rabbi. There was great fetish appeal in that identity, we knew from personal experience. Being known in the sex trade as The Rabbi’s Girls would give us an edge other girls did not have. Our thighs might have been bigger than the average girl’s but so was our business potential.

A high school senior and college sophomore respectively, we fantasized about the rates we would charge, decided that the way to go was to be our own boss, thus eluding getting ripped off by pimps or madams. Naturally, we’d have to change our names. Though we were trading on being nice Jewish girls, our Hebrew monikers -- Shira and Adina -- had to go. Far more importantly, we had to go undercover lest our parents (or our friends’ parents or our yeshiva principal, God Forbid!) find out.

I dubbed myself Chantal, the French version of Shira, which means song. Adina decided to become Desiree. Somehow, sex trade pseudonyms invariably involve French. (Witness the transformation of Ashley Youmans to Ashley Alexandra Dupre. From runaway Jersey girl to continental call girl with the addition of a Gallic surname.)

The bus shortly came and we sat among senior citizens and domestic workers and day laborers further honing our plan. We set rates: $500 an hour. Special services at $150 a pop were also available. We decided that even if we had one john a week, by the time we graduated from college, we would be rich.

Furthermore, if we started our business upon returning to New York (sporting suntans, which were super-slimming), we’d have enough money together to think about renting a cool apartment in Manhattan, so we didn’t have to live with our parents in Forest Hills. Living in the city, Adina would be able to go to auditions all the time, get discovered and have a smashing career on Broadway. For me, an arts reporter for the Queens College newspaper, the N train would be history. I could be out in the city every night covering shows and films and writing fiction late into the night, inspired by the view outside my window, which overlooked the Hudson.

It was only a matter of time before a big newspaper discovered me, offering me a plum assignment, making all my dreams come true. A bestselling novel would naturally follow. And at that moment of mutual stardom, Adina and I would quietly slip out of the sex trade.

Alas, The Rabbi’s Girls Call Girl Service never saw the light of day, but it was a good idea. Probably a lucrative one as well. If Adina and I had followed our marketing instinct, there are many things we might have avoided in the intervening thirty years.

Among them, various jobs that we took in order to keep a roof over our heads, or our respective family’s head, keep our children clothed and properly fed, pay their tuition, finance our modest travel, support our husbands’ aspirations, give to charity. Had we become hookers, we might have avoided decades-long career detours – gigs that did not involve our unique skills or abilities, but paid the bills.

We might have had designer clothes, haircuts and vacations and shoes akin to the $2K Manolos that Ashley Youmans received as a gift from her pimp. We might have enjoyed the constant care of a manicurist as she has, judging from her My Space pictures.

The point is, realizing that sex sells is a momentary revelation, not a catalyst for a career. Many are those who recognize the cash value of their bodies but few are those who actually prostitute themselves out.

Now, in her mid-forties, Adina recently emerged as a singer, producing her debut CD last year. My own detour from freelance writing to the more lucrative field of public relations has accidentally led to a fulfilling consulting business. The articles, short stories, reviews and blog entries that I write are done by the light of the moon.

So the Rabbis Girls Call Girl Service evaporated into the conceptual stratosphere, but its story will be part of a cabaret show that my sister and I are writing about the weird, wacky and often wonderful experience of growing up as the daughters of a congregational rabbi in Queens, NY, in the 1960’s and 70’s. If there is one lesson we learned from our father it is that we are created in the image of God.

And God is not a ho.

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