Friday, November 9, 2007

A Classical Ken Doll

Kevin Whitcomb saw the bright red message light flashing on his answering machine as he entered his apartment on West 99th Street. Dropping his gym bag on the floor, he walked across the room, reached down to the machine, and pressed the button marked "Play." As he wriggled out of his dark brown bomber jacket, the blond-haired, blue-eyed young man listened to the machine’s beeping sounds, which were followed by an oddly mechanical voice.

"Hello. You have one message."

There was a short whirring noise as the machine rewound its message tape and then played another set of beeps. After several seconds, the familiar voice of Eddie Katzman filled the room.

"So, hello, gorgeous. Have I got a job for you! It’s the simply fabulous Mrs. Fitzwater in Apartment 23-F -- as in "Fuck me, fuck me Daddy" -- of Lincoln Luxury Towers. The old cow has tickets to Saturday night’s performance of Das Rheingold and she’s been sitting home all alone -- chewing her cud while smothered in diamonds and mink -- and just hoping and praying that that sweet little thing named Lance the Dyke will accompany her to the Metropolitan Opera."

Kevin had to laugh. Eddie couldn’t clean up his act if he tried.

"Here’s the dirt, pumpkin. You’re supposed to knock on Lally’s door at 7:15 Saturday night looking like a virgin from Bumfuck, Iowa who knows everything about opera and just can’t get enough Wagner. You don’t have to screw the old windbag, but you do have to wear a tux. And, just once in your life, try to pretend that you’re a class act. Think you can pull it off? Oh, I just know you can, you big, throbbing hunk of man meat! Now, here’s what you have to do. As soon as you get home, I want you to haul that old penguin suit I bought you out of the closet, make sure it’s free of any wrinkles or cum stains, and then call me. Speak to you later, stud. Ciao!"

Kevin pushed another button and, as he kicked off his shoes, heard the machine announce "That was your last message. I will save your messages."

So Saturday night was Lally Fitzwater’s subscription series at the Met!

Grabbing a soda from the fridge, Kevin walked into the bedroom to hang up his jacket, chuckling quietly to himself as he opened the door to his walk-in closet. Neatly suspended on wooden hangers were all sorts of costumes: sailor suits in blue and white, his black leather chaps, a policeman's costume, some blue surgical scrubs and, of course, the tuxedo Eddie had given him two years ago. On the back wall of the closet hung a bright yellow construction helmet, a top hat, a black leather motorcycle cap, and a gas mask (everything a 25-year-old, All-American Rent-A-Ken Doll would ever need to make people happy).

Kevin was always amused by the fact that, in the midst of pursuing his graduate degree at Columbia, he was supporting himself by something as unscholarly as being a high-class whore. Back in his undergraduate days his roommate, Eddie Katzman, had lured him into working for an escort service in order to acquire some extra spending money. At first, Kevin had been a bit uncomfortable about visiting complete strangers in their apartments to sell sexual favors. But, as he soon learned, more often than not his clients were very lonely people who just wanted someone to smile at them and add a little light to their lives.

Sometimes the work got a bit weird -- like the time an extremely masochistic client asked Kevin to dress up as a locomotive engineer, wrap some piano wire around the man’s testicles and then hook him up to the transformer on the antique set of model trains which filled half the living room. But on most occasions Kevin’s house calls boiled down to fairly routine stuff. He’d let the client explain his fantasy, allow the man to feel him up, talk dirty for twenty minutes and then shoot his wad wherever the customer wanted it. After shamelessly flattering the client and complimenting him on his sexual prowess, Kevin would then take the money and run.

His early days as a call boy had been great fun. But in the past few years, Kevin’s clientele had changed dramatically. The AIDS epidemic had forced many gay men to cut back on their kinkiness and, with his unerring business skills, Eddie Katzman had wormed his way into a new and extremely lucrative market: lonely, rich widows who needed someone to take them to the theatre, the opera, a fundraiser or some other event.

Eddie and Kevin made quite a team. Eddie knew how to charm the pants off the old women over the phone while Kevin’s basic Midwestern boy-next-door looks (combined with his solid background in classical music) made him the perfect candidate for the agency’s Lincoln Center beat. Old dowagers loved gossiping over the phone with Eddie and treated Kevin like their long lost son. It was a great setup which, for a grad student who was on a limited income, allowed Kevin to be paid for the outrageous privilege of attending all kinds of performances he could never afford to purchase tickets to on his own!

When push came to shove, the dashing young Mr. Whitcomb had to admit that the widows he escorted around town were much easier to please than some of the men who requested his services. Although the old women never stopped fishing for compliments, at least they didn’t get shit-faced, abusive, or insist on having sex. In fact, with many of his elderly clients, a cup of coffee after the performance, some decent conversation, and a simple good night kiss from a handsome, clean-cut young man was enough to keep them floating on air for a month.

The setup was flawless. Because most gay men didn’t want to go out dancing until after midnight, on weekends Kevin could take a client to a performance, kiss the old biddy goodnight and then, if he felt restless, still have plenty of time to hit the bars and drag someone home for the remainder of the evening.

This Saturday would be no different, especially with the curtain coming down before 11:00 p.m.

"We aim to please," Eddie had always told their clients.

And so, if Lally Fitzwater (who knew Whitcomb by his professional name: Lance van Dyke) wanted to take the young man to an all-star performance of Das Rheingold, that was just peachy keen with Kevin. After all, who was he to turn down the chance to enjoy an evening’s worth of good music, good conversation, and box seats at the Metropolitan Opera House while earning a quick and easy hundred bucks?

Shit. Hustling was far less exhausting than waiting tables and -- as Eddie never failed to remind him -- the pay was better than anything Kevin could ever hope to get working at McDonald’s. Being an escort was infinitely more fun than cleaning apartments!




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