Small world after all

Nothing could have prepared me for this.

Topics: San Francisco, Sex Work,

Saturday, November 6

Barry Horowitz, installed in the room next to ours, says the
real purpose of his trip to San Francisco was to meet Anabel. “Aside from
being trashy enough to attract my interest, Anabel’s a victim of
injustice,” he told me. “A scapegoat.”

Over breakfast, Barry scolded Jasmine for deriding his growing interest in
Anabel-the-cause: “You’ve never had a social conscience. In your
quasi-jungle, it’s every girl for herself. But,” he turned to me,
“Nancy has do-gooder potential. A lingerie liberal at heart. So,
what made you decide to save the world? And what does your darling
boyfriend think of all this?”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “Matt thinks I’m on a family visit –
the only way he can reach me is on the cell phone.”

“It wasn’t Nancy’s idea to come out here,” Jasmine chimed in.
“Roxana’s such an incompetent fool, she allowed Allison to invite
April to the conference! No offense, Nancy, but it’s a sad day when
someone like you has to rescue Roxana from her own mistakes.”
Looking at Barry, she added, “Nancy’s idea of a worthy
cause is a Gucci sale. A Bay Area girl she’s not.”

She may be right — I am a fish out of water here. At last
night’s get-together, I discovered that the green-haired girl with
a face full of metal is a peep-show dancer at a place called the
Lusty Lady — and a Ph.D. candidate at Berkeley. When Cozy Von Booty
(as she calls herself) introduced me to her “community of women” –
five like-minded, scantily attired peep-show dancers wearing
buttons that said “No Justice, No Piece” — I had the urge to flee.
Being at this conference is like being trapped in the East Village
without a cab in sight.

Barry was impressed by the problems April has managed to create for
Allison, Roxana and the elusive Anabel. “Fools can be so
ingenious!” he remarked. “Tell me more about Lucia, our lady of
the truck stops! Is she good-looking?”



“In a … zaftig way,” I said, recalling my brief meeting with
the buxom, driven Lucia. “She appears on all the Brazilian talk
shows, and she agreed to help April by writing a poignant political
introduction to her sleazy ‘memoir.’ April’s got a book
deal and the idea is that April provides the story while Lucia
gives her political credibility. Lucia gets money from the
World Health Organization to run a drop-in center for streetwalkers
in Rio — they give out condoms and free food. But she loves the
limelight.”

Jasmine shoved a laser-printed flyer in our direction. Color
head shots of April and Lucia were featured side by side — and
their lurid sob stories neatly summarized to make room for a
cell phone number in large type. “Rights Alert! Producers,
directors, agents and talent scouts — a real-life story you won’t
want to miss.” A Web-site address followed.

“This is great stuff!” Barry cackled. “Did I predict that April
would out-bimbo Anthea Walgreen?” he reminded me. “I’ll bet Anthea
has no idea what her greedy little client is doing. This makes
Anabel look like Mother Theresa — but where did she disappear to?”

“Roxana finally tracked her down. Anabel’s afraid of the scene here
– turns out, she didn’t really want to be the keynote speaker. And
she’s terrified of April. Roxy spoke to her late last night,”
I told Barry, “and I’ll be meeting her later. So you might get
your day on Court TV, after all. Or even Larry King.”

“Larry King,” he nodded with approval. “You see, the hooker’s cause
needs legitimacy. A delicate blend of the sensational and the
serious. That’s what April and Lucia have going for them.”

At this moment, Allison and Roxana sailed by — Roxy in her red TV
wig, Allison with freshly blown locks streaming down her shoulders.
“Room 603 at 4 p.m.,” Roxana told me, giving Barry a suspicious
glance. “It’s a closed session. I have a TV interview at noon,
then I have to pick up Anabel.”

“Wait,” I said, “This is Barry Horowitz. He flew out here to help
Anabel.”

Roxana and Allison stopped and gave Barry a second look. “Didn’t you
represent …” Roxana narrowed her eyes. “The A-Train Bomber?”

“My client was accused,” he corrected her. “And no train was ever
blown up, as you might recall. He wasn’t convicted.”

“We don’t have any funds,” Roxana told him. “Anabel’s close to
broke.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Barry said. “Anabel’s case can make a
difference, if it’s handled right. In the long run,” he added,
steepling his fingers, “a change in prostitution laws depends on
changing public opinion — and neutralizing feminist lawyers like
Anthea Walgreen who support the current prohibitions. There’s no
reason for your profession to be illegal. I’ve always felt that
way. It distresses me very much to see Anabel — or anyone — being
persecuted in this way.”

Allison gazed with misty emotion at Barry’s pointy profile. Oh my
god, I thought, as Allie’s eyes welled up.

“I feel so grateful to be here,” she half-sighed, half-squealed.
“What an honor to meet you! Your support for the rights of sex
workers is really, really empowering!” I thought she was about to
collapse into Barry’s lap — and so, judging by Barry’s
expression of delight, did he.

Roxana pulled her away: “We have to photocopy Anabel’s statement,
and call her to see if she’s really coming.” As they disappeared
toward the conference area, Jasmine muttered, “God! Don’t let
Allison’s empowerment go to your head, Barry.”

“She has a very spontaneous quality,” he said. “I’m glad you
made up with her, Nancy.”

Later

Allison and Roxy have been bickering about whether Hugh Loebner
should be allowed to attend the secret summit session in Room 603.
Barry took Roxy aside.

“Loebner’s a powerful symbol
for your cause — a john with a heart of gold — and he makes
Allison feel validated because he’s sexually bewitched by her,” he said. “Let
Allison have her way on this and you maintain her loyalty. Alienate
her and you’ve got a weak link in your coalition. Don’t trample on
an ally’s emotional attachments. Politics is about
sharing power.”

To my surprise, Roxy took his advice.

“You know why?” Jasmine said. “She feels like she’s getting free
legal advice. If I told her that, she wouldn’t even listen.”

Sunday, November 7

Yesterday’s meeting in Room 603 began with Allison as temporary
chair because, as Allison explained, “Roxy agreed to meet Anabel in
the parking lot.” Hugh and Barry were sitting at a round table with
Allison, while Jasmine and I sprawled out on Roxana’s bed.

“I’d like to know where the other NYCOT members are,” Jasmine piped
up. “I’m beginning to think there aren’t any!”

“They couldn’t come,” Allison said, changing the subject quickly.
“Nancy, have you been dialoguing with Lucia? We’re counting on you
to gain Lucia’s support for NYCOT.”

“A peep-show dancer told me that April told Lucia, who told Molly — who must have told one of the peep-show girls — that a NYCOT
member cheated April out of money, promising to set her up in a
business of her own. And she says Roxana was really behind it
all!” My report elicited a small moan of dismay from Allison.
“I don’t see how I can change Lucia’s mind –”

“It’s amazing to me how April can poison whole networks with lies
and misinformation,” Jasmine commented. “Of course there’s some
truth to her story,” she told Allison. “If you hadn’t taken that
$1,500 from April in the first place …” Allison blushed
uncomfortably.

“Why not have a sit-down with April, Lucia and the NYCOT ladies?”
Hugh suggested. “I’d be happy to give April the money she says she
lost, if you think it’ll put a stop to this in-fighting. We need to
get on with the greater struggle,” he added. “Divided we fall, you
know.”

“If you want to throw money at a cause,” Jasmine said, rolling her
eyes, “Allison can always use a new handbag. But don’t kid yourself
about April. She’s vicious! Why don’t you pay for an image
consultant to help Roxana pick out a better wig –”

Jasmine’s tirade was interrupted by Roxana’s return. Next to her
stood a tall, tan aerobicized woman of a certain age, wearing
Roxana’s red wig — and hiding her face behind huge heart-shaped
sunglasses. “Anabel had to put my wig on in the car — nobody knows
she’s here yet,” Roxana explained furtively. In her drab grey
sweatsuit, she looked like Anabel’s warden.

“Nancy?” Anabel took off the tacky red sunglasses and stared hard
at me. “I’m sorry, I thought you were someone I used to — Nancy!
It is you!” All eyes suddenly turned to my alert, shocked face.
“You haven’t aged at all!” she exclaimed. “You have to refer me
to your doctor!”

Taking in her over-tanned, freckled face, I realized that she had
altered her eyes, nose and chin. No wonder I didn’t recognize
Jeannie at first! She embraced me like a lost child. “I haven’t had
any work done,” I assured her, shakily. “I’m still the same
person!”

“But you look so young!”

“Well,” I said, after a moment, “I was underaged when I was
working for you!”

“You sneaky little bitch!” she said, pulling back to look at my
forehead. A slight smile crept across her face. “You said you were 22!”

“Nancy?” Allison was frowning slightly. “You used to work for –
for Anabel? How come you never told me?”

I felt my cell phone vibrating against my rump and held my finger to
my lips for silence. “Boyfriend alert!” Jasmine hissed. “Everybody
shut up.”

But it wasn’t Matt, it was my cousin Miranda. “Nancy?” she asked, in a puzzled tone. ” I just got off the phone with
Matt. I don’t understand — did you tell him we have an aunt in San
Francisco?”

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