"Can you tell if people have a secret life?" I asked Andrea. We were
sitting on her spare, Bauhaus-inspired sofa amid the 40-something
partygoers, and I was watching Andrea's boyfriend gamely working the room,
refilling glasses and chatting, being the consummate host.
When Andrea invited me to her and Greg's housewarming party, I calmly
accepted. Inside I did a little jig of excitement and anticipation --
Whoopee! A chance to see Andrea's former client and now
boyfriend! As Andrea gave me directions to their little bungalow in Los Feliz, near Hollywood, I envisioned a party straight out of "Boogie Nights" -- women in halter tops sitting poolside, tan guys with handlebar mustaches snorting coke, sexual gyrations being performed on the kitchen counter, all while I hid behind a vinyl brown sofa scribbling down every last hilarious tidbit.
Of course I'd managed to overlook one small detail -- this was 1998, not
1978, and Greg was a stockbroker, not a pornographer. The jocular
partygoers were perfectly pleasant: Polo-clad friends from Greg's firm and
classical musicians, like Andrea. Slightly disappointed, I put my tape
recorder and reporter's notebook aside and accepted a glass of Pouilly
Fuisse from the friendly, easygoing and exceedingly normal Greg.
"See that guy over there?" Andrea now said, gesturing with her wine glass.
"The one standing next to the CDs? I first met him at Greg's Christmas
party last year. After talking to him for two minutes, I went up to Greg
and said, 'Is Frankie gay?' Greg laughs at me, 'Frankie? Are you kidding
me? He's got a wife and three kids. He hits on all the secretaries. No,
he's not gay.' And I said, 'I think he is. I just know it.'"
I looked at this pot-bellied man with his red suspenders, who was reading
the back of a Kronos Quartet CD with a puzzled expression. "What made you
Andrea frowned thoughtfully. "It's something that I've picked up from doing
phone sex -- I can tell from a guy's voice exactly what they're going to
ask me. And Frankie -- well, he has a slightly high, breathy voice. It
sounds crazy, I know, but those guys always want a Dom 7, and want me to
tell them about taking a huge dick up their butt."
"God," I said, impressed. "All from a five-minute Christmas party
conversation over canapés."
Andrea leaned over to grab the wine bottle from the steel coffee table
and nestled it between us. We watched a few of her friends who were admiring
Andrea's ancient cello in the corner of the room. I whispered to her: "Does
everyone know about your secret life?"
As if prompted, Andrea pulled her black, long-sleeved velvet T-shirt down
farther around her wrists, so only a wisp of a blue-green tattoo was
visible. "Not Greg's friends. And some of my friends do -- well, most of
them. See, it was weird because Greg was living with his girlfriend when I
moved here to be with him. He's got a 20-year-old son too, and it
wouldn't have been good if the kid's mother found out about me. So, yeah, I
gotta keep it under wraps a little."
I looked at the door that Andrea had told me was her "office," wondering
if it had a desk and a chair, or maybe a sofa, or an exercise mat. "Do men
ever call you, uh, wanting to chat?" I asked. "Like the cliché -- 'My wife
doesn't understand me.'"
"What I get is a lot of 'My wife doesn't like to have sex.' That comes up
all the time. And yeah, I have one or two regulars who just call to talk.
They know that I play the cello, that I live in L.A., that I'm 40, that
sort of thing. Greg was one of those. He was in this terrible relationship
with his girlfriend, and he'd call me to talk about it. We started talking
every day, and then we met, and well ..." She gestured around at the friends
and the furniture. "The rest is history."
I wondered if Andrea should be flitting about, playing hostess, but she
seemed perfectly content just to sit with me and discuss her unique life.
"Is there stuff you won't do?" I asked.
"Absolutely." Andrea sat up and poured some more wine into my glass. "I
absolutely do not do submissive. I just don't get paid enough to be
screamed at and made to hear about how I'd be fucked so hard
that I'd squeal like a pig."
"Squeal like a pig?" I said.
"That's what the guy wanted. I mean, what are they thinking? That I live
in a mansion and can scream as loud as they want with no one hearing? Like
I said, I don't get paid enough to take calls like that. Or to hear how
they're going to molest their daughter. That kind of energy goes into the
phone, and it's really negative and would make me feel very unhealthy."
I stopped crunching a potato chip. "Please tell me that's an exaggeration.
About the daughter stuff."
Andrea frowned. "I wish it was. I had one call that really did it for me.
This guy was jacking off, I was talking to him and I could hear him huffing
and puffing and he was saying all this stuff and in the middle of it a
little kid came in the room. I mean, I could hear her -- she was crying and
saying, 'Daddy, don't.' She was about 5 years old, from the sound of it.
It was horrible. I hung up immediately and called
back the service and said, 'You gotta call the cops. That guy is molesting
his daughter. He's sexually abusing her. Do something.' And they were
really sorry but they said they just couldn't do that. The most they could
do was to put a note on the number not to accept his calls anymore. But
they said they couldn't set the cops on him." She shuddered. "So -- that's
why I don't do submissive."
"Oh, God." A silence fell between us. The rest of the party had
moved into the kitchen and we listened to their laughter. "What do you
actually do when you take calls? Are you sitting at a desk? What do you
Andrea suppressed a burp, and then laughed. "That's a big question from
the callers: 'What are you wearing?' I purr, 'Oh, a corset that I just
bought from Victoria's Secret.' And I'm sitting in jeans and a T-shirt,
combat boots. Sometimes my hair's in rollers. Drinking a beer out of the
bottle. One time I was cleaning my oven and I dropped the rack. The guy,
who luckily was a Dom 5, says, 'What's that?' I said, 'Oh, I'm preparing
the stretching rack for you. Shut up.' Other times I'm reading a magazine,
turning the pages really quietly --"
"Or filing your nails?" I interrupted, looking at her perfectly manicured
A lot of filing of nails. It really depends. Sometimes they want to get into your head, and then you can't sit there and read."
I fidgeted a bit. "Does it ever make you feel, um -- well, grossed out? Or
just down on men, since all these calls are men?"
She considered, peering into her empty glass. "I find that it's made me a
bit jaded. So much infidelity, so much unhappiness with their sex lives. I
hear so many weird things. Also, what I hear a lot is, 'I want to hear you
come, really loudly.' Do they really think I can come 20 times a day? That's just silly. American men have a very adolescent idea when it comes to sex -- they're really deluded when it comes to a woman's libido, only seeing it in relation to them. They like big elaborate games, otherwise they get bored."
I shook my head. "They can't possibly believe you're actually having an
"Oh, they do," she said vigorously. "But I have some good guys too -- I
have one guy that I've talked to my whole career. He always ends the calls
with, 'Have a good day.'"
This brightened me, and I ventured, "Has it made your sex life better?"
We both looked at Greg across the room, who was talking to Frankie.
"Actually, it probably has. It's definitely made me more creative." She
smiled. "Some of these guys have really good ideas."