Mary Leverentz came to San Diego last summer. It was supposed to be her summer vacation. But Mary knew she wasn't going back to school in the fall, and she began to look around town for a job. Secretaries were getting two dollars in hour in San Diego. Waitresses got more, counting the tips, but it was hard to get well-paying shifts without enough seniority. And waitress work tended to be seasonal. After three months of procrastinating and looking, and waiting and hoping, Mary went to work in a massage parlor.
Mary didn't harbor any illusions about massage parlors. She knew what went on. But it was still scary at first. She went to work in one of the many places in downtown San Diego.
When she went in for her interview, she was struck by how small the place looked. A tiny storefront office. White wallpaper with red flock designs, a rumpled red rug, a yellow couch, a Formica coffee table strewn with Playboys, three closed doors that led to the back rooms. A girl with heels, stockings, shorts, and a white fur stole was snuggled on one end of the couch.
"Two dollars an hour plus — uh — tips" Mary was told, "We'll bail you out of sex-related charges; you know, if you're charged with prostitution. But not for something else. If you're caught for dope, for instance, you're on your own."
The other girls Mary worked with gave her the basic rules of Massage. The customer paid her $15 per half hour to the receptionist in the front office. Once in the back room, standard rates were $15 for fellatio and $25 for full intercourse. Watch out for the Vice. You can usually tell cops because a lot of 'em wear suits. They all wear rubber-soled shoes. Always ask to see their identification. Servicemen always have their green I.D.s. You don't have to sweat them. Businessmen will have a lot of credit cards. If they only have a driver's license and one credit card, look out.
The owner, a guy named Phil, also told her one afternoon if a suspicious-looking guy asked for "extras," she should ask him "are you soliciting me?" If a cop answers yes to that, then that's entrapment, and they can't bust you then.
Within a few weeks Mary was making pretty good money. Sometimes $100, sometimes $200 a day. The weekends were best, especially Friday afternoons and evenings. Sunday mornings were pretty good. The 15th and 30th of every month were really busy; that's when the Navy handed out its paychecks.
The work wasn't too bad. As long as the guy wasn't too "creepy." As long as she could divorce herself emotionally from the customer while having sex with him, and have fun laughing with the other girls. There was a lot of laughing with the other girls. That's why Linda the manager said that their place was a peppy place, a fun place. The music was always playing and people were always laughing and joking.
There were some drawbacks to the job. It was hard to sit on the couch and have guys look in the door at her as if they were buying a piece of meat. Sometimes they would tell the receptionist right in front of her that they wanted to wait for someone else. It hurt to hear someone say, "She's too ugly" or "She's too fat."
But then Mary and her friends were just as cruel to some of the men who came into the place. There was a cripple guy who dropped in from time to time. He wore dark glasses and walked jerkily with the help of his two canes. No, please, not with him! Linda the manager would let her slip out the door when he came in or would help her drum up some kind of alibi. "I'm too sore." "It's not my night: the other girl just stepped out."
Mary didn't mind the fat guys but some girls really did. The fat ones tended to sweat a lot. Another girl was so upset at some fat guy's sweating while he was having away above her that she broke down and cried. "It made me feel like a prostitute," the girl claimed. Phil the owner's advice was to tell a fat guy that he was being a slob, a sweaty pig. That would usually make him lose his desire.
Mary had only had one guy try to rough her up — he started slapping her a couple times and she yelled for Linda. When Linda came into the room, the guy put on his clothes and left. A guy will never try to take on two women, Linda told her. Linda had worked in a massage parlor in San Francisco. A straight one, she said: they were either straight or homosexual up there — very few places like down here. One night a guy tried to rough her up, and she broke a Coke bottle over his head. He had to go to the hospital and Linda had to go to court. But she won. A girl always wins when a guy attacks her like that, Linda said.
Mary wasn't sure she wanted to stay with massage. She heard that a lot of money could be made by "walking" at the airport and Hotel Circle. All a girl had to do was go to a bar and wait for someone to buy her a drink. A friend of hers had gotten a "sugar daddy" that way. An older man from La Jolla who made no sexual demands on her but used her as a showpiece, taking her out to dinner in front of his friends. Mary's friend got a free apartment right on the ocean and a trust fund for her child that way. Besides, the police had been taking the heat off of the walkers and putting it on the massage parlors lately.
Captain LaMotte of the San Diego Police Public Inspection Unit claims that San Diego is the massage parlor capital of the world. "It's because we don't have good massage parlor laws. Two years ago we had eight massage parlors, now we have 95, next year they project we'll have 125."
Why all of a sudden?
Captain LaMotte is sure of the answer. "used to be a law against massaging someone of the opposite sex. Then the courts said that was unconstitutional. That opened the floodgates. We pinch about ten a week, but it's expensive. We have to pay for the massage and..."
Phil, the owner of Mary's massage parlor, explains that girls get into the massage business because they need the money desperately. Then, after they meet their initial need, they stay. "They get used to making lots of money, and they don't want to give it up — a nice car, a $300 a month apartment at the beach." He put his arm around the red-haired girl with wire rims who claimed that she felt she was performing a great service to the world. "My wife here — she makes twice as much in a day as I make in a week. Lots of money. And the nice thing about this money — it's like dealing in dope — this money's all tax-free."