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Sonya folds herself into an overstuffed white chair and begins puffing an endless chain of Marlboro Light cigarettes, smoking each as fast as she talks, which is very fast. Her jeans are tight and black, her crop top is stretchy black Lycra. The look, coupled with her streaked hair, might be called refined biker-chick. People tell her she resembles Heather Locklear. She is 39 years old.
The armchair is one of the few pieces of furniture left in this condo, which is one of several units in a pink-and-teal gated community south of The Falls shopping mall. There is also a small couch, an end table, and an armoire that used to house a television.
Just a month ago this two-bedroom residence was furnished like the sex factory it was: mattresses in both bedrooms and a bank of five phones lined up on a dresser. Sonya worked out of this locale during the day, answering all five phone lines with the help of an assistant. In the early evening, as she returned to her home, several of her working girls arrived at the condo and lounged in the living room while waiting for the dates that had been arranged for them. The men would be let in, pair off with their dates, proceed to one of the bedrooms, then leave about twenty minutes later.
But the beds and phones and food in the kitchen that were here a month ago have been moved to a new condominium/bordello at another address. "The neighbors here were starting to complain," Sonya explains. "They saw all the traffic and figured out what was going on."
Attention from neighbors is problematic because it can lead to interference by the police. Although Sonya claims to be running only a dating service, she is well aware that sex is the cornerstone of her business. She is careful never to mention sex while on the phone, even though her descriptions of the escorts dwell on bust size, hair color, and hard bodies. She knows she is providing sex for money. If busted for doing so, she could be charged with racketeering, deriving support from prostitution, and conducting unlawful business transactions. As a minimum punishment she would likely lose custody of her daughter. More than likely she would also serve time in jail.
Sonya claims she's "not afraid of the police. Not at all." Still, before allowing a New Times reporter into her place, she marched out to the parking lot to make sure no cops were watching. She frisked for tape recorders, and spoke cagily for nearly half an hour until she felt comfortable she wasn't about to be nailed in an undercover operation. During the two years she's been in business, Sonya has frequently changed the name and phone numbers of her service. She never lets her escorts see where she lives, and she drives a rental car when visiting her bordello to protect her privacy.
Despite the occasional relocation of her bordello, Sonya claims her client base has remained faithful. In fact she has carved out a niche. Most of her clients are men who live in Kendall or Coral Gables, and almost all of them, for some reason, are Jewish. "I don't really know why that is," she says, puffing on a cigarette. "It may be because I'm Jewish too, and they can relate to me. It may simply be where my business is located.
"I would say that a good 90 percent are married," she adds. "Definitely. The girls complain to me that they get tired of seeing wedding bands. And the guys tell me on the phones to make sure the girl is pretty because they have a beautiful wife at home." She takes a long drag. "My personal opinion is if you are married, you should not use an escort service. You should try to find out what the problem is at home. That's my personal opinion."
Not surprisingly it is a view she keeps strictly to herself. In pitching her service, Sonya gives little consideration to its morality. "I sit here and do this and don't even think about what my product is," she says. "I could be selling magazines; it doesn't mean anything to me." Her energies are concentrated on providing the best service possible. She wants satisfied customers who will become regulars and possibly generate referrals.
After two years she has a pretty good idea what it is these men want. Emotionally, it seems, they want a psychiatrist. "The girls tell me they'll often use up the whole hour just talking. A lot of men talk about their wives or their girlfriends. I know for most men it's emotional more than it is physical."
And when it is physical? "Number one is a redhead," she declares. "I think because they are rare. For the same reason the second thing they ask for are Orientals or Asian girls. Third is anyone who is not augmented: no breast implants. I can't book a girl with fake breasts. I think that most of their wives got breast implants; now they want real breasts. And it's really hard to book anyone over five-foot-seven. If a girl is five-eight, I'll always lie and say she's five-six or so and tell her not to wear heels. The fourth thing asked for is Latin girls. And then young girls. Another thing they ask for is body piercing. The last thing they ask for is a blonde. You would think that would be first, a blond, busty Pamela Anderson type, but it's absolutely not true."