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Out-of-town prostitutes and their pimps descend on the southern tip of Florida for special events such as the Super Bowl, International Boat Show, or the recent Winter Music Conference,says Miami Beach Police Department Maj. Charles Press. Although the department does not keep track of the rate of prostitution arrests throughout the year, he says, during the winter months streetwalkers and escorts keep police busy. "It's noticeable, but it's not out of control," Press observes. "Whenever there's a crowd, there's going to be prostitutes."
What is more apparent, however, is how sophisticated the street hustling has become. Pimps cruise Washington Avenue arranging dates on cell phones and contacting prostitutes with walkie-talkies while playing a perpetual game of cat and mouse with the cops. Press likens the activity to crime syndicates. "It's highly organized. They have lookouts and game plans." He adds that investigators have found that many of the prostitutes arrested during the winter months reside in other states. What's more, their arrest records show the stops they've made before coming to Miami. "They move across the country," Press says. "There are more groups of prostitutes moving in from out of town. It never used to be that way. It was always local."
But not all sex workers walk the streets. Others make a living as high-priced call girls and call boys by arranging dates as escorts. Each winter the classified pages of alternative journals, including New Times, beef up with advertisements offering male, female, and transgender companions who promise to satisfy desires for about $200 a pop. At the myriad escort agencies in town, managers scramble to find available bodies for lonely out-of-towners. The agencies connect so-called escorts with customers on "dates" that are metered by the hour. A date with an escort often precludes dinner and dancing; the time is usually spent in hotel rooms.
When business is booming, some out-of-town escorts prefer to work independently.
That's what jet-setting male escort Talvin DeMachio does. He has found that spending a couple of weeks during tourist season in Miami can be a gold mine. Since 1998 the Washington, D.C.-based call boy has included Miami Beach on his itinerary. At 30 years old DeMachio is systematic in his approach to his career, using the Internet to notify clients where he will be, when he will there, and what his availability is like. When arranging assignations he sends out e-mails informing potential clients what he will and will not do. On most trips he advises dates to call ahead because he books up quickly.
A prospective customer browsing DeMachio's Website can see exactly what he will be getting: a dark and handsome beefcake with the abdominal muscles of a porn star. Actually he is a porn star. Along with a brief biography that profiles his interests and his background, he is shown posing in various stages of undress. With a click of a mouse, the viewer reads a list of the videos in which DeMachio has performed, such as Striptease, Suck Daddy, and Live Feed. "Porn is like a big advertisement for escorting," he offers. "I definitely like escorting much better, because there is more money to be made in escorting."
Click again and you get to see DeMachio as a newborn, his senior-class picture from 1990, and a shot of him in a sailor suit from his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy. He has a soft-on-the-edges approach to a business that often is perceived as cold and seedy. And he is known among his peers as being a likeable, down-to-earth escort who, unlike other call boys, likes to hug and kiss and who gives his clients a chance to back out if they do not find him attractive. "I come to Miami because it attracts many gay tourists, and where there are gay tourists, there are people looking to spend money on escorts," he says. "Many people look at escorts and they feel sorry for them because they have chosen such a shameful life. But I do not have any regrets about what I have done with my life. I am proud of what I do. I bring joy to people." In fact DeMachio considers himself somewhat of a sex therapist, available to fulfill most desires for just about anyone.
Perhaps the most important feature on DeMachio's Website is the posting that tells clients how long he will be in their cities. Since December he has traveled from his home in Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Dallas, and Miami. Previously he has traveled in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, California, and Montreal. He estimates that more than 80 percent of the time he spends traveling is business-related. "I go where I know I can make good money," he explains. "For instance Houston is oil country. I know there are people who make good money there, therefore I go where I know people can afford me. I am not exactly a cheap escort." So he zeros in on wealthy areas during their most active seasons.
His ad in local gay-club guide Hot Spots Magazine drummed up more than sound business. DeMachio says his cell phone "rang off the hook," with his trade averaging three to four one-hour dates per day. He charges $300 per hour and $75 for every quarter hour afterward. For longer dates when he spends entire days with a client, his rates are solid: for a half-day date he earns $1500. A full day costs $2500, two days cost $3000, and four days or more is $1000 per day. With some of the highest rates in the business, his one-week trip in January kept him running from date to date. "Miami was extremely busy," he recalls. "I am not going to tell exactly how much I made, but I can tell you it was over $12,000 in a week." To cut down on expenses, DeMachio usually stays at neat and affordable hotels. If he goes to a club, he goes on business. If he's at a restaurant, it's not to be seen. "The idea is to make money while I'm down there," he says. "It's not to live like a star."