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"I was out with this one girl — she was really pretty, " says Easy Rider, bending forward confidentially across the table as he relates the details of his date. He and the woman, 35 years his junior, went out to dinner, then for a walk, and then back to his apartment (one of three he owns in Miami Beach). "Then she asks me: 'How much money do you have?'"
The wine comes. It's a steamy Sunday evening, and as the sky melts into pinks and oranges, Lincoln Road begins to fill with the beautiful people — the casually elegant, the high-heeled, the tight-skirted, the well-cleavaged. Easy Rider surveys the scene with satisfaction, waiting for the server to leave before continuing his tale. A tidy man with a small, athletic frame and a crop of respectably graying hair, Rider — not his real name — fits into his 55 years like a hand in a tailored glove. He is friendly and unfailingly polite, and he speaks in an easy, disarming manner. When he swears, he swears elegantly.
"It fucking blew my mind," he continues after the waiter leaves. "Here's this girl — 20 years old, beautiful, but I don't know ... she wanted money to sleep with me. I was polite, I didn't mind — but I just walked her back to her car."
"So I could have fucked her for $500," he adds philosophically. "So what?"
You might think Rider is cursing his fate, bemoaning a date gone awry. Not so: The point of his story is not that the date was a failure; it's the opposite. When that beautiful 20-year-old stepped into a cab and vanished forever, Rider — who, mere months ago, hardly would have dared to dream of a date like that one — was only momentarily put off. He'd soon be out with another beautiful twentysomething, and then another, and then another.
In fact Rider has his choice of young, vivacious women to date these days. There are so many he can barely keep up. "Bottom line: amazing," he says, mouthing the last word slowly, like more fine wine on his palate. "It's almost too good to be true."
It wasn't always like this. The spark that ignited Easy Rider's romantic life came three months ago, when his neighbor and morning walking partner told him about a dating Web site tailored to rich older men, one that had changed the neighbor's life. Rider, until then nearly Internet illiterate, signed up and created a profile, listing his annual income as between $100,000 and $250,000 and a net worth between $5 million and $10 million. Choosing Easy Rider as his screen name, he wrote a blurb about himself: "Smiles are important, as is an ability to share." He was immediately flooded with e-mails. Overnight he had become a sugar daddy.
The idea that the rich might use their wealth to attract the young and beautiful is hardly new. Centuries before Anna Nicole Smith and billionaire hubby J. Howard Marshall titillated the public imagination, ages before Andrew Cunanan murdered five people, including Gianni Versace, in what many people believe was the killing spree of a spurned sugar baby, the sultans of the Ottoman Empire kept harems of hundreds of women who had been purchased or presented as gifts at the sugary halls of the Topkapi Palace in what is now Istanbul. From the pages of the Old Testament through to modern history, men have kept concubines, a tidy word for women supported in exchange for sexual favors.
It's good to be the king, but even the Sultans didn't have the Internet. The ongoing migration of courtship and kink online has made it possible — in theory, at least — for any guy with a paycheck and a PC to try his hand at being a sugar daddy. At the same time, for a woman with a sweet tooth, sugar has never been easier to find.
The number of online dating services marketed specifically to wealthy men and young, beautiful women has exploded in the past five years. Sugardaddie.com, the site that streamlined Easy Rider's love life, is one of the most popular. The company occupies a small suite in an unmarked, half-constructed building on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami. The office, located on an otherwise vacant floor, is marked by a single piece of paper, taped crookedly to the door, that reads, "Suite 200."
Inside, five middle-age, somewhat bedraggled men sit at desks, typing at computers and talking through headsets. A glass partition separates one small office from the rest of the room. That office is also spare; it consists mainly of a long wooden desk, an executive chair, and a computer. It belongs to Steve Pasternack, the Web site's founder.
Pasternack is a large, beefy man with a deep voice and eyes that always seem to be looking somewhere else. He wears a suit to work every day — in stark contrast to his employees on the other side of the glass — and he acts and speaks the part of the smooth CEO, extending his meaty arm, adorned with an expensive-looking watch, for a firm, friendly handshake. He has the cheery, smooth manner of a man who sells dreams.