Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babes

A little sweetness goes a long way in South Florida

"I've never dated anyone with money," she emphasizes almost immediately. "All my boyfriends were philosophy students, artists, that sort of thing." Hester recently came to Miami from London, where she was a student and artist. She lives in a cavernous warehouse near the Design District, where giant paintings stand hulking in the corners. In progress is an eight-by-five-foot work, essentially a board covered in flowery wallpaper and large crisscrosing blobs of red paint. "Your Intestines," she calls it.

The space isn't cheap. Having always dated older men, and frustrated by the ever-present obstacle of money, she joined on a whim. "I feel like I've been working hard for a long time," she explains, "and I'm not getting anywhere.... Sometimes it's necessary to do things you don't want to."

But she didn't get much further than that. The men who wrote to her — as many as 10 a day, she says — were all the same: uninteresting, inarticulate, sleazy. One suggested he might help her out in exchange for fulfilling certain unnamed fantasies of his. "He was old — in his sixties, and not his early sixties. I wasn't looking for such an exchange."

Dan Zettwoch
Dan Zettwoch

Within a week of joining, she quit, disgusted. "It's selling your soul, selling your engagement," she says. "It's self-destructive — you kill something in yourself."

Easy Rider comes down to South Beach on weekends, but his home is in Palm Beach, where he owns a half-million-dollar condo. Rider takes me for a spin around the island in his car, a 2004 Jaguar XJ VDP ("They say," he suggests casually, "that it's one of the best models"). He points out Palm Beach's amenities with a mixture of appreciation and amusement. "There's our Tiffany's," he says, cruising along Worth Avenue. "Look at that place," he adds, pointing to an upscale men's clothing store. "There's a table in there with about 50 cashmere shirts, all the colors of the rainbow. You can just rub your hands through them — they feel so nice."

In the nearby Gucci courtyard, dozens of statues of children, their skin a dark shade of bronze, stand frozen in play — running, catching balls, skipping rope. Among them, an elderly man and woman sit together on a bench. The man extends five red roses to the woman, but his gaze misses her, falling instead on a sculpture depicting a boy and girl, standing under an umbrella over which falls an eternal drizzle. The old man sits there, his roses thrust one way, his gaze pulled another by that spectacle of young love.

I ask Rider how things are going with the young woman he seemed to like so much, the one who drinks cranberry juice. He answers vaguely: "Fine, fine ... I would like to have her stay part of my life," he says absently, staring out over the water. He's got a date this weekend, he says — "A perky little blonde."

He asks how the story is coming, what sort of people I've met. He becomes especially interested in Hester, the 24-year-old who was so embarrassed at having signed up for a sugar daddy.

"Do me a favor," he says as he drops me off at my car. "Give her my number. And put in a good word for me."

Except where first and last names are given, the names of all individuals have been changed to protect their privacy.

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