The D.C. Madam explains it all for you

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeScienceJob MarketSex

I was a client of the notorious "D.C. Madam."

Psych! Not really. I just wanted you to hear that from somebody, anybody, since the bombshell over Deborah Jeane Palfrey turned out to be such a dud that 20/20's pulse-pounder on the D.C. madam might easily have been subtitled Al Capone's Vault II: No Dudes.

Even water-boarders in Gitmo could not have escaped the media frenzy over the Palfrey, who was accused of running a "high end" sexual fantasy business (I always avoid the "low end" ones, don't you? The small talk is just death).

Palfrey is said to have hired around 130 "subcontractors" to service her clients' fantasies. I don't know about you, but "subcontractor" is the most creative euphemism I have ever heard for that. I have hired many subcontractors over the years, but they are generally dusted with a fine layer of drywall, and I have never thought to ask one to disrobe. Food for thought.

The twist in this case, of course, is that Palfrey apparently required the female free agents employed by her escort service to sign employment contracts promising to provide "solely legal services" to her clients, services like, I'm guessing, naked tax preparation. Maybe some lingerie-clad lawn maintenance.

Her claim that no sex occurred between her escorts and their clients doesn't sound that far-fetched to me, actually. I'll bet I could find a lot of women who would take $300 an hour to not have sex with me.

My wife is nodding.

Despite Palfrey's claim that phone records would reveal her escort service was used by men high in the "echelons of power" in Washington, this apparently depends on your definition of "echelons" and "power" and, apparently, "Washington."

If this were a Hollywood scandal, ranked by Hollywood standards, my gut tells me this peaks at the "Gary Busey" level. Maybe the "Ed Begley, Jr.," level, tops.

In news reports, Palfrey's enterprise is frequently called a "high class" prostitution ring. I don't know why exactly, but I assume this is because any old skank can go and not have sex with people for fifty bucks.

One of the most surprising revelations last week was that some of Palfrey's "gals" were 55 years old. I guess this is what they mean when they say that some retired baby boomers will need to supplement their Social Security with a part-time job.

A big deal has also been made over the estimated $2 million that Palfrey's business took in over 13 years, which works out to almost $154,000 a year. By comparison, the president of the United States makes $150,000, which is pretty good considering he gets medical, plus he never has to play the role of "Domineering Amway Saleslady."

In an effort to keep Palfrey from spending any more of this allegedly ill-gotten loot, last fall the government froze her assets (which was, ironically, one of the fantasies clients could choose from her pleasure list).

Palfrey's attorney, justifying the need to "out" Palfrey's male clients in order to create witnesses for her defense, used the comparison that if there is a bank robbery, you want to interview the witnesses present.

Using a bank robbery analogy to illustrate that no crime has been committed wasn't the sharpest call in the history of defense lawyering, but perhaps this was the best Palfrey could afford, her assets being frozen and all.

In an apparently related story reported in the Los Angeles Times, scientists announced that arctic ice is melting faster than many had previously predicted. Researchers blame this on the extra heat being generated by the (non-sexual) sexual fantasies being fulfilled (in a completely legal way) in and around Washington, D.C.

"If the D.C. Madam really did have more than 10,000 clients, as she claims," one scientist said, "it is just another nail in the coffin of the polar bear."

This whole scandal raises a lot of questions: What limits can society place on fantasy? Does ethics have a place in the bedroom? Just how long is the "long arm of the law," and why hasn't that been used as the title of a Samuel L. Jackson movie yet?

I don't have the answers. But I want to reassure you of my personal ethical standards — not only did I not get paid for this column, no pleasure was achieved in the writing of it either.

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