For obvious reasons, I’m opting not to include a photo with my submissions to Liberty Island. But I can truthfully assert that from the standpoint of appearances, I’m a very handsome man. I’m 6’2, with chestnut brown hair, a great physique, and intense hazel-gray eyes that have melted the hearts of many women in my day. Why disclose this? Because I’m about to delve into a topic that very handsome men seldom need to address: the need to pay for sex.

The very first time I paid for sex ended up being the most memorable. In fact, it was the only time worth remembering. I’m going to call her Tina Valentine. Every plyer of the world’s oldest profession subsequent to Tina became blurs of furtive liaisons and sordid sexual transactions.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I went to the well of prostitution lonely and beset by pheromone withdrawal for about fifteen minutes after the breakup of my first marriage, and have never gone back. I wish I could say I only visited what my father called “the red-light district” once, but truth to tell, several times during the particularly bleak summer of 1983 I drove the 280 miles down 1-49 from Shreveport and returned with cash in hand to a notorious street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

There I sought out the streetwalking ladies of the evening. Cruising in my ’81 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (one of the few possessions left to me after the divorce settlement—I have two children by that marriage) it was never hard to find a willing hooker. They were wont to approach any vehicle that slowed down.

I’ll never forget the warm Saturday night that a very attractive, perky-breasted woman with a Jackie Onassis hairdo plopped into my passenger seat.

My first impression was that I’d hit the jackpot first time out of the gate. Tina was slender, but sported curves under her proverbial little black dress. She was smoothly conversational as I negotiated around the snails-pace vehicles of my fellow Johns. If not for the aura of debasement behind her ferally intelligent and beautiful eyes, Tina would not have seemed out of place on the arm of a Lake Vista tech millionaire.

I wasn’t sure exactly how things were supposed to work. Would I park somewhere and follow her sleek thighs up a flight in one of the row apartments along the strip? A wind-rustled savannah in Woldenberg Riverfront Park? Turns out I wasn’t planning to spend quite enough for anything so comfortable, or exotic. Tina informed me that for what I wanted, which would cost exactly $100, the perfect spot for our rendezvous was going to be the passenger seat of my car. She directed me away from Gomorrah’s drag down dark streets to an unlit warehouse parking lot on the Mississippi River.

It’s not my style to go into details here. She insisted on safe sex, and I was ready with the immemorial prophylactic in pocket. After I paid her five of the ten twenty-dollar bills folded into my pocket next to the rubber, we got it on. Suffice to say that Tina was a professional. She knew what she was doing and how to do it in such a way as to please a man. I didn’t kid myself that it wasn’t an act.

After, in the foolhardy throes of an abandoned man’s incipient crush, I complemented her on her… skill, I guess you’d say.  Tina smiled, obviously beset by some interior ticking clock. We engaged in post-coital banter as she directed me back to the strip, almost as if I was returning a hot date to an upscale Garden District condominium.

The Cutlass had just come to a full stop at the curb near where I’d picked Tina up when she bolted out the door and vanished into the neon wash of French Quarter nightlife. Mere seconds elapsed between her door-slam and the moment my vehicle interior was flooded with the kind of spinning light that strikes fear into every drunk driver’s heart.

“Step out of the vehicle,” an authoritarian voice instructed over the squad car’s riot horn.

The officer—NOPD–seemed overworked and irritable as he directed me to stand near the Oldsmobile’s front fender and asked to see my license. I carefully reached back, intending to fully comply, but my wallet was not in my back pocket. I thought it might have fallen out during the interlude with Tina, and offered to go look for it, but the officer wasn’t having it.

“Your girlfriend probably took it off you,” he said, nodding toward a nearby alley.

While the officer searched my vehicle interior with a flashlight, an older cop approached from a second patrol car. I hoped this was going to be the good cop, because I knew enough to know that you don’t want to spend a Saturday night in New Orleans City Jail.

“Have you been drinking, tonight?” he asked.

“No, sir,” I truthfully answered.

The two officers conferenced out of earshot, but I gathered there was no wallet left in the car. The registration was still in the glovebox. The older officer held in his hand.

“You down from Shreveport, boy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I suggest you get back in your vehicle and go there.”

“Yes, sir.”

Before pulling carefully into the flow of traffic, I glanced back and saw a clutch of prostitutes at the mouth of the alley. They were yelling angry, nasty things at the policemen, unsubtly maligning the manhood of the officers who had rousted me. I doubt to this day (though I don’t know for sure) that Tina’s sultry and cultured voice was joined with those shrill harangues.

I headed back up I-49, greatly relieved despite the fact that I had no wallet and had actually paid $200—my last dime until the banks opened on Monday–for my first tryst with a prostitute. For that amount I figured should have received Tina’s favors in that groomed savannah along the riverfront.

The following Monday, after withdrawing some cash, I went to the DMV and got a replacement license. That Friday a rumpled package hit the mailbox of the fourplex where I’d landed after the collapse of my marriage. In the package was my wallet. The driver’s license was there, the auto insurance card was there, the health insurance card was there.

In later years I reminisced about that sorry night with Tina, and the exciting sex she’d provided. I still think of her from time to time. My brief experience with fallen women preceded the full-blown AIDS crisis by only as much time as it takes for the next rock star to record the next paean to the world’s oldest profession. Only later did I learn that at the time I was whoring around the French Quarter, a high percentage of New Orleans streetwalkers already carried the deadly virus. Chalk one up for penile “raincoats.”

Looking back, I understand how my life situation put me—a handsome man blessed with much wonderful female companionship, a strong and loving second marriage (and two more precious children)—on the streets of my father’s red-light district.

But I still wonder what drove Tina Valentine—a beautiful and seemingly intelligent woman—to sell her body on those same streets.



Photo by Crown Star Images


Check out the previous adventures of Carlos Stranger:

Part 1: Back in the Saddle

Part 2: I Am Joe’s Elevated PSA